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Part 129
Part 130
Part 131
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Part 134
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Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Meeting Engagements, Part XXXVI

(Morning and early afternoon, June 25, 1915)

---- Boston Globe

"Liner Cecilie Problems Continue"

"Repair Teams Work Around the Clock"

"Frequent showers of sparks frequently flicker through the open hatches of The Kronprincessen Cecilie, casting long shadows from the German engineers as they march up and down the gangways, retrieving replacement parts or needed equipment, their faces set in frowns of concentration. Within the freshly painted hull of the great liner, repair crews have worked nearly non-stop for the last several days. In fact, the only pauses in the pounding of hammers and the screeching of grinders appear to have been during the lavish concerts, so widely attended by Bostonians since the arrival of what some are calling 'The Great German Liner Fleet.' Meanwhile, the repairs continue with no end in sight and one entire side of the pier has been set aside for what has become almost a veritable mountain of equipment and supplies for what must surely be a Herculean undertaking.

"Rumors run rampant as to the exact nature and extent of the great liner's woes. One unconfirmed report has it that all the mountings on the port side in one engineroom had catastrophically failed due to rust from a previously undiscovered leak, requiring complete rebuild. Another account has it that wide swaths of hull sheathing had been found to have grossly deteriorated over the last year and that the required replacement had to be from the inside, as there was no time for caissons to be fabricated and emplaced for exterior access. Other stories purport to relate the consternation of German engineers who, upon opening the casings of a wide variety of propulsion pumps and other machines for inspection, discovered to their utter dismay widespread corrosion and decay had set in throughout the propulsion systems. Whatever the case, blasts of steam and clouds of soot have been observed issuing forth at erratic intervals from the great hull, hopefully giving evidence that some sort of progress is being made within.

"... Throughout it all, HAPAG president Ballin has maintained the Kronprincessen Cecile to be fully seaworthy, but that the ongoing work was necessary to ensure that the liner could keep pace with the rest and, in so doing, 'have a fair chance to outrun the warships of the British blockade of the United States.' Ballin remained steadfastly optimistic that Kronprincessen Cecile would not need to be left behind when the time came to depart. Just when the time would be, he would not say."

---- Flag Bridge, USS North Dakota (BB-29), course 080, 8 knots

Admiral Higgins studied the map of the waters off Boston's outer harbor, checking the locations of various elements of his command against the chart. With some difficulty, Higgins controlled his impatience to head out to sea, as he fully expected the German warship squadron to be on station about 40 miles beyond the Three Mile Limit. He had a strong base for that hunch, as the Germans had used precisely that deployment off New York.

The Commander - Atlantic Fleet, however, had specified that he complete a sweep of the coastal environs before heading out into International Waters. It didn't take alchemy to deduce that Stennis' concern was that the Germans might have anchored in the lee of an American island to try to finish coaling. If that were found to be the case, then the Americans would have documented the Germans violating The Hague treaty they had been waving about so very publicly these last weeks. That such a discovery would result in a strong and energetic reaction by the United States government, Higgins had no doubt. Vice-Admiral Stennis had told him that the Secretary of State, the Honorable William Jennings Bryan, himself, had declared that he would remain in his office today until the German squadron had been located.

Pursuant to the orders of Commander - Atlantic Fleet, Higgins had detached two pairs of Destroyers and the trio of ships of the North Carolina (ACR-12) force and sent them on ahead at speed to comb the network of small islets and shoals. The admiral's core dreadnought force remained in a supporting position, outbound in Presidential Roads as he awaited reports from the three force commanders. Meanwhile, all he could do was consult the charts to assure himself one more time that all the islands and islets were being adequately examined. (NOTE 1)

