Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23
Part 24
Part 25
Part 26
Part 27
Part 28
Part 29
Part 30
Part 31
Part 32
Part 33
Part 34
Part 35
Part 36
Part 37
Part 38
Part 39
Part 40
Part 41
Part 42
Part 43
Part 44
Part 45
Part 46
Part 47
Part 48
Part 49
Part 50
Part 51
Part 52
Part 53
Part 54
Part 55
Part 56
Part 57
Part 58
Part 59
Part 60
Part 61
Part 62
Part 63
Part 64
Part 65
Part 66
Part 67
Part 68
Part 69
Part 70
Part 71
Part 72
Part 73
Part 74
Part 75
Part 76
Part 77
Part 78
Part 79
Part 80
Part 81
Part 82
Part 83
Part 84
Part 85
Part 86
Part 87
Part 88
Part 89
Part 90
Part 91
Part 92
Part 93
Part 94
Part 95
Part 96
Part 97
Part 98
Part 99
Part 100
Part 101
Part 102
Part 103
Part 104
Part 105
Part 106
Part 107
Part 108
Part 109
Part 110
Part 111
Part 112
Part 113
Part 114
Part 115
Part 116
Part 117
Part 118
Part 119
Part 120
Part 121
Part 122
Part 123
Part 124
Part 125
Part 126
Part 127
Part 128
Part 129
Part 130
Part 131
Part 132
Part 133
Part 134
Part 135
Part 136
Part 137
Part 138
Part 139
Part 140
Part 141
Part 142
Part 143
Part 144
Part 145
Part 146
Part 147
Part 148
Part 149
Part 150
Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas - Part VI

---- 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 away, Tonopah.

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 Sherlock Holmes.

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 crew.

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 it wasn't.

---- 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 on me."

Why was Theargus here? The patterns on the tent walls - what did they mean? Dedmundee‘s 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 Patey!

"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, maybe."

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?"

"Not today."

---- 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. Torn bodies.

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!"

by Jim

Home | Gaming Model | Dogger Bank | Intermission Stories | Jutland | After Jutland | Side Stories | Ein Geleitzug | The Humor of jj | NEW!

Content Copyright 2010 Lettertime. All Rights Reserved.
Web Design 2009-2010 Kathryn Wanschura
Contact Letterstime