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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas - Part X

---- 5:15 PM, Salamis, stopped

Lannon watched anxiously as the others examined the limp form on the stretcher. The one who seemed in charge of those giving medical assistance looked up and spoke to the men with Lannon. Unfortunately, Lannon could not understand what was said, and turned to the one beside him for an interpretation. The Greek captain apparently spoke next to no English but, fortunately, his second in command was fluent in it.

"He says," began Vassillios Kokovinos, "that the, um, collar bone is broken, and so is the arm. His side, there may be broken ribs, also, but he is not sure. He sees no blood in his mouth, and so thinks there is little or no damage inside the body. We will have him ashore in a couple hours, and get him to doctors. The others, also."

"He is not a doctor? You don't have a doctor aboard?"

Lannon's voice betrayed his surprise. From the size of the ship, he'd expected the crew to include a doctor. Perhaps, he admitted to himself, foreign ships had fewer doctors than the American ones with which he was more familiar.

"No, but he is not without experience in such things."

Lannon nodded, trying not to react to the other's hesitation, and watched the aid-giver fashion a quite serviceable splint. The man used a pair of flat boards and what appeared to be a pillow cover. Another joined them and spoke to the two officers. Lannon noted that Nik, who'd accompanied the newcomer, frowned slightly as he studied the splint.

"Ah, Mr. Lannon. Good news. The others look to have just superficial cuts and scrapes. But they owe you their lives, I think. It takes not long for shock and exposure to claim a man in the water out here."

"It was nothing," Lannon replied, with an embarrassed shrug. "This ship - Salamis - it doesn't take a great brain to see that she's supposed to be some sort of dreadnought battleship. But she has no guns, anywhere. Greek, you say?"

The American made no effort to suppress his skepticism. He looked at Nik, who nodded in agreement.

"Basil," that's what he'd been told to call him, "I've never heard of her, and I thought I knew them all. Now, don't get me wrong, but how do you I know you're telling me the truth? You see, the more I look around, the more she looks German to me. And it looks to me like you came over in company with Germans, in some sort of squadron, or something. These men, these Britons, they've been my guests."

Lannon glanced eastward towards the tall cagemasts, a gesture not lost on Kokovinis.

"I see," he replied. "I've given you my word that they'll be safe, but I'll not take insult, Mr. Lannon. There is some basis for your concern, and which does you credit, by the way. Salamis looks German because she was, in fact, built in Germany. But she is incomplete, just as you said. Her cannons were to be American, ordered before the war. My nation has accepted her, taken possession of her, in her current condition because the cannons could not be delivered to Germany. Since the cannons could not come to her, the Germans helped us bring her to the cannons."

"She is to be completed here, in America?" Lannon was stunned, even Nik's eyebrows raised at that announcement.

"Yes, for my country, Greece. Salamis is ours. Now, I will be frank with you, Mr. Lannon. We do, in fact, have a few Germans aboard, but they are civilians, not soldiers. Shipyard workers. Our employees. Twenty of them. They will not bother your, er, guests. They are under my command and I will keep them well clear. As I said before, you have my word on it, but you can do as you see fit."

Lannon turned to the Brit who seemed to have become the spokesman of those he'd rescued.

"Fitzgerald," he began, "sorry, I forgot your first name."

"That's ‘right, sir," replied the man, whose short brown curls still showed flecks of water, or salt. "John Dennis Fitzgerald, though my friends call me JD."

"JD, I'm Nate, and I'd be pleased to call you friend. Are you alright with this? With staying here? Your fellow will get to a doctor a lot faster this way than with us. But I'll not leave you here, if that's what you want."

The British wanted to stay together, and with their mate on the stretcher. They had blankets around their shoulders and their hands around hot mugs. Lannon, though, still had some misgivings.

"Nik, what do you think?"

"It's probably fine, Nate, but let's not take any chances." Germans, no doctor, pillow cases - there were just too many irregularities. "You get the girls back; I'll stay here with them. That should keep ‘em honest."

"Maggie will have your guts for drawerstrings!"

"Well, that's probably true," Nik admitted, ruefully.

---- 5:15 PM, Bermuda

The admiral had waited for confirmation as to the exact identities of the two RN AMCs who had been seen being escorted into the American navy base in New York. He had, he admitted to himself, hoped that the first report had been a grievous mistake. Fifteen minutes ago, however, the two ships had been confirmed to be Patuca and Manchester Star.

The footsteps of the commander, cable in hand, descending the staircase, became only background noise.(NOTE 1) The late afternoon storm had yet to blow itself out. Its pounding pyrotechnics, too, dwindled in comparison with the crescendos in his soul.

The Germans had sent a powerful force into the West Atlantic - an unknown force of such power that it had overwhelmed the RN forces on station. Vice-Admiral Patey had not even gotten off a wireless, it seemed, and must be assumed to have been lost. Hell, Patey might even now be a prisoner on board some German battlecruiser! He had to assume, also, that Sydney, Melbourne, Berwick, and Niobe were all gone, along with whatever AMCs that had been there beyond the two now mooring in New York. New York! What would the Yanks do with them?

