Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XXI
(Another Excerpt from "Baron Letters --- Germany's Nelson?")
"The results of Die Kaiserschlacht included a myriad of promotions,
awards, and medals. Some, like Admiral Behncke, could receive theirs only
posthumously but, sadly, that is hardly uncommon in war. The total number
was so great that my great-grandfather claimed not to be able to recall
them all. Several, though, stood out then, and still do today. In fact,
Baron Letters insisted that he would award certain ones personally or,
in two cases, deliver them.
First among the promotions was Letters' own ascension to the command
of the High Sees Fleet. Other notable promotions included ....
"Listed below, grouped by award ....
"In addition to medals, the battle would also produce several remarkable
-------------------------- Lady Christine Letters, ibid, Appendix B
---- Wilhelmshaven, hospital
The throbbing and burning had finally receded, only to be replaced by
a veritable plague of itches. Jeff Lantz was contemplating how best to
slip a thin slat under his cast to deal with the one just behind the crest
of his left shoulder when he heard the measured pace of several men pause
outside his door. Hastily, he snuck the strip back beneath the covers.
"You're looking better, Captain," said Vice-Admiral Letters,
stepping in with a warm nod.
"Thank you, sir," replied Lantz, unable to rise due to the
cables tethering the cast on his left arm in an elevated position. He
noted how the Baron's eyes flicked across him, seemingly taking inventory.
"The doctors have informed me that you are soon to be released."
Yes, he looked both better and bored. The scalp stitches were gone and
the facial bruises had mostly faded. The internal injuries - or the doctors'
fears of them - had eased. The torso under the single sheet was still
bound, but his breath was coming easily and without sound.
"Yes, sir. Convalescence leave - 30 days - then report for reassessment."
He feared for the worse. If his arm and shoulder did not heal to their
satisfaction, they might declare him unfit for sea. Pour le Merite or
not, he'd lose Stettin - he might even be discharged! He swallowed but
continued to meet his senior's level gaze.
Letters turned towards the door. "I'll take that," he said,
extending his hand to a young officer who, Jeff decided, was most probably
another new aide of the Baron's.
"Yes, sir," the well-scrubbed youngster replied. He cleared
his throat as he handed over a small, wrapped package, observing in a
smooth voice, "Sir, you're scheduled ...."
"Yes, thank you," Letters acknowledged. "Close the door."
Despite the aide's obvious surprise and reluctance, there was obviously
nothing for it but to obey. And, with that, the two of them were alone.
"I am deeply in your debt, Captain," began Baron Vice-Admiral
von Letters, Commander - High Seas Fleet, as he dropped down into the
single chair provided. The wooden legs "skritched" the chair's
protest on the hard tiles.
"Without your actions, and those under your orders, there would
have been no pursuit of the British fleet."
Letters raised his hand as Jeff opened his mouth. He shut it again.
"Captain, I am not here to debate the matter with you. I've gone
over the reports and spoken of this at some length with Vice-Admiral Rudberg.
The facts are clear: if the Britishers had gotten even part of a flotilla
past you and into the Van, the Main Body would have been compelled to
turn away, breaking off the pursuit. Enabling the British to get their
cripples home, to fight again. Four dreadnoughts, Captain - perhaps five.
"I have here a bit of Magik for you," Letters said, gesturing
with the small package. "Though, to be precise, 'a bit of M-a-g-i-c'
would be more correct. You have but one hand free, so forgive my liberty
of opening this for you."
As if he could stop the Baron Vice-Admiral! Jeff watched, fascinated,
as Letters worked at removing the paper, the strong, blunt fingers incongruous
amidst the threads of ribbon. What eventually emerged was a simple piece
of wood, its edges ragged, clearly torn or wrenched from a larger whole.
It was mounted on a bronze back, itself on a polished wood plaque. There
were five well-weathered letters scored into the fragment - perhaps it
had been from a small boat gunwale - blackened as though they had been
painted or stained. The letters spelled "Magic."
"It was found last week on your ship," Letters commented, when
Lantz looked up. "Lodged in her, actually. From the torpedo boat
Stettin rammed - on your orders. The one that came closest to the dreadnoughts
you were charged to defend.
"At the crucial instant, you were my lance point [Lanzenspitz]."
Lantz looked down at the plaque again. The intensity of the vice-admiral's
gaze was daunting, even in praise.
