Part Two – Unpleasant Surprises
July 6th 1915 just before midnight, SMS Roon
Finally the darkness had arrived. Not that it was a black night, for the northern horizon was coloured as if the sun would rise very soon. And that was a fact indeed. Darkness that far north in the height of summer was only about three hours including the twilight time.
Ziethen had ordered a speed reduction to 14 knots, first to give the stokers a bit of a rest and to reduce the fuel consumption. So far those reports he had received were not worrying him.
Already the 16 knots flag was raised by the signals officer. All ships had acknowledged. Ziethen planned to speed up when the sun would rise again.
This was the day of the final breakthrough. The first British patrol lane between Lindesnes and the Orkney's was be reached at about 7 am. Should things go well, the second line between Stadtlandet and the Shetlands would be passed at about 2 pm. Thereafter they would be out of the North Sea and beyond the immediate reach of the Grand Fleet. Their BC escorts had left about an hour ago and as far as Ziethen knew they were alone and undetected.
Ziethen was looking at his Second Officer, who was standing in the doorway of the port bridgewing. Kapitaenleutnant Trapp was holding a mug of hot tea in his hands. He was taking a sip. Suddenly Ziethen felt thirsty, too. Turnig backwards, he was filling his own mug with tea and taking a glass of water in his other hand. He was so tired.
"Fregattenkapitaen Ziethen“, Trapp was raising his voice, “it will be dark for the next two hours. I recommend you to take a rest. Tomorrow will be an exciting day, again“. Stepping much closer to Ziethen, he added with a hushed voice, "And you really need some rest now. Korvettenkapitaen Findert will be on the Bridge in a short time. Uwe, bitte“!
Knowing when having lost a battle, Ziethen entered the small room behind the bridge with the narrow bed in it. He was asleep before his head reached his pillow.
Many decks below, Wilhelm Wudtke was sleeping soundlessly in his hammock. He was dreaming of green landscapes. His mate Clemens Bock was unable to sleep. Not only that he was hungry but he suddenly felt the urge to go to the toilet. Not that an easy task in the overcrowded crew spaces below the front turret.
July 6th 1915, 2 minutes to midnight, SMS Amazone
Kontreadmiral Mischke 's forces had entered the Skagerrak some time ago, still in crusing formation. When the sun would rise, he planned to control the traffic going to Goeteborg in Sweden. Later he planned to show up in the vicinity of the Oslofjord. May be he would order the retreat to Germany next evening.
He was not knowing it, of course, but his enemies were not that far away. Soon however, that information lack was going to change.
July 7th 1915, predawn, SMS Roon
"Let him sleep a bit longer“, Roon's first officer turned to Kapitaenleutnant Hoehne. "Very soon I will have the best lookouts up there in the spotting top“.
"I will enter up to the Fighting-Top. If need be, I'll direct my heavy guns from up there. After our refit it is much easier to fight at long range, now. I can work with our new large 6 meter rangefinder. And my gunners are quite well trained, now“, Hoehne added with a smirk.
Shaking his head, Findert saw him leaving. That one needs to be cooling down, it seems.
Stepping out on the starboard bridgewing, he saw SMS Undine about 2000 meters ahead and same distance to starboard. He assumed that SMS Berlin had still taken that position on the port side. Out he went on the bridgewing to get a glipse to the south. His glances went along the four massive stacks with the painted canvas between stack One and Two as well as between stack Three and Four. That way SMS Roon had turned into a two funneled ship, unless one were very close. Behind the funnels and the massive crane in between there was the main mast with its massive fighting top. "This is one of the reasons Roon is looking so obsolete“, he thought. Glancing over the two eight-eight of the after battery his look rested on the "sleeping beauty“ of Bertha, the after turret. He had the feeling that the "Beast“ would raise his voice today. About 500 meters behind Roon he detected the slim form of SMS Albatross followed by SMS Arcona, which was not far behind the newer minelayer.
Findert was watching the northeasternly sky. The few existing clouds where slowly turning pink. Visibility as improving by the minute, already it exeeded 4 kilometers.
