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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug: Homeward Bound? Part XIV

July 5, 1915

---- Grosser Kurfurst, moored, Wilhelmshaven

Korvettenkapitän Borys stood outside the flagquarters, trying to keep himself distracted, to settle his emotions in flux. He was finding it very difficult. He needed to be on his ship! Not that he could do anything, damn it! Another fleet sortie was imminent - everyone knew it! - and his ship had broken down almost literally in sight of port on the way back from the last one. Such a thing tended to warp a CO’s thinking. He stared glumly out one porthole at all the other ships getting ready to sortie. One question, at least, came easily enough. Why had Vice-Admiral Baron Letters elected to work out of here rather than the spacious and well-appointed offices ashore specifically reserved for the Commander - High Seas Fleet? Unfortunately, that one held him but briefly. After all, the HSF CO could hold court wherever he chose. In this case, the proximity to the ships had made matters simpler. Could that be the reason?

Borys cast his conjectures aside as the hatch opened. A scrupulously attired Fregattenkapitän emerged, ducking his head nonchalantly during the transit. Borys did not need to study the man to ascertain his identity, as Herr Rhodan, the Konig Albert XO, cut a most distinctive figure. More correct would be to say that Rhodan chiseled such a figure, as taut pectorals worked quite visibly beneath snugly tailored fabric.

The two regarded each other levelly for an instant. One of Letters’ aides could not help but be stunned by the contrast. Borys stood pretty much at attention as the senior Rhodan paused, though his spreading silhouette hardly made it apparent.

“The admiral said to give him three minutes,” Rhodan said.

Borys nodded, “Thank you, sir.” If the heavy-set korvettenkapitän felt impressed by the other, or had any reaction at all, he made no sign of it.

The dapper fregattenkapitän returned the nod and made his way gracefully out of the compartment that served as a vestibule. Behind him Borys had already slouched back to normalcy, his mind transported back to his ....

“Lübeck - your command - has had an engine failure.” Borys had vowed not to let his attention drift, but the scene that met his eyes when finally he stepped into Letters’ lair had distracted him nonetheless. He’d expected one compartment but saw that there were several, with connecting hatches standing open making the space effectively one convoluted affair. In each subspace, charts covered bulkheads, overflowed tables, reposed in rolled stacks. Every displayed map had a brace or trio of officers and men staring fixedly into the coded inkings, tiny gestures the only evidence that they lived and were not statues.

He snapped back to the stocky, seated Vice-Admiral.

“Jawohl, Herr ...”

“A moment, bitte.” Borys blinked as a figure stepped through almost at his right shoulder to hand Letters a clipboard with a few sheets on it. Letters’ gaze swept through most of it but then his eyes narrowed as he studied what appeared to be just a few lines. He marked at the bottom and handed it back, then turned his attention again on Borys.

“Port low pressure turbine,” Letters stated, flatly. “Extensive damage. It may be days; it may be weeks, many weeks.”

“Ja ...” 

“Have it written up,” the HSF CO interrupted, hardly before Lübeck’s CO could get his mouth fully open. “A full report, sketches and photographs.” Borys tried not to blink again as he thought to detect a nuance there. Not “write it up” but .... 

“Lübeck’s turbines are oldest and I summoned you out of the Baltic and used her hard. Symptoms. Warnings. I am using ALL our ships hard and that is not going to change. Whatever can be learned here may avert other failures. Enough. That is for your engineer.”

Letters looked past Borys’ left shoulder and nodded. Borys darted a quick glance and saw Korvettenkapitän Conda being shown in by the same junior officer who had done so with him.

“Herr Kommodore?”

Kommodore? Damn! Now Letters was looking to the right again. Kommodore Ehrhart stood there. Wo in Himmel had HE come from?

“Bremen has one boiler warm,” Ehrhart replied, “two hours for her, no more. The half-flotilla the same, though they might be a bit short-handed at two hours ....”

Borys saw Letters flick his eyes over to Conda, but Conda remained silent.

“...half-loads will allow them to retain four torpedoes,” Ehrhart continued, “though their speed will be ...”

Wait! What was that?! Damn, he’d done it again.

“Mines, sir?” The words came out before Borys realized he had opened his mouth.

Letters frowned. THAT, Borys decided, was NOT a good sign. “Did you not review your orders, Herr Korvettenkapitän?”

