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Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

---- June 11, 1915

---- 9:15 AM, coast of France

De Robeck was hugely grateful to again be boarding a warship of the Royal Navy. She was the Arethusa, a light cruiser, every bit as trim as Chatham had been. When he had been about to aboard Chatham, however, he'd thought he was enroute to court martial and disgrace. Arethusa had already distinguished herself, along with Admiral Beatty, at the Heligoland Bight engagement. Brave Beatty, he reminded himself for the twentieth time since January, was gone. He hid a sigh as he looked out into the harbor. The distant hulls looked to be a flotilla already sweeping ahead into the outer roads. The air was dank from the sea and rich with soot. Horns blared from across the way, and heavy lorries added a deep vibration to the air as they lumbered about on the quay.

He felt exhausted. Most of the previous night had been spent trying to get out of Paris on a train. Innumerable delays, and possibly mechanical failures elsewhere, had left them idle on the tracks, time and time again. Each brief resumption of motion had been accompanied by deucedly odd fore-and-aft fits and stops, completely alien to one long-acclimated to sea travel, except perhaps those from the days of galley rams. His inner ear had kept signaling alarms in reflex, defeating most attempts at sleep.

Perhaps it had been more troop trains, munitions, or wounded that had been behind the interruptions. The logistic demands of the front were straining all of the French rail net, that much was evident. He was not sure how accurately the French had portrayed the situation to 10 Downing, and so he had made a note of it with the intent to share his observations with Carson. When he got off the last damn train, there were still more formalities as his party made its way down to the harbor.

The trills and sideboys reflected his new rank as Admiral, even though it was only an "acting" promotion. The whistles were immeasurably pleasant to his ear after the shrieks of the whistles on the French rail engines. The various announcements did not include that he was the commanding officer of the Grand Fleet for the simple reason that he had not yet assumed its command. Nonetheless, all appeared to know full well his impending posting. Up on the quarterdeck, he caught a glimpse of more braid awaiting him. Happily, these were not going to be another dose of strange French officers and stranger silk-hatted diplomats. Rather, they were sure to be Commodore Sir Reginald Yorke Tyrwhitt, a man De Robeck thought quite well of, and his staff.

Well behind him, in the city, he heard another train whistle - a derisive French farewell. The gangway shook slightly as he walked up it, left France, and returned to the world of His Majesty's Royal Navy. God, it felt good to be home.

---- 10:55 AM, east coast US newspaper newsroom

The room was already sticky with humidity. The earlier deadlines had come and gone. There was a bit of a lull in the action, though only a knowledgeable observer would have recognized it. Somewhere between 60 and 90 typewriters were being pounded on by hacks, copyists, stringers, and staffers. That number was lower than a couple hours ago and also for a few hours in the future. Stacks of papers teetered on the corners of the desks. The windows were all wide open, but they were a well-understood and accepted hazard. The blue haze of tobacco smoke remained undaunted, in any event.

"Hey, Freddie," said the Chief, as he made his way across the chaos of the newsroom. "You were looking into that little ‘Want Ads' mystery. Where's my story?"

"I was, I mean, I am. Well, I'm still working on it."

"That was four days ago, Freddie. Four days. You been off playing the ponies, or something?"

" ‘Naw, chief! ‘S nothing like that, I swear."


"Cripes," the slightly built reporter looked down. "They bounced me. But I'm working another angle."

"Huh, they ‘bounced' you?"

"Yeah. I tried to feed ‘em a line, but they tumbled right off ..."

"C'mon, Freddie," the chief laughed in derision. His hoarse braying could be heard easily over the many hundreds of typewriter keys being pecked all over the room. "A boilermaker! Who ever heard of a bantamweight boilermaker?!"

The reporter, who actually weighed 125, flushed in discomfiture.

"That was just for starters, chief. I got a cousin who's a grease monkey. He could bend a tire iron, if'n he wanted. I got him to go for me."

"Huh, what happened?"

"Well," the reporter confessed with chagrin, "they bounced him, too."

"Hah!" Went the bray again. "Some reporter you are!" The editor added another thick plume to the atmosphere.

