June 18, 1915 - Surprises
- Part XI
---- 9:45 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course (changing), speed 8 knots
Captain Dirk hated what he was now doing.
"Sir, my rudder is left 20 degrees, Engineering has acknowledged
"Very well," Dirk said.
"I don't like this leaving our small boats," commented CDR
Bavaria, echoing his captain's thoughts.
"Orders are orders - and that Immediate' ...."
Back amidships, LT Siegfried watched without outward expression as his
cousin's boat began to recede in the distance. LT Wilhelm gave a brief
wave and went back to supervising his men in rescue operations.
---- 9:45 AM, bridge of Rostock, stopped
"... jammed, the block's failed, or damaged ..."
"I don't care," Westfeldt replied ("Machts nichts,"
literally, "It matters not"). "Cut the damn thing away
"Sir, von der Tann's getting underway."
"Yes, yes. Damn it, mister, NOW!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
---- 9:45 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
The firing had stopped, Admiral Alton concluded. There were still a couple
bright spots - fires, no doubt - in the distance, but that was a couple
fewer than several minutes ago. Whatever had transpired out there, some
thirty-odd thousand yards to the ESE, it had come to some conclusion.
Well, possibly there was some sea chase still going on out into the Atlantic;
he certainly could not rule that out. Though, that momentary glance he'd
had of tall waterspouts alongside Patey's ships as the British fired at
something too distant to see ....
He was tempted to dispatch Peace and Montana out to take a look. The
liners were just off his port bow, however. And, of course, the 3-Mile
Limit remained just under his keel - just as his orders setting out his
own limits remained under the clips on his clipboard.
But, what in the HELL had happened out there?
He looked at Niobe, a bit over 15,000 yards off his starboard beam. Nothing.
Nor anything from that clutch of armed merchant cruisers that had formed
up with her. Had Patey triumphed over whatever was out there? Had it been
some monstrous mistaken identity incident?
Tall splashes, he recalled. Too tall.
---- 9:45 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 120, speed 6 knots
"Sir, from Imperator, Red 0, White 1, Blue 6.' "
"And what the hell does THAT mean?" Captain Siegmund growled.
"Did they miscount them the first time? Or, perhaps the others ran
away? Or scuttled?"
"Sir, our lookouts have sighted Niobe, on bearing 085, range about
"Sir, also, there are three contacts outboard of Niobe, to the northeast.
Either merchants or armed merchant cruisers."
"Hmm, and Imperator has three more AMCs visually," said von
Hoban, "but the other three cruisers must no longer be in sight.
You know, Captain, that would be consistent with ..."
"Sir, more flags going up on Imperator!"
---- 9:47 AM, atop New York's forward cage mast
"Sir, new contact, bearing 110, estimated range, 30,000 yards. Contact
is a warship."
"Can you make her out?"
"No, sir. Not yet. Lot of smoke, though."
"Could be more than one, then."
Patey had charged off on pretty much that exact heading with his three
cruisers. If he was coming back the way he'd left, then there'd be two
more ships close in his wake. That'd explain the smoke, the officer reasoned.
---- 9:47 AM, Imperator, course 120, speed 5 knots
"He's done it!" Countess Marina exclaimed from behind her tripod-mounted
field glasses. "He's really done it."
"But...," Gavilan began, then flinched at the reverberations
from the steam whistle above them. He looked up, half-accusingly, then
aft as a second whistle sounded from Kaiser Wilhelm II, a few hundred
"But, only one each?" Gavilan finished, after rubbing his ears.
"They'll be along," Marina assured him. "They're probably
gone galloping off after Patey."
They could not make out any details from their vantage.
"Or," she added upon reflection, "fishing him out of the
---- 9:47 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
"Admiral, on Imperator, new flags, one gold and one black."
What the devil did THAT mean? Though hardly illegal, hoisting strange
flags around warships was an odd pastime for "innocent" passenger
liners, Admiral Alton thought wryly. Code. Obviously, some kind of coded
signal for Strassburg's commodore, though they'd surely claim it was a
signal to the other liner. He acknowledged the report and turned to look
again at the trio of Germans close aboard. Earlier, he'd thought that
the German cruiser was readying hoists of her own, but nothing had ever
gone up her lines. Yes, the warship's halyards remained clear, but he
noted more motion on the great liner just astern of her.