“Sir,” Ehrhart inserted. “I waited for confirmation on the mines, first. The orders probably reached Lübeck after Herr Borys was already en route.”

Borys nearly turned to give Ehrhart a look of gratitude until he realized, one, that he still did not know what was going on and, two, that Letters had started speaking again.

“... well, Kommodore. A moment, bitte.” Still another officer had joined them. Borys dared a glance, keeping the majority of his attention on Letters as he did so. It was Kapitan Schnell, Grosser Kurfurst’s CO and Letters’ acting FlagCaptain.

“Sir, all have acknowledged 18 hours. Admiral Necki is on the pier.”

“Very well.” Distant trills sounded a flag arrival, presumably Necki.

“Kommodore, take a few moments, but get them started. Herr Borys, just in case I don’t get a chance to speak with you later, your mission is an important one. But there is to be no repeat of last October’s disaster. (NOTE 1) You are to use your judgement. Commander Thiele died bravely, a hero; we may name a ship after him some day. (NOTE 2) I am sending fast ships for a reason and that reason is so that you can abort if you must. Verstanden? Make no mistake, here. I don’t want any heros on this mission; I want you and your ships back.” (NOTE 3)

“Aye, aye, sir.” Borys had just begun to catch up when he realized they’d just been dismissed; the invocation of Thiele’s name had made it all quite clear. Alas, poor Georg, I knew him well, Borys reflected, as he numbly followed Ehrhart out, but out a hatch different than the one they’d used to enter. Behind them, an unseen hand shut the hatch, but did not dog it. Before either korvettenkapitän could offer a comment, a hand gesture by Ehrhart sent their eyes to the map on the bulkhead.

“You’ll be sailing just after dawn, with Admiral Necki.”

“That’s ... thirteen hours,” Borys commented, noting sourly that Conda was not surprised.

---- Vaterland

“Down in the enginerooms?” Jacob Glocke’s voice contained a note of pleased surprise. It also strongly invited expansion.

“Jawohl, Herr Glocke.” The Chief Steward would have been respectful simply out of long habit, but would have added nothing more without orders his superior. He was mindful, however, of his Chief Engineer’s reactions to inquiries he’d had put to him about Glocke. The Chief Engineer, like so many other technicals aboard the liners, had witnessed through binoculars the cofferdam miracle.

“He has been down there a lot, I’ve been told, ever since he boarded, in fact. He was most persistent and I had no instructions forbidding it.”

“A hopeful sign. No where else?”

Glocke’s had been tasked to interview all their hired workers. All the others had confined themselves simply to enjoying their first class accommodations and the many amenities available on the great liner. Many seemed to be spending all their waking hours playing one of several bewildering card games which all seemed to be variations of Pochen. (NOTE 4) Many of the rest diced, and their games made even less sense and the Americans themselves apparently derided them, naming at least one of them excrement. That did not, however, seem to dampen their enthusiasm or intensity. Not in the slightest! The few Germans who had tried to join the Amerikaners at their games had lost their few marks so quickly that all the rest had shied away from any of it.

“Well, Herr Glocke, he is one of the after-dark fantail group. One of the instigators, in fact.”

Jakob grinned. He’d seriously considered joining them, but he’d decided he had already annoyed the uniforms enough, despite his repairing their broken boats. He might need them. Well, he HAD helped the Amerikaners find a suitable three meter shaft, but Jakob nursed hopes that factum would remain a secret.

Jakob still had a smile on his face when, together with a translator, he tracked down his final quarry.

“Herr Walker? Herr Michael Walker?”

The Amerikaner stood up and turned. He had been crouched over an in-line oil flow meter.

“Yes, that’s me. I mean, uh, Jawohl, ich werde Michael Walker, um, genannt.”

“Sprechen Sie Deutsches?” Glocke had not known this.

“Well,” Walker hesitated, obviously working hard at it. “Nur eine kleine, um, Quantität? Is that right?” The tone at the end betrayed his doubt, but his pronunciation had preceded it.

“Ah, you speak some Deutsch!” The steward slipped into the exchange. He had experienced this sort of thing many times before. “Herr Glocke asked me to accompany him to translate and perhaps matters will go easier in English. It is part of my job; we always have some passengers who speak not a single word of Deutsch at all.” And others, he diplomatically did not add, who spoke far less than they themselves thought. Meanwhile, he eased them all over to a more quiet spot.