July 7th 1915, predawn, SMS Berlin
Korvettenkapitaen Walter Hildebrand, Berlin's first officer was watching the port horizon, which was still dark. He felt ill at ease. He sensed that something was out there and wondered if he should raise the crew.
"Lookout, signals from Roon“?
"No sir, still hoisted 16 knots on the halyards“.
July 7th 1915, predawn, SMS Undine
Korvettenkapitaen Windmueller was watching Roon. She had been a companion for a long time now. He was glad that that strong ship was coming along. He felt relieved. Turning around, he looked to the north. Visibility was improving fastly.
"Signals....“, he raised his voice.
July 7th 1915, just before dawn, SMS Roon bridge, 14 knots
"Signals, haul down the 16 knots“!
Engine room, make turns for 16 knots“, Finderts voice was audible.
"Did our companions acknowledge again“?
July 7th 1915, dawn, SMS Albatross bridge
Korvettenkapitaen West was watching the distance grow. Roon was accelerating. Their daylight position is to stay behind Roon but with a larger distance of 1000 meters.
"Engine, prepare to make turns for 18 knots“. "Just in case“, he added with a smile to his XO. "Being the trail bitch is not that amusing“.
SMS Arcona was already starboard between Albatross and Roon. White frothed hard at her bow. Clearly she was making 20 knots now, to reach her planned position in front of Roon.
July 7th 1915, dawn, SMS Roon bridge, 16 knots, course 345
“Signals, to Berlin and Undine, take daylight positions“, Ziethen who had entered the bridge minutes ago was commanding. The sun was rising above the water, now. Visibility was improving.
"They have acknowledged“.
"When Arcona reaches her planned position 5000 meters ahead, raise 18 knots, please“. "Maybe we need that speed“, Ziethen added in his mind. There was no telling what full light would reveal and Ziethen intended to hedge his bets the best he could.
Ziethen watched SMS Arcona coming in line about one kilometer ahead. Still he was not sure wether that was a good position for her. But he could not let her cruiser component down.
Looking west he saw Berlin's aspect change.
"Signals, reports from U – 19“?
July 7th 1915, dawn, SMS Berlin, 18 knots, accelerating
Fregattenkapitaen von Buelow had ordered the increase of speed to reach his planned position 10 nm west and ahead of Roon as soon as possible. At the moment he was steering course 300. Minutes ago he had received Roon's orders. With that he ordered the bosun to wake the crew.
Stepping ahead, looking out of the bridge port windows, he watched the still darker west.
"Kapitaen, Undine is still in sight, steering 030“, his second officer was stating.
Von Buelow left the bridge through the door of his starboard bridgewing. He scanned the eastern horizon to watch Undine.
"This is what Windmueller thinks is 'smokeless cruising', heavens above she might be visible in Bergen now“, he barked, thinking having made a good joke. His head turned to his own stacks, irritated.
Some meters ahead and above of him, one of the lookouts, scanning the horizon to the west stopped his motion. "What was that“? he thought, blinking his eyes and looking again. "That is no cloud, never“.
"Officer of the watch, object in 320, distance not defined“, he shouted.
Many binoculars where turning that direction. Coincidence or not, Berlin's artillery officer, Oberleutnant zur See Karl Mentz was standing near the front range finder. At once he jumped foreward and took a seat there. Turning the rangefinder he looked through the occular. "There it is...“.
His eyes widened.
"Ship is a two funneled passenger ship, course“, short hesitation, "about 060, estimated speed 15 knots. Distance about 120 hm“, his statements where already coming distinctively.
"Verdammt“! von Bülow shouted, "action stations“! He raced into the bridge. The alarm drums where beaten.
"Have they...“, a light was visible on the starboard side of their adversary. "This is answered“, von Buelow thought.
"Engines, all speed ahead“!
"Artillery officer, do we have a solution? Prepare to open fire“!
"Signals, to Roon, encountered passenger Liner, probably AMC, we are spotted, trying to engage“. A thought entered his mind. "Do not use W/T, but the searchlights as well as flags“.
"Ship is ready for action, Fregattenkapitaen von Buelow“! Berlin's XO was stating just seconds later.
The lights on the passenger liner were blinking again.
"Repeat exactly that signal“, Von Bülow commanded. "Signals, ask her 'What ship'!“?
"Bridge, this is the Artillery Officer, Liner is raising more steam. Flags are going up on her“!
July 7th HMS Cedric, dawn, speed 15 knots, accelerating
"Can they be one of our light cruisers“? Captain (R.N.) Wright was asking. That ship to starboard was steering directly in their direction, showing only a very small silhuette. Her "bows-on " aspect was making the ship class difficult to make out.
HMS Cedric, build 1903, and commisioned as AMC after the war broke out, was on her way to the patrol line, which in fact she not yet reached. They had left Rosyth yesterday following a lengthy refit.
"Signals, prepare to send a signal to the admiralty“.
"Ship is signaling, Sir. Signal is as follows: T H I S I S H M S C R U I S E R S A P P H I R E. They ask us 'what ship'? Captain, what shall we do“? The XO was clearly concerned.
"Captain, all four starboard 4.7'' guns report ready to fire“, the comments of the Artillery Officer were heard off.
"Hold your fire! Why haven‘t they responded to our authentification signal“?
Nobody had told Captain Wright that that ship was still beyond their maximum range of 9,000 meters anyway.
July 7th 1915, dawn, SMS Berlin, 20 knots, accelerating
"Distance“? Fregattenkapitaen von Buelow demanded.
"Range about 95 hm“.
"Keep her bows on,“ he repeated quite unnecessarily. "Has Roon acknowledged“?
The Britisher would see through his thin ruse any second.
"Distance to Roon“?
"Why do they not react“? he was thinking, getting more desperate. For all he knew, the AMC was already burning the ether with her W/T messages.
July 7th 1915, dawn, SMS Roon, 16 knots, accelerating
"Undine and Berlin are on their course to take daylight positions“, Roon's Third Officer was reporting. His unruffled, matter-of-fact tone suggested that all was routine. Just another exercise off Wilhelmshaven.
Unfortunately the signals and flags on Berlin were not visible, partly because of the smoke coming out of the stacks.
"Gott im Himmel“, Findert was swearing, "Berlin is smoking as if on fire“.
A light was seen through the smoke. Blinking. Signals?
July 7th 1915, dawn, SMS Vineta, Skagerrak
Kapitaen zur See Adelung entered the bridge.
"Kapitaen auf der Brücke“ (Note ), the Officer of the watch stated.
Adelung went to the port windows. "Anything unusual“?
July 7th dawn, SMS Victoria Louise, Skagerrak
Fregattenkapitaen Dominik was watching the distant horizon. It was not undangerous for Kontreadmiral Mischke to enter the Skagerrak. In fact, it was bold. He was satisfied with the passed day. The newly commisioned ship and its inexperienced crew had performed well, so far.
Dominik knows well, that this is one of the most dangerous parts of the day. The dreaded sunrise. Dangerous for the prey, that is.
For the predator, on the other hand, it is the time of opportunity.
It is good to be the predator, Dominik reflected.
July 7th dawn, HMS E 4, surfaced, Skagerrak
Size alone does not determine who is predator and who is prey.
Visibility had improved a lot in the last minutes. The mission of HMS E 4 was to patrol well into the Kattegat. They were on their way.
"Contact, bearing 110“!
"Alarm, all men on their fighting positions, prepare to dive“, the commander was shouting.
"This is a big one, two funnels, turrets on the bow and stern, smaller turrets on the side“.
"Signals, to the admiralty..“
"They have not yet sighted us, open the doors of the bow tube and both beam tubes. We attack surfaced“!
"Contact could be the SMS Prinz Heinrich“, E 4's commander was stating. Send that, too“!
"Commander, smaller silhouettes in front of our target, probably destroyers“!
"Course 110, full ahead, clear the bridge! Is the W/T signal sent?“
"Any moment, Sir“, the reply from below.
"There are more bigger ships behind this AC“!
"A whole fleet! Status of the W/T transmission, immediately“!
July 7th 1915, sunrise, SMS Vineta, Skagerrak
It was one those coincidences that can only happen in reality. In a novel one would say it is too unlikely.
Between the front and aft 15 cm side-turrets was the location of the eight-eight midships battery. After the lengthy refit of SMS Vineta from 1909 to 1911 this was strengthened to three shielded guns. The third Artillery Officer, a young Leutnant zur See, was inspecting those crews. The sun was just rising. His glance went out to the see, where a strange low hanging cloud was catching his eyes. He raised his binoculars.
"U-Boot, port 270, Alarm“!
"Boys, give everything. Fire!“
Kapitaen zur See Adelung was raised by the alarm and the barking of his port midships eight-eight battery.
July 7th, sunrise HMS Cedric, speed 16 knots, accelerating
"That can not be HMS Sapphire, she is in the Med“! the second officer was shouting from inside the bridge.
"Damn, open fire“! Captain (R.N.) Wright ordered. A ship claiming to be someone she wasn‘t had to be a hostile! Didn‘t she?
HMS Cedric was armed with eight guns, but only four were on each side.
His misgivings grew as the other ship‘s guns remained silent. This was a long way north for a singleton German scout cruiser. Wasn‘t it?!
"Crack, Crack, Crackcrack“. The quickness of his gunners indicated that they, at least, had been suspicious from the start.
"Send a wireless, stating we are engaging unknown light cruiser,“ he commanded. Should he have sent that off first?
July 7th 1915, sunrise, SMS Berlin, 21 knots, accelerating
"Scheisse“! Fregattenkapitaen von Buelow shouted as he watched the flashes alongside that vessel. She was huge, that was clear now.
"Fire! Course..“ Crackcrack, crack, both bow guns opened up, as well as the first port casemate, drowning his words. "Repeat, course 000. Port tube prepare for launching“!
July 7th 1915, sunrise, SMS Roon, 16 knots
The last uncertainty was solved as Michael Hoehne used his ragefinder to watch Berlin. Clearly he saw her turn, illuminated by flashes and shortly later he saw splashes erupting, but off Berlin's course.
"Berlin is under fire, shooter not identified yet“, he spoke distinctively into the voice tube. He started to scan the horizon. There!
Fregattenkapitaen Ziethen was shocked. Had they been detected yesterday? Had the British waited to lure them into a trap, just waiting for their escorts to depart? Armoured cruisers, perhaps? Or those strong Town-class ones?
"Engines all speed, course 300. Action stations“! Heavy and medium Artillery prepare to open fire“!
"Artillery Officer, do we have a target“?
July 7th 1915, sunrise, SMS Berlin, 21 knots, accelerating, course 060
Von Buelow has brought Berlin on a parallel course with his big AMC adversary.
The first three gun salvo had gone astray, as has the second. Awaiting the new course, he hold the third until the new course was reached. Then a full broadside was delivered.
Shooting was brilliant, as two hits were obtained. One near the second funnel, the other near the waterline admidships.
"Quickfire, give her all we got“! For the next couple of minutes every four seconds five shells left the hungry barrels. Scoring many hits.
"Korvettenkapitaen Hildebrand, I want to keep Berlin between our forces and the enemy. May be we can achieve that they do not detect our force“.
July 7th HMS Cedric, sunrise, speed 16.5 knots, course 60
Clearly this three funneled enemy light cruiser was visible, about 6.000 meters to starboard. Captain (R.N.) Wright had ordered the sending of a message, containing this and their course and position to the Admiralty. The German was shooting damnably well, already some small fires had broken out on Cedric at different places. But the German caliber was clearly not 15 cm, so the immediate danger was not that great. And she WAS a German. That confirmation had provided an eerie flush of relief.
His Artillery Officer, Luitenant (R.N.) had them shooting better now, frequently straddling their target. "There, the first hit“, he shouted delighted. They weren‘t going to come out of this pretty, but they should survive. That little Hun cruiser was not built to take punishment.