More flags, he suddenly spotted. Lots of flags. Streaming up Imperator's
lines. German national flags, all of them. This was more evidence. Re-sighting
Patey, the American flag officer realized, would hardly enthuse the Germans.
Steam flared at the liner's lead stack.
---- 9:48 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 120, speed 5 knots
"Herr Kommodore?" Siegmund asked tersely, turning back from
"Yah," von Hoban replied. "It is time. At last."
"All Ahead Flank," ordered Siegmund. "Your orders, sir?"
"Take us across the bows of the Americans. Well ahead. I want no
doubts in their minds, and no excuses of doubt."
"Jawohl! Bosun, one long."
"Captain, I must see Admiral Hanzik's dispositions but, for now,
Niobe is your first target."
Von Hoban's orders had been, generally, to avoid battles with warships.
The Kommodore, however, had been quite sincere with the American Vice-Admiral
as to how much he had detested those funerals.
Siegmund nodded sharply as he waited out the whistle; he'd hoped for
this, as had all of his crew. "Helm, left 15 degrees rudder."
The cruiser's deck tilted. "Rudder amidships," he called out
when the line satisfied him.
"And, Captain, let us be polite. Friendly, even."
---- 9:49 AM, bridge of Aylwin, course (changing), speed (slowing)
Commander Leverett's orders did not cover this. Rather, his orders were
sufficiently vague and general and they had now ceased to be relevant.
He was to "escort" the Germans out "to the limits of the
Territorial Water of the United States," to keep his superiors informed
via the wireless, and to "report" to Admiral Alton upon conclusion
of escort duties. However, details such as should he form off New York's
inshore bow, or beam, or in trail, or in line behind the other Destroyers
with Montana, were absent from his instructions. When did "escort"
end and "report" begin?
Maybe it depended on just what the Germans did. And the British, of course.
Well, here they were. The huge hulls of the two US dreadnoughts were
well under a nautical mile ahead, with their screen in formation just
astern of them.
The loud liners' whistles from astern of Aylwin had startled them. Strassburg's
closer one had done so even more.
"Captain, she's put her rudder over. She's looks to be going north."
Were the Germans preparing to reverse course? Or run for it along the
coast of Long Island?
"The liners?" Leveret asked. "Are they following Strassburg?"
"No, sir. At least not yet, sir."
What the hell? Who should he "escort" now? Or should he stay
with Alton, having "reported" to the rear-admiral? Damn it.
This was admiral's crap, not three striper's!
---- 9:47 AM, atop New York's forward cage mast
"Sir, that's not Sydney or Melbourne, and not Berwick, either."
"Sir, she does not even appear to be a cruiser, at least no light
cruiser I've ever seen."
The oncoming vessel was bow on, making their job a lot tougher.
"Very well. Report the contact as an unknown, and get those recognition
books over here!"
Damn, thought the officer, we really could use a look at the profile
of this mystery ship. I wish this character would change course.
---- 9:49 AM, Imperator, course 120, speed 5 knots
The capering cutthroats had settled down, and the Ottoman's retinue had
produced a large telescope for their master.
Browning and Fox had not known quite what to make of all the flags and
whistles, but it was clear enough that the Germans were not at all dismayed
by whatever was out there to the east. If there were British warships
there - and surely there were - then the clear glee they saw all about
them meant there must also be German ones. More German ones. Larger German
"Well," said Browning, "whatever was going on out there,
our friends' aboard Strassburg obviously apparently want in on the
"You're right," agreed Fow, "and the closest telescope
is back there in front of our Ottoman's right eye."
"Indeed. Well, he owes us."
"Agreed. I never saw so many muffins go down one gullet ...."
The two young reporters began to drift back along the rail towards the
---- 9:50 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course (changing), speed 12 knots
"Sir, lookouts report two groups of merchants, or armed merchant
cruisers, roughly bearing 300, range 19,000 yards. Two groups of three,
sir, all on a northerly heading. There's another ship between them, inshore.
Possible warship, but no positive identification yet."