“Okay. I’ve been trying to brush up ... but ....”

“As I said, it is part of my job.”

“You’re right. I’ve forgotten so much. My grandmother’d kill me.”

“Have you settled the matter?” The steward nodded. “Good. His entry says he has not just knowledge of large turbines, but also experience.” Enough, Jakob had seen, to persuade those in Philadelphia to increase their offer to him. Jakob was doubtful, but Walker ’s modicum of Deutsch kept him from saying that to the steward. “It also says his home is some province named Nebraska. This must be an error. The only place I could find by that name was over 1000 miles from any ocean and home to large, asymmetrical horned beasts. See what you can learn about that.”

The steward nodded again and asked the American.

“Yes, Nebraska’s right. I grew up with steam engines, especially steam tractors. Loved taking them apart to fix them or just keep them running. Our place was too big and equipment had gotten too heavy for horses to be practical. Dad bought another Case a couple years after I went off to school. (NOTE 5)

“While I studied at Brown - that’s in Rhode Island.” Walker paused as the steward turned to Glocke and summarized. (NOTE 6)

“An island?” Glocke considered. “Is that how he came to study ship turbines?”

“He says Rhode Island is not an island.”

“What?! Then why ...? No! Don’t ask him that.” Glocke rubbed his forehead, glad this man was the last. “These Amerikaners make my head hurt - no, don’t translate that. Just have him continue.”

“Is he okay?” Walker asked in puzzlement. “Anyway, they began to operate the Newport plant my freshman year. It was in all the papers and we all went down to look at it, since that was what we were studying ....” (NOTE 7)

When the steward gave that to Glocke, the German engineer’s face cleared in understanding. “Now, this sounds better. The work of their Curtis I know. I rank him with Parsons and Laval ....” Jakob saw the absence of understanding on his translator’s face and stopped. “More, please. His work with ships, especially.”

Glocke sighed as the two gobbled on in what he presumed was English. He could puzzle his way through most drawings in that language but, spoken, it was worse than French! This time it went on longer than before and the steward had clearly reached some sort of impasse.

“Herr Glocke, I fear I have failed you.” At a gesture from Jakob, he continued. “He apparently has had several jobs in shipyards. His last employment was in Newport....”

“That power plant?” That could explain much ....

“No, a place of the same name in Virginia.” Jakob grimaced and rubbed his forehead again. “A shipyard. He said the yard worked on Bremen while he was there but, because she did not have turbines, that his assignment was elsewhere. What I have been unable to understand, though, is why he left.” The steward was literally wringing his hands. “There was some kind of disagreement, I think, and his superiors became angered. He says also something about them saying he spoke oddly but that it was really the supervisors who spoke strangely. It is what he said, Herr Glocke, but it seems a most strange defense.”

“That does not make sense,” Jakob muttered, wondering if maybe he could chew ‘bacca or something to ease his aching head. (NOTE 8)

---- Grosser Kurfurst, moored, Wilhelmshaven

“Meine Herren.” Borys, Conda, and Ehrhart all turned at the voice. It was Konteradmiral Necki.

“Sir,” they all replied, in a ragged chorus.

“I understand that you both,” Necki’s eyes switched back and forth between Borys and Conda, “are sortieing with me in the morning.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The admiral has just placed First Scouting on 12-Hour notice. Herr Borys, I understand you have much to do before then. Herr Conda, have your senior signalists report aboard Derfflinger before dusk for instruction.

“Kommodore, the admiral said you would be in here working with them on tracks and separation points.”

“Jawohl, Herr Admiral,” Ehrhart replied. “It will depend on your point of advance, of course, but this area,” Ehrhart put finger to map, “appears to offer advantages. If all goes well, Herr Conda could return into the gap between the sortie forces. Herr Borys would then be able to choose anywhere along ... here.”


Necki leaned closer to the map.

---- Grosser Kurfurst, moored, Wilhelmshaven

“Kapitan Ziethen, sir.”

Fregattenkapitän Uwe Ziethen, CO of the armored cruiser Roon, eased past the aide and into the compartment, as always aboard ship, his nearly two meter height forced him to bend and duck his head as he did so.

“Herr Kapitan, your force is ready to sortie in the morning?”

