Into The Great White Open – Main Story Line Part Four –  Skagerrak Shuffle


A Letterstime  side story


To help new readers, to bring the old ones back in line and to 'deconfuse' some words of the author about the mentioned German Forces. There are:


  1. Z-Force, commanded by acting Kommodore Ziethen.with AC Roon, small cruisers Berlin and Undine and the minecruisers Arcona and Albatross, currently near the Norvegian City of Bergen, still in the North Sea. They sail in northern directions.
  2. Kuestenschutzdivision Ostsee with the PC's Victoria Louise and Vineta and the small cruiser Amazone, Kontreadmiral Mischkes flagship plus some Hochseetorpedoboote, they are in the Skaggerak, detached gunboat Panther plus one Torpedoboot in the Kattegat. Both are epeiric seas of the North Sea.
  3. Aufklaerungsgruppe Ostsee, commanded by Kontreadmiral Hopman with the AC's Prinz Adalbert, Prinz Heinrich, the PC Kaiserin Augusta, the small cruisers, Thetis, Niobe, Nymphe and Medusa, plus some Torpedobooten, currently east of the Danish Baltic Island of Bornholm.
  4. There are some more German Formations active in the North Sea at the same time, but they do not belong to 'my' story. To be precise, three more:

    * Viceadmiral Letters and the HSF, multiple Dreadnoughts and two small crusers and some Torpedobootsflottillen, now with Korvettenkapitaen Conda and Bremen plus three Hochseetorpedobooten and Korvettenkapitaen Borys and his two Hochseetorpedobooten,
    * Kontreadmiral Hanzig, coming home, 2 BC's and 4 LC's and multipe SS's
    * Kontreadmiral Necki with 2 BC's and 4 LC's plus 10 Hochseetorpedoboote



July 7th 1915, mid-morning, SMS Undine, North Sea, 17 knots, course 320


“Any corrections visible on their course“?, Korvettenkapitaen Windmueller asked his XO. They were talking about the visible smoke plume to their starboard bow.


'“No, Sir, they seem to stay on course, could be they are on a course to Drontheim“, that one said immediately. “and,    they are slower then we are“.


“Signals, to Roon, recommend course change back to 345“, Windmueller commanded his signals officer.


“There is a chance that this is not a Britisher, is it“? Windmueller kept on wondering.


In fact is was a norvegian Warship, but that became clear only after the war.



July 7th 1915, mid-morning, SMS Panther, Kattegat, 14 knots, course 085


“Korvettenkapitaen Velten, smoke plumes bearing 180 are at least three big vessels with accompanying Torpedobooten“, his XO, short of breath informed him. “The first one has a heavy fighting mast“.


“Oh, another smaller vessel behind the big ones“! a lookout reported.


“Position of S 122“? Velten stood with raised binocculars on the starboard bridgewing and could not see the Torpedoboot, which had taken position off the port bow as ordered minutes earlier.


“Could that be the enemy? AC's perhaps? How had they got behind them“? Veltens mind raced. He kept staring at those approaching vessels, about 7 miles away. If they were enemies they would open fire soon. He would try to buy S 122 some time. May be at least the agile TB could escape.



July 7th mid-morning, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 010



She was vibrating violently, running on both diesels with absolute maximum speed. The vibrations were that violent sometimes, that the lookouts had difficulties to watch the horizon. Relentlessly they were pushed on by their young commander. The tower, they would not win a trophy with it. Barley had not yet ordered to patch all holes, only those where work could be done from above the tower. He was reluctant to order crew members done on the hull.


“Smoke bearing 015”! one lookout shouted.


Electrified Lieutenant Commander Richard Barley raced over to the starboard side of the tower and lifted his binocculars.


“Where is it”? he thought. “Ah, there was one...and another one to the east of it”!


“Signals, to the admiralty, multiple plumes, add our position”!


“Helm, five degrees starboard, come to 015”!



July 7th 1915, mid-morning, SMS Panther, Kattegat, 14 knots, course 085


“These are three ships in line and a cruiser behind“, the lookout stated. “At least three Torpedoboote in the van“. After a short pause, “May be more in the back“.


“That could be no Britishers, they are likely too small to be AC's or those dreaded Town's, aren't they“? Veltens mouth had gone dryer as any desert.


“Lookout, can you identify them“? Velten asked, his voice rasp.


“They are one funnel ships, at least the three big ones“.


“It must be the Danish Baltic Fleet“, Velten thought. “It must“!


Sailing to the east they could view more and more of the approaching fleet.


“Lead ship identified as Peder Skram, the second one seem to be....Olfert Fischer and behind her the Herluf Trolle. The cruiser seems to be Gejser-Class“.


Shockwaves ran down Veltens spine. They had been more than lucky. The Danes!


“Gun's prepare to fire salute, that is the Danish flagship“, he ordered relieved. He laid his hands on the rail, hoping nobody would see them trembling.



July 7th late morning, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 015


Only slowly were they catching up. They had repeatedly send position updates to the admiralty, whithout positive identification of their sightings.


One smoke plume though started to get bigger and bigger, masts were visible in the meantime.


“Prepare to dive, but we will stay surfaced as long as possible”.


“What should he do if they ought to encounter a merchant? Send over a boarding party”? Barley has not decided yet.



July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, North Sea, late morning, course 345


Finally, just minutes before, Berlin had taken her position on the port wing after a long pursuit. The German Arctic Squadron, or in short GAS, was together again.


Ziethen had ordered: “Signals, to Berlin:


K an K (note [1]), well done, congratulations, GAS has sunk their first victim”!


Stangely, it was not answered by the Berlin. May be the range was too high? Had they not seen it? That could not be possible, could it?


“Still occupied over there“, Ziethen thought. “Will demand a thorough report later“.



July 7th 1915, SMS Berlin, North Sea, late morning, course 345


“Reduce speed to 17 knots, we are coming too far ahead”, Fregattenkapitaen von Buelow had ordered minutes ago.


With a scowl he had received the report of his lookout about Roon's signal. When the signals officer kept looking at him questional, he barked: “What you keep staring at me, Luitenant, to your station, at once”!


That one gathered all his courage and asked: “But Captain, should we not send an acknowledge”?


“One more word from you and I will order to put you to brig”, von Buelow said, now dangerously calm.


That one turned away and left. Silence on the bridge.



July 7th noon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 015


Bigger and bigger the smokeplume grew, with more plumes on the northeastern horizon. Masts where poking out of the water and finally, Barley mentally prepared the order to dive commando, when a lookout shouted:


“This is no warship, more likely a freighter!”


“Are we slowly migrating into being scarecrows?” Lieutenant Commander Richard Barley wondered. Could they not distinguish merchant masts from warship ones? Should he stop that merchant or simply head on, keeping the course?


“Shall we stop 'em?” one of his NCO's demanded.


“I should give them something”; Barley thought. “Boarding crew on deck, prepare the dinghi”!


“Gun crew, stand ready, but do not yet man the gun”.


He did not like to have too many men on deck. But should he not order the gun to be ready, just in case”?



July 7th noon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 12 knots, course 190


Why he was following that already controled swedish merchant west, away from his own forces, Oberleutnant zur See Mudrich could not tell, it was just a 'feel'. His task was to stand guard on the western flank of the northern heading german force. V 152, commanded by his mate Oberleutnant zur See Junghans, had controlled the SS Sveaborg, but found no contrabande, so that the Swedes could finally sail on.


