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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Meeting Engagements, Part XVI

(Late afternoon - early evening, June 19, 1915)

---- We Surrender! (New York Times, similarly in Philadelphia Inquirer)

" ... who witnessed the battle, reported that she had fought bravely, the cannons on her bow and her stern were both seen to fire several times. However, she was quickly hit many times by German shells and set afire (See "Battle," Page 1). The Nottingham Star was seen to raise the white flag and, after being boarded by a German prize crew, to raise a German flag in its place, indicating that she had surrendered and been taken over by her foe. She then steamed out to sea and joined the rest of the German fleet. ... HMS Nottingham Star is a sister ship of HMS Birmingham Star, currently tied up at the US Naval Base in New York harbor."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"... And, Colonel, the additional Marine companies should be here before dark."

"Thank you, sir," Anton replied. "That should help a lot."

The admiral got up, so the Marine colonel instantly did the same.

"Good," Stennis continued, as they walked to the door.

"Here, sir," said a senior yeoman, who'd been waiting on the other side of the threshold.

Stennis scanned the single sheet of paper, signed it, and extended it to Anton. The Marine officer accepted it, quite reflexively.

"Your orders," stated Commander - Atlantic Fleet, as the Marine looked down at what he'd just been handed. "You remain the officer in charge, of course ...."

Anton hid his dismay well, but the "of course" part made it hard. Real hard.

---- USS Texas (BB-35), stopped, roughly 31 miles SE Coney Island

Admiral Charles McDonald had quite a sour expression on his face, CDR Theodore Leverett thought. Not that it had been sunny or sweet when the Aylwin CO had first come aboard to report, of course, but the admiral had made no secret of his growing bitterness and discontent.

"So, Commander," the admiral began, "you are unable to confirm that none of the ships the Germans stopped were flying an American flag." The flag officer's mellow Texan twang did nothing to soothe the other's foreboding.

"Yes, sir. I can not."

Leverett's stomach burned. McDonald was a stern taskmaster, renowned for acidic - and sometimes spectacular - reactions to underperforming subordinates. Some of his flag signals, in particular, were legendary. Last year, for example, one Destroyer's presumably lackluster performance during an exercise off Guantanamo had led him to signal, "Fairly Well Done."

That CO, a classmate of Leverett's, might never live it down. Ted wanted no such public auto-da-fé!. But how in the name of the Almighty could he have done any better? Most of the captured merchants - now numbering 17 - had been taken well beyond Aylwin's visibility, for heavens sake! Nonetheless, the burning continued.

Actually, McDonald's mind was elsewhere. Neutrality! In a pig's eye! What in the Dante's frozen hell was he supposed to be doing out here? Keeping score for the Huns? The tall Texan had been deeply moved to gain as his flagship his own State's namesake, fresh upon her commissioning last March. In his mind's eye, he saw her 29,000 tons, 14-inch guns, and foot-thick nickel steel armor as the very embodiment of his Lone Star State's fighting spirit. It made his current impotence all the more painful.

What made it even worse, however, was that he had definite views on the European War. Pro-British views. He didn't care where they might have come from because they were RIGHT. A biographer, however, might ascribe their origins to his mother. Her maiden name had been Elizabeth Porter, and she was first cousin to Sir Henry Porter of Great Britain.

"Sir, lookouts report that the merchant approaching on 180 is flying a German flag."

Leverett tried hard to blend into the bridgework

"Very well," McDonald acknowledged, disgustedly. That made 18.

On the bridge of the ship in question, the Steamship Erik Boyle, LT Heinrich von Larg eyed the American dreadnoughts with quite similar distaste.

---- Grand Ballroom, Vaterland, moored at passenger terminal, just below Philadelphia

"... they knew not what to do next. So ** I ** gave the order. 'Attack! Are all infidels cowards?' I shouted. 'There is no God but Allah! Stand aside! I'll take the wheel myself!' "

---- Aylwin, stopped, roughly 35 miles SE Coney Island

Visibility westward had been dropping off over the last hour as the rains had neared. Now, as the rain began to patter onto the thin bridge overhead, sight distance soon dropped to a few hundreds of yards on all bearings. It was a cool rain and, at first, the ping of contracting metal could occasionally be heard amidst the rest. Soon, however, the shower became a deluge whose pounding obscured all other noises.