"It is fitting," Letters continued. "With your single
gesture, victory was transformed into triumph.
"I, the Fleet, the Nation are in your debt. And, Captain,"
the Baron stated, with some force, pausing long enough to draw Lantz'
eyes back to him, "even if others forget, rest assured, that I will
not. Stettin, or another, will be yours when again you are ready for sea."
"Thank you, sir!"
"They will discharge you in the morning. '30 days' - hmmph! For
what? To write a book?! Write it later. Report to me the next noon. I
have need of you. Again."
---- 3:30 PM, New York Times newsroom
"Um-huh," said the editor, making notes, mostly over expected
slot sizes. "Go on, Jay," he added, when the other paused. "I'm
The new battle stuff sounded good - very good, in fact - and he'd just
said so. The next day's arrival of the Germans involved was one obvious
pointer for headlines and promised to provide great follow-up copy. Getting
independent confirmation from the Greeks was wise ....
"The Germans suggested that?" He frowned, his tone rich with
suspicion. Could their interviews really be trusted? The reporter at the
other end protested that none of them had been born yesterday.
"Well, okay, but that means they'd better be treading real careful
over on that Salamis-whatever-it-is. Do they know that?"
The reporter waxed indignant, eloquently so.
"Go on, go on. Look, Jay, I don't have time for this. What else
ya' got? Um -huh ....
"Wait!" The editor shifted the phone piece to his other ear.
"Alright, say that again. HOW many prisoners?
"That's what I thought you said. Any proof? C'mon, that sounds preposterous.
Jay, son, blare a number like that in the Times without any sort of proof
and the Publisher will have all of our heads."
He listened, jotted a note.
Unbeknownst to the editor, a sly smile stole across the distant reporter's
face. As he looked to pick his spot, he tilted the piece just enough to
let a confederate listen.
"Look," the editor continued, working up to a familiar tirade,
oblivious to the tiny drama at the docks, "if the rest of them are
supposed to be out there on that battleship of theirs, they could - okay,
okay, battlecruiser, whatever the hell the difference is - they could
claim anything. How do ...."
The reporter pounced.
"A list? Whatta' ya' mean, a list?" The editor nearly gasped.
"Names, ranks, ships and all?! And they GAVE you a copy?! Wellll,
that's a horse of a different color! Get that down here. NOW!
"And take good care of it, ya' hear!?"
---- 3:30 PM, Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island
"Sir," began Bavaria, as he extended the report summarizing
the cargoes floating nearby, "as you requested."
"Good work, Commander," said Admiral Hanzik, as he began to
leaf through the sheets.
"Thank you, sir. It is incomplete, but accurate as of 10:00 AM.
Also, the last two ships - the ones since then - are still being surveyed."
"Could you explain that?" Captain Stang was puzzled. "That
is, 'incomplete but accurate'?"
"Certainly, sir. In addition to their bulk cargos, over a third
of the manifests list smaller sealed lots - prepurchased, for delivery
not sale. The descriptions for those are often vague and so each container
must be tracked down, opened, and examined. Under present conditions ...."
Bavaria shrugged. "Really, sir, I fear that the holds will need to
be emptied before we can get to many of those sealed crates."
That drew nods of understanding from all the officers. The holds would
be tightly packed to avoid cargo shifting at sea and were intended to
be unloaded by cranes onto piers.
"Very well, Commander." Hanzik's voice contained a note of
distraction. "I want you to ensure that this list is kept current,
but you are to delegate the actual implementation."
"Aye, aye, sir." Bavaria repressed a frown. The admiral's words
implied another, unspecified task would soon be set before him.
"This list bears study. I will meet with the senior officers' at
1730. But, now, Captain, it is time to signal our American shadow."
---- 3:35 PM, bridge of Parker (Destroyer No. 48), 36 miles SE of Long
"Sir, signal from the Germans. For us, er, to you? Sir."
LCDR Allen Barton raised his glasses even as a knot budded somewhere
in his abdomen. Now what? Admiral McDonald had detached Parker to replace
Aylwin when CDR Leverett's Destroyer No. 47 had left to escort the German
cruiser up the channel to New York. All they'd done ever since was try
to identify the original nationalities of the new additions to what was
fast becoming known as "The German Prize Fleet." They had met
with little success, so far.
"Very well," said Barton, in a level tone. "What is it?"
Despite his efforts, he could not make out the flags.
