June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas -
---- 1:00 PM, NY harbor
Vice-Admiral Stennis tried to relax in the bobbing boat as they made
their way into the channel. He had given the necessary orders to see to
their imminent British "guests," including instructions to assure
that medical personnel would meet them at the pier. He had dispatched
reinforcements to Colonel Anton; it would be up to that officer to keep
the peace until they could get to the bottom of whatever was going on
out on that pier. He had his kit with him, as did his aide.
The motion was snappy, stirring memory echoes of thousands of other small
boat runs over the last quarter-century. The sight of the white-hulled
Newport, coming down the channel, awakened many more. He looked
about the harbor, casting glances again at Arkansas and, further
As they approached the Newport, he espied the bustle of preparations
aboard the 3rd Naval District training ship. Properly receiving him would
become another drill for the many too-young faces he was sure to see.
For a moment, he yielded his sternness, recalling a much, much younger
Stennis who, as a fresh middie, had tried not to gasp aloud at every barked
comment from the massively grizzled Rear-Admiral who had come aboard his
own training ship. Well, he must not let Newport's captain, and his youngsters,
down. Yes, he would endeavor to leave them with a few memories as vivid
as those he himself still bore!
The spray-dampened admiral's aide blinked. For just a moment, his principal's
face had appeared odd, distorted. He wiped the gritty water from his face
and looked again. No, he must have been mistaken.
---- 1:15 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
"They're coming out, Colonel."
"Thank you, lieutenant."
Savage settled his elbows onto a good rest and watched the grocer's men
begin to return to their trucks. The boxes they were loading were either
empty or very nearly so, based on how easily they were being lifted. Some
90 minutes ago, those same containers had been eased out quite carefully,
with many needing two men accomplish the maneuver. For a second time,
food, in considerable quantities, had gone in but had not come back out.
Other than one or two extra forms he glimpsed in the doorway, there was
no sign of the 200-plus men he had reported were in there.
He had again questioned his sentries, the ones who had reported seeing
a large number of men. They had been there. He remained convinced and
did not regret his call to the admiral.. They had not gone anywhere. They
couldn't have! Could they? If they really were in there, the only evidence
since then was Mittermann's food.
And Mittermann, himself. Savage was willing to trust his instincts and
they were telling him that the grocer was being completely honest. The
man had fed over 200 men, even watched them eat, and was just finishing
up having done it a second time. And Fideles had voiced no reservations;
the Gunney's silence was as telling to Savage as that dog's had been to
What? What was that?
He turned his head back to face into the city and cupped a hand to one
ear. Applause? Yes, that was exactly what it was!
The rally had begun, and the crowd was clapping and cheering. An introduction,
perhaps. Of Ford? Roosevelt? Or maybe, he thought cynically, just the
announcement that free beer was on hand.
---- 1:30 PM, Newport (PG-12), stopped
Bosun's pipes, sideboys, salutes, and all the other trappings of military
ceremony, Stennis knew them all, and knew them well. He acknowledged the
introductions politely, and cast a grave eye at any and all. If a few
seaman recruits trembled, well, that was only fitting and proper.
In truth, there was little to criticize. The ropes were properly coiled,
the decks holystoned to an even luster, and brass was bright all about.
If he were to look closer, her age would show here and there. Stennis
knew it, and knew where to look. And when not to. And so the Vice-Admiral
nodded gravely as he complimented her captain in the easy hearing of his
Normally, he would have stretched out the moment even further, but he
had urgent business downchannel. Once Arkansas' launch had cleared,
a glance at her captain was enough.
"With your permission, Admiral?"
"Yes, captain. Please proceed."
"Thank you, sir.
"Officer of the Deck, ...."
The barguintine rigged steam ship got underway and, as the pennant of
CINCLANT rose, so did her crew's pride and spirit.
---- 1:30 PM, stern of Moltke, stopped
There was a voice. He recognized it. It was calling to him, from somewhere.
Captain Dedmundee only realized it, though, when a hand grasped firmly
the back of his neck, steadying his head in an upright position.
"Captain," the voice repeated, "please, you need to drink."
The first drops kindled a monstrous thirst and he found himself grabbing
desperately for the cup.