He shook his head. He had no time for that, nor was there time for more of the decanter that his right hand had just grasped. The old admiral stood up and stepped to the window, to let the spray wet his face, to let the booming echoes surround him.

For the moment, he was in command of the entire Station. A Station without warships but facing many unknown ones. A Station to blockade a continent, but whose shores had been stripped of nearly all patrollers. What should he do with those he had left? Should they remain in place, perhaps to catch any who would try their luck upon the news? His AMCs would be helpless, should the unknown Germans scythe up and down the American coast. He did not even have ships that could shadow the Germans. Bloody Germans! What was their game? Could they be coming here?! Halifax?! Jamaica? To the Pacific? It was a certainty that he had nothing to stop them, but did the Germans know that?

----- 5:15 PM, Imperator, stopped

"Blue! Where are the other rolls?" Browning was emptying his camera for the fourth time. He did not look up, so intent was he on tucking the exposed film ever-so-carefully into his leather valise. All he knew was that the crewmen who'd helped him set up and who'd handed him the previous rolls were not there now.

"Behind the cart," Fox replied, bent over his own tripod.

The serving cart was away from the rail, secured to a stanchion and its wheels locked. The small metal-bound trunk of photographic supplies was tied off by loops of rope through its handles. Browning had missed the departure of the stewards after they had completed those tasks.

For a tense moment, Browning could not get the container open - battle images all around and the film locked away! It turned out to be just his unfamiliarity with the hasp design, which yielded to his efforts a moment later. Inside, there were perhaps a dozen rolls of film, each tucked into a separate leather slot.

Browning reloaded his camera, then looked around. Not one, but two battlecruisers lay off their starboard beam, with the larger clearly damaged! One roll had been just of her, and he'd taken care to capture her admiral's pennant. Four smaller warships, some of them also showing battle damage, clustered about the bigger ships. He had taken several shots of each, and others of the small boat traffic among them all. Salamis was gone, but another passenger liner had been waiting out here, bringing the local total to three. The latest roll had been divided between this other newcomer and the smoking wreckage, especially the sky-thrust bow of some unnamed victim.

The vessel he began to bring into focus for his fourth roll, however, was none of those. This time, his viewfinder was on tenth ship of this little fleet: Nottingham Star, flying the flag of Germany. Now, THAT was a front page story all by itself!

The reporters were so enthralled that they missed the stately procession passing behind them. Hadi had seen these ships before, and had declared that it was time for the evening meal.

Just outside the bridge area, the Countess Marina was growing impatient. Her eyes went to the man in the grey shirt as he came off the bridge.

"Gavilan! Did you find him? What did he say?"

"Herr Ballin asked me to give you his regrets, but that there has been no signal," Gavilan replied.

"There is no cause for this, this foolishness, this delay!"

"You are right, of course, MiLady. But Ballin will do nothing without permission - you know that."

Marina nodded, a few red strands flickering in the sea breeze. Anxiously, she stared into the West.

---- 5:30 PM, flagbridge of New York, stopped

Admiral Alton had just finished his account.

"And they're still out of sight?"

Alton repressed an unseemly smile; Stennis seemed just as perplexed as he was.

"Affirmative. The battlecrusier and the lights fished out some Brits and then took their prize and headed back out, liners and all. We lost sight of Imperator about, what, 1630?"

"Yes, sir."

Left unsaid was that the British Vice-Admiral and his force had disappeared sometime before that and still remained unaccounted for.

"Admiral, the Greek vessel has gotten back underway."

"Thank you," acknowledged Alton.

The two men with the golden epaulets stared at the odd-duck vessel as she resumed her earlier WSW heading that would take her to the New York harbor approaches.

"And this ‘Salamis' showed up at about the same time and on about the same bearing?"

"Yes, sir. Almost exactly, both."

The American Vice-Admiral shifted his attention to the columns of smoke still on the horizon, marking plainly the site of whatever had happened out there. Alton had reported that the Germans and their prize had left at a low bell.

"Very well." Stennis took a deep breath. "Admiral, form up and take us out. It's time we learned what the hell has been going on off our own coast!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

---- 5:30 PM, Augsberg, stopped

"Launch secure, sir."

"Very well, Britz. Your crew did well."

"Thank you, sir," the enlisted man replied. He turned to dismiss the men, a small but proud smile on his face. Kessock also turned, and headed for the bridge.

"Wolfgang," asked the XO, as the junior officer came onto the bridge, "how are matters aboard Moltke?"

Kessock must have looked surprised. Captain Speck, who these last 10 days had seemed to live on the bridge, was nowhere in sight.

"The Captain didn't say much when he came back," the XO confessed, with a tiny nod towards Speck's sea cabin. On a larger ship, or in less stressed times, the XO would not have asked. Reaction from the battle and his concern for the flagship freed his tongue. Also, a shell from Sydney had left the young lieutenant third in command.

"It is like an ant nest, sir. So many men! There's not much list, so maybe it's not too serious."

"How many prisoners did we get?"

"That I know not, but we ourselves took 34 out of the water. Total? 300, perhaps 400, would be my guess."