---- Flag Bridge of Texas (BB-35), course 010, speed 18 knots

About 1000 yards off the starboard beam, the dreadnoughts New York (BB-34) and Wyoming (BB-32) powered through the heavy Atlantic waves, remnants of last night's storms, their bows casting aside great sheets of foam. (NOTE 2) The position of the morning sun, south and behind the outboard dreadnought duo, highlighted them superbly against the horizon. The wind was brisk and out of the southwest, blowing the towering black stack plumes slightly ahead and away from the ships and providing impeccable viewing conditions. The scene just begged to be memorialized on film, or so the USN photographer aboard had concluded. This worthy gentleman was struggling mightily at his self-appointed task behind his tripod and under the draped cloth as both his subject and his camera were going up and down, port and starboard, and various semi-random combinations of all of the above. On the bridge, well forward, higher, and completely out of sight of the photographer, Admiral McDonald and Captain Moore both had their binoculars trained on the horizon to the northeast. Cape Cod was just beginning to recede astern and to port. McDonald's countenance bore a grave expression as he considered just some of the ways the day might unfold, especially if the Huns were discovered coaling in United States Territorial Waters.

Aboard the New York, both Admiral Alton and Captain West also bore sober expressions and had their binoculars similarly trained ahead and out to sea. Lurking directly astern of New York, Captain Griff and his lookouts had to cope with the great smoke plumes from all four dreadnoughts covering almost completely their line of sight ahead and to seaward. Somber expressions were also etched into the faces of Griff's First Lieutenant, his bosuns, and most especially his deck hands. Overnight, the wind direction had been far less benign. Coal soot, the bane of steamships since the stoking of the very first boiler, had plated out everywhere - four dreadnoughts' worth of coal soot. They surveyed its effects on canvas, brass, and paint, and all recognized that a great many hours of work had been undone, necessitating many more backbreaking hours of drudge work ahead. The combination of high speed and multiple ships had made it much worse than usual. The more discerning of them saw ahead to an unexpected and depressing fact. All those big new dreadnoughts a-building with their huge coal-sucking boilers and the large dreadnought formations sure to come guaranteed that the deck force would spend the rest of their enlistments hunched over soot.

---- Bridge of Florida (BB-30), course 010, speed 18 knots

The visibility problems to the northeast were even worse for Captain Dedmon, aboard Florida (BB-30) 500 yards in Texas' wake. Dedmon wanted a model ship, but the last few days had proven to be a trial for the senior naval captain from Norfolk, Virginia. First there had been the sudden, unplanned sortie with Texas down from Newport. That actually had gone well, though he'd had to strand 40 of his crew ashore on leave. Then, in the space of an hour or so, his command had gone from dreadnought to prisoner barge as he'd taken on over 600 former British POWs for immediate transfer ashore. The resulting speed run in to New York and then back out the next dawn had been exhausting, to say the least.

Tough as those challenges had been, Dedmon was largely satisfied that his crew had performed ably and professionally. However, for the last nearly an hour, he'd been having great difficulty meeting the model ship standard on his very own bridge. In particular, the demeanor of all watchstanders had become markedly different from those aboard the other three American dreadnoughts, quite strained, in fact. The problem was not that they couldn't see much ahead or outboard, though that was indeed the case. No, the problem was that they had a wonderfully clear view of the aft half of Texas. Specifically, their watchstations had all become what amounted to ring-side seats for the photographer's antics just outboard of Texas' third turret.


Sudden, hard intakes of breath echoed about the bridge as the man went down on the deck, hard, with one foot momentarily poking out under the rail.

"He really almost went over that time, sir!" "Omigod!" "Quiet on the bridge!" "Sorry, sir."

It was his third fall. His tripod had gone down only twice. It was just not comportment that was suffering. Unbeknownst to the officers, the Navigator's chief bosun's mate was running book at the back of the bridge. Betting was brisk. The odds had been running even that the man would go over the side, 2 - 1 that the camera would. At this latest slip, the odds shifted some more. It was getting to be serious money in the pot.

Atop Florida's forward cagemast, the watch was flat-out in hysterics. The smooth-faced junior officer in charge up there had no clue if he should do something about it, as nothing he'd gotten at the Academy had prepared him for a situation anything like this one. He was further distracted by his very near drop of a pair of extremely expensive binoculars due to one mate's explosive belly laugh. The internal phone system was abuzz with reports, and fresh accounts of the latest slip threatened to overload the circuits. Back atop the aft cagemast, all the men clustered to the extreme starboard side in their efforts to get an uninterrupted line of sight past the forward cagemast. Only later would the junior officer there ask his petty officer if the designers had actually anticipated such a situation and the resulting weight mis-distribution. They probably had but the petty officer paled at the question, nonetheless.