"Sir, best we can tell, they want us, or maybe just you. To come
He should have known something like this would come up.
"Very well," he said again. He could hardly decline. If nothing
else, he'd gain a closer vantage for a count update. "Ahead Two-Thirds.
Right rudder. Come to course 135."
"Ahead Two-Thirds, aye."
The muted "cling-cling" of the Engine Order Telegraph was clear
on the tiny bridge.
"Sir, Engineering answers Ahead Two-Thirds. My rudder is coming
right. Passing ...."
"Very well. Signals, to Admiral McDonald on Texas, ...."
As Barton gave the order for the wireless transmission, he could only
wonder just what the Germans wanted now. The growing knot in his belly
was what some might call a "gut feeling" that he was not going
to like it.
"Sir, my rudder is amidships, steady on 135."
---- Scapa Flow, Office of the Commander - Grand Fleet
It was like a whisper from the darkness, he thought, as he regarded the
envelope. A most welcome one. He recognized the seal, of course. It was
that of his most able and esteemed predecessor. Its bearer, a tall RN
Commander, waited in the vestibule, perhaps for a return note. He slit
the seal, opened the envelope, and began to read the single sheet within:
19 June 1915
To: Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet
I realize you are in the midst of assuming a staggering responsibility
in the aftermath of my failure. I do not envy you your task and seek by
this letter to provide you with what aid and insights I may, for whatever
you may find them worth. Please know that I stand ready to render you
any assistance under any conditions and wholly without reservation.
Disregard this hysteria. That is, my counsel is to give it lip service
if you must, but not to devote any of your better assets to it. Baron
von Letters has demonstrated that he is formidable and resourceful, but
not even he can make an opposed landing viable. Your first-hand experience
will suggest more economical means of dealing with that "threat"
and, indeed, gives you a stature beyond rebuttal in this regard that you
should show no reluctance to employ.
2. The Channel.
Devote your first energies to closing the Strait of Dover, keeping barred
the gates to the Channel. I can think of no greater prize for Letters
to present the General Staff than the disruption of our communications
with the Expeditionary Force. Again, your experiences ought to suggest
3. The Blockade.
This is not, of necessity, truly broken. Pull back to the line of the
Orkneys, the Faeroes, Iceland and Greenland until you have gained confidence
that the Grand Fleet is again strong enough to contest the High Seas Fleet
along the Orkneys, Shetlands, and Norway line. I counsel you in confidence
to make every effort to intercept and destroy the German squadron and
merchants on their return from North America. Any individual cruisers
can be hunted down by our own as in the first days of the war.
4. The High Seas Fleet.
The High Seas Fleet should only sortie through a thicket of our mines
and our submarines. Even as we recover our strength, we must seek to attrite
theirs. In the end, our capacity to build new ships far outstrips theirs,
and we must buy time.
5. The Security of the Seas.
Any cruisers that should attempt independent cruises in the wake of the
Battle of New York, will find little succor. Our previous efforts have
denuded the German Navy of friendly supply ships and ports. As has been
amply demonstrated, any supply ships that should sortie can be hunted
down in short order. Whatever our losses in the North Sea, our advantage
in cruisers is still very great.
Konigsberg is neutralized and will shortly cease to be an issue.
The Japanese can certainly assist us well beyond the Pacific. Inviting
them to bring their newest and best ships to the Aegean and the vicinity
of Ascension would go far to freeing our own forces and would, no doubt,
flatter their Oriental pride. Sadly, Sir Winston's departure will make
this a far more difficult proposition, as many of their Lordships hold
strong and deep-rooted views on this matter. I counsel you to bring up
any such proposal first in private; Admiral Oliver might be one to approach.
Barring Japanese assistance, the very means that defended the Dardanelles
can be turned against the German squadron sheltering there. Security of
the South Atlantic would fall to our ability to destroy the Germans in
the Western Atlantic.
Containing Austria should remain the province of the French. If they
can spare submarines, you might request they deploy these against the
High Seas Fleet in the North Sea in conjunction with our own.
Italy remains a problem best left to the diplomats. It is within your
purview to express your grave concern and desired result in this matter
via their Lordships. Italy must be kept at least neutral at all costs
and by bribery, if necessary
Similarly, we would be well-advised to court the Chileans, even to the
extent of turning over Swiftsure or another to obtain their assistance
in closing the Strait of Magellan.