“Jawohl, Herr Admiral.” A mine sortie, with an over-strong escort.

“Gut, this is a very ambitious undertaking, Kapitan. In a very real way, we become the victim of our own successes. The higher we scale, the more others force us to continue climbing.”

The tall fregattenkapitän stilled his face not to betray his confusion. Was Letters describing Ziethen’s mission, or the Baron’s own situation?

“Herr Kapitan, you deserve to hear the background, the full background, and to hear it from me. This is not a briefing that I can put in writing or delegate to another. I am going to be absolutely frank, Kapitan Ziethen. This involves politics, royal relations, and inter-service rivalry. It is for your ears only, and I tell it to you now only because I will not send a man out to possibly die, to lead others to their potential deaths, without telling him the ‘why’ of it.”

Letters paused to lift a cup to his lips. Meanwhile, Ziethen’s thoughts raced behind his quiet countenance.

“Meteor’s impact was much greater than was expected. Much greater. The Russians lost ships, then lost more trying to clear the fields. The interruption in traffic to Archangel was significant. This was a great success, but Meteor docked June 17th. (NOTE 9) Since then, the Senior Service has made it known at the very highest levels how much the Eastern Front depends on limiting munitions, especially artillery ammunition, reaching the Russian armies in the field. Much of the Czar’s heavy artillery ammunition reportedly comes through Britain and then on to that port.

“The Czar knows this as well, of course, and appealed directly to the British Crown. Royal blood runs thicker than seawater, so no one was surprised when we learned that the Royal Navy dispatched minesweeper forces to aid their royal kinsmen.” Letters sighed. “They may be there already. The fields will soon be gone, if they have not been swept already.”

Letter sighed again, more deeply, perhaps already regretting what he was about to share, but had no choice but to do so.

“General Falkenhayn has the ear of our Kaiser. He’s had long it before he replaced Moltke. He’s had it since Wilhelm fell in love with his dispatches from China. Falkenhayn went to Wilhelm and told him that it was the Czar’s - or perhaps the Czarina’s! - personal request to the British Crown that obtained for them the naval support. (NOTE 10) I have been told that, before the Kaiser finally calmed down, that Falkenhayn suggested that if the Kaiserliche Marine could spare ships to send to the Americas, why could we not send minelayers back to Archangel.”

So, thought Ziethen dazedly, my mission - my entire force - is all because of political infighting?

“Be at ease, Kapitan, there is more to your mission than simply sopping up the suds of Hannover beer spillings. Much more. That is only the first layer. You see, I am not the only one with whom Herr Falkenhayn wrestles. Indeed, I may be the least of them. After all, I cannot command the armies of the Heer.” Letters winced and half-closed his eyes at some unseen pain, then resumed. “When I became aware of the direction that affairs were taking in Berlin, I, um, arranged for a ... trusted emissary to make a reconnaissance of the fronts and the generals.

“Herr Ziethen, this two Front war will bleed us out in another year or two - three at the most - and the Western Front is stalemated. I had suspected something of the sort, but am now absolutely convinced of this. The quick and total glories of forty-five years ago will not be repeated. Too many guns, too narrow a front, too great defender densities, too disadvantageous terrain, too close reserves against exploitation - I could go on. 

“The Eastern Front, however, holds promise. Wide expanses, far fewer terrain bottlenecks, a more fragile foe, and the Ukraine can become a great breadbasket for the realm. Herr Falkenhayn was more correct than he knew. I cannot shut down the Atlantic and the Channel, not for the two months it would likely take to collapse France. We may, however, be able to starve the Czar’s cannons enough for Hindenburg and Luddendorf, Herr Falkenhayn’s true competitors, to decide the East.

“The irony is truly magnificent,” Letters reflected. “After Hanzik, I could never have obtained the authorization to send a force such as yours, but Falenhayn’s machinations have made himself my unwitting ally.

“THAT, Herr Ziethen, is why I am sending your force when I could certainly satisfy ... others ... with far less. Lay the fields, but your larger mission is to idle Archangel. Sink the sweepers, if you can, especially the British ones - even seek them out. The Britishers are far more able at it than are the Russians. If you can, hold back Roon at first; let the enemy think your force is less than it is. Your written orders give you wide latitude to use your discretion - depending on how matters progress. (NOTE 11) I will release U-35 to join you as soon as I am able. (NOTE 12)

“Any questions?” Ziethen was far beyond making any interrogative noises when he realized that another had joined them.