Meanwhile, back on the bridge, Dedmon cleared his throat. "Officer of the Deck," he began, "muster the boat crew."

Ready the small craft, show forethought.

"Aye, aye, sir."

The odds shifted some more in the face of the Old Man's concern. Even before the order went out, off duty crewmen had begun to drift out onto Florida's outside decks. Scandalized petty officers chased back many would-be idlers and skylarkers, but the topsides body count began to increase regardless.

---- The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Jersey Devils In Oak Harbor!"

"Federal Government Blamed!"

"...chased both women half-way down the block. Doctors who treated the women stated that their patients were suffering from severe attacks of the vapors but that both were expected to make full recoveries. Tempers are reported to be running hot in Oak Harbor. Reportedly, a union of concerned scientists is being formed to investigate the sightings but their spokesman has already announced the group's conclusions that the federal government was to blame. 'Wherever there is green, peace should prevail,' shouted picketers as they marched around the local post office, the only federal building in Oak Harbor.

" ' You don't have to have a hole in your head to realize that everything bad that happens MUST be the fault of the federal government,' the spokesman declared, when asked how they had arrived at their conclusion. 'After all, that's why we pay taxes. The federal government's responsible for preventing this kind of thing from happening. So, it's up to government inspectors to keep all those "Jersey Devils" in Jersey, where they belong!'

"Other eye-witness reports that the creatures that chased the Oak Harbor matrons were simply large dogs have been summarily dismissed by the scientist union as 'obvious cover-up attempts by federal agents.'

"Federal officials stated that they had no authority to regulate 'Jersey Devils,' and that without any new, clear power, they were in the dark on the matter."

---- Bridge of Arkansas (BB-33), course 030, speed 18 knots

Vice-Admiral Stennis, Commander - Atlantic Fleet, knew he should simply endeavor to enjoy his current sortie. After all, he headed a substantial force: Utah (BB-31) directly astern, Columbia (C-12) with two Destroyers ahead on his seaward flank, and Montana (ACR-13) with two more Destroyers near the horizon in his van. The problem was that he feared that he would have TOO much force. The at-sea forces under his direct tactical command would soon swell to include most of the modern units of the entire Atlantic Fleet, including nine dreadnoughts. He would have, in what could theoretically become a confrontation, more of his nation's naval combat power at the beck of his flag hoist than perhaps had ever been the case in the history of the United States.

This was no light responsibility! He realized now, as perhaps he never had before, that it was one thing to see the long list of names of the naval assets of his command on paper, even to see many of them lined up at the piers of the naval base. It was quite a different matter to take them all, or nearly all, to sea with the prospect of maybe actually having to USE them. Santiago Bay, back when he was a junior officer on Oregon (BB-3), may have been a little like this for Admiral Sampson. Now, the broad pennant was HIS!

It was invigorating. It was also daunting, maybe even intimidating. Hell, it was a complicated lot of things.

Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, things could get very interesting indeed.

---- Philadelphia Inquirer

"Jersey Devil Fever!"

"Zoo To Send Field Team"

"... of the Philadelphia Zoo, stated that a full field team had been sent to New Jersey Pine Barrens to make a scientific study of the reported sightings. When asked if attempts would be made to take or capture any specimens, the official responded that it was premature to make any conclusions of that sort.

"The newest sightings of the so-called 'Jersey Devil' have resulted in inquiries from all over the country. Many citizens have armed themselves in preparation for defending themselves and their loved ones. Despite the many encounters documented to date, mounted hunts by sportsmen groups have been so far been unsuccessful in running any of the mysterious creatures to ground. More hunts are being organized by ....

"Far from disappearing, however, there have been reports of additional sightings of creatures claimed to be "Jersey Devils' as far west as Ohio. The Smithsonian Institution is reportedly also considering sending investigators.

"Leading the team for the Philadelphia Zoo will be Professor Lawrence Nevels ....

---- New Jersey, Roughly 6 miles SSW of Appollonio

"Well," said Professor Nevels, quietly, "I guess this explains it."

"Oh! The poor thing." His wife, Lourene, crouched beside the professor.