Things must also be put to rights with the Americans, most particularly
so they will not permit German transit of the Panama Canal.
Baron von Letters exhibited a tactical cleverness that I had not expected
and for which, events suggest, I was less than fully prepared. He has
yet to demonstrate any equivalent gift for strategy. While he has masterfully
shifted the focus of the campaign away from the German Bight, this can
easily be turned against him. Time remains in our favor and against him.
To gain a result of any strategic nature, he must achieve more than the
status quo, as sad as this one is for Britain. Tirpitz built a High Seas
Fleet in name only, however, lacking as it does the reach to do more than
rattle about in its North Sea cage while we look in from beyond the bars.
With regards this latest venture off New York, the chance that there
could be one or more colliers still extant, perhaps tucked in some northerly
cove along a return route, should be promptly addressed. Whatever the
logistic branch may be supporting that squadron, it is undoubtedly a slender
one, easily sawed off behind it once located. I counsel you to bend Patrol's
endeavors in that direction.
Any limb Letters attempts to extend beyond the North Sea, chop it off,
and bide your time until our new ships are ready. A long war is to our
I remain always at your service...
Vice Admiral, R.N. (NOTE 1)
(Commander Richard Hunt enjoys my fullest confidence. If you would give
him a moment, I would be most grateful.)
---- Wilhelmshaven, hospital
"... and then he said I was to take over as chief umpire!"
Captain Dietrich R. Ehrhart nodded, and Captain Wolferein gave a low
"It makes sense, Jeff," Ehrhart offered. "The exercises
are showing the importance of screen encounters. Those now judging them
were not there, as were we."
"Ja," agreed Wolferein. "Some of the calls, well, I think
they should have gone differently. Korvettenkapitan Vogel ..."
"You may not know him, Jeff," said Ehrhart. "His Frankfurt
has only recently joined us, though in a most notable manner. I'll tell
you that story in a minute." (NOTE 2)
"That is true!" Wolferein smiled. "But, anyway, Vogel
has 'enjoyed' a remarkable run of luck in the exercises."
"All of it bad, of course," Ehrhart chimed in, on cue.
"He has even sunk himself!" Wolferein chuckled.
---- 4:00 PM, Rostock, at HAPAG Terminal pier
Captain Unday could not help but note several things as he walked with
First was that wearing a dress sword made for tough going aboard a small
modern warship. Second was that most of the crew seemed to be absent.
"They are supposed to be sleeping," the commodore replied,
when Unday voiced that observation, "on full stomachs and clean sheets."
With that last point, the Spaniard realized that two of the pallets he
had just eased past had been stacked high with new linens.
Third, painted over dents, scores, and patches - the scars of battle
- were commonplace topside.
Fourth, the vessel's hardware had a well-used look. The bridge chronometer,
however, gleamed and appeared to be a new instrument.
"The original was replaced after Die Kaiserschlacht," commented
von Hoban, seeing Unday's attention.
"Is that right?" ["Ah, richtig?"]
Seeing the other's eyebrow raise in inquiry, he added, "It was beyond
salvage, and ..."
Von Hoban cleared his throat as he looked about the bridge, recalling
"The Baron - Vice-Admiral Letters - had it mounted. He presented
it to the Kaiser himself, who honored us all by accepting it. Forever
will it display 2051, the moment the last of the British Grand Fleet ran
from His Imperial Majesty's High Seas Fleet."
---- Scapa Flow, Office of the Commander - Grand Fleet
De Robeck read the note from Vice-Admiral J[ellic]oe for a third time,
nodding at portions as he did so. He put the sheet down and tapped his
fingers lightly on the desktop. After a moment he looked up towards his
"Mr. Hereford," called the admiral to his flag-lieutenant,
sitting in view just beyond the door sill
"Is there perchance a Commander Richard Hunt lurking out there?"
"Yes, sir, er, I mean Commander Hunt is standing by, sir."
"Very well. Please send him in."
"Admiral, thank you for seeing me, sir." The commander did
not quite look back at the door behind him, but De Robeck understood nonetheless.
"Lieutenant, if you would shut the door? Oh, and please see that
we are not disturbed."
The door shut with only a slight click of wood on wood.
"Commander Hunt, " De Robeck began, "you come very highly
"I understand that you may have something to tell me?"
