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 VII

---- 2:00 PM, Bermuda

The commander was watching the winds toss and twist the nearby palm fronds. Various documents awaited his attention about six feet behind him on his desk and on his sideboard, but their vigil would have to continue. An hour of fruitless staring at the blasted pages had sufficed to prove to him that, until word came from Vice-Admiral Patey, he would get precious little done here. Nor was he alone, in this respect. While pride had kept him from lingering unnecessarily about the wireless room, it had not checked others. He had scattered the lot he'd found there an hour gone, loitering like a gaggle of geese!

This window of his office was catching a nice bit of breeze, he realized. It provided some welcome easing of the heat of early summer. The branches continued to twitch and luff. He wondered if the banked clouds on the horizon were harbingers of a coming storm.

His thoughts soon returned to the waters off New York. And Sydney's sailing of a few days' before.

She had been the opportunity of a lifetime, and he had had to watch her sail away without him. Damn that Dedmundee! The commander had had his own superior well in hand, and he was confident that Patey would not have objected. Dedmundee had observed, however, and in the hearing of both admirals, that he had quite enough supercargo underfoot as it was. Patey would have wanted a good reason to overrule Sydney's captain, and the commander had not had one ready.

And so he had been left behind, to miss what would certainly be the last battle over here, if Strassburg even came out at all. His career, and the rest of his life, would forever be affected by his not being there. He just knew it.

---- 2:00 PM, bridge of Mina, course (changing), speed 8 knots

"Sir, lookouts have sighted Newport. She's just come around the bend. Range 15,000 yards."

"Very well," replied Captain Atanacio. He turned to look ahead, raising his glasses as he did.

Negotiating the channel had become a bit easier in the last hour. The larger boats that had initially dogged their path had mostly dropped back. Other than a few exceptions, the smaller craft in the channel seemed more willing to keep their distance, but there were more of them. Atanacio had concluded that the exceptions were being emboldened by their ignorance.

"Yes, I see her," he commented to the OOD. "What ship is that ahead of her? Can you make her out?"

It was the bosun who replied.

"I know her, cap'n. She's either the Yvonne or the Damita. Private charter boats - both of them. Belong to a little line that runs tours and such. Used to have some kind of contract with Luna Park, until Thompson went bankrupt, a few years back."

"Are they sisters?" Atanacio asked idly, as he tried to work out her spacing ahead of Newport.

"Not identical, cap'n. Yvonne's a few years older, and Damita's lines are a bit fuller. I can't tell which one she is yet, with all that fluff-and-puff they've got on her."

---- 2:10 PM, bridge of Newport, course (changing), speed 12 knots

"They've made better progress than I expected," commented Vice-Admiral Stennis, with easy informality, to the ship's CO at his side. The two officers knew each other fairly well, their paths having crossed many times over the years, and the captain's command had done him a favor this day by her presence and readiness.

Ten minutes ago, the lookouts had reported sighting the first of the USN Destroyers and their two charges, though the latter remained unidentified as to their specifics. The two RN AMCs were smoking from more than their stacks, so there'd never been any doubt of their identity. Now, as the range dropped steadily at a combined closing speed of over 15 knots, more details began to reveal themselves. Stennis ignored the traces of gasps as the young crew of the old training ship got their first glimpses of war, ageless war.

"They're both listing, admiral," observed Newport's CO. The holed topsides and burn marks had held his attention only briefly. Ships sank by letting in water, not air, and these two big ships were in the middle of perhaps his nation's busiest channel.

"Yes," agreed Stennis. "Five degrees, would you say, for the first one?"

He acknowledged the other's point, but the ships were underway and making good headway. He was not initially that concerned. If one or both did sink, though ....

"Yes, sir, maybe even six. The second one's worse. I'd hazard seven or eight for her."

Stennis quickly switched his glasses to the other AMC. His frown was only partially hidden behind the binoculars.

---- 2:15 PM, Bermuda

The commander was standing in the office of his boss, the admiral. When he'd responded to the senior officer's note, he'd thought that the admiral had somehow managed to get word ahead of him. Now, five minutes gone, he'd about decided that the old boy hadn't been able face the Admiralty's paper either, and had summoned him in search of a respite. But, maybe he did know something, the commander reflected, but awaited a direct question.

"I wonder," the commander said aloud, at last, "when the next news will come from off New York."

As it so happened, the next news from off New York was just then flying up the staircase, borne by Yeoman Butler, whose shoes were hardly touching the steps during his ascent.

---- 2:15 PM, Imperator, Promenade, course (Hadi neither knows nor cares), speed (too slow)

The Great Man's servants were almost panicky. Their Master had been getting more and more irritable these last two hours. They were accustomed to a period of munificence, or at least a lull, after the noon meal. Instead, he had begun to growl and snap at them a mere handful of minutes after they had rejoined Strassburg and the other two German warships. To their boundless bewilderment, he had twice even forsaken his pillowed seat and paced the deck! A full score of paces, maybe more! Twice! There was simply no telling what He might do next!

Fortunately, they had their ways to palliate such rare situations. The one they had employed this afternoon had been successful in getting him back into his deck chair. Now, they just had to keep him there.

The problem was that Hadi, whatever his limitations might be concerning military tactics, had a superlatively keen nose for intrigue. In Istanbul, it was a imperative survival trait. Now, he had become convinced that he scented duplicity or misdirection, or maybe even a plot. He did not know what was going on, but the air reeked of far more than gunpowder and coal smoke.

"We should be gone from this place. Gone!" Hadi rapped the empty plate in front of him with his fork in emphasis. The china chimed in protest.

"Why does the Kommodore delay?" Hadi threw his eyes about, as though he might rise again.

