Hero of the Falklands Takes Command
... read Baron Letters, though he thought little heroism had been involved in
slaughtering two ACs with two BCs.
The baron had called a "Council of Captains" on the brisk mid-March afternoon.
While he waited for the BC CO's to arrive, he read the news, seated at the large hewn
table, with its gleaming, freshly-oiled surface showing the natural grain like waves
in the Bight. Admiral Moore, who'd survived Dogger Bank, was stated to have been posted
to the Canary Islands. The baron noted with some relief that Commodore Goodenough,
whose light ships had harried the baron's battered ships all-too-effectively for the
baron's comfort, had been relegated to the group called the Harwich Force.
"Ah, gentlemen, please sit down," said the baron as the aides showed in the
"It looks," started the baron, "like Sturdee has been promoted to vice-admiral and
given the RN BC force."
There were mutters and nods from the others as they were brought coffee from the
sidebar by the stewards, who then withdrew. Every officer and sailor of the HSF would
give almost anything to be looking down a naval cannon at the one who'd butchered von
Spee and his men.
"Well," continued the baron, "I can understand that. Anyone remotely resembling a
successful leader gains in the aftermath of someone else's defeat. With Dogger Bank
the worst RN disaster in over a century, who else could they find who'd won anything
There were smiles at that, but all had rings under their eyes from long nights with
their commands trying to get battle ready. All, that is, except Captain Dirk of the
von der Tann, who was still smarting from having been in the yard during Dogger
"Sir," Dirk asked, "what forces will Sturdee have?"
"I think the British Admiralty will recall all the other BCs from their remote posts,
if they haven't already. We must assume that the QM will be flagship leading two
Indefatigables and two Invincibles."
"What," asked Captain Nik, with the braid still bright from his promotion, "of all
those reports of new construction ships?"
Those ships were getting a lot of press, with conflicting accounts as to their speed,
but all seemed to agree that they had guns of a size not seen in a dreadnought: 15".
Captain Nik's Seydlitz had suffered from 13.5" hits and the image of dueling ships with
even larger guns was not a pleasant one.
"I think such ships would have be slower than a BC," answered the baron. "It is not
the job of the scouting forces, even those with BCs, to fight the GF main body. If we
see a division of them, we lead them back to our own LOB. Let the Konigs handle them.
Those heavier guns surely were traded for thinner armor, especially if they're any
faster than a normal dreadnought."
"Speaking of speed, however," said the baron, "one clear lesson from our battle, is
that ships that cannot keep up with the BCs must be given other assignments."
At that point, Captain von Hoban's face grew grim. It had been his Blucher that had
slowed the force that had then been Hipper's and, in doing so, had allowed Beatty to
bring them to battle.
"Blucher," continued the baron, nodding to the disappointed von Hoban, "will be
joining the forces of the Main Body under Vice-Admiral Scheer. That, however, is NOT
the only lesson to be drawn from the battle. The RN light forces were no match for
Blucher's guns backing up our own out-numbered light ships.
"Indeed, the roles of the scouting forces are several, and sheltering damaged
dreadnoughts is no small one."
The role reversal that had Blucher helping to stand off the RN torpedo attacks was
quite fresh in everyone's mind. It was possible that those on Blucher STILL had not
had to buy their own beer even now, seven weeks later.
"Yet, there is another task for which Blucher seems the ideal design. The BCs must
range well ahead of the main body, but there is a need for a closer set of eyes, and
ones that would keep RN ACs and CLs far enough away to deny them intelligence on the
course and disposition of the main body."
"In fact," added the baron ringing a small bronze handbell, "Vice-Admiral Scheer was
enthusiastic over the concept of stronger light forces that remained at his immediate
fore, but which could retire upon him in the face of superior force."
A commander on the baron's staff came in at the summons, carrying a small box with
"Commodore von Hoban," began the baron, "stand up, bitte. I am disappointed to find
you out of uniform! Here, captains, help the Acting-Commodore fix his uniform!"
Captains Theodor and Nik, great grins on their faces, got up and took out the
contents of the box, which included new epaulettes. Caaptain MU Stang just shook his
head with a smile.
"Bob," he said, "you have the Devil's own luck, getting shot to pieces and getting
promoted for it!"
"You did not think I'd send you off to Scheer w/o something, did you?" The baron
chuckled at von Hoban's expression.
"I'll be keeping my flag on Derfflinger," said the baron as they all sat back
down. "I'm hoping Lutzow will join us early but, if she does, she'll take the second
spot. We may be getting another two CLs and a third flotilla, but I'm not counting on
that either. I expect to get us all out to sea in a month, and we'll train hard in the
Bight until the admiral takes out the HSF.
"I hope that comes quickly. We need to end this war and a fleet victory might be
the crucial blow to the Allied cause.
In fact, I'm meeting with the Vice-Admiral this evening and hope to convince him that
it is a battle that, with planning and decent luck, we can win!"
Captain Theodor had the last word, "Beware, Sturdee, of the Ides of March!"