"Yes, sir," Hunt began. "Admiral J[ellic]oe did not wish
to set down in ink one particular item that his investigations have turned
"Indeed." De Robeck was impressed and intrigued, both
"Yes, sir. It's still also somewhat preliminary, and he told me
specifically to mention that he feared its premature divulgement. But
that the information should be YOURS immediately."
"I see." But he did not; it was like that "Alice"
story - "Curiouser and curiouser."
"It's about the Germans' shells, sir. As best we can tell, between
one in four and one in three look to have been duds."
Now it all made stark sense! J[ellic]oe's urging to hold it ever-so-closely,
yes, he could well see that now. If the Germans should get wind of this!
Correcting one dud in three, every pair of detonating hits would add another.
It meant that the Grand Fleet had been closer to disaster than .... Wait!
"And what of ours, Commander?" His voice reflected his narrowed
"Aye, sir. That's the next bit, but Admiral J[ellic]oe's writ does
not run so far."
Many had wanted his predecessor cashiered, or even hung. Only his pre-emptive
removal and re-assignment by Fisher and Churchill, followed soon after
by their placing their own heads sacrificially on the block, had saved
him. Already, his efforts had resulted in flash protection improvements,
even now being implemented in the Fleet. And now this!
De Robeck reached up and massaged the back of his neck. J[ellic]oe, he
knew, did not have the men and other resources to pursue this matter,
as a great many witnesses would have to be re-interviewed if there were
to be any chance of ascertaining the truth. In fact, any attempt by him
in that direction would be certain to be rebuffed ruthlessly. Some would
see it as a move to regain some measure of stature, as a run at the Inspector
General, perhaps. Others would interpret it as him seeking a scapegoat
for his own perceived failure. The likelihood of consequences such as
those would not stop Vice-Admiral Sir John J[ellic]oe, De Robeck was quite
prepared to wager. No, what his predecessor was communicating was that
his present circumstances simply would not permit him to learn what was
"Very well, Commander. Give Sir John my thanks and my warmest regards.
Now, if you'll wait outside for a minute, I'll have a note for you to
take back to him."
"Oh, and Commander, should you again be dispatched to me bearing
a note from the same source, you are to seek me out without hesitation.
No more, ah, lurking in the outer offices, trying to glean an opening."
"Aye, aye, sir. And thank you, sir."
De Robeck went to the door as the other opened it.
"Lieutenant? I will see Commander Hunt promptly, should he come
again. And, Lieutenant, if I'm not here, find me."
"Yes, sir. Very good, sir."
---- 4:15 PM, Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island
"Commander Barton, good afternoon, and my thanks to you for responding
The Americans had indeed responded quickly to his signal. Very quickly.
It was just another datum, but one not to be dismissed.
"Admiral, the pleasure is mine. How may I and the United States
Navy be of service to you?"
"To my great regret, Commander, I have just recently learned that
two civilian sailors - British - died during the capture of their vessel.
One of them was the ship's master."
"Yes, sir," Barton said into the other's pause, wondering just
"I have conducted my own inquiry, of course," resumed Hanzik.
"That, however, is not sufficient when there are... other... suitable...
resources available. You are a senior officer of a Neutral navy. I hereby
request your assistance."
"Sir?" Omigod, thought Barton, he's not really asking me what
I just think he did! No, he can't be!
"Um, just what, er, 'assistance' are you asking for?"
The German admiral explained. And it was just as bad as Barton had feared.
In fact, it might actually have been worse. What should he say? What COULD
"Admiral," he temporized, "I am honored by your trust.
However, I must confess that this is a most unexpected request. Quite
frankly, sir, I must seek counsel. With your permission, I'll lay back
to my ship and give you an answer shortly."
"Very well, Commander. However, with the heat, I fear I will be
forced to remove the physical evidence before nightfall."
---- 4:30 PM, NY base hospital
Captain Theargus had gotten out of his bed and into a chair - the one
facing the door. A medical orderly had insisted on helping. Bloody bit
of nonsense, that! Still, the surge of his pulse from the effort shocked
him, though a scowl was his only outward sign.
LCDR Cecil Starling O'Brien, MD, entered the room with a clipboard and
a crisp nod. He swept the room with a quick glance and an even quicker
grimace. To the Aussie's surprise, the doctor uttered a sigh and his features
relaxed as he settled into the single other chair.
" 'Tis good to sit," O'Brien commented obliquely, "even
just a wee bit."