"Very well," Dirk replied. "Steady up on 300."
"Niobe," commented Bavaria, "I'd bet anything on it."
The XO licked his lips.
"But where are the Americans?" Dirk commented. "How far
are we off their coast?"
"Sir, confirmation! Middle contact is Niobe."
"Keeping our bow to them?" Bavaria suggested, in the form of
"Yes, minutes are diamonds," Dirk answered absently, unknowingly
echoing Kommodore von Hoban's thoughts of about three hours earlier. It
was not that much of a coincidence, however, as both men had it from the
They stared into the west, glasses pressed to their brows.
"But where are the Americans?" Dirk wondered.
"And Strassburg," Bavaria added.
---- 9:51 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 090, speed 12 knots (increasing)
"The American light cruiser?"
"No signal. No sign of course change."
Destroyer 47 remained on course, heading for the flank of the lead dreadnought
flying the rear-admiral's pennant. The German ship was shaping to pass
obliquely across the bows of the lead American dreadnought. They were
under a thousand yards distant now.
"Gut. Captain, is Strassburg ready?"
"Another minute, sir."
---- 9:52 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
Rear-Admiral Alton was studying the German light cruiser with more than
a tad of suspicion as the smaller warship drew near. Underwater torpedo
tubes just abeam bothered him. Really bothered him. In his lenses, he
saw many of her crew come out of hatches and other positions to stand
facing the Americans.
"Oh, Lord," he muttered, as Strassburg's whistle emitted a
Damn that Kraut commodore! Damn him to ....
"Go ahead, Captain," he said through gritted teeth. "We're
not at war with them."
"Yet," he added to himself, as his flagship's CO gave the necessary
Two blasts sounded from New York's whistle, "Attention to Port."
---- 9:53 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 300, speed 8 knots (increasing)
Captain Westfeldt also had his jaw tight in anger. Von der Tann had passed
them by as his command had sat with a boat half dangling over their side.
Ahead Flank had been ordered and acknowledged, but the big battlecruiser
was already half a mile ahead of them and still had a 5 - 8 knot speed
"Sir, damage teams report that the fire is out in the ...."
"Very well," he replied, his eyes still on the receding stern
of the ship ahead.
---- 9:53 AM, launch (Augsberg)
"Sir, there! Two more, on that ..."
"Yah, I see them," said LT Wolfgang Kessock. "Cox'sn,
head for them."
"Sir," replied the stocky man at the tiller.
"Debris ahead to starboard," one lookout warned.
"Britz?" Kessock asked, simply.
"Aye, sir," acknowledged the petty officer as he shifted the
tiller. He appreciated the light touch of the young officer. "Taking
a port tack. Sound off, Miller," he called, don't you go to sleep
on me up there. Anything ahead to port?"
"All clear to port," the man perched half over the port bow
replied, belatedly. There were bits and pieces of cork, papers, and random
shreds of all sorts in the oily water, but nothing of any size. The waves
were already dispersing the signs of war.
"Clear to port, aye," Britz answered.
Kessock spared a glance at the large log-like pole that they passed off
to starboard. It could easily have stove in their side.
"Good eye, Schmidt," the young officer said. "Stay sharp
all of you. I don't want to get my feet wet today."
Perhaps the "log" had been part of a mast, or hold bracing.
No way to tell, he thought. Whatever it had been, it was now just a perilous
piece of a debris field - one of several debris fields.
---- 9:53 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
"Admiral, lookouts are reporting a new contact, warship, type unknown,
bearing 110, range 30,000 yards."
"Very well," Alton acknowledged.
That was quite a good distance for a sighting. He looked along that bearing.
Yes, there was a thread of smoke on the horizon there. High aloft, they
would have a better vantage.
Still, "unknown type" had an odd sound to it.
"Is that what they said? Unknown type'?"
"Hmm, very well, thank you."
---- 9:54 AM, bridge of Aylwin, course (changing), speed (slowing)
Commander Leverett had not know quite what to make of the whistles back
in forth between the New York and Strassburg.
" Passing honors?"
Stennis will die of apoplexy, Leverett thought, with a half-smile, especially
since this little vignette had been played out in front of the British,
the yachtsmen, and the liners. And that last with their American passengers,
and reporters. A real audience.