"Have a heart, chief! I got a whiff, though. It's not a scam. I'd lay odds on it, good odds. They're for real. They're looking for guys to work foreign and leave on the QT."

"What makes you think they're for real? Suckers always think the scam looks good."

"The gold, chief," said the reporter with some relish. "The gold's real, and no sharpie running a shell or faro puts up gold."

The editor, sat down with a sigh, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a "fresh" stoogie.

"All right. You got me, partner. Tell me about the gold."

---- 12:20 PM, CL Arethusa, flag quarters, underway

Acting-Admiral De Robeck's fatigue had fled once they were out where he could feel the waves. Tyrwhitt had not been at the great battle, but he had come well prepared to discuss it. And so they had, and at considerable length. They had broken for a bit of food, and had spoken only of the weather, friends ashore, and children while eating. The weather was important, and they'd carefully avoided the fact that many they'd known were now with them no longer.

The noon meal cutlery and plates were quickly removed by the steward. The Commander - Harwich Force sat back slightly and waited for the Commander - Grand Fleet to direct the conversation. Once ashore, De Robeck would make his way to the Admiralty and then, presumably, to Scapa Flow. The commodore awaited the admiral's pleasure. Would he want to continue the pre-lunch discussion, start on a new topic, or just remain quiet?

"So," De Robeck said after a few moments of further reflection, "the German fleet is now commanded by two officers of whom we know precious bloody little. They were unpredictable then," De Robeck gestured to the spread out maps, dark with inked ships' positions and plots from the battle. "They were unpredictable five days ago. They remain unpredictable today. And so on." The comment was delivered in an off hand way, inviting comment.

"Yes, sir. They were bold to engage. Quite surprising, in fact. This Letters chap knew quite well where J[ellic]oe was."

It was that conclusion that had first shaken De Robeck. He had wanted to deny it, but the tracks had left no doubt. Oh, a few minutes or hundreds of yards mattered tactically, but not in this particular assessment. The High Seas Fleet main body had been sighted by Commodore Nott in Line due north, then engaged by Jerram's squadron in Line due east not long afterwards. The Admiralty ostensibly had concluded that the engagement had been tactically ad libbed by the Germans. The tracks belied that explanation.

Admiral Arbuthnot's death and the loss of Defence had obscured the kernel that Tyrwhitt had discovered. Captain Molteno had apparently not realized the significance of certain earlier events. Arbuthnot's command had played cat-and-mouse with the German light cruiser Wiesbaden and would have sunk her without loss except for the fatal intervention of the enemy battlecruisers. Likely, she'd been sunk anyway, but at the cost of Defence. Arbuthnot, directing the engagement from his flagship, would have realized what Molteno had missed. Namely, that Wiesbaden must have sighted the Grand Fleet main body. Not just once, but several times! The Germans had known that the Grand Fleet was there long before the first dreadnoughts exchanged fire. This put the entire affair in a much different light.

This man Letters - or could it perhaps have been Rudburg? - had not simply seized an opportunity, but had SOUGHT the battle!

---- 12:30 PM, east coast US newspaper newsroom

"... in First National," the reporter concluded.

"So," said the editor. "Let me see if I've got this straight. These guys put up gold, real solid gold, certified by First National, and put it into this turbine machinist's safety deposit box."

"Yep, the bank prez himself signed it."

"The machinist showed you this chit?"

"Not a chance! He clammed up and his wife threatened to call the cops on me. But I got an in at the bank. Guy there owed me a big one, and I called my marker."


"My guy wasn't there when the prez signed, but he was the one who filed the bank copy. I asked for a look-see, but he balked. It'd mean his job, he said, and I didn't have no marker like that."

"Gold," breathed the editor, adding more smoke to the air. "Solid gold bullion."

"And that's not the end of it, chief. Not by a long shot."

"How so?"

"My guy said that wasn't the only time the prez had signed such a chit."


"Not even close. At least a dozen, chief. Maybe more, maybe a lot more!"

"Well, I'll be roweled!" The editor stood up and looked about the room for one of the reporters covering the international beat. "Crawford! Get over here! Got something for you!"