"Eh?! Is it dead?" The voice came from within the weathered and rotting board house. The only visible signs of those within were gun barrels poking out between the dirty, fraying curtains hanging limply in the still, humid air.

"Hell and damnation," he muttered. "Um, sorry, Beloved."

"Strong language may have a place, Dear," she replied in a low pitch. "And, well, if it does, this would be one of them."

"Is it dead? What are you two doing with it out there?" There was a distinctly shrill whine in the voice emanating from behind those guns. It was a dangerous sound, with harmonic undertones of anger and manic panic. Lynch mobs probably started with speechifying in tones like that.

The two from Philadelphia sighed in almost perfect unison.

"Thank you," he said and, then, raising his voice, "Yes, it's dead."

"The poor thing," Lourene repeated, sadly. "To come so far and, then ...."

---- Bridge of Kearsarge (BB-5)

Rear-Admiral Martin could see the plumes on the horizon to the north-east where Vice-Admiral Stennis had taken his force off on his speed run to Boston. Left to Martin was the task of patrolling in force off New York, the scene of so many dramatic confrontations these last two weeks. The admiral strolled out onto the starboard wing-bridge and looked about at his force. Astern rode Kentucky (BB-6), while ahead and out on the seaward flank were trios of older torpedo boats, each led by an older cruiser.

Just a single dozen years ago, his command would have been reckoned a thoroughly modern force of substantial combat power. Recent events had proved it neither. Copious published photographs of the two mighty German battlecruisers loitering just off shore had changed perspectives more than the reports of great sea battles off Britain - battles that had pitted dozens of dreadnoughts against their peers. The stories that went with the battlecruiser pictures had included graphic accounts of how easily they had disposed of Vice-Admiral Patey's cruiser squadron without loss. The newspapers had all also included the fact that the German battlecruisers here were the oldest and least powerful ones in their entire navy.

Yes, Admiral Martin would admit, if pressed, that his command was composed of entirely second-rate ships, but he would staunchly maintain that his men were second to none. The United States Navy was building many new dreadnoughts; ones as powerful or more than those of Britain, France, or Germany. In fact, three or four more were due to be commissioned within the next twelve months (NOTE 3), with more soon to be laid down. Heck, the admiral thought, with all this going on, Congress might finally see the light and loosen the purse strings enough to build a REAL deep water fighting fleet - one that even the British or German Empires could not afford to cross.

For now, though, Martin thought, as he turned back to the northeastern horizon, his duty here was to train up the men who would crew those dreadnoughts-to-be. He saw that the plume marking Stennis' dreadnought-cored force was no longer in sight.

"Commander," the admiral called to his chief of staff, "hoist the first signal."

"Aye, aye, sir." His staff had the flags ready, of course. Planning this exercise had been their task last night, long into the night.

Martin looked again at the plume-pristine horizon. "Execute."

---- Boston, pier

"Decision time, Max! What's it gonna' be?"

Blue Fox and Maxwell Browning stood at the bottom of the gangway up to Imperator. All around them men shouted, horns barked, and engines growled in a virtual whirlwind of activity. Trucks with last-minute deliveries of fresh food barreled down the pier threatening to run over anyone in their path. Across the way, the last of the equipment soared high into the sky on heavy-duty pallets to be landed somewhere up on the decks of the Kronprincessen Cecile.

"Do you think they really got her fixed?" Max shouted. "Or do you think they'll still be working on her enroute?"

"I think they're done, all right, but they don't think it'll last. You're stalling."

Max shrugged, admitting as much. "So are you!" Max retorted, drawing a wry shrug in return.

Ballin had appeared on the pier an hour earlier and declared that the liners would cast off in 90 minutes. At that point, all hell had broken loose. They had written it up and gotten it off, knowing that it would be front page news. It would be their last, however. Their marquee stories ended right here, at the foot of the gangway, unless they went aboard. Max had only been in New York in the first place to visit his parents. His Colleen was already a continent away, and now he was to add an ocean to it? Blue had had nothing to tie him down. Nothing and no one. Until Philadelphia, and Holly. The men looked at each other, unable to escape the answer: their lives were their stories, and their stories were up that gangway.