Yes, the liners. The big ships had practically stopped. Certainly they
showed no inclination to speed after the German warship.
"Sir, Strassburg has cleared the New York."
The American commander resisted the temptation to rub his hands. His
job was done. Strassburg was off to her fate. Taking their tough-talking
commodore with her. Too bad, he thought, that the British were waiting
for them. As for the liners, they were the admiral's "problem"
He raised his glasses to take another last look after the light cruiser.
Her broadening wake showed white on the water, but the New York crossed
it, erasing it along the 3-Mile Limit. He'd grown to like some of the
Germans. He grinned, recalling one scene in CINCLANT's office.
"Troth," he said, to himself.
"Nothing," Leverett answered, mentally kicking himself for
having spoken aloud. "Good luck," he thought silently at the
speeding cruiser. He was sure he'd never see them again.
---- 9:55 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
"Admiral, some action from the British."
About time, Alton thought. Yes, he thought to himself, after he got his
binoculars up. More smoke from nearly all of the seven British vessels.
He focused on the ship furthest away and to the south. She was the only
one not showing signs of reaction. Then he saw not black but white billowing
from her lead stack. That's odd, he thought.
Then, he realized she was the closest ship to whatever it was that had
happened out in the Atlantic. He looked further out to sea. Yes, there
was something way out there. A warship. On her way back inshore. Patey?
Was that AMC relaying a signal from Patey? He thought again of those tall
"Captain," he said suddenly, "have your men check this
new contact against the German list. In particular," Alton added,
"Aye, aye, sir!"
---- 9:55 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 300, speed 17 knots (increasing)
"Sir, range to nearest target 18,000 yards."
"And Niobe?" Dirk asked.
"Another thousand or so."
"Ah," said Bavaria, noting the white flicker at the front edge
of the closest ship's stack. "I fear the game is up."
That was at the very edge of their range, though their targets were neither
small nor fast.
"Come right to 310," Dirk ordered, lining them back up with
the distant British.
"I intend to hold fire for another couple minutes," said Dirk
to his XO. "It'll take them at least that long to spread the word,
unless we open fire. They're probably doing no better than 8 knots right
"Yes, 28 cm. shells would eliminate any doubt."
---- 9:56 AM, launch (Rostock)
They were in an oily debris field. Patches of fire smoldered on several
larger pieces of wreckage, and a pall of smoke lay over the water making
"In the bow," called out LT Heinrich Von Larg, "can you
make that out?"
Von Larg respected the Britishers as worthy foes. He was quite eager
to meet them in battle, to kill them with steel and shell. But the sea
was their common enemy, and he wouldn't wish drowning on anyone.
"Sir, I think behind that fire there, ahead to starboard."
"Very well. Cox'sn, come right, but stay upwind of it."
The last thing he wanted was to try to fend off wind-propelled burning
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Where?" Heinrich shouted loudly, striving to enunciate the
He had carefully stood up and cupped his hands as he tried to answer
whatever voice had called. He had earlier stopped his lookouts from yelling,
"Wo sind Sie?" Some proud Brits might take pride too far, or
not recognize someone was trying to save them. Attempts by his men to
shout in English had been little better, due to their accents. Von Larg
didn't know much English, but he did know some and he felt his accent
was far less than that of any of his men.
"Over here, for the love of God!"
"Ach, jah! I see them, Lieutenant."
"Them?" Heinrich wondered. There'd been just the one voice.
But then he noted that there were several forms on what almost looked
like a raft.
---- 9:56 AM, launch (von der Tann)
LT Wilhelm would have preferred being aboard his new ship, instead of
here. However, he had been picked for this mission for small boat experience,
as well as language skills.
"Sir, we got no one in sight, and we're getting pretty crowded."
It was a tactfully worded question. They could hardly get back to von
"Yes," the young officer replied. "Head for Moltke."
"Head for Moltke. Aye, aye, sir."
Wilhelm pretended not to hear the stark relief in the other's voice.
They were that low in the water.
---- 9:57 AM, launch (Moltke)
"Are you injured, Captain, uh?" LT Lionel asked.