The next few minutes were a blur. Literally. After a bit more, images
began to come into focus, though there appeared to be too many of each.
He gradually became aware that he was in a tent, on the deck of a ship.
He felt strangely incurious. The motions were familiar enough that he
did not consider what ship it was for a while. The gaps in the canvas
did not let him see much, even if his sight had been fully restored, which
---- 1:35 PM, Moltke, stopped
Rear-Admiral Hanzik studied the reports from Augsberg and Kolberg,
and also the two commanding officers who'd brought them. Both light cruisers
and their masters had performed well, executing their orders with skill
and dispatch. All four, however, had obviously suffered in the process.
Ausberg had taken more hits than he'd realized, based on Captain
Speck's report. Speck himself appeared weak and his color was not good.
Not good at all. The man had made no complaint, however, and he was reporting
his vessel ready for duty.
Kolberg was a bad surprise. Instead of her well-seasoned captain,
it was her XO who stood before him, and the young man had been just a
LT when this very month had begun! Worse, though, was that Kolberg
was not the fresh asset he had expected. His thoughts about detaching
her would have to be reconsidered. She had a little less coal than he
had expected, she'd been damaged, and her crew attrited. One bow gun was
a total loss, and the other might or might not be able to be repaired.
Her captain and another officer dead, along with twelve of her crew dead
or missing. Another four were seriously wounded. Even her acting-CO appeared
somewhat worse for wear. Oh, the young officer exuded a calm and confident
demeanor, but Hanzik was no stranger to the bravado of junior officers.
Dahm looked stiff of posture and had stepped into the admiral's presence
with a suspiciously measured pace. Well, he would leave this one his pride,
for now, and he most certainly would not reward a battle's victor by relieving
him of command.
Another man might have felt a flush of satisfaction that his decision
to leave Kolberg to escort Salamis had been so dramatically
vindicated, but Hanzik was not that man. Instead, he considered only briefly
how close to failure they had come. What Patia might have done
with Salamis would remain - thankfully - an unknown, but the Baron
had expected the worst. His orders had given equal weight to getting Imperator
and Salamis each safely to America. Yet, he had had no choice but
to split his forces a second time. Strassburg and the liners were
outbound, and the timing had been a near thing as it was.
It just showed, he realized, how narrow his margins were on this mission.
Shadows cast by Kronprinz Wilhelm's cranes only underscored that
conclusion as they flickered across the reports as he read.
---- 1:40 PM, stern of Moltke, stopped
"Come back to me, mate. Come on, now."
"What?" Dedmundee muttered. His head hurt. There was a feeling
of great pressure, as though his skull had become too small for its contents.
The bright sun and the reflections off the surrounding waves were turning
the rough canvas all about into a glowing, translucent moire. He had to
squint up at the figures that were squatting at his side. They were Captain
Theargus, both of them.
"Bob," the others said sharply, "don't you fade back out
Why was Theargus here? The patterns on the tent walls - what did they
mean? Dedmundees thoughts skittered about in his aching head, incising
painful little toemarks on the inside of his skull. Their trackways formed
vague almost-patterns. Like those shimmers on the tent walls. Tent?
"Why's a tent?" Dedmundee croaked. Had there been water to
drink earlier? Questions gouged about just behind his eyes. Where was
he? Wait! Omigod! This was NOT Sydney! His ship! His crew! Vice-Admiral
"What happened?" Dedmundeed asked, addressing the Theargus
pair. "Tell me! You must tell me!"
"Aye," answered Theargus, nodding less in agreement and more
at the growing color in the other's face. Good, he thought. He'd worried
that shock would claim the man, as it had others already this day.
"First, though, what do YOU remember? I'll tell you the rest of
it, quick enough."
"I don't ... wait, Val's Tract. Signals from Val's Tract.
Yes, I'd gone to Flank. Val's Tract was .... Light cruisers, two
of them! Laying smoke to hide their liner. Battlecruisers! Oh, God, Shane!
Battlecruisers, two of them! Omigod, Shane! What happened? What happened
to my ship?!"
He grabbed at Theargus convulsively. There was only one of him now.
"Uh, damn it!"
Belatedly, Dedmundee made out the sling and the further marks on the
other. Just as this place was not Sydney, neither was it Melbourne,
he now knew full well.
