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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 18, 1915 - Meeting Engagements - Part IV

(Was Decisions, Pt. 4)

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Decisions, Part IV

---- 10:00 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

"Gunny," asked Anton, "anything to report?"

Fideles and several others were staring through binoculars in the growing gloom. The dusk was fading but there remained many artificial light sources on the docks and from the city. The area where they had brought off the British and the others, in particular, remained brightly illuminated.

"Been a steady stream going up and down that gangway, Colonel. Groups've been coming off empty-handed, standing around the trucks eating and drinking, then going back aboard hands full. Usually one crate apiece. Mostly fruit and fresh produce."

"No cranes?"

No, sir. Maybe no operators."

"Possible," said Anton. "Quite possible, especially if this was not their scheduled arrival time. Or place," he added.

The Port Authority rep had certainly been no help. After a brief, presumably cursory walk-through, the man had been impatient to leave. Eager, Anton had guessed, to get back to some cozy couch. The Salamis had papers , and held no contraband, no guns, no cargo, no paying passengers, no would-be immigrants, and thus no interest for the minor official.

"Sir, more trucks coming up the shore road ... they're ours, sir!"

Excellent! The sight of one's relief was always welcome and this time was far from an exception. Anton shook off his fatigue as he watched the trucks make the turn towards his outer-most post. Like the rest of those of his "command," a grin instantly plastered itself across his face.

---- 10:00 PM (4:00 AM local time), London

The duty RN flag officer looked at the two messages that had just come across the cable from Halifax. The first was from Bermuda and the second was from the embassy in the American capitol. They both said just about the same thing. Both contained definite and horrific confirmation of the earlier one. He had prepared for it, and it now only remained for him to revise the texts of the messages he had drafted to reflect the additional information.


Many would get this by phone, but hand-delivered messages would be needed for others.

"Standing by, sir."

Very well. I'll be just a minute."

No matter what method was selected, though, all would get the news with the dawn. All that is except for Rear-Admiral Keyes, who was in transit to Cromarty Firth and would not arrive there until mid-morning.

---- 10:00 PM, quarterdeck of New York

Rear-Admiral Alton and Captain West had been there when Stennis came back aboard. The Vice-Admiral had begun giving orders the moment his head drew even with the teak. Flags had gone up, including ones to bring alongside Destroyers Aylwin and Mina.

"Now, Admiral, the numbers the Germans gave were 48 British and twelve of their own plus an officer, but that could change. I don't want us turning any away, so you are to remain here until you are confident they've sent over all they're going to.

"Captain, have you made arrangements for the Germans?"

"Yes, sir," West replied. "We'll keep them separate. Use the wardroom, if necessary."

"Good. By the way, Ensign Jones did an outstanding job over there. You might want to leave him with the Germans, though the German officer they're sending does speak English.

"Admiral," Stennis continued, "Commander Trimm was invaluable, and I'm afraid that I‘m going to have to impose on you some more. I need to need to take him back with me."

"Sir," Alton acknowledged, but his brow betrayed his question.

"He and Ensign Jones got a good look around Moltke's topsides. The Germans offered before I could even ask. I need to pick his brain and Washington will doubtless want to do it all over again when we get ashore."

Alton nodded, unhappily. The chances were he'd not get his chief of staff back for days.

"Admiral," reported Stennis' aide, "Mina's gig is inbound, 50 yards out."

"Thank you.

"I'll be riding her back in - along with CDR Trimm. My instructions were to report in as soon as possible, and that means a fast run back in the dark.

"Now, Admiral, you take your time out here. Once the transfers are executed to your complete satisfaction, and then and only then, you are to bring your force back within the Line. Begin your channel passage at first light. I'll have medical personnel standing by."

Alton nodded, again. The three officers turned back towards the rail, as lookouts called out the imminent return of the New York's launches, now laden with British wounded.

"If you don't have need of me?" Captain West said and, getting nods from the two flag officers, went off to oversee the arrivals.

"Oh," resumed Stennis, after a moment, "bring young Leverett aboard, Dave, and brief him. I want you to leave him and Aylwin out here to keep an eye on the Germans. For all I know, Strassburg may be half way across the Atlantic by now, but that Commodore Hoban fellow is right over there on Moltke."

"Aye, aye, sir," said Alton, but turned to face his superior officer squarely.

"Dave, you don't need to look at me like that. I'm not going to leave him out here, twisting in the wind. Admiral McDonald was putting into Boston at noon. Chuck's got Texas and Florida and a section of Destroyers with him. I'll get off orders to him before I leave to cast off at dawn; he was to remain on 8-hour notice, so that shouldn't be a problem."

That would leave Leverett out here on his own for most of a day, but there was nothing Alton could do about it. Instead he considered how wars contained such unexpected twists. Like this one here, today: Admiral Hanzik had swept the coast clear of British warships with German guns, and was now sweeping it clear of American warships with British wounded.

"With orders to expedite their transit?" Alton advanced in a neutral voice.

Stennis gestured agreement, and headed for the flagbridge to draft the message.

---- 10:00 PM, Moltke

"... no reaction?" Kommodore von Hoban was surprised.

"Very little," said Hanzik. "And he knows tea. Even knew it was Fortnum's. I'm sure he understood. I did not even have to ask him if it was to his taste."

"Admiral, the launches are alongside the American flagship. Ours are loaded and standing by."


"Lieutenant Lionel reporting, sir."

"At ease, Lieutenant. Has Kommodore von Hoban briefed you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you have any questions remaining?"

"No, sir. No falsehoods. Nothing about our transit. Anything about the battles I am to answer fully, using my judgement."

"Ja," said Hanzik. "Moltke's torpedo hit can be no secret, but best you admit to no more than that."