"Theargus," the man coughed, and coughed again. "Captain
Theargus, I am. Of His Majesty's Australian Ship Melbourne." He coughed
again, deeply, wrackingly. " Late,' I suppose I should say.
Thanks to you Huns, and your bloody battlecruisers." Despite the
strong words, there was no hint of a threat in his words, or in his demeanor.
"Sir?" The cox'sn was pointing ahead and to port, where an
arm waved for an instant.
"Proceed," Lionel ordered, to the sailor, but he kept most
of his attention on the somewhat battered enemy captain.
"You ARE hurt," Lionel said. The Aussie officer was holding
his right arm with his left, and crimson was beginning to streak below
"It's broke," Theargus shrugged, or started to before he flinched,
but his eyes and tone remained level. "But, no matter. How many of
my lads have you found?" He looked at the dozen or so shivering forms
huddled in the center and coughed again.
"I don't know," the young German officer admitted. "We
got 14 my first run, and there're half-a-dozen of us out here looking."
"Damn. Make a guess, I beg you, sir."
"A century? No, more than a century. Maybe half that again."
Theargus closed his eyes from that deeper pain and leaned back, his face
wearing a grimace not at all from his broken bones. There'd been five
ships charging the German guns, and his own crew had been nearly 500.
"I'll trouble you no more, lad," he said. "But look hard,
I beg you. There's aye more of m'mates in the water out here."
---- 9:57 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 045, speed 20 knots (increasing)
Niobe was in range, and had been for the last minute or so.
"Not yet, Captain," von Hoban replied. "We are still too
close to the Americans. Come left to 030."
As badly as he wanted the Niobe, the Baron had stressed most strongly
NOT to give the Americans any excuse to take offense. It would be best
if the British opened fire first. The fact that the Americans had two
dreadnoughts hardly more than 2,000 yards behind him probably added a
bit more to his sense of caution. The new course would open the range
to the Americans a bit faster while not getting too much nearer the many
British guns about 15,000 yards away.
---- 9:57 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 300, speed 18 knots (increasing)
A second ship showed a fleck of steam at the leading edge of her stack.
"Helm, right three degrees rudder. Come to course 350."
"Sir, my rudder is right three degrees ...."
"Gunnery Officer, prepare to open fire."
---- 9:57 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 300, speed 15 knots (increasing)
They were almost 2,000 yards behind von der Tann, off her port quarter.
Westfeldt could just make out the British. At least, he thought they
were the British. Certainly, the CO of the battlecruiser seemed to think
so, for he was continuing straight for them. Despite still losing ground,
he was not too unhappy with the situation. The British could not have
much fighting power left. Could they?
Hopefully, von der Tann would take out any remaining warships, perhaps
leaving Rostock to assist in running down AMCs attempting to flee.
---- 9:58 AM, atop New York's forward cage mast
"Sir, tentative identification! Contact is a German battlecruiser,
the von der Tann."
"Get that down to the bridge."
The admiral had been right, the officer realized, to his vast chagrin.
But how had he known? It was uncanny. They'd been staring in disbelief
at the diagrams in their books when Alton's message had been relayed to
them. The fact that the Old Man had figured it out in less time than it'd
taken them was more than unsettling - it was embarrassing, humiliating,
He'd never hear the end of this. He looked at the chief petty officer,
but the older man would not meet his eyes. Doubtless, he'd never hear
the end of it either. His depressed reverie was quickly interrupted by
the next report.
"Sir, contact is changing aspect. She's coming onto a northerly
The officer tried to focus his glasses.
"Sir, new contact! Warship. New contact is astern and to the south
of the battlecruiser."
"Sir, new contact is tentatively identified as a German light cruiser.
Don't have the class yet."
---- 9:59 AM, launch (Rostock)
There'd been three men sharing the raft-like wreckage: one enlisted,
one junior officer, and one senior officer. The class differences so assiduously
cultivated by the British apparently did not extend to floating debris
fields, thought LT von Larg.
"Have a care, mate, e's not dead," said the sailor, when
he thought the Germans might not have been gentle enough. Truth be known,
his men actually might have thought the man was dead. Certainly, he was
not moving. The junior officer appeared simply stunned, his expression
was glazed, staring off into the distance, his movements mechanical.