It was Admiral Necki, and the silver-haired flag officer stared at him briefly, but enough to see into his very soul.

“You told him ... sir,” Necki morphed a question into a statement as he glanced at Letters and saw his answer. To Ziethen’s utter astonishment, the Commander - High Seas Fleet seemed almost to hang his head, like a schoolboy caught dunking a girl’s pigtail in an inkwell. “Your risk-taking will be the end of you yet.”

This was most definitely not a conversation that Ziethen wanted to be part of.

“I could do no less,” Letters muttered, after a moment.

“Aber naturlich, sir,” Necki replied. “Kapitan, you’re in shock, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“A good answer,” nodded Necki. “Did Vice-Admiral Letters tell you that I was his spy? No? Ah, you don’t have to speak. I can see it in your eyes. The Western Front has become a great reef for the Heer, Kapitan, for the nation. A big enough ship willing to let most of its hull get brutally ripped to shreds can sometimes batter through a reef and onto the shore. Even if it gets there, though, it’s not much good as a ship afterwards. We don’t claim to be the General Staff, Kapitan Ziethen,” added Necki, with a quick glance at Letters, “but we’ve concluded that we must either sink the British Grand Fleet, or neutralize it and the West both, and make Russia sue for peace.”

Ziethen’s face remained calm, but he could not suppress the pulse throbbing visibly in his neck. A simple mine sortie ....

---- Imperator

The servants of the Master spotted it first. The Great One’s increasing restiveness made them frantic in their search for information or gossip. Blue Fox noticed their gesticulations as they argued amongst themselves but knew nothing about it until they approached him, waving their hands and making their gap-toothed versions of smiles. He did not know that he represented their version of a compromise. Disturb the Master with something of no value? The doughtiest cutthroat shrank at the thought! But, not to tell the Master only to have it revealed to be something of worth? He would flay them with his soles! Better to test it on the American.

And so, a bewildered Blue allowed himself be led over to a set of binoculars mounted on a tripod. They were pointed at Vaterland, perhaps 100 yards distant. What could it be? He shrugged and bent over and obediently peered through the glasses. The image that jumped into the field seemed to be that of a tall triangle. He blinked and looked up and across at the other great liner, oblivious to the intense scrutiny of the others.

“What the devil?”

[“He invokes shaitan?”]

[“Quiet, fool!]

[“Reveal nothing.”]

Blue bent back over the glasses for another few seconds and stood up. “It looks like a big teepee without the hide, but the damn thing must be 12 feet tall!” He turned to his audience. “Did you see it with a cover, a wrapping of hides?”

“No, never.”

“What is ‘peetee’?” 

[“He said, ‘teepee’, fool!] [“Who are you to call ...”] [“Silence! We must learn of this. Do you want to scare him off?!”]

Blue explained.

[“They have brought their aboriginals?”]

[“Oh, woe that they are not on this vessel!”]

The others nodded. They were always keen to hone their techniques and had been bitterly disappointed not to have watched any scalpings.

“I don’t know what that thing is,” confessed Blue. The others looked uneasily among themselves. “Do you mind if I ask someone else?” No one vocalized an objection. 

“Hey, Mike! Mike! Michael Fermitou! Over here! Come take a look at this. Maybe you can tell me what in the blazes that thing over there is.”

The American engineer was one of the few not welded to a gaming chair below. He jumped back from the binoculars as though scalded.

“Omigod! If that’s what I think it is! Oh! It must be! Omigod!”

Blue and the Ottomans all watched mouths agape as the American dashed away, showing an astounding turn of speed, and through a hatch and into the superstructure. They looked at each other, traded expressive shrugs, and left. 

No sooner had they departed, however, when passengers began to practically boil out of the hatches and onto the deck. Within fifteen minutes, a fast-growing knot of Americans were staring across the surging river of sea foam between the two great hulls. Aboard the German battlecruiser von der Tann, a couple lookouts scratched their heads over it but said nothing; they had found that Americans did many crazy things and these were not looking out where enemies might be but at something on the other liner. Those aboard Moltke could not see them at all, being directly astern and below the looming superstructure of Imperator. Nor did anyone spot that, aboard Vaterland, a few Americans had waved back and made mysterious motions.