---- 10:15 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

They had all been busy these last 15 minutes. The new men - who presumably had expected to sleep in barracks this night - had gotten out of the trucks and deployed. Their officers had greeted Anton and the others, and their senior, a major, had expressed readiness to relieve them. The approach of Mittermann's trucks coming off the pier had delayed matters but those inspections were nearly complete.

"I intend to take advantage of our combined forces, Major," Anton stated, as the last of the grocer's trucks began to roll.


"I will retain command for a bit longer. You and your men have taken over the positions. I intend to investigate those warehouses before we stand down. If there really are 200 armed men in there, I want to deal with them now, while both our forces are present. Also, the hour works for us."

They all understood perfectly. The night is the soldier's friend and, here, would also work to reduce any publicity or friendly fire concerns.

Of course, they needed to come up with an excuse to go barging into civvy property, even German civvy property.

"You know, Gunny," remarked Anton, in a suitably grave tone. "I think I smell smoke."

---- 10:15 PM, marina

Lannon was back on the phone with Nik. The reporter had made his call and left a few minutes before. Lannon had had to promise he'd call Nik back at his room. The Auntie Terror story had put Nik on the floor, laughing.

"Did you see that power launch that met us?" Nik asked.

"No, what launch?"

"It looked like Doc Erickson's ‘Viking,' but bigger. Longer, especially."

"Well, Perkins did have to shorten her," Lannon remarked. "Did you get her name?" (NOTE 1)

"Yeah, ‘Sea Skimmer.' She pitched pretty good, but - man! - she was flying!"

"One of Bowen's, you think?" (NOTE 2)

"Dunno' - could be. She didn't come right aboard. I couldn't make out if she was a ‘Standard Marine' or a ‘McDuff.' "

"Hmm, who was on her? What did they want? Why did they meet up with Salamis?"

"I don't know that, either. They didn't come aboard. They just ran up alongside, stayed on our beam a few minutes, then ran back in towards shore. Mistaken identity, maybe."

"Hard to think what that ‘Salamis' could be mistaken for. ‘Sea Skimmer,' eh? Maybe we should look her up."

---- 11:00 PM, warehouse on HAPAG pier

As he stared about the warehouse, Colonel Anton controlled his expression only with great difficulty.

The watchmen - there had been only two - had been armed, but only with batons. And, if they'd been soldiers, it'd've been back in the Franco-Prussian war, and not the one now going on in Europe.

And they'd been the only men in here!

Now, of course, there were 50 US Marines. And almost as many Greek sailors. The Salamis had sortied dozens of her crew, once the hue and cry of "fire" had gone out and been understood. Not surprising, Anton realized, as the Greeks would have a vested interest in a warehouse going up alongside their ship!

"All clear, Colonel," Fideles reported.

"You've checked everywhere?" Anton meant, of course, all the buildings and not for fire.

"Yes, sir." Fideles did not want to meet Anton's eye.

"Very well," Anton sighed. "Get the men back and into the trucks."

He turned and began to walk out the great double-doors. Ahead of him, in the water alongside the pier, was the bulk of the tied up Salamis. He stopped then.

"Sergeant Fideles."


"Gunny, they're on Salamis."

The sergeant muttered a word rarely spoken by enlisted men in the presence of their officers. Thought frequently, yes, but seldom spoken. Of course, he thought. They'd suckered him; done it in plain sight. He kicked himself lustily. All it would have taken would've been for varying sized groups of, say, 8-to-10 to come off, hang around at the trucks, and go back aboard in groups of 10-to-12. Particularly, if the next group was easing past at the same time.

Anton tried to work out the "why," but it had been a really long day. For some reason, two hundred men had ridden over on Imperator just to board Salamis in New York. They were probably sailors and they were probably Greek, since Salamis' master would have to show their papers in the morning. He got that far. But why hadn't they just been aboard Salamis all along? Why in the devil had Salamis made her crossing shorthanded 200 men? Two hundred who were in a ship that supposedly had sailed across side-by-side with Salamis?

"I don't get it," Anton concluded, and saw the English-speaking Greek ship's officer coming up to him. He wanted to throw it in the other's face, but could not.

"Mr. Kokovinos," Anton began, apologetically, silently gritting his teeth, "I want to apologize for the disturbance. There was a report of smoke, but it must have been in error."

"It is of no consequence, uh, Colonel, I assure you. But, I must admit that one thing does puzzle me."


"Do you fight fires in America with bayonets?"


1) Dr. Erickson of New Hampshire was attracted to a boat design he saw while on a vacation in Scandinavian countries. He commissioned construction of its twin to Perkins Boat Shop. He named it "Viking," due to its origin and long boat look - the good Doctor obviously took his name seriously! She was intended to be 40 feet long, but the Perkins Boat Shop was itself only 35 feet long. "Viking" ended up 33 feet long when she was completed in 1910, and still can be seen gracing the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee.

2) Fay & Bowen built close to one thousand boats between 1903 and 1929. Ernest S. Bowen was the engineer, and Walter L. Fay was the businessman. Like the Wright Brothers, their original business involved manufacturing bicycles! Their designs were famous and those still in existence are still greatly prized. Their craft operated mostly on the Fingerlakes in New York State. Two of the power plants for power launches of this era were the "Standard Marine" (which used a complicated - but effective - ignition system that was very water resistant, called "make-and-break") and the McDuff (a two cycle engine). Fay & Bowen preferred the two cycle engine, and only went to 4-cycle late. By the way, Fay & Bowen would build the floats for many US WWI "Flying Boats"!

Edited by: jim 1 at: 7/30/02 11:01:06 am

by Jim

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