Theargus understood, all too well. The Irish-American had a large and
unexpected influx of patients he'd prefer to be overseeing.
"That's the only thing I CAN do, Commander. 'Sit.' That's the only
thing ahead for me."
"Aye, Captain. That I ken. Now, these lists you're wanting to see
"Just a moment, Doctor. I do want to go over those lists but, first,
a couple questions, if I could."
"You're not letting my embassy people in until morning?"
"Aye, but ..."
"No! That is, that's all I need to know just now. Next, aren't there
any telephonic devices in this whole great, bloody building!? That I can
use? Now? Tonight!?"
"Of course! That's what I was trying to tell you. Captain Eberle
said you'd be wanting such. The one in my very own office is at your service!"
Eberle, again! The man had mentioned no such thing! Oh, of course. The
Aussie thought, ruefully. The bedamned Yank had wanted to catch him first,
"Nothing. Go ahead, why don't you? I mean, continue."
---- 5:05 PM, SS Lochard (formerly of Leeds United Shipping Co., Ltd.),
"Captain, flags going up on Moltke. Our number, sir."
LT Kessock, the "Captain" of the ship, looked up from the manifest.
The men from Vulcan had circled several items that needed to be tracked
down and identified, and his men were having the very devil of a time
doing that. The ship's former master or the purser might have been able
to help, if either had so chosen, which Kessock frankly doubted. In any
event, the man and his purser were both gone, sent over to join the men
turned over to the American battleship.
"Yes?" Kessock replied. "The rest?"
"We are to proceed close aboard Moltke, and lay alongside."
Now what, the young officer wondered.
---- 5:15 PM, Texas (BB-35), Flagbridge
"They WHAT?!" Admiral McDonald thundered, caught by surprise.
Totally. He took the wireless from his Signals Officer and read it slowly.
"I'm not aware of any precedent, sir," his Chief of Staff ventured,
McDonald did not reply, and no other of his staff broke the silence as
their principal scowled at the message sheet. The damnable Huns had him
in a box, he was thinking, and likely their admiral quite well knew it.
He was probably sitting on his bridge right that moment, sipping schnapps,
and guffawing at the pickle he'd just put him in. And a fine mess it was!
In time of war, Neutral third party witnesses could get used for almost
anything, especially if there was any potential for a war crimes claim.
Hell, just having gotten this offer and signal into the record would doubtless
be potent evidence. And the heat would be considered a nicely plausible
reason for accepting no delay, delay such as would be necessary to allow
a proper investigation and legal team to come out from New York.
The admiral brought up the map in his head. The Germans were as much
as 35 miles off. Two hours, maybe closer to three to put together a team
out of his command and get anyone there from his present location. Damn!
They'd timed this most carefully.
Maybe, just maybe, they DID have something to hide. He looked up at his
"Tell me, what do we know about Parker?"
"Commander Barton has her, sir," his Chief of Staff replied
promptly. "He's 383rd on the List, graduated Class of ..."
"No," McDonald interrupted. "I'm not detaching a CO for
any such thing. Who else?"
"XO is LCDR Kyle Holgate," the Chief said, but looked about
for help, "good fitness reports ..."
"Admiral," his Signals Officer broke in, "we may be in
luck. I was at the Academy with him. He speaks some German, I'm sure of
"Go on," McDonald said.
"Plebe year, a few called him 'The Prussian', 'cause his mother's
maiden name's Blucher and he was really killing us in German. Sharp as
a saber, sir. By the time we were Youngsters, we were calling him 'Owl.'
---- 5:45 PM, Parker (Destroyer No. 48), stopped, roughly 40 miles SE
of Coney Island
LCDR Kyle Holgate looked up in dismay from the terse message from Admiral
McDonald. "Do you think McDonald knows I can follow German?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Barton replied. "But, if he was rejecting
me on principle because I'm CO, my XO would be the obvious next choice."
"True, Skipper. I guess." Hartley, though, remained unconvinced,
and figured someone on Texas must know him. They wouldn't have, except
that he'd taken German to have an easy subject to offset engineering,
having grown up hearing one set of grandparents speak nothing else. And
it HAD been easy. Now this. Payback time?
"Chief," greeted Barton as Parker's senior chief petty officer
came onto the bridge. "Anybody else?"
"Yessir. PO3 Sturz says he speaks some, but no one else seems to
know more than a word or three."