In any case, the Americans all disappeared, returning inside the skin of Imperator, though a dedicated observer would have spotted that once an hour or so a hatch would open high in Imperator’s superstructure just long enough for a pair of binoculars to emerge. Whatever it may have been, it appeared to outside observers to have ended. Deep within the liner, however, a whirlwind of activities was underway as the Americans aboard Imperator tried to overcome the lead of those aboard Vaterland. They would fail, partly because it took time to get the information to those at the bars and gaming tables.. Once that was accomplished, however, they emptied in moments to the perplexed looks of the attendants. Mainly, though, it took a couple hours for someone to track down Laban Coblentz so that certain critical elements could be secured. The Americans worked through the night, but would not be ready until the next mid-morning.

Their Vaterland countrymen would not be content to wait for them, however.

---- Vaterland

To understand what the Ottomans and then Blue Fox and then the American engineers aboard Imperator had spotted over on Vaterland, let alone why Imperator American engineers had run off, abandoning open bars and gaming tables both, it would be best to take it from the very beginning.

It had begun with what had passed during the night, though “what had fallen during the night” would have been a more precise phrasing. The deck stewards had learned of it first, of course, having been informed of the tasks it required of them. For various reasons, including their relative short-handedness, the supervisors had elected to wait until after first meal had been completed and the dishes back in the kitchens. The deck stewards had just begun to deal with it, mainly with push-brooms when, predictably, teenage boys discovered it. Bored teenage boys. Teenagers so bored out of their minds that they were desperate for any release.

“Snow! Joe! Arnie! Omigosh!” “It’s July, for crying out loud!”

There had not been all that much of it, not really, just a few inches. Surely not much more than that. There had been a brief, heavy period but it had hardly lasted one of the few dark hours, and it had eased to intermittent flurries soon after the return of the dawn.

“In July!” “Tell George!” “Can you believe ...?!”

The stewards may have been responsible for what came next, but only in that their actions had created immediately accessible transitory piles of raw material. It quickened things, but they were surely inevitable.

“Whack!” “Oomph!” “What the ...!”

“Hah!” “Whack!” “I’ll show you!”

Spontaneous snowball fights broke out all over the exposed superstructure, up and down staircases, through hatches. The boys started with each other, then on to girls, then hats, nor were stewards immune and they made themselves scarce and awaited instructions. Parents emerged, some to chasten, some only to flee again, but others to start on snowmen with the younger children, of which there were at least a few.

The next phase was also likely inevitable.

Engineers, as is widely known, are adult teenagers.

---- Von der Tann

That night, as those aboard Imperator strove to catch up to their Vaterland cousins, just as the brief darkness had commenced ...


“What the ...?!” “Chief! Something hit ....!”

“What are you yelling about?!”

It had been number three.

“What’s going on out there?” The bridge officer was not going to tolerate any foolishness.

The first one had missed, but no German had noticed. The second had struck unnoticed along the belt. The fourth was another miss. Not so the fifth.

“Whanng!” Cries in German drew the officer out onto the wingbridge. “What the HELL is the matter out here?”

They might have worked things out quickly if it had not resumed snowing once dusk fell.

“Are we under attack?!” Kapitan Dirk had materialized on the bridge.

“I don’t think so, sir.”

“You don’t THINK so?!”

---- Vaterland

“Right above their heads!” “Oh, oh!” “I’m gonna’ die!”

Laughs, chortles, guffaws, and giggles. Many giggles. They seldom admit it, but engineers actually and literally will giggle.

Sometimes. When it is justified. This was one of those times.

“Time to shift targets, men.” “Yeah, they’re getting suspicious.” “Okay, how about we try for that one over there?” “Ah, yes, good one!”

More giggles.

Imperator would have been no sport. The topsides were totally empty. The Germans, though, they were manning topside and lookout watches even in the cold night airs. They were also lower, and in plain sight.

“Ready?” “Almost. Okay!”

---- Kolberg

“Was ist das!” “Did you see that?” “What?”

“Something just flew overhead! Low.”

“A bird?”

“I don’t think so, chief. Too fast.”

“Still, where did it go?” The other pointed.

They looked. Away from Vaterland.

As about five pounds of ice arrived on the other side of the superstructure.


“Gut Gott! What the ...?!”

They darted over to the other side. A dud shell?!