When V 152 had reboarded her prize-crew again and started to get back underway, which the SS Sveaborg did as well and accelerated again, Mudrich suddenly had the urge to follow. That feeling grew until he could not resist and decided to follow her, which he did during the last couple of minutes.


Neither Mr. Barley nor Herr Mudrich could see each other, due to SS Sveaborg in between them. They did not kown that they very soon will have the pleasure to meet each other.



July 7th noon, SMS Arcona, North Sea, 17 knotes, cource 345


Korvettenkapitaen von Hippel was glad that the 'family' was together again. They had reversed to their planned daylight formation, which means that she was currently the northernmost ship in their formation, about 5,000 meters ahead of the flagship, which followed in her wake. Truely the vanguard!


Von Hippel would not admit it, but he was glad that he had not been in Berlin's position during the early morning hours. Not that he was afraid of a fight, but with all those mines aboard, hit could prove extremely deadly. Once finished the minelaying operations, SMS Arcona would actually be more capable in the cruiser role than their sister Undine. They had above water 50 cm Torpedoetubes at least and not those shortbreathed 45 cm ones. But with 200 mines aboard you'd better receive no shell hits! The mineroom was not at all armored.


He was not sure, for SMS Berlin was about 10 nm west and about 6 nm ahead of them, but would not Berlin  have been hit? Later, someday he must have a chat with von Buelow. Dismissing those thoughts, looking east he could make out their sistership, same distance away. The only ship he could not currently see was the other minelayer, the small Albatross. Roon was blocking their line of vision.


They had passed the latitude of the southern British line of patrols some hours ago, in fact they were slowly aproaching the northern patrol line, which they ought to pass, unhindered voyage assuming, between 3 pm and 3:30 pm or about in three hours.


“Any reports from U – 19?“


“Yes, the last one arrived about 30 minutes ago, stating no sightings. But soon Kapitaenleutnant Kolbe's boat would heading further north, so they might not be able to scout any more“, his NO answered.



July 7th noon, U – 19, North Sea, 10 knotes, cource 015


The horizon around his boat remained strangely empty. No sightings this far north.


“As if the whole damned English Fleet is accupied elsewhere. Or are they just hiding out of sight until the cruisers will show up?“ Kapitaenleutnant Kolbe was shouting. Even he had the binocculars in front of his eyes, scanning around. They always could dive but the cruisers can not. At least they could not resurface again, he thought, not sure if it was a joke.


They had left Wilhelmshaven in the morning hours ot the 4th of July. Having used a very economical cruising speed they had started their scouting mission. The signal from Norddeich (Note [2]) had arrived yesterday. Then they knew that the mission had finally begun. Repeatedly they were updating their sighting reports, which today simply were nonsighting reports.


Kolbe did not know that much further south ships would start to die soon. The fleets were really occupied.



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 015


Lieutenant Commander Richard Barley had decided last minute, in hindsight wisely, not to board that freighter. Boarding crew already stood ready on deck. They even had opened a hatch to get their dinghy clear. Now the Swedish flag of that merchant was visible.


He had finally decided against boarding due to the likeliness the freighter was already controlled by their german 'colleagues' and it would not being outbound into the North Sea when it had loaded german addressed contraband. And most of all he wanted to get those Armoured Cruisers!


What he had done in the meantime was order a close inspection of the tower and the visible portions of the pressure hull. Therefore other hatches away from the tower were opened as well, to get equipment clear. He did not want to have ugly surprises if he may be forced to dive again. The diving last time went alright, but he still was not sure about the real amount of damage. That way about 15 members of his crew where all around, and not only on the tower, but on the hull as well. Waves were not too high to make this a dangerous adventure, however. This could only occur if German ships would be too near by, but this was not the case at the moment. The weather was good and the sight brilliant. If other plumes would show up, Barley would recall his crew. They would be ready to dive in less than five minutes, which was fine by him.


“Cross their bow. We are ahead enough that there is no danger of a collision. We will pass about 1000 yards west of them,” he explained to his bosun, who had the helm, when on the tower.


“What about the other plumes?” Just to be careful, he thought.


They were passing the freighter's bow.



July 7th highnoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 12 knots, course 190


“Helm, new course....”, Oberleutnant zur See Mudrich stopped cold. The wiry petty officer at the wheel noted that his captain’s mouth remained ajar; though no words emerged, he thought to hear a slight and sibilant exhalation akin to a hiss.”


Crossing the Sveaborg's bow was a submarine, about 1500 meters away. The tower form was very 'ungerman'.


One of Mudrich's personal traits was that he always could react very fast. This he had not expected, but...


“Scheiße, U-Boot to starboard! Alarm! Guns open fire on target! Feuererlaubnis”! his voice shouted through the shocked silence of his bridge crew. “Full ahead, new course 275!”


“Target is a surfaced U-Boot bearing 090!”


Crack! The 5.2 cm on the starboard bridgewing opened up. They had reacted fast. Both centerline guns aft were turning around, crews running everywhere.


“A submarine caught surfaced, what an opportunity to take”, Mudrich's mind raced. He could feel his pulse climb and his breath rasp in his throat.



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 015


“Barley’s first reaction was denial; he simply couldn’t help himself.


No! This can’t be happening! Not twice in one day! Caught on the surface by German warships!


The Hun already had its rudder over, black smokeplumes belching from both stacks. One of his guns had already opened fire. Damnittohell, but this guy was quick!. Whoosh! This one was an over by far. They got him once again! Had they seen him before? Known he was here?  Good God! Dive! OH-NO!! The equipment hatches! “They’d all spend the rest of eternity breathing water on the bottom.”


E - 4 was already on maximum speed, so they could not accelerate any further. These were the facts. He was tempted to order a “Full reverse”, but that would make him a sitting duck. Barley made up his mind.


“Emergency port rudder! This was away from the approaching destroyer. He needed to buy a full minute, and maybe more. Hiding behind the same steamer that the damn German had hid behind seemed his only chance.


“Clear the deck!” Barley shouted. “Prepare for emergency dive!”


E – 4 was reacting on the rudder in an instant, the deck turned instantly into a treacherous slope. The first warning the men working topside had of the situation was the passage overhead of the German’s first shell, followed by the splash, and then by the more distant “boom” of the gun. They’d frozen for a moment, staring in shock at the lacy waterspout just a few hundred yards distant. His shouted order had broken them out of it and started them for the hatches, gaping open like mortal wounds in the hull, which was just what they would be if they didn’t get them shut.


Crewmen struggled for handholds on the tightly crowded tower. Those out on deck had more space to regain a foothold. One sailor nearly tumbled overboard, only caught last second by a crewmate. The ones on deck, however, were the ones furthest from getting in a hatch, any hatch.


“Clear the deck!”  Barley shouted, again. “Prepare for emergency dive!”


Should he use his bow gun? He glanced forward to find that the gun captain had made his own decision. His chief had taken one look at the open hatches and the chaos around them and, instead of joining the end of the struggling queues, had kept his men in hand and already had the twelve-pounder gun starting to pivot.