High aboard Imperator, hands clenching one polished rail, Hadi Pasha also was undecided as to where to cast his fate. The chancellory official had been gracious, but Hadi was sure that he had detected dishonesty in the man. Well, insincerity was to be expected, of course, but there was more. Even that, however, was "normal." More what, though? Duplicity? Or had it been treachery? Several large men stood in total and absolute stillness behind the Great One. When the Master was like this, woe to one causing even a single flea's weight of distraction!

Hadi reflected on the attitudes of the other's servants, slicing each's mien more finely than even his best daggerman, who even then was "whisk-whisk"-ing his knife in its sheath as he guarded the vast stack of his baggage at the top of the gangway two decks below. Had their exhibited level of deference diminished during his stay in Boston? Truly it had, he decided at last. He scowled, and those nearest shuddered at the sight. He hated it, but the conclusion was inescapable: his life would never be long on any continent where his name had been printed alongside the word "Sultan."

He glowered even more severely but remained still and aloof as the gangways were drawn up, though not before the two young infidel reporters had clambered aboard.

---- New Jersey, Roughly 6 miles SSW of Appollonio

" 'Hama-what?!!"

"Hamadryas," Professor Nevels repeated, as patiently as he could. The man with the scraggly beard still clutched his gun with white-knuckled emotion. "Papio hamadryas."

"And I'd been so looking forward to them," Mrs. Nevels murmured.

"What's a dry pappyass whatever-the-hell-you said?"

The man had moved nearer, close enough for the sour reek of his sweat saturated clothes to be plain.

Professor Nevels looked up sharply at the vulgar language.

"Dear," his wife interrupted him before he could say anything. After all, the man still had the gun and, behind him, a tired-looking woman and several urchins had drifted out on the porch. The woman was wringing her hands in her concern.

"Dear," she repeated, her hand touching his shoulder to ensure his attention. "The others. There're two other trackways here. Where are all the others?"

"You mean to tell me that there're two MORE of those dry hammy beasts running loose around here?" The man looked around wildly, his eyes as white as the very prominent canines on the teeth of the dead creature.

"Yes, more than two, actually. Many more," the professor added matter-of-factly. "I think our shipping notes were - what? - twenty?"

"I think more. Twenty-four sounds right."

"What the?!"

" 'course, Dear, we don't know for certain, but the ship WAS due last week."

"Look, Perfesser. What ARE they? Those dry pappio monsters?"

"Papio hamadryas," he repeated, once again. "They were coming over from Scotland. For the Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo."

Seeing the armed man's reaction, Mrs. Nevels stepped in. "Baboons," she said. "They're just baboons. Big monkeys." (NOTE 4)

Author's NOTEs:

1) See: (note that the url links to a large - 2 meg - pdf file map)

A smaller file image:

2) For an overhead picture taken of New York at 17 knots, see:

If that link does not work, go to:

Then go to "Battleships," then go to "Post Dreadnought BBs", then to "New York (BB-34)". Then look at the 10th picture down.

3) The dreadnoughts were:

- Nevada (BB-36), commissioned March 11, 1916,
- Oklahoma (BB-37), commissioned May 2, 1916,
- Pennsylvania (BB-38), commissioned June 12, 1916, and
- Arizona (BB-39), commissioned October 17, 1916.

4) The premise that baboons were aboard a British-flagged merchant off the US coast in 1915 bound for the Philadelphia Zoo is not as preposterous as might be imagined! The oldest US zoos are the Philadelphia Zoo and the Bronx Zoo, and appear to be the only large public zoos which were well established before The Great War began. Another, the St. Louis Zoo, was only in the process of formulation (and had no monkeys) and others, like one out near Chicago, had had the funds provided but did not acquire animals until after the war. Both the Philadelphia and Bronx Zoos were adding new specimens and species during this period. According to the Philadelphia Zoo Animals Records staff, their zoo has had baboons since 1874. In fact, at one time or another over the last 130 years, the Philadelphia Zoo has had five species of baboons: Olive, Yellow, Guinea (the one currently held), Chacma, and Hamadryas. The dates the Philadelphia Zoo obtained the first specimens of those five species are as follow:

- Olive baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis) - 13 May 1879
- Yellow baboon (Papio hamadryas kindae) - 19 Oct. 1880
- Guinea baboon (Papio hamadryas papio) - 16 May 1874
- Chacma baboon (Papio hamadryas ursinus) - 1 July 1874
- Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) - 9 May 1883

(Source, private correspondence between Philadelphia Zoo staff and author.)

Everywhere else on the globe, zoos were cutting back and shutting down as the World War I ground on. For example, see:

The zoos in the UK were in a similar state, but many had already been under pressure long before the outset of war, though more due to the economics of declines in paying traffic. The next question, though, was who had held baboons? It turns out that Scotland had, and had held them for over 60 years. See the following excerpt from the "Glasgow Herald", dated October 3, 1851:

"On Wednesday forenoon, as some young ladies belonging to this city were walking in that beautiful portion of the Botanical Gardens situated on the banks of the Kelvin, they were suddenly, to their great terror and surprise, assailed by the large baboon, which forms so great an object of attraction to the more youthful portion of the visitors at the Gardens. The fierce brute, which, with some other smaller monkeys, we believe, have been allowed to escape from their cage through the negligence of the keepers, seized one of the young ladies and bit her severely, and more serious consequences were only prevented by the appearance of some other persons, at whose approach the brute made off. We are induced to notice the above, as we understand the animals, which are still at large, and defying all attempts at capture by taking refuge, when such are made, on the tops of the neighbouring trees, are likely to prove a source of annoyance, and, as the above incident will show, even of injury to the frequenters of the Gardens."

The Bostocks (Mr. E. H. and, earlier, his father James) had long operated private menageries in the Glasgow area. E. H. Bostock converted the menagerie in 1897 to the "Scottish Zoo" but closed it down in 1909. At that time, he offered the animals at a nominal price (and was reportedly willing simply to donate them) to the town for a municipal collection, but the offer was declined and he auctioned them off. Whoever bought the animals could have maintained them locally, since the city continued to consider Glasgow's Rouken Glen Park as a site for a zoo right up until after World War I began. Once that project was completely abandoned, one potential purchaser for any exotic specimens would have been the Philadelphia Zoo, as it was untouched by wartime economies and was in the process of expansion. Bostock's animals apparently included monkeys, as reported in 1901, though Commander Boy's interpretive services would be very useful to any who would wish to follow the text:

-- The birds having been duly admired and commented upon, Macgregor was again discovered to be missing. This time he was found engaged in making faces at a family of monkeys.
"Come awa' frae the nesty things! " cried Lizzie. " I canna thole monkeys, John. --

Thus, the premise is that Bostock's baboons were among the ones that the Philadelphia Zoo historically acquired. In fact, the Philadelphia Zoo did acquire some baboons in 1909, and though the Animals Records staff could not determine their precise origin, they agreed in private correspondence with the author that they very may well have come from Bostock's. So, the only adjustment made for the story is that those same baboons had made their transatlantic journey just a little later than historical. As a last historical postscript, just maybe not all the baboons left Scotland. See:

That baboons would likely react precisely as described in the story (in contact with human settlements surrounded by a biosphere sanctuary) is amply demonstrated by current news reports from South Africa. Here's one excerpt from a news article dated June 14, 2004:

Baboons on rampage in South African town

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Residents of a small South African coastal town are threatening to declare all-out war on baboons who have terrorised pre-schoolers, raided homes for food and urinated on clothes after pulling them out of closets.

Diana Head, the chairwoman of the local taxpayers' association in Pringle Bay, an hour's drive east of Cape Town, told AFP Monday that baboons broke into the local nursery school -- located in a church -- three times, using the same method.

"The baboons lifted a window latch and stormed a church hall where the children were," she said. "They grabbed sandwiches and cold drinks out of the children's hands.

"The kids were traumatised afterwards. One teacher was so upset that she resigned."

Head said baboons were breaking into houses about 15 times a month on average.

"They have strong nails which they use to pull sliding doors off the hinges. When they get inside the houses they ransack the cupboard for food and have parties on the beds.

"On a few occasions they have pulled clothes out of the cupboards and urinated on them."

by Jim

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