"Careful with him," von Larg said in Deutsch to his crew. The
insignia on the unconscious officer marked him as a full RAN Captain.
Irrespective of the humanitarian aspects of his orders, the injured senior
officer's life might be of considerable value to Admiral Hanzik and the
"Who ist he? How badly hurt?" The English was probably wrong,
von Larg realized, but he hoped his gesture at the captain would make
it clear enough.
" e's my captain, Captain Dedmundee. Here, let me at im.
He'll be okay in a bit. Just you Huns leave im be."
"Ve will not harm him," assured von Larg. At least not any
more than we already have, he corrected himself silently. "Let the
man be with his captain," he ordered his men. Such loyalty, he marveled,
---- 9:59 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
"Admiral, lookouts report the inbound as a German battlecruiser."
"Very well," acknowledged Alton, oblivious to a few carefully
"She's turning - looks like she's steadying up on Due North."
Even at this range, the image in Alton's binoculars was clearly that
of the profile of a ship much larger than any that had gone southeast
with Patey. The British Vice-Admiral had had three cruisers and one or
more armed ships besides, the American admiral reflected, but there was
no sign of any of them now.
"Admiral," asked his chief of staff softly, "do you want
me to start drafting a message to CINCLANT."
"George," replied Alton, also in a low voice, "you're
right. Get started on something. It's going to get hot out here any second.
Bring it to me right here. German force including at least one battlecruiser:
battle imminent' - Patey sure didn't stay out there to shine his shoes."
"Aye, aye, admiral," the other replied and headed off.
Bright flashes bloomed on the German newcomer.
Damn! Oddly enough, Alton's first thought was that "imminent"
would require change to "in progress."
---- 9:59 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 030, speed 21 knots (increasing)
"Ah!" The voices followed the distant flashes and the appearance
of three large splashes about 500 yards closer to them than Niobe.
Von Hoban clenched his jaws. The order to the eager Siegmund to open
fire on the old protected cruiser surged in his throat. It battered against
the back of his teeth in its quest for voice. He tried to swallow.
"Three splashes - that'd be von der Tann," commented Siegmund,
momentarily distracted. "But where's Moltke?"
The Kommodore remained silent, not trusting himself to speak.
"He must have divided his force," the captain said, answering
his own question, "and be finishing off the other British cruisers.
The ones that Imperator is no longer counting."
---- 10:00 AM, bridge of Montana, course 030, speed 6 knots
"Captain," said CDR Alexander Campbell, in an almost awed tone,
"it looks like you were right all along."
His CO did not immediately reply, his eyes on the distant form.
"Lookouts report the German as von der Tann," added Campbell.
"Battlecruisers," commented Captain Peace. "Armored cruisers
I could understand, but battlecruisers? What in the world could lead the
Germans to send battlecruisers?"
"Uh, sir, only the one, the von der Tann, has been sighted."
"They won't have sent just one, XO. The Germans have always deployed
their bigger ships in pairs, or better. There's another one out there,
XO, mark my words."
"Aye, aye, sir," Campbell replied, but he was not convinced.
"But what on earth would be worth even a single battlecruiser?"
Peace mused again. "Are they escorting some high ranking German emissary?
A prince, or something?"
"XO, if the battle reports are to be believed, the British don't
have any battlecruisers left. Not even a one. As such, whatever ones the
Germans still have left are priceless. Either they're escorting something
even more priceless, ... or they're desperate, or ... playing some deeper
game that I am quite unable to fathom."
---- 10:00 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 030, speed 21.5 knots (increasing)
"She's turning toward us!"
Over a minute had passed since they saw the splashes from von der Tann's
opening salvo. They all knew, though, that if the second salvo had been
more than two hundred yards short, they would probably not have seen them.
The Canadian CO had quickly decided on his course of action. Von Hoban
did not envy the unknown captain, a battlecruiser on one side and a modern
cruiser on the other, barring the way to the potential safety of neutral
Another trio of splashes loomed near Niobe, along her previous course.
They were also long, but by just a hundred yards or so.
"Kommodore! The AMCs are also turning, but onto different headings."