---- 2:00 PM, Bermuda

The commander mopped absently at the rivulets that threatened to course their way down into the neck of his uniform. The map on the wall of his office commanded most of his attention. The number of ships "beached" inland of Hamilton had decreased by two since yesterday, reflecting their expedited departure to join the picket line off the great ports of the American NE. Other markers showed that a different pair of AMCs were due in on the morrow.

Melbourne had reported recoaling complete and ready for sea at noon. Her crew and the dock workers had labored all night at it. There'd been no further news of the reported runner/raider, so the boss had put her on one hour notice. Sydney was in Kingston, recoaling and readying for whatever developed. Vice-Admiral Patey had concurred that a raider might well have the Caribbean as her destination, and had so advised the Admiralty. Niobe would arrive on station in a few hours, but it was a long coastline she and the others had to watch.

The scuttlebutt of a possible raider loose in the Atlantic had been making the rounds all day. It offered the prospect of some diversion from the miserably monotonous toil of patrolling. Some thought their lordships had simply not been informed of a civilian liner's itinerary. This'll all blow over, they said. Others agreed that it was probably a raider, and that many weeks of fox and the hounds were ahead. Most, though, held onto the hopes that she was a fast runner whose owners had found some German cargo worth the risk. The lattermost group had suggested that she was the Imperator, and that the Germans had decided that a successful run would help them in some unspecified political sense, coming hard on the heels as it did of the recent German sea victory. Perhaps, they submitted, it was a scheme to get some Germans across to the US to brag, with bloated claims of Hun glory. There was even talk of prize money, as though these were the days of Nelson. What Lord Horatio would think of the current situation was, however, never broached as far as the commander could tell.

If the "runner" advocates were correct, they'd likely learn more by mid day next. If it were the boss and the "raider" group who had the right of it, days or weeks might go by before some unfortunate victim had both a wireless set and the time to get off a distress message. Well, in either case, the commander reflected as he stared at his map, times were about to get a tad more interesting.

---- 2:30 PM, editor's office of east coast US newspaper


"Yeah, c'mon in. What ‘cha got?"

"It's not Japan," said Crawford right off. "We checked some West Coast want ads from last week, and I sent a ‘gram to our stringer in LA. Nothing. If it'd been Japan, they'd've been looking a lot in LA and Frisco. Nothing."

"And it doesn't look like Brazil or Argentina or anyone from down there, either."

"How's ‘at, Freddie?"

"Nothin' like it out of Miami or New Orleans. Also, don't look like they're tryin' too hard for Latinos."

"Ok, not sure I buy that last bit, but who exactly does that leave us?"

"Well," said Crawford, "we made a list." He showed it to the editor. Japan, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile were crossed out. Left on the list were England, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Russia, Germany, and the Ottomans.

"The only ones you'd think who'd really need to play it so close," said Crawford, "are the last two. That was before the Huns beat the Brits last week, though."

"How's that make any difference?"

"Pride, boss, British pride. Last thing in the world the British Royal Navy would want getting out is that they were having to ask for help."

The editor muttered a vulgarity as he stubbed out his cigar with a vicious twist.

"They got pride, all right, but I don't think I buy that one either. The others?"

"France and Greece look remote, but we got nothing to rule ‘em out. We're pretty sure, though, that at least three of the ones that went to First National were Italians, or sons of Italians. Coincidence? Got me. As for Russia, I've never understood them. Kurowsky is due in at 6:00; I'll put it to him."

"And the Turks?"

"They've got that battlecruiser and a ton of gold, but they ain't got squat in modern shipyard stuff."

"Yeah, now that makes a bit more sense. Okay, now what about the Huns?"

"They're the favorite," answered Crawford. "No doubt about it."

"And," added Freddie, "Cecilie, Wilhelm II, and Vaterland sure been acting like they're getting ready to go somewhere."

"Doesn't make a lick of sense. Those doggies have been roped and tied for nigh on a year. Why in blue blazes would they think they could bolt now?"

"Dunno, chief," Crawford admitted. Freddie shrugged.

The editor stared at the sheet.

"Okay, bring Kurosky in on this," the editor instructed. "But I'm telling you. I flat out don't like it. We're missing something, but I'll be hanged if I know what it is."

jim (Letterstime)

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