Leverett sighed as they lost sight of Texas and the Germans, lowered his glasses, and flexed his shoulders. If they'd been out here alone, he'd've considered easing closer to Moltke and von der Tann, just in cast the Germans had some surprise planned. Now with that Sourpuss over on Texas in charge, he put the notion out of his mind.

"Sir, lookouts report they've lost sight of all contacts." The topside watch was being relieved, Leverett noted, and the oncoming lookouts had slung on their slickers. The offgoing watch tromped down just outside the bridge from their posts, soaked but full of grins and Aylwin's CO pretended not to see their splashing and other bits of horseplay. Indeed, it gladdened him, revealing as it did his crew's high spirits. Young he might be, but he'd already begun to learn many things NOT to notice.

"Very well."

The world essentially had ceased to exist beyond the grey oval around them. Aylwin had become the universe, thus putting him in command of all creation. Muted thunder sounded somewhere well off to the southwest. He found himself sighing with relief. No visibility meant no one could read career-ending flag signals. Now, if the Germans would just stay put ....

---- marina, New Jersey coast near channel entrance towards New York

"... Well, I don't rightly know, um, admiral, sir. Mister Lannon, he and Mister Nik done come and gone a couple hours ago now.

"Nossir, not 'xactly. Some party or big goings on down near Philly, though. That much I do know.

"Yessir, I can leaves a message, but I don't rightly know when he'll be back."

---- Von der Tann, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island

The rains had come. Finally.

They had watched the clouds advance out to sea from the mainland over the last several hours, anxious that they might dissipate in the summer heat. Rostock had been the first, of course, and Augsberg and Kolberg would be last. Moltke, however, was the most needful, burdened as she was with a thousand or so extra men.

Captain Dirk and CDR Bavaria watched as the tens of thousands of square feet of canvas awnings aboard the flagship did their collective magic. Much the same was going on aboard their own ship, of course, but the vast scale of the effort aboard Moltke was a spectacle in of itself.

"For us, every hour's a day, two at rations," Dirk commented. "For them, what do you think?"

"I'd guess three," Bavaria responded, "even with their present numbers. Maybe more." (NOTE)

---- Aylwin, Ahead Slow, roughly 35 miles SE of Coney Island

Leverett watched the swirling patterns on the deck below forward. The waves had his destroyer pitching and yawing, but that was normal out here anyway. The sound remained loud, though, as the rain continued to reverberate against the sheet metal of his command's superstructure. Spray in off the wings had made the decks slick in those places where the footing was only painted metal.

"Any visuals?" Leverett asked the watch chief again. He had put just enough way on to gain some stability, and the dead reckoning plot still had him well clear of anything. The plot was almost an hour old now, however, so he was beginning to feel some tension. Still, in Leverett's opinion just then, not being able to see the Germans remained more than compensated for by not having Admiral McDonald able to see Aylwin. It preserved the illusion of being in one's own world, insulated from ....

"Sir, wireless report. Admiral Stennis to Admiral McDonald, 'cleared channel, enroute your position, estimate arrival 90 minutes.' "

"Very well," he replied. Another 'triumph' for modern invention, considered Leverett wryly. A CO's power had been diminished by the wireless, and the powers of the admirals increased. The world had gotten smaller and Leverett could not help but wonder at the future. Maybe one day all orders would come from one central place, some huge building in Washington, perhaps. Admirals might never even have to go to sea to command fleets. Just issue order after order from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. For an instant, he considered making a remark along those lines to his XO, but rejected it. It was too fanciful. Too much by far.

---- Grand Ballroom, Vaterland, moored at passenger terminal, south of Philadelphia

"There's Max, now," said Freddie Burke. "He's the reporter whose stuff clued me out to you, Nate, Claire. Once he heard that you'd be meeting up with Nik and Magdalene for lunch, he thought the four of you might be willing to ...

"Max! Over here."

Browning waved, but was intercepted by a distinguished looking man before he took a dozen steps in their direction. The German was clearly intent on welcoming the Inquirer reporter most thoroughly.