Unfortunately, their old 4.7'' L40 Mk II.s were a relatively slow firing weapon, with an average of five to six shells per minute. Their opponent was getting off his lighter rounds much faster. He could see five flashes with each broadside. "Must be one of the older cruisers“, Wright thought, but he was not sure about the type.
Just a few more hits, he thought, and that‘ll take some of the fight out of them. The final outcome was not in doubt.
July 7th HMS E 4, surfaced, Skagerrak, 13 knots, accelerating, turning
One can say it was bad luck, but that depends on the perspective.
One of the eight-eight shells, from the first salvo that is, was hitting the tower of E 4, passing through the thin plating of the wall and detonated passing through the off side plating. Some splinters were hitting the crew trying to get below. Wounded were groaning.
"Damn, they detected us. Bow tube fire!
"Whoosh, splash! Whoosh whoosh“.
"Bow tube fired“, he heard from below, as another shell hit the deck in front of the tower.
"Emergency dive, hard to port. Get below, they're shooting us to pieces“!
July 7th 1915, sunrise, SMS Vineta, Skagerrak, 15 knots, turning
Kapitaen zur See Adelung was watching fountains erupt all around the enemy submarine. She was starting to go down. Her bow just started to submerge. Another hit was obtained at the tower's starboard side.
He had commanded "Hard to port“ seconds after his guns came alive. Obviously at least one torpedo was fired at them, when the enemy started its turn. The hydrogenic path of the torpedo' bubbles was clearly visible. It will pass in front of the bow. But was only one fired?
Now the sub's tower was submerging and the 15 cm front port turret was firing its first shot.
July 7th HMS E 4, emergency dive, Skagerrak
Only the bow tube was fired, unfortunately. So far the pressure hull seemed to have sustained not too heavy damage. Water was trickling into the central from above the tower. Department two was leaking a bit as well. But they seem to be out of danger.
Fast turning screws were heard of. "The destroyers“, voices were whispering.
"Commander, transmission was interupted due to the emergency dive“, his second officer was stating.
The first officer and the bosun was taking care of the three wounded. One has lost an arm above his elbow.
"Does that mean we did not get through?“
"That seems to be the case, Sir“!
"We will send this message after we resurface: 'Sighted two German Armoured Cruisers, one possiblily identified as SMS Prinz Heinrich, at least one light cruiser and destroyers. Add course and position'“.
More screws, many more.
July 7th 1915, SMS Berlin, 21.5 knots, accelerating, course 030
They were peppering their target. Many hits were obtained. Already she was burning. Small fires in different places. Unfortunately she was still at high speed and shooting with four guns. One hit had detonated in a coal bunker below Berlin's port no. three 10.5 gun. Another had pierced stack number one.
"Torpedo away“, his torpedo officer was reporting to von Buelow. Now they had achieved a position in front of that passenger liner, slowly overtaking her. That was as good a solution as one can get.
Roon was finally coming to support it seemed. Von Buelow was turning his head in Roon's direction. Smoking she was steaming on, her guns still silent. She might be away 8 kilometers or more in von Buelow's guess.
He was watching three new hits erupting on his target. One was high on the bridge, another penetrated the waterline and the third hit their enemie's starboard number two gun, ,just in front of the bridge. Secondary explosions followed that hit.
"Brilliant, that one has hurt“.
July 7th HMS Cedric, speed 16.5 knots, course changing
Captain (R.N.) Wright was getting to his feet again. Looking down to the former position of starboard gun no. 2, he saw a bright fire, but the secondary explosions had subsided. Already fire fighters were entering the scene.
Quite a few of his bridge crew where killed or wounded now. His artillery officer was killed by a German shell of the same salvo.
"Helm, hard to port, reverse course“! Wright ordered.
One of his goals was to shake of the German fire, the other was to bring the yet unengaged port battery to bear. This move was fooling von Buelow's try to torpedo them, but Wright did not know this, of course.