“Kapitan to the bridge!”

Kapitan Dahm came onto the bridge moments later, just as did another five pounds of ice.

---- Vaterland

They had missed on each of their first five tries at the more distant and more challenging victim. Impatiently, they had begun to argue and debate windage, arcs, and the like. It was all just show; they were loving it. In any case, all was made better by the sixth.

“Look at them!” More giggles.

Then the seventh. “AH! Look at that! Right on the bottom of the [coitus] bridge!”

“Uh, oh.” “Yeah, I don’t think they’re q-u-i-t-e on to us yet, butttt ....” “Yes, let’s take no chances.”

“Damn thing’s heavy. Joe, give me a hand with this bolt, will you?” “Mark, ready over there?”

“Okay, who’s next?”

So many Germans, so little time.


Author’s NOTEs:

1) On October 17, 1914, four older torpedo boats (S.115, S.117, S.118, and S.119) of the VIIth Flotilla under the command of Korvettenkapitän Georg Thiele were on a minelaying mission when they were intercepted and sunk by a detachment of the Harwich Force, the RN CL Undaunted and four modern TB/DDs.

2) The Germans did just that, of course. The Georg Thiele was one of the first class of destroyers built by Germany after World War I, the four ship “Zerstörer 1934” class. The Thiele also died bravely at the hands of British guns not quite 25 years later, again unsupported by heavier German ships. See:

3) During the conflict sometimes referred to as “The First Gulf War”, several German commentators wondered if Baron Letters were a regular subject of study at the US military academy named West Point, since a US Army Battalion Commander “Somewhere in Eastern Saudi Arabia” was quoted as saying much the same thing on February 15, 1991.

4) See:

5) Case Threshing Machine Company and their steam powered farm machine products dated back to before the US Civil War:

To see the tractor Walker’s dad bought, look here:

Nor was Case the only company making them:

6) Brown has the oldest undergraduate engineering program in the Ivy League (1847).

7) The nearby Newport facility was among the very first turbine power plants in the US. See:

8) [The author had originally intended to leave this as an EE, but decided to show some mercy, if mercy this is.] Glocke was, of course, quite correct; to a German, the problem that faced Walker would not make sense:

On a more serious note, concerning Walker’s employment, the Norfolk shipyard has a rich history, and one permeated with factoids. For instance, despite it being in a well-protected site, it has been burned by the forces of three different nations. More relevant to this story, however, beyond the Bremen work, are the following two items. First, the shipyard went through a boom-bust cycle during World War I that had not yet begun in Spring 1915, when Walker left. It went from 2,718 in June 1914 to 11,234 in February 1919 and back to 2,528 in 1923. The second item involves the combination of where Walker had spent his years in schooling and the implications of the fact that the shipyard had converted the USS Merrimack to the CSS Virginia. See:

9) Historical, see:

(The above site has an apparent typo in the year. The Meteor was a minesweeper until May 1915 - not 1916 - and her two sorties were in the Summer of 1915; the second resulting in her scuttling in August 1915.)

10) True or not, it is an argument that likely would have incensed the Kaiser, as Wilhelm and the Czarina were both grandchildren of Queen Victoria, House of Hanover. In any case, British minesweepers were sent and did assist in sweeping the fields historically laid by Meteor in May - June 1915. Source: Sea Power, A Naval History, E.B. Potter, Ch. W. Nimitz, J. Rohwer, Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewoods Cliffs, NJ, (German edition, Seemacht, published in München, 1982). Grateful hat tip to Uwe!! ;-))

11) It should be noted that there was an historical KM mission involving mine operations that sortied in this same general time period (first week of July 1915). Since many of the historical ships involved (e.g., Augsburg) were not available for that mission in Letterstime and most logical substitutes were sunk or damaged - or filling in for those sunk or damaged - that mission is presumed NOT to have been mounted in Letterstime. Thus, Albatross remains undamaged and available - on July 5, 1915 - for a mission similar to the one she was involved in and took damage a few days earlier historically.

12) Historically, in her May 1915 mission, Meteor had U-19 and U-35 along with her in the role of scouts. Hence, this is an historical example of the same principle utilized in Ein Geleitzug with U-41, U-43, and U-44. Using the same u-boats again in the Barents Sea would be a logical choice, since their personnel would already have acquired familiarity with both the operations and the locale.

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