Letterstime - Ein
Geleitzug: Homeward Bound? Part XII
July 3, 1915
---- Grosser Kurfurst, course 260,
speed 18 knots
Admiral Letters and Kapitan
Schnell stood together out on the port wingbridge. They had their binoculars up, sweeping wide
arcs ahead. They did not look astern,
where the other seven dreadnoughts followed obediently in their wake. Nor did they look out on either beam, where Stuttgart
to the north and Berlin to the
south coursed along on their flanks with four torpedoboats
each. Plying the waters ahead were
Acting-Commodore Ehrhart's half-flotillas, headed by Frauenlob, Undine, and Lübeck,
but the eyes of the senior German officers were focused on the distant horizon,
over which lay the British fleet.
The British knew where the Germans were. Of that, Letters had no doubt, as the RN
cruisers were still bobbing in and out of the horizon on bearings between 280
and 330. He had not the force to make
them to flee. This was far different
from the Britishers who had instantly driven off the
two tiny scout groups he had placed in his distant van. The only ship that had managed a few glimpses
of the British main body had gone ominously silent. The intelligence advantage he had courted so
assiduously before was not his this time, but in the hands of the British
commander. Indeed, the ships he so badly
missed in his van were those of Necki's command, the
very ones he was out here risking literally everything to try to save.
Were the British in a position to cut off Necki? The Baron did
not have to glance at the chart to see the danger; he had been living with it
since before Necki had sortied. The returning battlecruiser
force had the coast on one flank and the Harwich Force almost certainly
pursuing in force astern. Should the
British admiral manage to throw a dreadnought force across the bows and
northern flank of Necki, anything might happen. Necki might be
forced to choose between a gunnery gauntlet or fighting back through the
Harwich Force flotillas.
---- Großes Torpedoboot
S.177, course 040, speed 29.5 knots
had a splendid vantage from which to survey the damage aloft wreaked from one
of that damn Britisher's shells. He was flat on his back.
He blinked as things eased in and out of focus.
"Captain?! Gut Gott! Captain's
down! Horst! Give me a hand here. Lars, get the ...."
"Wait! His arm's in
the spokes. Okay. Get the wheel ...."
He was inside the bridge.
Why was he down here, and why could he see the sky? Ah, yes, a new skylight. A Brit field modification of sorts ....
Uh, "in the spokes"?
Arms were raising him.
"I've got her." Um,
"her"? The petty officer was speaking of
the wheel, hence control of the ship, or "her" - but Hackaufsohn
wasn't able to work that out.
"Most of this isn't his, it's ...."
Oh! That hurt.
"His back. Oh,
[expletive]! Careful there on his left."
Report!" At least, that was he
tried to say. Getting into an upright
sitting position had launched waves of dizziness.
"Report!" It came out
better that time.
"The Britishers've ceased fire;
lost the range." Relief texturized the man's voice; the captain was coming out of
it. "Fire's out, mostly."
Hackaufsohn went to rub his eyes,
but stopped at the sight of the blood on his hand and dripping down the sleeve
of his blouse. He looked around,
then. Damn! There'd been four on the bridge with him.
They'd been hit. Yes,
it was starting to come back. He'd felt
the hit, the concussion in the air and the shock on his soles, more than he'd
heard it, but it had been the swerve of the ship that had commanded his
attention. The ship's wheel, its spokes
rotating, stood at the center of the bridge but the helmsman had not been in
He held up his right hand in a "wait" gesture and tried to
blink his eyes into better focus.
Somehow he'd gotten to the wheel and settled it. He'd looked about for men, but there'd been
none. Where had they gone?
He again went to rub his eyes, and again halted at the sight
of the blood. The shock cleared his mind
some more. There must have been another
"Course and speed?"
"Running full out, sir, on ... looks to be 040."
"What time is it?"
"It's ... ship clock's gone, sir."
"Aye, sir." (NOTE)
"The Fleet! Did our
wireless report go out?"
He saw one man hasten out to check. I couldn't have been out for more than a few
moments, he thought. Couldn't have been.
"The Britisher cruisers are
breaking off, sir."
He was going to have to get up in a moment. He gathered his feel under him. The bright late afternoon sun seemed to fade
"Sir, the signal was sent - twice. No acknowledgment ... yet, sir."
He hadn't even seen the man return.
"I must get onto my feet."
Arms helped take some of his weight.
Of course there'd been no acknowledgment. Here he was in possession of the most
important piece of intelligence of his life and ....
"Look up th... uhh."
Since he was bracing himself with his right hand, he'd tried
to point with his left. The motion had
fired a bolt of pain into his back.
"Look aloft," he managed after a long pause, his forehead
moist. "Antenna's gone. All of it."
He took a deep breath.
Another. It didn't hurt to
breathe. That seemed a good omen.
"Need to rig something.
Where's the chief?"
They didn't know. His
absence was surely an involuntary one.
"H-helm?" Who's on
the helm? Good. "Bring us over to 090."
The Fleet had to be somewhere in that direction. The Britisher
dreadnoughts had been something like 20,000 yards just south of west from S.177
had been when ....
"090, aye, aye, sir."
His command had been 10 miles closer to the Baron and was
about 10 knots faster than the enemy.
Would that be enough?
"Find the senior signalist. Tell him about the antenna. It must be fixed." This was the wrong audience. "Pass the word for the XO."
"Aye, aye, sir."
---- Frauenlob, course 260, speed
"Kommodore! New contact!
Ehrhart had been staring at their RN
shadows nearly five points more to the north.
"Single patrol ... it's one of ours, sir. Torpedoboat."
Korvettenkapitän Borys had reported detaching two. It seemed that one of his little lost sheep
had just found his way back to the flock.
Indeed there were.
Actually, S.177's bridge clock would never be entirely
wounds turned out mostly to have come from shrapnel from the chronometer, not
all of which could be removed. The
largest piece turned out to be the clock's long hand, found embedded like a
miniature javelin in his left shoulder blade.
Hackaufsohn would survive the Great War, but
would forever have to endure word play concerning his wounds. One anecdote from later in his life suggests
that he became reconciled to it and had even taken to using it himself. As the story goes, on one post-war endeavor
of his he was told that time was not on his side. His reply was something like he didn't need
it to be on his side, he already had it in his back.