"Sunk? ALL of us?!"
"Yes, you, me, and Berwick, too. They even bagged Otway
and Val's Tract. But it gets worse, Bob. Von der Tann went
in after Niobe and the others."
"God, they'll be slaughtered!"
"Yes, and the whole bloody show right in front of the Yanks."
Dedmundee looked about in anguish. Two flaps were open, and he could
see the brilliant blue sky. Tall cumulus clouds floated serenely across
the horizon to the south.
---- 1:45 PM, Newport (PG-12), 12 knots
Stennis knew it would be yet some time before they would catch sight
of the Mina. He was walking Newport's deck with her captain,
with a word here and there, when the lookouts first reported a contact
sporting, quite unexpectedly, numerous British flags.
"I recognize her now, Admiral. She's a charter boat," Newport's
CO said, once they'd got back to the bridge area. The men had their binoculars
on the craft, which also seemed to be going down channel.
"One of a whole group, or was. Man named Jackson runs them, used
to be five of them, but I don't know, now."
"He's British?" Stennis asked, idly.
"Not that I know of, sir."
"Tarted up, isn't she," the admiral commented, with a hint
of a smile.
"Aye, sir, she is that."
The charter boat was bedecked with Union Jacks, red-white-blue bunting,
and streamers, all of which were fluttering quite gaily in the breeze
out here in the channel. Musical instruments, horns and drums, at least,
could be heard quite plainly. So could laughter, some of it almost strident
in tone. Signs and placards were plastered on her hull and bridgehouse.
" Victory Tour'?" Stennis read aloud. "Do you know
what that means?"
"No, sir. XO, do you know what that's all about?"
"A little, sir. There was something in the newspapers about a cruise
today. Nothing I was interested in, though, sir, so I didn't read the
whole thing. I think some London paper was behind it, the London Times,
The charter boat was on a converging course, about 1,000 yards off their
port bow. She was at about the same speed, and would swing in ahead of
them. Several party-goers had spotted the American ship coming up astern
and had begun to wave.
"Admiral, begging your pardon," the XO bravely ventured. "What's
going to happen? I mean, will there be a British victory?"
---- 1:50 PM, bridge of von der Tann, course 120, speed 5 knots
The two bright, trim liners were a proud sight, with hundreds of German
flags on their lines.
Dirk, however, took greater pride in the beat-up, still smoking ex-liner
just off his port beam.
"Nottingham Star," he read off her bow.
Bavaria's attention had been on the other liners, but he switched to
follow his captain's gaze.
"Yes," he agreed, "she may be the first Britisher warship
we've ever captured."
"Warship" was a bit of a stretch, they both recognized. Neither
cared to make that observation, just then.
"I wonder what her top speed is. Or was," Dirk amended. Besides
age, the hapless AMC had absorbed several 150 mm shells and at least one
280 mm from the battlecruiser herself.
"I'm sure the Admiral will find some use for her," said Bavaria,
casting a quick glance back at Imperator.
"Sir," it was the bosun. "Book has her listed at 16.5,
but that was before the war."
"Thank you," Dirk said.
That was probably too slow for them to get her back, but not impossible.
Dirk looked over their bows. The dead reckoning plot had gotten a bit
blurred, but they should be catching sight of Moltke and the others
any minute. There was little doubt where to look. Smoke still rose from
the ruins they had left out to sea.
---- 1:50 PM, stern of Moltke, stopped
"What did Patey say?" Theargus repeated, for about the third
time. "I need to know, Bob."
This time Dedmundee turned to the other, away from the clouds outside,
the clouds who did not seem to care that ....
"What? What is there to know?"
"My ship's gone. Gone. Bob, I led four hundred and sixty-seven good
men right into their guns. A full thousand, counting Berwick's.
Was I right? Were those Patey's orders? Or was it Balaclava all over again?!
Man, I need to know!"
"I, I think so," Dedmundee began, brokenly. "He said something
like that. Just before ...."
He went silent, as images thundered into his brain. Shock, smashing impact.
But what had happened after that? How had he ended up here? Where was
he? He tried to ask, and realized the other had gotten up, and was staggering
out the tent. The white clouds looked like snowy mountains on the horizon.
"Shane," he pleaded. "Come back, Shane!"