"They're scattering," said Siegmund.
Mostly, though, they were all heading for the eastern coast of the United
States. Today, however, thought von Hoban, with no little satisfaction,
most routes to the United States went through Strassburg of Germany.
Muzzle flashes appeared on the forward mounts of the Canadian vessel.
They may have also been shooting at von der Tann with their stern guns
but, just then, von Hoban couldn't have cared less.
---- 10:00 AM, Imperator, course 030, speed 5 knots
The American reporters were standing beside the Ottoman who, filled to
near-capacity with blueberry and strawberry breakfast pastries, was feeling
expansive, in every sense of the phrase. Hadi had yet to fully reposition
himself after the liner's gentle course change. He looked over the two
newcomers as his retinue attended to the details.
"The admiral has arrived as he foretold," Hadi said with a
great smile of goodwill.
Browning was initially puzzled by the statement, as it was the Germans
who had approached the American warships, including the lead dreadnought
flying the admiral's pennant. He and Fox were stunned by the activities
going on among the Turks. One pair were swiveling the deck chair and another
couple were moving the tables laden with mid-morning delicacies to positions
where the plates would be within their master's easy reach in his new
lodgement. A fifth had a silvered, cloth-wrapped coffee urn clasped gingerly
to his breast.
"I will let you see - both of you. Herr Ballin's turn, however,
has forced this momentary inconvenience. I accept it, of course,"
added the Ottoman magnanimously re his host. "It was either that
or run over your battleships."
What really had transfixed the Americans was the actions of the telescope
pedestal. This function was being served by a huge man cradling the impressive
instrument on one meaty shoulder. The man also was adjusting his position
to better serve his master. The part that really astounded the reporters,
however, was that the clearly cheerful servant was on his knees so that
the eyepiece would be at the most suitable height for Hadi to peer through
while seated. The prospect of looking through the Turkish telescope under
those conditions was a disturbing one.
"Um," began Browning, " has' arrived?"
"Of course," replied Hadi, with a generous wave at the horizon.
"Here, see for yourself."
Holy cow, thought Fox, another "admiral" meant more ships.
German warships - sea battles - fire and thunder. What a story! And he
and Browning were right there!
---- 10:01 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 310, speed 20 knots (increasing)
"Sir, the formation of ships to the south of Niobe appears to be
Westfeldt watched as another set of spouts arose in the distance near
the remaining warship.
"What of the others, the ones to the north?"
"Von der Tann's in the way, sir."
More her smoke than her hull, corrected Westfeldt, absently to himself.
The battlecruiser remained some 2,000 yards in the lead, off their starboard
bow. Captain Dirk could be counted upon to have opened fire on the greatest
threat. If that was Niobe, then the outcome of this engagement was not
in doubt. Whatever the British were going to do now, attempting to saturate
von der Tann's defenses to launch a second torpedo attack was not going
to be it.
"Range to the closest armed merchant cruiser?"
"Range 15,000 yards, bearing 305 - contact has put her rudder over
to port. Previous heading was north-northeast. New heading looks like
it will be east or south."
"Very well. The others?"
"The other two are also changing course to port."
Westfeldt tried to guess their speed. They'd obviously been at some low
bell, loitering off the coast. Despite fresh and impressive clouds of
smoke, they still seemed to be doing no better than 10 knots.
"Come to course 290."
---- 10:02 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 350, speed 20 knots
Splashes arose periodically nearby, mostly short, but Niobe had yet to
hit the pursuing battlecruiser.
Nor had von der Tann landed a hit, though small flashes on their target
may have been from Strassburg's guns. Dirk frowned, as another trio of
splashes began to rise around their target.
It had taken eight salvos to score, mostly due to Niobe's course change
away. Smoke after the brief fireball somewhere on her stern, combined
with that from her four stacks, obscured his view of the effects of the
---- 10:02 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 030, speed 22 knots
The small burst on the bows of the elegant-looking protected cruiser
was their third hit, but the 12,000 ton Canadian vessel showed no effects
from any of them. The crew of the 20-year old ship kept up a good rate
of fire, but their accuracy was not nearly so good. The tall splashes
stalking them from astern might have been a factor. The detonation of
von der Tann's shell, seven times the size of their own, was much more
impressive than any of Strassburg's hits.