"That's Herr Ballin," Freddie temporized. "That's 'Mister' in German. He's the owner of all the German liners, I think."

Lannon just nodded. Initially, he had been taken aback at this opulent jungle - complete with ferns the height of small trees - of a dining room when they'd arrived nearly 30 minutes ago. Now, his attention was on the denizens of this remarkable habitat, some of whom looked every bit as wild as their surroundings.

"Who's the lady in red?" Claire asked. Lannon blinked. He'd wanted to ask, but had dared not. Not with Claire there!

"I'm not sure," Freddie admitted. "I've not mastered the matrix of passengers and guests here. Max did say, though, that there was a countess aboard, and I think she had red hair. So that could be her."

"And that man?" Nik asked. "The one, er, in the fancy rig?"

"That has to be Hadi the Pasha," Freddie answered confidently. "Max's notes described him, and I cannot imagine anyone else ..."

"What's a 'Pasha'?" Maggie interrupted.

"I don't know that either," Freddie said. "But it's sure gotta' be something important, whatever it is."

---- Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island

"I hope it continues, Admiral," Stang reported. "Right now we're losing a lot of it. A lot."

Hanzik nodded. The rate was the problem. Even from this vantage, overflows of open containers and geysers from the downspouts were evident. The drain-offs they'd rigged worked wonderfully, but the piping did not. The buckets, basins, and barrels they'd staged topside had helped at the start, however, they'd filled up in minutes. The tanks down below were what they needed filled, and the hoses and pipe runs could not match this runoff. Better by far would've been a lighter but longer shower, but the growing light in the west suggested they were not going to get the "longer" part.

Even as he thought about it, the rain began to let up. It soon ceased entirely. Hanzik looked at the bridge chronometer. It had lasted 51 minutes.

"Damn," Stang muttered, as the front passed. The first ships reported were the captured ones close by. Next, von der Tann reappeared 3000 yards off their beam.

"Lookouts report the American Aylwin has shifted station. Now on bearing 330, range 11,000 yards."

Prudent, thought both German senior officers as they raised their glasses. Probably, the smaller American ship had gotten underway due to the waves, and her captain had chosen a course that he knew to be free of ships. Reports soon followed for Rostock and the American dreadnought force. After 30 minutes, all the ships were back in sight and plotted, including Augsberg and Kolberg once the front moved further out to sea.

"Sir, engineering reports tank levels up 6,000 gallons."

"Very well. Admiral, the containers topside should add another thousand, or maybe two. But no more. We probably lost more over the side than we gained. Despite ...." Stang waved his hands at the acreage of canvas and his proud battlecruiser's topsides literally littered with everything that could hold water all the way down to drinking cups.

"Yes," Hanzik agreed. "We'll have to better than that."

He rubbed his face ruefully at what he was about to do.

"Please pass the word for Glocke and Coblentz."

---- USS Texas (BB-35), roughly 31 miles SE of Coney Island

" '... your position, estimate arrival 90 minutes.' "

"Very well," McDonald acknowledged. That meant that there was no bad weather or heavy seas at Mina's position nor any in sight along Stennis' intended course. Even at that, "The Hammer" would have to keep the Mina at about 30 knots to ...

"Sir, lookouts report two new contacts, bearing 200, range 25,000 yards. Merchants, Admiral, and they appear to be steaming in company on 035."

McDonald did not have to consult the plot to realize that 035 put the newcomers on course to join the Germans.

Hellfire and damnation! Two MORE Hun prizes.

---- Steamship Sainte-Julie, course 035, speed 7 knots

LT Siegfried was staring at the growing numbers of ships alongside Moltke and von der Tann.

"Do we have a count yet, chief?"

"Thirteen, Captain, sir." Siegfried grinned at the title, as had his watch "chief." "There may be more, sir. Von der Tann is blocking some arc."

"Warships, sir. Cagemasts, four of them. Northwest of the flagship, on bearing 020. Looks like those two dreadnoughts."

"Very well," Siegfried acknowledged. "Tell them to look sharp. That big cruiser they had along had a cagemast, too, and there'll be escorts."

But no other cagemast sighting was called down as the minutes passed, though American Destroyers and more prizes were added to the count. It did not appear that the ship was with the others. The young officer scratched his head. Why would the Americans have detached the cruiser?

