5:08 pm, bridge of Regensburg, course 340, speed 2
They emerged from the smoke and the lookout reports were immediate. Wolverine sorted them out, still half-dazed from the concussion. The air smells crisp, was his first thought.
Closest was Pilau, 9,000 yards away on bearing 235. Almost as close was Elbing, on bearing 070. Derfflinger, Wolervine was enormously relieved to see, was 11,000 yards away on 090. As he watched, he realized the big BC was changing course towards him with the others following close behind.
"Navigator, what course do you make them on?"
"Sir, it looks like they've come to 315."
"Very well. Helm, come to 315."
"Where are they, uh, we going?" Wolverine wondered aloud.
While he pondered that, lookouts reported that Wiesbaden was something like 16,000 yards away on 030. She also was on 315, or maybe something like 300.
"Sir, Pilau reports 4 CLs approaching on 270, range 16,000."
Pilau was converging on Regensburg. Wolverine figured that the CLs would break off once they saw the BCs coming up behind the German light ships. He was still wondering what was going on when the next sighting came in.
"Sir, light ships and two larger ones, bearing 320. Range to light ships is 20,000 yards. They are between us and the others."
Ah, thought Wolverine, now all was clear.
"Helm, come to 320."
"Aye, aye, sir."
5:12 pm, bridge of Inflexible, course 315, speed 14 knots
"Sir," reported the XO, "it's hopeless. The port side engines are pretty much a loss. The feed lines ripped free of the tanks and one turbine casing is badly cracked. Even if it would take steam pressure, it looks like the alignment is bad. Engineer says the other turbine's rotor is pretty much a total loss, with blading and shrouding broken off inside."
"Can we do better than 14 knots?" Captain Heaton-Ellis asked. He knew the answer, but hoped he'd missed something.
"Engineer says this is it. He says we're lucky the port shaft is trailing free instead of locked. The list is slowing us, together with the rudder to keep course."
"Very well." He looked at the flags on QM, "make best speed" was still on the halyards. He knew the QM was no better off. She had a little less list than Inflexible but smoke still threaded out of one casemate. Her real problem, however, was the same one that had plagued Lion at Dogger Bank. Namely, she was down in the bow a bit and her forward bulkheads were strained dangerously at anything above 12 or 15 knots. The Inflexible CO did not know if Sturdee would have left them or not, but the Germans apparently had not given him the option.
"Sir, signals to flagship from Commodore Nott. Preparing to engage enemy light ships."
"Sir, Champion reports light ships bearing 140, range 19,000 yards."
Champion was just 3,000 yards in Inflexible's wake. He hoped Nott would be able to drive the Germans off the track.
Where were the German BCs? How far away was J[ellic]oe? He went to look at
the plot, again.
5:14 pm, bridge of Blucher, course 330, speed 24
"Signals," said Acting-Commodore von Hoban, "what was that last report again?"
The officer read the signal from Baron Letters.
As he well knew, the baron had given no particulars. A course or a bearing or something would have been very helpful.
"Sir, the contact appears to have altered course again. This time to a more easterly heading."
Von Hoban was beginning to regret his decision to pursue the contact. He was well beyond visibility of the HSF main body, of course. He had a good fix on them, however, and the light ships he'd left with Scheer should suffice, given the baron's rough treatment of the RN BC force.
"Sir, new contact, bearing 020, range 24,000 yards."
The contact they'd been chasing, to no effect, was on bearing 330, perhaps 25,000 yards.
"Sir, there seems to be a large area of haze or smoke bearing between 040 and 060."
Well, he'd reported his pursuit to Vice-Admiral Scheer and had not been recalled.
He raised his binoculars again and tried to make sense of the smudges on the
5:15 pm, bridge of Inflexible, course 315, speed 14 knots
"Sir, Champion has reported enemy light ships, bearing 110, range 18,000 yards, and has requested orders."
Heaton-Ellis swallowed. One squadron might be scouts away from the BCs. This second group was an ominous development. That sounded an awful, awful lot like a screen in the van of the BC force.
"Sir, Commodore Nott has reported to the flagship that his targets are approaching a second group of light ships."
"Very well." Another group?!
Maybe this was the same group that Champion had just reported? He hoped so. He looked at the plot again. No, he thought, the northern-most group would still be well beyond Nott's visibility.
He swallowed again.