The hit from Niobe was somewhere low in the superstructure astern of
the bridge. Strassburg scored a hit in reply high on the tall hull nearly
amidships. Threads of smoke streamed from the site, though they were dwarfed
by the smoke from her stacks and the 28 cm hit aft.
The next salvo from the battlecruiser straddled, as did the one after
---- 10:03 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 290, speed 21 knots (increasing)
"Sir, the target has opened fire on von der Tann."
The other two AMCs also were firing, presumably also at the battlecruiser.
"Range?" Westfeldt asked.
"14,000 yards, sir."
Just out of range, Westfeldt realized. He'd be shooting right now, and
would have been for the last few minutes, except for that damn hoist problem.
Of their two boats that had survived the earlier attentions of the British,
they'd had to leave one, crew and all, behind and other remained precariously
trussed up amidships. He needed another dozen degrees or so to bring more
guns to bear.
"Come to 270."
"Sir, steady on course 270."
"Very well. Open fire."
---- 10:03 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 350, speed 20 knots
The guns on the stern of their target seemed to have ceased fire, perhaps
due to the fire and smoke growing on her after quarter. Splashes still
dotted the sea around the battlecruiser, though, from the stern guns on
the AMCs fleeing to the northwest and southwest. They had scored one hit
aft, but those on the bridge were unaware of that.
This one appeared more decisive, and their target appeared to begin to
lose way. Another 28 cm shell smashed into Niobe 30 seconds later, and
the gallant Canadian vessel was suddenly lost in a catastrophic explosion,
perhaps from the hit, perhaps from the progress of the fires.
"Shift fire, new target, bearing ...."
---- 10:05 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
It was a slaughter, and Alton was sickened at the sight of it. Literally.
The bile rose in his throat and he swallowed fighting the nausea. Stennis
had likely expected a slaughter, but not this one. Not like this. Instead
of one bravely dead or fled Hun cruiser, they had a dozen dead Limeys,
or would have shortly. He winced as 11-inch shell splashes showed near
an AMC. The battlecruiser would swat them all down like so many flies.
"Admiral? The message to CINCLANT?"
Yes, the message. Good God, how could he explain this?
Rear-Admiral Alton put the specter of distant superiors aside. Oh, damn.
A 11-inch shell had just exploded in one of the AMCs. This was butchery.
The British were not surrendering today, it seemed. They were running
for the dubious safety of United States waters, but it didn't look like
they'd make it. Any of them.
And what if they did, Alton agonized? They were all warships, under The
Hague. He had no right to intervene, unless American lives, or those of
other neutrals, were threatened. The damn Hun liners with their American
passengers lay snugly, smugly off his inshore beam, quite literally keeping
station on his flagship.
---- 10:10 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots
The six British AMCs were already down to four, Alton saw, his message
to Stennis, marked up and marked up again, fluttering on his clipboard,
unsent. The battlecruiser's first victim was in flames, dead in the water,
as was the one that Strassburg was still firing on.
Of the other four, one to the south was burning and slowing, but still
underway. The other German warship was running up on her.
"George, the hell with that right now," he said to his chief
of staff. "Get the navigator over here, charts and all. I want to
know the instant any of the British reach our waters, or are even getting
"Aye, aye, admiral."
"Captain, I have instructions. For you, and for your Gunnery Officer."
---- 10:12 AM, Chocorua Princess, course 070, speed 7 knots
"Honey," implored the owner's companion, "I'm not so sure
this is a good idea."
"It's your boat," remarked Nik to the battleship lover, "but
this is crazy."
"Dear, why don't you go below?"
"Hell, no! You're not going to get rid of me that easy," she
"Yeah," the other feminine passenger agreed. "There's
no safety down there. If you're gonna go and get us all killed, I want
to be where I can at least see what's happening."
The battleship lover shrugged helplessly and turned to his male guest,
"Are you objecting?"
"No, not really," replied Nik mildly. "I've been in a
lot of strange places aboard ships, but I've never sailed, unarmed, right
into the middle of a sea battle before."
"That's it. Count me in. I just wish we had something to make us