On the bridge of the Française Justinia, five hundred yards off his port aft quarter (Siegfried would have insisted it be further if he had known her cargo), LT Wilhelm was wondering the exact same thing.

---- Grand Ballroom, Vaterland, moored at passenger terminal, south of Philadelphia

" ... 'turkey bacon pancakes'?!"

Claire had wanted steak, and that was where the Pasha character had been standing with a seemingly possessive demeanor. The great-girthed man had eyed them narrowly but had not actually tried to stop them. The fierce-visaged men at his elbow had fidgeted but also had not acted to intervene. Lannon had attempted to ease the situation by offering some comments on the food. The bulky foreigner's face had instantly been transformed and, to Lannon's amazement, the man had sought to exchange tales of cuisine. Right then and there, Lannon had once again given thanks to Miz Beulah, and resolved to give as good as he got.

The Ottoman Potentate pivoted sharply and barked a question at his servants, and the American was astounded to see such obvious cut throats flinch and fawn as they expressed their ignorance. The man turned back to him.

"Within the cake, you say?"

"Oh, yes, and still very, very crisp. A bit of amber maple syrup adds to the flavor, and lots of sweet butter, of course. Enough so that it just begins to ooze from the cakes when you cut'em."

The man licked his lips. "Herr Ballin," he called.

---- USS Texas (BB-35), roughly 31 miles SE of Coney Island

"Atlantic Fleet - arriving."

"Welcome aboard, sir. You made good time."

"Thank you, Chuck," Stennis replied, as they left the earshot of others. "Well done getting your force down here like this. Eased the Secretary's mind, let me tell you - mine, too, for that matter. I feel like I've been juggling bottles of nitro all week."

"I confess I don't quite understand, sir."

"I'm not sure I do either, old friend. But the newspapers all up and down the Coast have us under a looking glass right now. We still haven't figured out how they're getting it all, but in just the last two days they've managed to embarrass the scat out of Daniels, shut up that fool Ford, and humiliate Teddy himself. I've brought you some copies so that you can catch up. But, Chuck, I need to get over to their flagship pronto. The faster we get them away from our coast, the better. The last thing we want is for the British to show up with a fleet and let New York harbor get turned into a battleground all over again."

McDonald wasn't so sure about that, but nodded his understanding.

"I took three aboard her yesterday. I've got my own translator, but how about I take one of your JOs along? That way he can fill you in, in case I have to head right on back in."

Admiral McDonald nodded his head again and he reached for the entry hatch.

"I'd appreciate that, sir. I really would. And I've got just the man."

He opened the hatch and gestured to the Marine posted just outside.

"Orderly? Would you pass the word for Mr. Robinson?"

McDonald closed the hatch again.

"LT Robinson," he explained, "Richard Robinson, '08 - keen eye, good imagination, writes well. Asks good questions."

---- Moltke, stopped, 40 miles southeast of Coney Island

"XO!" Captain Stang was mortified as he regarded the approaching small boat. "No spillage, but we MUST expedite this!"

The last thing he wanted was to receive an American Vice-Admiral with his topsides covered with pots and pans! Right now, his decks looked like the floor beneath a peasant's leaking thatch roof!

"Starboard side's clear, sir."

That was the side the Americans would board.

"Very well, but the Admiral plans to ask them to check on the prisoners again."

"Oh! Twenty minutes, sir, and we'll be ready."


The good prince mathed it out as follows, based on an hour's rainfall of about an inch. He assumed 400 feet by 50 feet (much more area possible, but he was allowing here for spillage and inefficiencies):

- One inch of collected rain = 400 feet x 50 feet x ~0.1 foot = ~2,000 cubic feet = 15,000 gallons

- Average per capita consumption (it is June) of ~2.0 gallons/person

- With ~2,000 aboard Moltke, that's 4,000 gallons/day for humans.

- Add another ~1,000/day for steam plant consumption.

- Total use rate = ~5,000/day under current hot conditions, without water rationing.

- 15,000 gallons retained, usage of 5,000/day = 3 days w/o rationing.

The trouble was that the Germans were unable to deal with the bottleneck between the canvas runoff points and the tanks below.

by Jim

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