"W/T officer, new signal, send details of this gun engagement. Call for help“. The bridge hit and the loss of his Gunnery Officer had shaken his confidence in the outcome. Even if they prevailed, there was every chance they‘d be on fire and soon without power.
July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, 18 knots, accelerating, course 300
"Bridge, we have a solution“, Michael Hoehne's voice was heard through the voice tubes.
"Permission to open fire“, Fregattenkapitaen Ziethen was stating. "Finally“, he thought. The feared British Armored Cruisers had not shown up so far; their adversary was a huge, at least 20,000 ts large AMC. She was burning in some places, but no list was visible. The brightest fire was raging in front of her bridge. Nonetheless that target was far from being fought down. The range was about 120 hm, target was in the middle of a turn to port.
"Fire“! Hoehne was commanding.
"KABOOOM“, four heavy shells were fired.
"Hold the fire of the 15 cm until we have straddled her”, Ziethen commanded to Oberleutnant zur See Christian Knothe, the second artillery officer, who was responsible for their medium guns.
Some seconds later, the first salvo arrived. They were to starboard, but with a good range.
Corrections were made and the second salvo went out straddling the still turning target.
"Quickfire”! Hoehne shouted. Ziethen could hear him through the tubes.
“Mittelartillerie, Feuererlaubnis”! (Note )Ziethen commanded.
July 7th 1915, SMS Berlin, 21.5 knots, accelerating, course 000
Still they were good on target, hitting the enemy many times, even in the turn and after. The torpedo was clearly off target now, a fact which made von Buelow fume. They in turn had received their fourth hit now, admidships, near gun no. four. A dud had hit them before that, into the hull. That was pure luck.
Huge splashes covered their target. Roon was adding her weight to the fight, finally.
"Helm, prepare to reverse course, starboard battery and starboard tube, stand ready“, von Buelow ordered.
"Reload the port tube after the turn, immediatly“!
July 7th HMS Cedric, speed 15.5 knots, accelerating
Captain (R.N.) Wright was stunned.The fire of this German light cruiser was getting less intensive after the turn. That one was just beginning to reverse the course as well. Not that he was getting used to the smaller fountains of the 10.5 guns of his adversary. But nearly. And now?
Slowly those huge fountains were collapsing. They were being fired at by another shooter. One with guns much larger than their intial adversary, obviously. A sick feeling began to arise in his stomach.
"Signals, to the admiralty: 'We are fired at with heavy caliber guns'. Send this immediately“!
Another set of tall fountains jetted out of the waves. Closer.
"Do we have that shooter in sight“? He‘d been right all along, he realized in despair. The outcome had indeed been preordained.
Roon was still mostly concealed behind the smoke of Berlin's stacks. The recent gun battle was reducing visibility further.
Ah! THERE she was! The very largeness of her gun flashes had betrayed her!
I must get a look at her and get off a report!
"Helm, hard to port, course 180!“
July 7th 1915, SMS Berlin, 22 knots, accelerating, course 240
Korvettenkapitaen Hildebrandt was fascinated by the huge eruptions of Roon's heavy guns on their adversary. Must be the fourth salvo, which achieved two hits. One had clearly blown off parts of the bridge, the other hit was low in the hull, still above the waterline, below stack number two. Fire and debris blew out of that stack.
"Hit in the boilers, it seems“.
Their target had totally reversed course, stearing 240 for some time, was obviously changing course more southernly again. This was reducing the range still further.
"Starboard tube, fire“! von Buelow commanded. They had an excellent solution now. Range was less than 40 hm. Their target was setting on its new course more or less on 180.
"Torpedo in the water“! Estimated running time 200 seconds!“ their Torpedo Officer was stating.
July 7th HMS Cedric, slowing, course due south
The W/T operator, Seaman Buck, was in a state of confusion. Frequent different reports came down to be sent in these last couple of minutes. So many that he was at least four behind. It was a hell of a confusion on board.
He had reported a three funneled cruiser and a gunnery duel with position etc., but this last message looked ominous.
Cedric was shaking. He had heard many hits, and felt others. These last ones, though. They were different. Heavier? His standing orders were to transmit in order of receipt unless expressly ordered otherwise. So, should he skip the others anyway and jump to this latest one?
The next hit threw him out of his seat and onto the deck.
He got back up and to his station and his fingers flew.
July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, 19.5 knots, accelerating, course 270
Roon had finished its turn to port to bring is full starboard broadside to bear.
The big AMC was in trouble now. Huge parts of its hull, barn door sized, were blown off due to the 15 cm hits. Much more devasting were the main caliber hits. Hoehne was shooting well. The bridge was brightly aflame, their foremast shot away.
The AMC was still shooting back, though it's fire was getting more and more erratic. Until the last salvo four guns were firing, this salvo was only with three guns. Still none were near the newly showing up Berlin.
"W/T transmission of our adversary stopped“, Ziethen was informed.
"I really wonder what that ship may have reported. Maybe soon the whole Royal Navy will show up“, Ziethen thought. Reminding himself to stay focused on what was just happening, he continued to watch his target.
Another heavy salvo was arriving.
"Hit, hit, another“, an excited lookout was commenting.
The first shell hit low on the waterline slightly abaft the bridge complex, the second was high in the hull admidships and the last silenced the after battery of their adversary, as Ziethen witnessed, as only two guns in the foreship shot back afterwards.
"Artillery officer, this is the captain, you are shooting brilliant. Prepare to...“ Ziethen's voice trailed off, watching a huge eruption in the forecastle of that AMC.
Berlin's torpedo hit the slowing target about 20 meters in front of the bridge and not admidships as aimed at.
It was a serious hit but not immediately deadly.
July 7th HMS Cedric, slowing, course due south
Cedric shook from repeated hits. She was getting down in the bow but still she sluggishly, stubbornly steamed on. Her first officer was in the aft superstructure. From there he could see what remained of the bridge forward, which wasn‘t much. At least one heavy shell had detonated in it, killing all personel including his captain. He could make out their dread adversary now, just well enough to see that she was a big ship with two funnels, obviously one of those bedamned Battle Cruisers. Range was about 6,000 meters, decreasing by the minute, not that it mattered at this point.
"Guns, shift fire to the battlecruiser“! With the detachment of total dispair, he wondered if his message had gotten through to the guns forward. If any of them had. Or even if there was anyone still up there. The aft ones were gone and had been for some time now. He had long ago lost track of their casualties, and he couldn‘t hear a damn thing anyway. The small three funneled cruiser had peppered them with his small guns, causing many small fires. The fire fighters in turn had been mowed down by further hits, probably dooming Cedric to a slow death. But the battlecruiser, firing half salvoes of four guns each, was impatiently and methodically tearing her right apart.
And there wasn‘t a damn thing he could do about it. About anything, actually. The thought of surrendering never occurred to him. He wouldn‘t have known how anyway in all this.
"Did we get a response on our W/T transmissions“?
If he was answered, he never heard it.
July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, turning
Ziethen had commanded "Halt, Schwere Batterie halt (Note ) minutes ago. It was obvious, their target was fought down. No need to spend any more of their precious few heavy shells. The starboard medium battery was shooting nonetheless.
Berlin had stopped shooting, too. She was not seriously hit, it seemed. At least she was able to still steam at high speed and no fires or traces of smoke were visible.
"Mittelartillerie halt, Batterie halt“! Ziethen commanded.
The AMC was well down by the bow, with a growing list to port. Still, she was not actually sinking, yet. At least not quickly. Fires were raging everywhere, no guns shooting anymore.
The concern now was not her guns but the massive plume from her still-growing fires. Even now she could be the death of them.
"Oberleutnant zur See Kleeberg, sink her with a shoot from the port broadside tube“, Ziethen commanded.
"Quick, for we have to leave this place as soon as possible“.
"Where are our other ships“?
The reports came fast.
July 7th 1915, SMS Berlin, slow speed ahead
Fregattenkapitaen von Buelow watched the wreck of the AMC slip beneath the waves. Roon's torpedo, and not their own one, had hit admidships. This second torpedo hit, even though "only“ 45 cm caliber had doomed the Britisher.
Falling quickly deeper and deeper, more and more water had entered through the many hits low and high in the hull. Soon she was on her beam ends, dipping the bow, the stern not raised that high out of the water. Groaning, she went down.
Roon had advised to save as many survivours as possible. But soon they had to follow Roon's course north again.
"Korvettenkapitaen Hildebrand, your reports; bitte“, von Buelow commanded.
Berlin was hit by four enemy shells, two of which did not cause significant damage. The other two had hurt and drawn blood. Fortunately the speed, seakeeping and fighting ability was not impaired. Four dead and seven wounded were a price, though.
They had shot two of their six precious 50 cm torpedos, unfortunately. And in excess of 250 10.5 shells.
"We do not send boats, get ropes and nets over board. Keep good watch, I do not want to run into debris“, von Buelow stated finally.
July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, 17 knots, course 345
The last reports had arrived. Roon was not hit, not even straddled. Clearly Berlin had received the brunt of their enemy‘s response.
They had fired nine heavy salvos and about fifteen medium ones. Amunition expenditure as not too high, that way.
Ziethen was worried about the revealed presence of his force by the British. Should he abandon his mission? Does he have to cancel the operation? Or should he simply carry on?
"Report from U – 19, no ships in the first patrol lane sighted“, Korvettenkapitaen Findert stated.
They had lost about three quarters of an hour due to the battle. Already SMS Undine, SMS Arcona and SMS Albatross were in their daylight formation again, Arcona a bit more to port due to the absense of Berlin.
In the last minute the aspect of Berlin was changing. Had they finished their rescue mission? It would take quite a time to catch up.
Inwardly Ziethen knew, that he had no chance other than to continue on north. Somewhere out here were Necki's BC's and small cruiser companions. Had they too encountered resistance? That may help his own forces to get away.
And somewhere had to be Hanzig's forces, too. Much to do for their British friends. That heavy traffic was their true chance to get away. Maybe no more detection would occur.
"Future problems and tasks for the future;“ Ziethen made up his mind. Northward ho'.
"Signals, position and distance to Berlin. Do not want to loose her. We still may need her“; he said, starting to smile. His eagerness returned.
"Fregattenkapitaen Ziethen, the W/T traffic is extremely busy at the moment. Seems that whole fleets are out there somewhere“, his NO was stating.
"You are absolutely right, my dear Kapitaenleutnant Kempfert“, Ziethen said.
July 7th 1915, SMS Vineta, Skagerrak
"Kapitaen, smoke in 330“, one of his lookouts reported to Kapitaen zur See Adelung.
July 7th 1915, SMS Amazone, Skagerrak
"Kontreadmiral Mischke, reports from G 136 and G 132, smoke in 010 and 060 repectively“.
"Engine, prepare to go to full speed. Let us raise the morning traffic“!
July 7th HMS E 4, blowing the tanks, Skagerrak
"Bring her up“!. E 4's commander ordered after one final periscope sweep. All seems to be fine. They urgently have to send their report to the admiralty. Three hours had they stood submerged. It was more than time for that duty now.
Main Story, Part Three
Written for Letterstime by Uwe Ziethen.
Story is permitted to be placed on Jim Byrds “Thequickbluefox.com” server.
Uwe likes to thank Jim very much for his encouragement and support.
Footnote 1: "Kapitaen auf der Brücke, translated as "Captain on the Bridge“
Footnote 2: "Mittelartillerie Feuererlaubnis“, translated as "medium guns, open fire“.
Footnote 3: "Halt, Schwere Batterie halt“, translated as“ heavy guns, cease fire“
 Kapitaen auf der Brücke, translated as "Captain on the Bridge"
 "Mittelartillerie Feuererlaubnis“, translated as "medium guns, open fire".
 "Halt, Schwere Batterie halt“, translated as“ heavy guns, chease fire".