Barley had ordered the water-seal cap kept in the gun to allay any concerns of the Swedes. He remembered that fact as he saw it pulled out. The canted deck threatened to see the ready rounds off and over the side.  Numbly, Barley realized he had not seen the piece being loaded. His chief must have had the gun loaded all along, but not told him! Muzzle saver in place or not!


Whoosh, whoosh! Two more overs.


He suddenly was glad that he had orderd the tube loaded after their first encounter with the German Armoured Cruisers.


There was something more to be ordered. ”Open all Torpedo doors!” He wasn’t sure how this was going to play out, let alone at what angles. “Target is a – Whoosh-splash – destroyer, estimated speed 20 knots, distance - Whoosh-splash - 1500 yards, dropping fast. Prepare to fire a spread with all three forward tubes”!


“Stern tube ready to fire”!


There was essentially zero chance to hit a fast, turning, alerted surface vessel, especially with the sub in the midst of its own turn. It was like shooting a bird on the wing while pivoting on ice skates, but there the hunter would at least have a shotgun – Barley did not. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures and, as bad as this was, it could get a lot worse any second.


Whooshwhoosh whoosh! More overs.


The gun captain came out with a loud and remarkably profane curse. They had gotten the deck gun almost on target, despite the rudder tilt, only to have the tower wood their arc of fire.


“Crews, hurry, get below, get below”! he shouted his command repeatedly.


Whooshwhoosh, splashsplash!




The gunfire twenty feet away startled him. The gun captain had not been the only one to remain alert. While most of the boarding crew members had thrown their rifles overboard - the long guns were hardly conducive to emergency rapid passage through hatches, after all – two near the end of the line had elected to put their Lee-Enfields to use while they waited.


“Clear the decks!  Hurry!” I must be sounding hysterical, he thought. I will remain on the tower during the manouvre. May be there would be a chance to shoot the bow torpedoes! Where is that merchant. I have to avoid a collision but it must pass her bow as near as possible”, adrenaline was pumping through his veins.


Whoosh, whoosh, splashsplash! Much nearer.


The fastly turning destroyer was wooding the firing arcs of its stern guns, but now was firing like hell with two guns on her bridge. E - 4 had in the meantime nearly finished his turn.


Shocked Barley realized that only few seconds had passed. It seemed to be eons for him.


They would make it to recline behind the merchants bow. Would they not?


“Rudder amidships!”, he shouted down the hatchway.


“Fire”! his gun commander shouted.


Crack! The twelve pounder shouted out its defiance. Finally.


“Clang!” One hatch slammed shut. Some of the boarding crew still had to reach the ladder up the tower.


Kaboom, a shell detonated close to the hull, wounding two of his crew, drenching some more. Another shell was hitting a gun crew member without detonating! Fragments of the body of the unfortunate were flying all about.


“All tubes, running depth 2 yards, maximum speed! Short running distance! Target is still on course 270, Bow tube and side tubes, ready!”


“Shall I try a lucky shot”? Barley wondered. No chance. Not on that course.


Soon his commmando was acknowledged from below. “Hold fire!”


In the meantime they were bracketed by the German guns. But not hit. Not yet!



July 7th highnoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 20 knotes, accelerating, course 275


It was nearly impossible to understand ones own words, with both bridgewing guns firing like there was no tomorrow. They had frequently straddled the target, which had changed its course to port, now, barely 1000 meters away. But they had not scored a hit, yet, as much as Mudrich could tell. He was not satisfied with that result. Strange, too, that that enemy submarine seems not to begin its dive! Were they reacting that slowly? Was that because crew running along the hull? He had caught them cold. Obviously they were shoot at with rifles, for he had heard a bullet whistle past the bridgewing. That would be a chance for his 08 machineguns. Why did they not open up already?


The sub now had reversed his course and was trying to hide behind the Seaborg.


Mudrich suddely saw smoke erupting from the subs deck gun. The shot luckily went wild.


“Helm, we will ram her! Come to 280! Guns, silence that gun! Are the machineguns ready”?


Crackcrack! just two seconds later, Crackcrack! No answers from the machinegunners.


“Signals, to Amazone, engaged enemy submarine....”.


“Guns be careful not to hit that merchant, understand?” The sub was racing towards the Swede. Just let them be a bit careful”, he added mentally.



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course changing


Whack! The shell must have detonated in the tower, below his feet, cries of pain were audible coming out of the hatch. They were bracketed by the enemy, but that was the first direct hit, as much as he could tell. He was drenched to the bone, by water or sweat, still not alone on the bridge and sure now that they soon would retreat behind that Swedish vessel.


Most of the boarding crew was below already, but still two hatches were still not closed. “We need to hurry, our luck will not hold indefinitely”, Barley started to get restless.


The german destroyer was very near now, running alongside the SS Sveaborg, which crew was viewing a film of a special kind.


Whang, Whang! The german had hit them again. Parts of Barley's mind wondered why that took so long. One more hit low on the tower and the other one on deck aside the tower. “Would in all likeliness not have hurt the pressure hull”, he was partly relieved. Shocked he realized that Miller, who had tried to close the hatch of the dinghy, was lying on the deck. His clothes were turning red!


Crack! The bow gun got off its second round, which firing was delayed due to wounding of some of its gun crews.


“Must get those boys below as well, but they ought to buy me some more seconds”. Their time was running out.


Whoosh, splash, Whoosh splash!



July 7th highnoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 22 knots, accelerating, course 280


Finally they had hit their target, hit them more than once, mostly in the tower, unfortunately the 5.2 cm shell weight was only about 2 kilogram, so the amout of damage was small, of course.


The enemies deck gun had shot a second time, missing them only by small a margin. “That was more than close”, Mudrich thought.


The enemy sub was retreating behind the hull of the Sveaborg now. One shell was detonating only about ten meters off the bow of the Swede.


“Cease fire!”! he roared. Unthinkable, should they hurt Neutrals. That would cost him any chance of a promotion! Not to mention the loss of relationship with the generally friendly Swedish government. And all the paperwork!


“Machineguns, status, Verdammt noch Mal”!


Mudrich was tempted to turn sharp to port to pass Sveaborg's stern, but they were too near for that kind of manouvre. The big ship was completely wooding his line of vision. They were less than 100 meters to starboard of SS Sveaborg now.


Shooting had stopped. “Should I pass along the other ships hull and turn to port after passing the bow or shall I turn three quarters of a circle and pass behind the stern”? Mudrich tended to the last, but that would cost time. Did he have those?



July 7th highnoon, SS Sveaborg, Skagerrak, 8 knots, course 280


Not many sailors aboard the Sveaborg would ever forget July 7th 1915. At least not those near the deck or able to get to the deck. 'Unlucky' as often, were only the stockers and the machine crew. They of course were unable to watch this developing encounter.


Nearly all others had gathered along the deck, gazing at the revealing spectacular, which had started to play on the starboard side.


The submarine must be out of the field of vision of its chasing destoyer. Captain Hansen was glad that they did not collide, for the sub just made it barely. Their stem cut water where seconds before was good British Steel. Crew members were poking their fingers in different directions, as if to show where the other of the antagonists just was. The sub was turning to port, racing on a divergent course of them. Running out to the starboard bridgewing, he saw the German destroyer starting to turn to starboard.


“Why were they turning away from them”? Hansen wondered. Did the German try to flee?


Obviously not, for it had started to turn a circle. Would it pass behind their stern?



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course changing


They had made it behind the Swedish hull. The question now was, where was the goddamned German? Would he follow them around the bow of the freighter or would it be in view in seconds coming up behind the freighters stern?


The tower in the meantime was 'decrowded' for aside from him only three more members of his crew were up there. The gun crew was down to four members. One sailor has managed to close one of the hatches, but at the one where late Miller had worked hard to close was no replacement.


“Bender, go down and close this hatch, hurry. Fetch that sailor, do it together”; Barley ordered. Has he to tell them everything?


“Prepare to dive!” he shouted down the voicetubes. Where was that German?


Looking up towards the Sveaborg, he was irritated by the many faces looking down on him. What the hell were they looking for? “Hope you enjoyed the bloody show”! he roared in anger,shacking his fist.



July 7th highnoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 24 knots, accelerating, course changing


They nearly had finished their three-quarter circle. G 134's bow was more or less pointing to the stern of the Swede. What were all those sailors over there doing? He was no dance performer with an auditory, was he not? Had they no work to do? This was a war and no event!


Very soon the English submarine would come in sight, if it still was surfaced.


“All guns, prepare to engage ememy on straboard! No one, I repeat no one will fire at the merchant. Is that clear”? he shouted through the silence.


“Both starboard machineguns ready to fire, captain”, one NCO was reporting.


“Why had that taken so long”? Mudrich wondered but did not ask. Only 200 more meters to the stern.



July 7th highnoon, SS Sveaborg, Skagerrak, 8 knots, course 280, more or less


Captain Hansen had enough. Could those buggers over there please have their personal war, but not that close to his ship. The sub must nearly have passed along their hull and the German destroyer was only few meters away from their stern. By the way, why were they swaying?


“Helm, stay on course or I lay you in iron”! he roared into the bridge. Unthinkable should they collide with one of those boats out there. And only because his helmsman was unable to steer a straight course.


Swedish sailors on the portside were shouting down: “The Germans, the Germans, they come” and other more or less unintelligent phrases while their collegues on the starborad side were shouting words like: “Do not collide with the sub “into the direction of the German boat.


Of course they were not audible.



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 090, more or less


Bender was down there in no time and together with the second sailor the process of closing that last hatch was making good progress.


The hatch below the gun was closed as well, some ready to use ammunition was laying around the gun.


“You two, hurry down”; he ordered his last tower companions to leave their fighting station. Looking to the stern he wondered when the destroyer would show up.


Crack! His head flipped around. He saw the detonation of the shell in the bow of the destroyer, which had shown up behind the Seaborg's stern. Bloody hell, they were only 400 meters away, at maximum. “Very good reaction of the gun commander”, Barley thought.


The next round was loaded and the depression behind the bow of the destroyer was visible now. Was there a torpedo tube? Oh!


“Bow tube and side tubes, ready to fire”, he shouted down the hatch.


Crack! This time the shell hit the exhauster in front of the bridge of the german.


Whang! The shell of the German, fired by the gun near the bridge had hit the base of the tower. It detonated inside after the penetration of the plate. God, he had sent his comrades down just seconds ago.


Was that damned hatch still open?


He leaned down, to order the bow tube fired, when something whistled above his head.



July 7th highnoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 25 knots, accelerating, course changing


That bastard had bagged them twice before they were able to fire back. The first shell had detonated very near the bow, abviously in the crew's cabine, which must be empty now. The second had hit the exhauster in front of the bridge, showering the front tube with splinters, some of which had hit the base of the tower as well.


Crack! The first shot of the starboard bridgewing 5.2 cm with its nice long barrel had hit back.


Tacktacktacktack, finally the first MG 08 opened fire. The tracers were cutting above the tower at first, gliding below where they were ricocheing off the tower and then cutting into the guncrew, stricking down two of them. Two more crew members were climbing up the ladders both sides of the tower.


“Hard to starboard, course 270, quick”! Be quick or be dead, Mudrich thought.


A squall of air at the U-Boots bow showed him what he had feard most. The bastard had fired a torpedo!


“Torpedo in the water about 250 meters away!” shouted a lookout.


“Mein Gott! So ein Mist” (Note [3]), Mudrich thought. “Helm, comb the wakes, guns, try to hit the Tordedo!”


“Machinegunners, fire at the tower”! he shouted. In the meantime both MG's had firing arcs.


The Torpedo was aproaching fast, but G 134 was a very agile ship. She was turning fastly. Both bow guns were now firing at the Torpedo. The firing arc of both centerline stern guns was already wooded, again.


Two more squalls further aft! “Side torpedo tubes“! Mudrich shouted.


“Could he evade three torpedos“?



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 090, more or less


Barley was shocked. The long burst of the German machinegun nearly had got him. That was more than luck, fate! Bender and the other sailor had finally managed to close the dinghi hatch and were climbing up the tower.


“Bow tube, fire”! He managed to order, fractions of a second before he ducked behind the bridge plates. That Torpedo had a chance to activate, with a running distance of about 250 meters. Looking up again, he saw two of his gunners laying motionless on the deck. The other two tried to hide behind the gun.


The german's guns had stopped to fire at them? No more gun hits.


“Gunners up the tower, hurry!


“Both side tubes“, he had to duck again, “Fire“! In all likeliness the running distance will be too short but to hell with it.


“Dive, dive dive“! he shouted, crawling to the hatch, machinegun bullets flying all around.





July 7th highnoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, 26 knots, accelerating, course changing


The first torpedo was running along, about 5 meters to port. But the other two!


Whang! The final round of the twelvepounder had hit below the bridge, Mudrich was falling down. He at once got up again.


He saw two men running towards the tower, the gun was without crew. “Gott im Himmel, die Torpedos”!


One was clearly off track, but the other!


“That one will get us!“ Mudrich thought desperately. They could impossibly evade all three.


The british sub clearly now showed sings of getting down.


Clang! That third torpedo hit the bow head on, failing to detonate, it was deflected to port.


Both stern guns and the starboard wing 5.2 cm gun were firing again. The bow was starting to submerge when both former gunners were crawling up the ladder to the tower.


“Machineguns, chease fire“! No need to slaughter those unfortunate ones. Enough bloodshed!


Barely able to decrease the elevation of the gun, the aft gun hit the just submerging base of the tower of the, now slightly abaft racing, submarine. She was only about 15 meters to starboard now. Had he not lost his foothold and had there been no Torpedos, may be he could have had that one rammed. Could have!



July 7th highnoon, SS Sveaborg, Skagerrak, 8 knots, course 280, more or less


Captain Hansen was trembling. It was notb easy to be in the middle of a sea battle. His heart had nearly stopped to beat when he saw that submarine fire a spread of torpedos. One had even hit the destroyer but failed to detonate. It was deflected away from him, luckily. His ship was unhurt, as was his crew. A nice Malt just would do now!


He admired the bravado of the German captain, who even had apologized and asked if everything was alright.



July 7th highnoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 4 knots, submerged


Lieutenant Commander Richard Barley was kind of happy, kind of sad. At least they had survived. No, their torpedo attack was unsuccessful. No detonation was heard, not from him and not from others. But they had hit the destroyer with the twelvepounder! He had managed, a wonder again , to get down the ladder of the tower, unhit. Even both surviving gunners had managed to get below, closing the tower's hatch, before they finally submerged.


He was not able to have a look around with his periscope, for a lot of water was coming down from their peppered tower. One thing was clear, they were not deadly hit, but they had lost their wireless, the antenna shot away. The boat was damaged, but not severe. Four crew members he had lost dead outside and inside the boat two more were dying or already dead. But the rest and the boat had survived. Some were wounded, but alive.



July 7th 1915, early afternoon, SMS Amazone, Skagerrak


Kontreadmiral Mischke finally had made up his mind. He had just received the report of his westernmost Torpedoboot, the G 134. It had encountered a submarine, again, probably the same which had attacked the SMS Vineta in the morning.


“Signals, to all ships, new course 090, get back to fighting formation, speed 16 knotes. When all ships have acknowledged, hoist course 170.”


So far their cruiser warefare mission was much more successful than he had imagined, he just did not want to spoil this due to an submarine attack. Clearly this British Commander was much more aggressive than normal ones. And G 134 had made clear, that they had not sunk that one, in all likeliness. But was that not the source of a story?


May be they could not only achieve a victory in the commerce warefare, but one on the propaganda front as well.


“Englisches U-Boot greift Schwedischen Frachter ohne Warnung an!” (Note [4]). What a header! Mischke was rubbing his hands, smiling.


“Signals, to the admirality in Kiel.” He started to dictate a W/T message.



July 7th afternoon, SMS G 134, Skagerrak, accelerating, course 175


Oberleutnant zur See Mudrich was still in a kind of shock. They had survived that encounter with the submarine, but that was by such a small margin. They all had been very, very lucky. He was sure that they had not sunk that sub, but it was hit by at least 7 shells, before it submerged. If they only have had a real heavy gun, an 8.8 cm or a 10.5 cm, then they would have had sunk it. Or some of those new waterbombs, he had heard of, being developed.


They had been hit three times, the last one had wounded three crewmembers, two of them quite serious. On the other hand , their bow tube was not damaged by the splinters of hit number two. Hit one had caused a very small fire, which was extingushed quite fast.


By the way, SS Sveaborg was really the lucky one, the deflected torpedo had not hit the swedish vessel, which had desperately turned to starboard after the torpedo spread. He was tempted to leave them alone, but finally he decided to contact the Sveaborg. Repair what you can repair, was one of his mothers favorites.


He was seeing V 152 approaching to cover them. Together with their companion they now proceeded on their new course. Back to guard the cruisers.



July 7th afternoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 025


Finally surfacing again, Lieutenant Commander Richard Barley had decided to proceed on the old course.


They had managed to reduce the leakage from above, but he did not dare to dive too deep.


His crew was needing something, Barley was feeling it. Fight desperation!


“This encounter is more important than you can imagine. We had taken on one of those few remaining german destroyers. After their recent losses the huns are very short on escorts! We sure have hurt that bastard. Now lets hunt again, our remaining two bow and two stern torpedoes are awaiting their targets. I want to sink one of those Armored Cruisers out there”!


How his crew has applauded. He was so proud of them.


On the other hand, what should he do with the wounded? They urgently need doctors help.



July 7th afternoon, SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse, Wilhelmshaven, steerage way


Korvettenkapitaen Knipping was watching the receeding quai. They were on their way, finally. Soon they ought to pick up their escorts. He definitively was eager to reach Kiel in the morning hours of July 9th latest. On another quai, in the now nearly empty harbor, he could see their sistership, the rebuilt SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II.. Seems she had to stay in the North Sea. The old Kaiser Friedrich III. Class battleship was used as stationary flagship, she was likely unavailable, though Viceadmiral Letters was recently using the SMS Grosser Kurfuerst frequently in that role. And not only when they were out there with the other Dreadnoughts, like today, but in the harbour as well. Once again Knipping was amazed how things had changed these recent months. The Hochseeflotte was again out in the North Sea.


“Actively looking for a battle”? he wondered silently. “XO, can you make out our escorts”?



July 7th afternoon, SMS Prinz Adalbert, Baltic, 14 knots, course 095


Kontreadmiral Hopman decided to call it a day. He adressed Prinz Adalbert's CO, Kapitaen zur See Michelsen.


“I have decided to cancel the planned cruise to the north. At least for today. The fuel situation on our Torpedobooten is too aggravating to proceed with the old plan. Michelsen, we will implement the following changes. By the way, where is my flagofficer Kapitaenleutnant Gercke? He should help us a bit”.


When Gercke arrived, Hopman continued.


“The 19th Halbflottille shall escort the Gazelle-class cruisers SMS Medusa, SMS Thethis, SMS Arcona and SMS Niobe to Libau. Kommodore von Karpf ought to replenish coal there and stay ready”.


As was his habit, a short hesitation followed.


“The 20th Halbflottile will escort us to Danzig. I am tempted to send the boats to Libau afterwards, but we will have to keep in mind the enemy submarines prowling around. Therefore they will accompany the Grosse Kreuzer to Danzig. There we will replenish coal as well. Tomorrow evening, two colliers loaded with coal will be escorted to Libau. By us, naturally.”


“Am I assuming correct that SMS Prinz Heinrich and SMS Kaiserin Augusta will be our companions”? Michelsen was entering the fray.


“Exactly, and I want as many of the 'yardqueens' of the 10th Torpedoboots-Flottille as possible coming north with us as well. Kapitaenleutnant Gercke, please make sure the Herren Oberleutnante of those boats will  understand the urgency of what I said”.


“Jawoll, Herr Admiral”, Gercke answered.


“We only have two Torpedobootflottillen at all in the Ostsee. One is with Kontreadmiral Mischke and the other with us. There are plans to send us heavier units as well, but it would be nearly suicide to send them without additional escort units. I have made that clear with my latest reports”.


Michelsen had noted frequently the many tactical and strategical thoughts of his superieur. “He might be the right CinC of this theatre. This is not undermining my appraisal of Prinz Heinrich”, he thought. He refocussed his thoughts, as Hopman continued.


“My plan is to use attached V 108 as well. She is our only true modern boat. What a shame we lost V 107 and were not able to salvage her“. (Note [5])


Michelsen started to smile sadly. “Yes, admiral, as you might remember, I was aboard V 107 when we struck that mine in Libau harbour.” He ommitted the fact that he was lightly wounded during that incident (Note [6]). “The storm some days later abruptly ended the salvage efforts. The boat became a total loss, even though many parts of her equipment could be salvaged.


“My dear Michelsen, I had not forgotten that, I did not want to sound tactless”, Kontreadmiral Hopman said with a smile. Gercke not for the first time was amazed how good the relationship between the Admiral and his Flag Captain was.


“Back to Business. The Torpedoboote, which accompany us, will replenish coal again in Libau. Then the whole fleet will leave Libau in the morning hours of July 9th”.


U A and U 9 will stay on their current positions. More details, especially for the small cruisers , will be worked out today.


Some minutes later on the bridge.


“Signals, to the cruisers and the 19th Halbflottille, hoist detached. When they acknowledge, hoist course 175 for the rest of us”, Michelsen commanded.



July 7th afternoon, SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse, German Bight, 12 knots, course 045


T 91, T 93 and T 94 had taken their positions. They currently belong to the Hafenflottille Jade/Weser, which was in fact one of the many groups of the Kuestenschutzverband Nordsee.

Those boats, being the earliest Grosse Torpedoboote of the German Fleet, being 1899 vintage S 90 type, had received the 'T' instead of their former 'Letter' September 04th 1914. Ironically the escorter and the escorted were about the same age.


Korvettenkapitaen Knipping did not mind one bit. At Schillig Reede they had met the Fourth Battlesquadron, the flag of Viceadmiral Schmidt flying aboard the SMS Wittelsbach. Obviously they stand ready to help the Hochseeflotte, should that be necessary. But they were not heading out into the North Sea. They had just been waiting. “Letters do not like the old battlewagons along”, Knipping reminded himself.


They had given the proper salute and proceeded along.


“Signals, hoist 085”. They would proceed east until they will reach the Elbe estuary. Then they ought to change the course to southeasterly directions.



July 7th afternoon, SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, Kiel, alongside quai


“Kapitaen zur See Schlicht, a message for you”, his second officer arrived with a letter in his hand. The SMS Kaiser Barbarossa just had returned from a short exercise and returned to Kiel. Acting as a targetship for the Torpedo-Inspektion currently, she was the only one of her sisters of the Kaiser Friedrich III. class with a full crew. How chould Schlicht know that SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was up to normal crew strength due to today's transfer of SMS Kaiser Friedrich III.'s crew.


“Let me see”, he opened the envelope and started to read. He looked up and ordered. “Kapitaenleutnant Warncke, please inform Korvettenkapitaen Schuster, that there is a briefing in the Admiralität in 90 minutes. Herr Schuster will accompany me”.


“Jawohl, Herr Kapitaen”, Warncke answered and turned around. “The XO as well”, he thought.



July 7th afternoon, St. Petersburg, Admirality


Kapitan I. Ranga (Note [7]) Koltschak, chief officer of the Russian Baltic Fleet Operations, was leaving the room. He had just finished a lengthy discussion with his superieur, Vice-Admiral Kanin. One time after the other he had argumented, finally begged for a more active role of their strong fleet. But Kanin was – reluctant.


After the death of their former commander, Vice-Admiral Baron von Essen, May 20th, it was much more difficult to get approval for offensive missions. And he had planned such a brilliant move.


“Anyway”, he thought, “I will come back tomorrow, to try it again”. This eveninig he would have dinner with Kontre-Admiral Bachireff, the agile commander of their First Cruiser Brigade. His flag was currently flying from the Armored Cruiser Admiral Makaroff. He would arrive by train, bringing some of his staff with him. Currently the First Cruiser Brigade was stationed in Reval.


“I will discuss some of my ideas with him”. He was quite sure that Bachireff would support his ideas.



July 7th 1915, afternoon, SMS Albatross bridge, North Sea, course 345


“It must be now or never”, Korvettenkapitaen West thought. Again and again he was looking on his watch. “NO, exact position?”. Roon was still about 1000 meters ahead of them. From time to time both their 'wing - cruisers' came in view.


“Captain, we are crossing the line, Sir”, his Nautical Officer was answering.


Kapitaenleutnant Buehler was entering the bridge. “Captain, our fuel situation is getting worse by the hour. This high speed is poison for our coal stocks”.


They had loaded coal in excess of their normal maximum of 526 tons. But SMS Albatross was the most 'short-legged' one of the whole GAS. Already the deck load was gone, long gone to be honest. He had hated all that crates on deck, then. “What if we would have to enter a fight with all those obstructions”, hehad thought. Now he whished that load back The bunkers were draining fast. The situation was not critical, however. Not yet.


The motion of the ship had changed in the last hours,he was sure of it. Intellectually he knew it was probably because of the greater swells of the Atlantic. Emotionally though, he could not help felling that their fast-emptying coal bunkers were making them bob as cork.



July 7th 1915, afternoon, SMS Amazone, Skagerrak, 16 knots, course 170


Soon they will leave the Skagerrak. The commerce warfare project in the Skagerrak had ended.  Konteradmiral Mischke mentaly went through the report he wanted to send to the Admiralty. About one hour ago, they had reversed to cruising formation. Behind Amazone, both Grosse Kreuzer were following, Vineta being the one in the middle.


The Torpedoboote had taken their escort formation. So far no enemy submarine or warship had shown up. They had received a W/T message from SMS Panther about the Danish Fleet sailing north. At least that way no misunderstanding might happen.


“Signals, to Panther...”.



July 7th afternoon, HMS E - 4, Skagerrak, 15 knots, course 135


Lieutenant Commander Richard Barley was frustrated. All the long afternoon hours had he tried, try very hard to regain contact to make his promise and wish come true. They had sailed on north-easterly directions, seeing not even a plume. Then he had changed to course back to east. Half an hour ago he had seen a plume to the southeast, but he could not get closer. They had escaped him. Damned!


The damage to E – 4's tower was more severe than first expected. And the wireless was destroyed beyond repair, that fact frustrated him most. And he had to take care of the wounded.


“Helm, come to 295, reduce speed to 10 knots. Perhaps in the North Sea out there still is pray”!


He just did not knew how right he was.



July 7th evening, St. Petersburg, Nevski Prospect


“Such a fine restaurant”, Kapitan I. Ranga Koltschak wondered how well one could dine, even in wartime conditions. It was just a question of available rubel. He was dining, as planed, with Kontre-Admiral Bachireff. Bachireff had brought the captains of all ships of the First Cruiser Brigade with him as well as Kapitan II. Ranga Graf ( note [8]), the extreme agile commander of the Nowik, his largest and best destroyer. The Nowik was used as destroyer leader and fast minelayer frequently. She was much superieur of all German destroyers. More like a light cruiser.


A young Leitenant arrived by his side. He bowed low and spoke with a hushed voice.


“Captain, Vice-Admiral Kanin has an important information and wants to see you and the other commanders as well”.


Koltschak looked up. Something very important must have happened. He replied with a hushed voice.


“Thank you, Leitenant, we will arrive very soon. Please see to the cars.”


“Gentlemen, I just heard that our Commander wants to see us. I am sorry, Sirs, but we have to interrupt the dinner.”



July 7th 1915, SMS Panther, evening, 12 knots, course 235


Korvettenkapitaen Velten had received the wireless message from Kontreadmiral Mischke. Now he knew, that Kuestenschutzverband Ostsee was on its way home.


Together with S 122 they had controlled two merchants this afternoon. Their papers and load had been inspected but was unsuspicious. Unfortunately. He had patroled on for some time, hoping for another possible success. Now it was time.


“Signals, to S 122, asume van, shortest course to Kiel“!



July 7th, evening St. Petersburg, Admirality


After being chauffeured from the restaurant to the admiralty, Kapitan I. Ranga Koltschak and his group had entered the big conference room. Other officers were attending there as well. Soon after their arrival, their new C in C, Vice-Admiral Kanin had arrived.


Admiral Kanin had thought quite a long time before he had ordered his commanders to gather. Should he really order that operation? It was quite unlike any operation in this war. Not that there had not been operations, especialy in the long dark nights of the last winter, before the ice made operations impossible. But in this scope? Never! But that was the chance. His chance. The enemy was weaker than ever. The risk was low. So he finally had made up his mind and ordered the gathering.


“Gentlemen, thank you for arriving that fast. You may wonder what is that important, to interrupt such a fine dinner. Well, we have a war to win. And the opportunity to achive a significant success seems to be there”.


A good beginning, he thought. He had their undivided attention. All faces had turned towards him.


“This evening a message from the English Admirality arrived. It seems that our German adversaries had made big a mistake. Our English collegues received a message by one of their submarines, cruising north of the tip of Jutland”, one of his staff officers pointed with a stick on the large map on the wall, “that two German Armored Cruisers, small cruisers and destroyers were sighted with a northern bound course”.


Kapitan II. Ranga Graf briefly wondered what use this information might be good for. Operations in the North Sea hardly mattered for them.


Nonetheless murmurs arose from the crowd. “Armored cruisers in the Skagerrak”! The commander of the Goromoboy stated, quite useless in Graf's point of view.


“Gentlemen, one of them was identified as SMS Prinz Heinrich “!


Capitain Graf was electrified and raised his voice: “Excellence, that means that the Armored Cruisers belong to the Baltic Scouting Forces”!


“Very well observed, Kapitan”, Kanin continued. “Exactly. The German Scouting Forces Baltic consist of all of German's remaining three Armored Cruisers, the mentioned Prinz Heinrich, the Roon and the Prinz Adalbert. If two of them are in the North Sea currently, they are weak in the Baltic. Too weak to resist our offensive efforts. My Chief Operational Officer, Kapitan Koltschak came up with a daring plan. I decided to go along with this plan, though I slightly modified it. We will use all available offensive forces”.


More murmurs.


“Does that mean you include the new Gangut-Class dreadnoughts, as well, Admiral”? Kontre-Admiral Bachireff questioned.


Vice-Admiral Kanin looked at him. A very critical look. Mentally he shook his head.


“Off course not! They will be needed to guard the gulf. This will not change! And they are not needed for the planned operations, eigther. As you know well, those were finished November and December last year. Due to the ice drift the training of their crews was interrupted mid February. We resumed operational training only  beginning of May, when the ice melted enough for exercises in the Gulf of Finland”.


“In the meantime the Sevastopol and Poltava have already joined our modern Semidreadnoughts Andrei Pervozanny and Imperator Pavel I. in Helsingfors. The Gangut and Petropavlovsk will join them soon. Until the Borodino – Class battlecruisers will join our fleet late next year, those are too important to risk. Without a proper defence in the gulf approaches our capital is in danger. This is not to be allowed! By the way, Izmail and Borodino were just launched recently, Borodino one week ago, July 1st . Due to the unexpected outbreak of the war we have had problems with the availability of the foreign build turbines of the other two, Kinburn and Navarin. The Germans confiscated the Stettin built turbines of Navarin and those being build by Parsons in England for Kinburn had delivery problems. Those are now underway, via Archangelsk, as I just learned. We will transport them via rail to Leningrad, as soon as they are to arrive. By the way, the Navarin ones were reordered domestically.


“Please come back to the plan”, Koltschak thought desperately.


But Kanin was in converstion mood, now. “Next year our newbuild cruisers of the Svetlana-Class, at least some of them, will become available. It is a shame that germany confiscated the cruisers Muravev Amurski and Admiral Nevelskoi last summer. They would make a difference, for they could have countered the fast German small cruisers. We plan to build more big battleships, as soon as Germany is subdued. The plan..”


“Interresting Admiral, but what is the planned role of my Nowik”? Graf interrupted. He was already kind of a naval hero, due to his many successful minelaying operations this and last year. So he could dare to interrupt.


Kanin blinked. Gathering himself, he continued. “Must have been carried away”, he thought.


“Back to the plan, gentlemen. The planned operation has multiple prongs of attack!”


“First of all, the Engagement Brigade will consist of our big Armored Cruiser Ryurik, accompanied by Nowik and the Half-Flotilla for Special Purposes (Note [9]). Those boats will load 35 mines each and the Nowik will load 50. This is quite an amount. Lots of work for Kaiser's minesweepers”, he tried to joke.


Graf was suddenly energized.


“The plan for Ryurik is to shell the German harbor of Memel, long and intensively, the destroyers then will mine its entrances. That harbor will be rendered unusable thereafter. Is that understood”? Kanin took his glass of wine and drank, then he continued. “This means that the Germans have to retreat to Danzig for a base”.


“That force will be covered by Admiral Bachireff's First Cruiser Brigade, consisting of the Armored Cruisers Admiral Makaroff and Bayan, and the fast and strong Protected Cruisers Bogatyr and Oleg. Admiral Bachireff, you will be accompanied by the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla (Note [10]) with its eight boats. You will sail to the south on the eastern shore of Gotland to render assistance when necessary. Your task however is to attack showing up German forces. Shatter any light units you encounter. Should you encounter Battleships, a fact extremely unlikely, you are hereby ordered to retreat. Do not endanger our best force!” His glance was as cold as steel. He feared that Bachireff might get carried away, unless tightly controlled.


“After completion of the Memel operation, Engagement Brigade will join you, Admiral.”


“The third prong will be the Second Cruiser Brigade, consisting of the older Armored Cruisers Gromoboy,  my old flagship, the Rossiya, as well as the Protected Cruisers Avrora and Diana. Accompanied by the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla (note [11]), they will sail directly east, south of the Aaland Islands to hunt for the German Iron Ore ships and other contrabande ladden ones there. Let us interrupt that flow of supplies from Sweden to Germany. Without that ore, there will be no guns to harras our army collegues. When they are near the Swedish coast, they sail south.

That Cruiser Brigade can be considered strategic reserve for you, Admiral Bachireff. I do not think you need them, but who knows”. He made a short pause, looked around, his glance finally resting on the other admiral.


“Could you encounter the missing third German Armored Cruiser, Admiral, do not hesitate, attack that one and sink it. Use Ryurik, if you have to, she is stronger even than the late German SMS Bluecher, though you will likely not meet her. The English claim her sunk during that Battle in the North Sea late May. Ryurik is by far the strongest ship in the Baltic now. The German Battlecruisers are in the North Sea, so you need not to worry about those. The Hochseeflotte under the command of Admiral Letters is reportedly out there as well. You all have to make good use of our current superiority”.


“But this is not all of the plan. The Eighth Destroyer Flottila ( Note[12]), each of its eight boats loaded with ten mines will lay mines at Steinort at the Courland coast. That is to augment the minefileds which guard the entrance to the Gulf of Riga. Furthermore it will hinder the German Forces operating in Libau. Only light forces, are currently there, be assured”.


Finally, to back that all up, properly”, he started to smile brightly, finally letting the 'Cat out of the sack', “accompanied by the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, (note [13]) our Battleships Tsesarevitch and Slava will stand ready as an overall cover force. My flag will fly aboard the Tsesarevitch.


Many murmurs from the crowd and bright glances.


“The battleships will leave the Gulf of Finland and sail south to the longitude of the Baltic island of Dagoe. You see, we send out all available forces. It is the biggest operation of our fleet in this war so far. Even our Highest had approved this operation”.


The Ninth Destroyer Flottila ( Note[14]) will stand ready in the Gulf's entrances. They finally are the last unit to be called upon. All other units will not leave the Gulf”!


“Do not expect more than one German Armored Cruiser and up to three fast small cruisers. I wonder if they have that many fast ones currently available. Surely some slow ones and destroyers will be met. Sink those”!


“Our operation will begin in the early morning hours of the day after tomorrow. That way it is mandatory that we soon get underway. Detailed plans for every force and ship will follow”.


“Gentlemen, questions”?


He was surprised by the suddenly erupting applause.



July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, evening, course 345


“Signals, hoist 15 knots. When all have acknowledged, hoist 010”! Fregattenkapitaen Ziethen commanded.


“All officers to the chartroom, see to it, bitte”, he addressed a runner.


Some minutes later.


“Meine Herren, as far as I can tell we are through. Well done, everyone. Please make it clear that I am very satisfied with the performance of our crew today. For some of them it was their first real contact with the enemy. He have to keep that in mind. And I want this appraise send to the other ships as well. Kapitainleutnant Kempfert, can you see to that please, when this meeting is over”?


“Of course, captain”, the stern one answered.


“I want fuel statements from all ships as well. But most important of all is that we finally have left the North Sea. We are out in the Atlantic. Our supporting Forces, First Scouting and The Hochseeflotte have done their job well. We are through, nearly unscathed. Berlin had suffered some personal losses, unfortunately. They will bury their dead tonight, as well as some picked up corpses of English Matrosen”. His good mood was suddenly gone.


“Tonight, I want to reduce speed to 12 knotes, to entend our range as far as possibel. I am not yet sure if we are to recoal before we begin the first part of our mission. I already have ideas about two possible remote coaling places. But I am not decided. Tomorrow we will change our course to a north-north easterly pattern. The weather is predicted to hold tomorrow”. It is as we are on a pleasure cruise, Ziethen thought as well.


“We will form a cruising line with Berlin and Undine, but I would like to wait with the beginning of commerce warfare until we will have laid our mines. On the other hand, many coal-freighters ladden with good welsh coal sail to Archangel from England. May be we can get our share. I would rather prefer to be sponsored that way. Using welsh Coal will give us at least one more knot”.


“Korvettenkapitaen Findert and Kapitaenleutnante Trapp and Hoehne, I want a conversation with you in my rooms, when the night comes. How long can we expect darkness tonight, NO”?


“About 90 minutes if you count the twilight as well”, Kempfert replied. “It will be the last darkness for many days to come, should we proceed along as planned”.


“Thank you. Meine Herren, Questions”?



Authors notes on Russian Baltic Fleet operations:


During the winter 1914/1915 there were many minelying missions . Some of them by Nowik and the special half flotilla. The first such was planned 16th October, was abandoned and finally started October 31st. Ther were about seven such missions. In December those were covered by Ryurik, Adm. Makarov, Oleg and Bogatyr down to Bornholm. Another one in January 1915 with obve mentioned ones plus Rossija and Bajan. As you can see those operations were quite well equiped. The last such mission was February 12th 1915, then icing made missions impossible.


A big skirmish developed OTL July 2nd , when the German Minelayer Albatross accompanied by Augsburg was attacked by Adm. Makarow, Bajan, Oleg and Bogatyr. Approaching Roon came too late to save Albatross, which was beached at Gotland, to prevent sinking.


All LT russian task forces had missions like the one I described. Though not quite in this scale. The Battleships T. and S were not used in a covering mission, but in my story they are 'only' reserve.


I am open for discussions but I really fell that Kanin would aprove that mission now.And even the Tzar will have nothing against it.


Yes, there is a battle brewing.



Written for Letterstime by Uwe Ziethen.

Story is permitted to be placed on Jim Beall 's “” server.

Uwe likes to thank Jim very much for his encouragement and support.







Footnote 1:       K an K = Kommandant an Kommandant, commander to commander

Footnote 2:       Norddeich is the most powerful wireless station, near the german North Sea coast

Footnote 3:       Mist = Another word for shit, but not quite that obscene!

Footnote 4:       Translated as: English submarine attacks Swedish freighter without warning!

Footnote 5:       V 107, the former dutch newbuild, was sunk May 08th 1915 due to a russian mine in the                           harbor of Libau.

Footnote 6:       Der Krieg zur See, Ostsee Band 2, page 94/95

Footnote 7:       Kapitan I. Ranga = Kapitaen zur See in German, Captain in english

Footnote 8:       Kapitan II. Ranga = Fregattenkapitaen in German, Captain in English

Footnote 9:       Special Half-Flotilla: General Kondratenko, Okhotnik, Pogranichnik and Sibirski                                   Stryelok (4 units)

Footnote 10:     Fifth Destroyer Flotilla: Dobrovoletz, Emir Bukharski, Finn and Moskvityanin; Amuretz,                         Gaidamak, Ussurietz and Vsadnik (8 units)

Footnote 11:     Sixth Destroyer Flotilla: Donskoi Kazak, Kazanets, Setergushchi, Strashni, Turkmenetz-                      Stavropolski, Ukraina, Vojskovoi, Zabajkaletz (8 units)

Footnote 12:     Eighth Destroyer Flotilla: Iskusni, Krepki, Legki, Likhoi, Lovki, Metki, Molodetski, Moshchni                  (8 units)

Footnote 13:     Seventh Destroyer Flotilla: Bditelni, Boevoi, Burni, Inzhener-Mekhanik Dmitriev,
                        Inzhener-Mekhanik Zverev, Vnimatelni, Vnushitelni, Vynoslivi (8 units)

Footnote 14:     Ninth Destroyer Flotilla: Dyelni, Dyeyatelni, Dostoini, Rastoropni, Razyahchi, Silni,                               Storozhevoi, Stroini (8 units)

[1]    K an K = Kommandant an Kommandant, commander to commander

[2]    Norddeich is the most powerful wireless station, near the german North Sea coast

[3]    Mist = Another word for shit, but not quite that obscene!

[4]    Translated as: English submarine attacks Swedish freighter without warning!

[5]    V 107, the former Dutch newbuild, was sunk May 08th 1915 due to a Russian mine in the harbor of Libau.

[6]    Der Krieg zur See, Ostsee Band 2, page 94/95

[7]    Kapitan I. Ranga = Kapitaen zur See in German, Captain in english

[8]    Kapitan II. Ranga = Fregattenkapitaen in German, captain in English

[9]    Special Half-Flotilla: General Kondratenko, Okhotnik, Pogranichnik and Sibirski Stryelok (4 units)

[10]  Fifth Destroyer Flotilla: Dobrovoletz, Emir Bukharski, Finn and Moskvityanin; Amuretz, Gaidamak, Ussurietz and Vsadnik (8 units)

[11]  Sixth Destroyer Flotilla: Donskoi Kazak, Kazanets, Setergushchi, Strashni, Turkmenetz-Stavropolski, Ukraina, Vojskovoi, Zabajkaletz (8 units)

[12]  Eighth Destroyer Flotilla: Iskusni, Krepki, Legki, Likhoi, Lovki, Metki, Molodetski, Moshchni (8 units)

[13]  Seventh Destroyer Flotilla: Bditelni, Boevoi, Burni, Inzhener-Mekhanik Dmitriev, Inzhener-Mekhanik Zverev, Vnimatelni, Vnushitelni, Vynoslivi (8 units)

[14]  Ninth Destroyer Flotilla: Dyelni, Dyeyatelni, Dostoini, Rastoropni, Razyahchi, Silni, Storozhevoi, Stroini (8 units)