"Master," interceded one brave servant, making a complicated but urbane gesture towards the little table they had drawn up before their Master. "More?"

Hadi eyed the man narrowly for an instant, then looked down at the plates. One had a bluish stain on its surface, the other red. He considered the matter gravely. The blueberry had been better, but the strawberry was also worthy.

"Yes," he said grandly, "more American pie, another one of each." He settled back in anticipation.

The servant bobbed his head happily, and they all smiled.

---- 2:20 PM, bridge of Moltke

"Admiral, Captain Stang reports the transfers are complete. Captain Liapis requests permission to proceed."

Hanzik had been studying the fuel reports of his force, guessing what those of von der Tann and Rostock would be, and trying to find options beyond the obvious ones.

"Stores and all?" Hanzik asked, looking up.

He had requested that Salamis offload also what food, water, and coal that should be surplus to her transit into port. The quantities involved were not particularly great, but they were worth the effort.

"Yes, sir."

"Very well, I'll come."

He wanted to send Salamis off with a better message than a simple granting of permission.

"Have the others been sighted yet?"

"No, sir."


---- 2:20 PM, Newport, course (changing) speed 12 knots

Both British vessels had not seemed to slow or list further in the last few minutes, which took some of the edge of the sudden concerns of the two USN officers. The frown on the admiral's face had eased as the minutes passed and the white at the bows of the two ships could be more plainly seen.

"What in heavens?" Newport's master exclaimed. Cheers had erupted and horns blared from the Damita just ahead. "Mister McLean, Mister Dean, can you make that out?"

The sightseers must have just caught sight of the flags and ensigns on the RN AMCs approaching them, Stennis had decided, but forbore to comment. In a matter of seconds, the levity ran dry and the music died, reinforcing his opinion. Yes, he thought, they would be able to make out clearly the marks, the holes, and the stains without binoculars now, from their vantage ahead of Newport. Stennis had known what they would see, but the charter boat folk had not had any idea. A dreadful shock, indeed. Yes, those would-be merry-makers would remember this day, when the music died.

"Sir, lookouts report Mina's in sight just astern of the second British vessel."

"Very well. Well, admiral, I had hoped to enjoy your company a bit longer than this. Young Atanacio seems to have passed a miracle." Civilian craft were pressing all about the group.

"The pleasure's been all mine, Captain," Stennis replied. Indeed, Newport's presence and this man's flexibility had served him well this day. It was good also for him to get back out on vessels like this, a proud ship with a proud history. He looked up into the rope rigging fondly. It was so different from the stark cables in modern cagemasts.

"It does appear that ‘The Hammer' has struck again, doesn't it?"

"And I missed that game, admiral, I'm sorry to say. 1900, right?" He got an assenting nod from the admiral. "11 to 7, and me stuck in New Orleans."

"He didn't score but, let me tell you, he punished them every time he bucked the line. Made up for that dreadful ‘99. By the way, did I tell ever tell you that I almost ended up as the admiral's second, back in ‘93?" (See Note)


The youngsters did not know what to make of it, as the two crusty curmudgeons smiled openly at each other out in the afternoon sun.

---- 2:25 PM, Bermuda

"This is preposterous! ‘LT Wardin' ? Who the devil is that? Have you confirmed him? Commander?"

The admiral was aghast, and with great reason. The message had not been from Vice-Admiral Patey aboard Melbourne. It had been from the AMC Patuca, and not her CO, Captain Holley. And its tale one of catastrophe, with even more unsaid and implied.

"There IS a LT Wardin on the Patuca, I'm afraid, sir. Charles O. Wardin. Her gunnery officer, I believe. Reported aboard in March." An ardent rider, the commander recalled, with a Polo handicap of three that he himself had learned of ten pounds sterling too late.

"Damn," said the admiral, and not for the first time. He looked again at the message slip.

" ‘German battlecruiser, believed to be von der Tann'," he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief, ‘and one light cruiser, Karlsruhe class.' "

"But sir," the commander said. "How could they have gotten past the admiral?"

Was this a hoax? Or could Patey have gone off haring after some other ship, with whoever poor LT Wardin's assailants really were slipping through the opening Patey's departure had provided?

"Sir," offered Yeoman Butler, who'd used the last few minutes to catch his breath, "the signal strength was below standard. They went off entirely, twice, they did."

Consistent, then, with wireless damage. Or some malevolent German trick.

"Thank you, Yeoman. Commander, get on down there, if you please. Take charge there, personally. I certainly can't message the Crown with anything like this! It's fragmentary; could be some jester at work. Or anything, anything at all."

"Aye, aye, sir." It was a thorny question, no doubt about it.

"Did they try Captain Richardson," the commander asked Butler as they went down the stairs, "on Niobe?"

"Yes, sir. The first time Patuca went off the air. No reply, at least not when I'd left."

Note - The history of the football games between the United States' military academies at Annapolis and West Point has a (now) little known twist. One outcome caused the President of the United States to convene his Cabinet! See - select "library" - select "virtual exhibits" - select "Archival Images: Army-Navy Football" - select the entry "1894/98"

Excerpt from that site:

"A reputed incident between a Rear Admiral and a Brigadier General, which nearly led to a duel after the 1893 Navy victory, caused President Cleveland to call a Cabinet meeting in late February 1894. When the meeting ended, Secretary of the Navy Hillary A. Herbert, and Secretary of War, Daniel S. Lamont, issued general orders to their respective Academies stating that teams would be allowed to visit Annapolis and West Point to conduct football games, but the Army and Navy football teams were ‘prohibited in engaging in games elsewhere.' The result was that the Army/Navy game was suspended for the next five years. The annual series would not resume until 1899, when it was played in a neutral locale, Franklin Field in Philadelphia."

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