"Good work, Chief, and thanks. Have Petty Officers Sturz and Mayweather
lay to the small boats area." Mayweather was Parker's pharmacist
"Aye, aye, sir." The Chief nodded complacently, as though he
had fully expected it, as indeed he had. In fact, he'd already sent both
men down to the messdecks with instructions to wolf down something quick,
warning them that it might be midnight before they got another chance.
"Well, Kyle, that'll give you one person who might be of some help
with German. I'm sending Mayweather along to help look over the two dead
Brits. The launch and boat crew are standing by, and I'll send them back
for you at dusk."
Holgate nodded. Small boat passage would be better avoided in the dark
with so many unfamiliar ships packed so close together, especially if
it were cloudy or raining.
---- 5:45 PM, Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island
"... 300 kilograms per shell, yes?" Hanzik was saying. "400,
including the powder."
"Yes, sir," answered Captain Stang. Dirk also agreed, after
a look his way from the Admiral.
"Too many were needed, but that is a matter for another day,"
Hanzik continued. "It is not my intention to turn your commands into
freighters, but some of this," he pointed at the sheets from Bavaria,
"is worth making a special effort to save."
"Yes, sir." This time it was more of a chorus.
"We have a suitable material - dense, inert, and of high-value.
Your gunners have created some room. I want it used."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Admiral, the Americans, their launch has cast off and is approaching."
"Very well. Captains, I have already signaled Lochard to begin.
Give the necessary orders to your crews while I meet with the Americans.
We will resume when I am done with them."
---- 6:10 PM, Rostock, at HAPAG Terminal pier
"Why do you suppose he came?" Westfeldt wondered aloud, as
they watched the Spanish embassy car head down the pier. "Did he
"No," von Hoban answered, his voice suddenly tired. "Naval
captain or no, he is a diplomat. He may just have been satisfying personal
curiosity. He did, though, express an interest in seeing a battlecruiser
up close. Twice, I think."
"Trying to learn our intentions?"
"Weiss nicht. He pressed me to tell him of when the bridge clock
was destroyed. Then, when He'd heard the tale, you know what he said?"
"He marveled, and said: 'I envy you that, sir!' "
"Easy enough," snorted Westfeldt, "he wasn't there!"
The same shell as had done in the clock had gutted two watchstanders
beside it. On their return, ambulances had strained for hours to transport
the wounded and maimed to hospitals. Death services became daily routine.
And they had supposedly WON the battle!
"Ja, exactly. He longs for a nice, tidy little war."
He can have ours, thought von Hoban. I'd like peace, myself.
"Have you looked over the maps Herr Schmidt dropped off?"
"Yes, Mein Kommodore, and they're wonderful! Such detail! And he
said they were commonly available, simply purchased. I tell you I do not
understand these Americans. Such maps - they are like tools. Don't they
care? How can one not respect one's tools?"
"They are at peace, Captain," von Hoban shrugged. "They
have not fought a Great Power for a full century. They fear nothing. No
Westfeldt nodded, but recalled the forts along the approaches, the great
statue in the outer harbor, and the vast naval base in the inner one.
"Maybe they are right," he said, after a moment. "With
what we have here, we could only anger them, not hurt them. And I do not
think that would be wise."
---- 6:10 PM, Parker (Destroyer No. 48), stopped, roughly 40 miles SE
of Coney Island
"Lookouts report Mr. Holgate's just boarded Moltke."
"Very well, "Barton acknowledged. "Chief, what do you
make of those crates they're shifting out of that merchant?"
"Hard to tell, Skipper. They look to weigh maybe 100 pounds each,
based on the way they're handling them. No more. Takin' two to pick 'em
up, but then they're movin' 'em easy like. From the size of them, it sure
ain't gold and probably not silver neither, but they sure enough must
think it's pretty valuable stuff."
"Where're they taking them?"
"Not clear, sir. Lookouts reported the first couple boatloads went
behind Moltke. They may be loading them onto her, or they may've gone
on to one of the others off her other beam."
"Sir, Mr. Hartley and party are disembarking Moltke."
"That didn't take long," Barton mused, shifting his glasses
over to the Parker's launch.
"Hello, where are they going, now? Lookouts, keep track of her!"
1) I am indebted to Electric Joe for this letter from his avatar, the
credit for which is all his. I have tweaked it a tad, so any errors or
other flaws are mine.
2) The story can be found at: