June 6, 1915 - Late Afternoon Events
---- 3:00 PM, bridge of Regensburg, course 330, speed 15 knots
"Well," commented Captain Wolferin, " I sure expected more time before having to do this again."
Over at the plot area, Gunnery Officer LT Gottziele forbore to comment.
"Captain, Strälsund has completed the turn."
"Very well, hoist 20 knots. As soon as it is acknowledged, execute."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Wolferin went to join young Gottziele.
"Well?" Wolferin asked.
"Sir, assuming the Baron has maintained course and speed, we should rendezvous about an hour before dusk."
"Gut," Wolferin replied, though what two more light cruisers and nine torpedo boats could add to the battle remained unclear. Regensburg still sported dents, scars and patches from the events of a week ago. The Baron had asked Wolferein if he could be ready to sail this day and Wolferein, fool that he was, had been ringing with his "Jawohl!"
"Signals Officer, report that we are on schedule to rendezvous with the Baron's Battle Squadron."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Admiral, Captain Molteno reports that 1st Cruiser and screen have passed the outer markers."
"Captain Schnell, slow the squadron to 14 knots. At 5:00 PM, alter to 175."
The Baron then headed back off the bridge.
"Aye, aye, sir," replied Schnell to the retreating back. "Signals Officer, hoist 14 knots."
"Admiral, we're getting reports of additional RF transmissions from outside of Wilhelsmhaven."
"Very well," acknowledged J[ellic]oe, who went back to the chart table.
Captain Swafford had remained near the rail after his last exchange with the admiral. Now, he had to force himself to keep his attention on the empty waves and off the Grand Fleet commander. J[ellic]oe compared the reported positions of the German force and their respective tracks, but said nothing.
"Admiral, Commodore Nott reports that the enemy appears to have slowed and has altered course to 180."
"A night battle?" Smith muttered to Loureiro out on the port wingbridge. Though they had not studied the plot lately, they knew that no intercept before 9:00 PM was possible unless the enemy reversed course to meet them.
"Where are their battlecruisers?" Loureiro asked. "We have been chasing a dreadnought force all day, but with no sight of those damnable battlecruisers."
"Could they be moving to get behind us? Or getting into position to take on Molteno's force?"
"I know not, but this I do know. Those ships were everywhere a week ago. Strange it is not to sight them today."
Aboard Southampton, Commodore Nott was very nearly frantic. Nott was one of the few senior officers to emerge untainted by the May 31 battle, and he had been anxious all day over the missing battlecruisers. He kept repeatedly asking his wireless operators if there really had been no messages or reports of their sighting. He kept his squadron widely dispersed with strict orders to report any smoke or other indication of new forces. Those battlecruisers were out there, somewhere; Nott was sure of it. Birmingham still remained in distant contact with the dreadnought force but all end run attempts had been headed off by the screen forces.
"Maybe they were all damaged in the battle," offered Smith after a minute.
"Signals Officer, hoist 12 knots."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"When the fleet has slowed, hoist 330 and execute."
J[ellic]oe remained where he was, staring into the charts as though looking for something that should be there but was not.
Commander Bavaria looked aft with a poorly suppressed frown. He was about to go down to the wardroom for his evening meal.
Captain Dirk grinned at his XO, as the other officer clearly had his mind on what was going on astern.
Bavaria just knew that the others were sitting down to a delectable, gourmet supper. He was, of course, quite correct.
Rear-Admiral Hanzik was relieved that they seemed to have completely escaped detection during the day. Visibility was already dropping quickly and the time was near to alter course.
He scanned the horizon again with his glasses. The last sighting of a distant smoke plume had been well over an hour ago. It might have been one of the patrol cruisers or an AMC, but they had left it behind.
"Signals Officer, hoist: 'Form night formation.' "
"Captain Stang, when the force has closed up, order 280. When all have acknowledged, execute."
Captain Schnell turned as Vice-Admiral Letters entered the bridge.
"Any report from Admiral Hanzik?" Letters asked.
"No, Admiral," replied Schnell. Did the Baron really think that he'd failed to send word of such?
"No new sightings?"
"No, sir," answered Schnell. "The one light cruiser that has been at our heels remains. There might have been another further aft, but we could not confirm it before visibility began to drop." The Baron surely knew this, as well.
At that moment, Schnell realized that the Baron was just making conversation
because Letters was anxious, worried about the fate of the force he had
sent off. This whole sortie had been the Baron's idea, unlike his inheriting
command in mid-battle as he had done twice before.
"Very well," the Baron repeated, his hands clenched hard to the rail. "Hoist 130. Just after 8:00, execute and go to 16 knots. Then inform Wilhelmshaven and Regensburg. Confirm receipt, especially by Captain Wolferein."
"Aye, aye, sir," acknowledged Stang to the back of the Baron, who was already leaving the bridge. So, there would be no battle today after all, or tonight. But, had the Baron really wanted one? Stang still didn't know.
"Signals Officer," called Stang.