"Gut. Perhaps they will be useful."

---- 5:30 PM, Rostock, stopped

It was good to be back aboard, von Larg realized. He realized that he had repressed his emotions at the sight of Rostock steaming away from his launch. The light cruiser felt like home - his own personal piece of Germany so far from the rest. He'd seen Captain Westfeldt go aboard Moltke, and knew he was still there. The XO was not in sight, doubtless he was on the bridge. He looked about this stark grey sliver of a hull, almost fondly.


.He returned the greeting of the other junior officer.

"Yah, what happened? That is, after you abandoned me in the middle of the Atlantic?"

" ‘Abandoned'? Hah!" But the other related the events quickly, as they watched the boat being stowed.

"We sank one, captured one, and two got away?" That did not seem a satisfactory result, prize or no prize.

"Yes, but von der Tann and Strassburg sank others. They must have. I'm sure of it."

Von Larg remained skeptical as he waited for his men to finish their task.

"Boat stowed, sir."

"A good job, Cox'sn. You may dismiss the men."

"Well," said von Larg, turning to the other LT, "I'd better make my report. XO on the bridge?"

"Yes. He hasn't budged a millimeter since the Captain left."

---- 5:30 PM, von der Tann, stopped

LT Wilhelm and his cousin, Siegfried, greeted each other in their traditional fashion.

"Well," began Wilhelm, "did you have a nice time on your little jaunt? (NOTE 2) Bring me back any trinkets from the natives?"

"Well enough," answered Siegfried, with a smile, "though perhaps not so well as it might. And your deep sea fishing? How did that go?" (NOTE 3)

"The catch was good, but they were running a lot better three weeks ago."

---- 5:30 PM, Strassburg, stopped

The XO had his binoculars on the approaching launch. He saw Captain Siegmund cross his forearms and raise them above his head. The four-striper kept them up, despite the bobbing of the small boat in the Atlantic waves.



"Engineering, stand by to answer bells on the main engine," the XO ordered. "Expect Ahead Flank in," he paused, checking the launch's position, "seven minutes."

"Engineering acknowledges, sir."

"Very well. Flags, hoist 20 knots."

If he had not needed to keep the glasses on the skipper, he would have rubbed his hands together in anticipation.

---- 5:30 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

Colonel Anton watched as his men began once again to inspect the trucks of Mittermann and Sons, here once again to feed the 200-plus potentially armed men inside one of the HAPAG warehouses on the pier. He had hoped to secure the post at 1800, but Vice-Admiral Stennis had bolted from his office (per his yeoman) and left no instructions. If he got no word soon, Anton would need to notify the barracks .... He broke off his consideration as Mr. Mittermann himself approached.

"Good eve, Colonel," offered the man with the salt-and-pepper mustache. He appeared more relaxed, the American officer thought, than he had earlier.

"And good evening to you, sir," Anton replied. "Back for supper?"

"Yes, that is correct." Mittermann paused, and licked his lips.

The grocer had something on his mind, but what?

"How long, er, is this the last of the meals you will be bringing to the men? "

"Herr Ballin was not clear, Colonel. Or, rather, he did not know how many it would be. Er, Colonel, how long will you and your men be here?"

"Why the question, Mr. Mittermann?" Anton riposted quickly. "Is there a problem?" The American's brows creased. Had they been missing things? Had Mittermann's trucks ...?

"No, no, there is no problem!" The grocer no longer looked at ease. "It's just that, well, no delays had I expected ..."

Anton shot a look at the approaching Fideles. The senior enlisted man shook his head. They had found nothing of note. He trusted Fideles. He did; he really did.

"... and we were to be set up at 5:30. I will have to explain to Herr Ballin."

Anton's face cleared. Could it be that the man was simply worried about his contract obligations?


It was the young lieutenant. Anton turned away from watching the grocer and his trucks proceed onto the pier. He realized the problem immediately. Instantly, Mittermann's worries were replaced by his own.

The crowd noise had changed.

It was coming closer.


NOTE 1: The Admiralty House (now site of Admiralty House Park) on Clarence Hill was set aside for the Commander-in-Chief (in this period, the Admiral-of-Patrols, North America and West Indies) in 1815. It would remain as such until 1956. The Bermuda-Halifax Cable came ashore at the offices at 6 Front Street (a Branch Office opened at the other end of the island at Town Hall, St. George's in 1891). The naval dockyard/base, 6 Front Street, Town Hall (St. George's), and Admiralty House were all in different places. Thus, sending a cable to Halifax, for forwarding on to Britain, was far from instantaneous, especially for one that one would decline to try to communicate by telephone to 6 Front Street.

NOTE 2: LT Wilhelm used a form of the expression, "macht einen kleinen Ausflug," which literally is "make an excursion," or "outing," or even "go for a spin." The rhyme added to the diminutive tone of the sally.

NOTE 3: LT Siegfried used the word "Hochseefischerei" (deep sea fishing). He was making a pun on "High Seas Fleet" (Hochseeflotte). Wilhelm, of course, went with it.

by Jim

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