Light Cruiser Frauenlob
"Into the Valley of Death Rode the 600"
----8:08 pm, bridge of Frauenlob, course 000, speed 18 knots.
Kapitan Ehrhart looked ahead to the distant - but closing! - silhouettes of the British Grand Fleet. The line of battleships had begun to turn. One by one, the nearer ships belched tongues of flame, sending their steel harbingers of anger his way. So far, all of them had splashed down behind his ship, but that did not mean he felt at all relaxed about Frauenlob's chances. Adrenaline charged his system, making time seem slower and giving him what felt like an extended interval to ponder their situation.
He glanced behind his ship again for a moment. Some minutes ago, wounded Konig had taken a hit on her bridge, wobbled terribly, and then begun to turn out of the line, leaving Ehrhart to wonder if perhaps she'd lost control. Ehrhart had begun to compose a signal to Grosser Kurfurst about Konig, but then hesitated, watching and waiting. After several agonizing minutes, Konig had straightened up more or less on course, although not quite back in line. Her wake wavered.
From his vantage point he could guess very well what had happened to the officers in command of Konig. The smoking hole in the bridge of the ship told the tale far better than any signals. Admiral Behneke was gone; Konig's captain and many other officers as well. He shook his head. At least it had been quick and clean. Some surviving officer was now in command of the burning ship. He hoped.
"That is not the way I'd prefer to take command of a battleship," he murmured to himself. Konig was still taking hits, although the British ships were absorbing their share of punishment as well. The billowing smoke plumes from Konig and Superb made for a wholly unnecessary object lesson in mortality.
"Signals, wireless to Rostock: 'Konig has sustained a hit to the bridge. Survivors unknown.'" He was reluctant to declare everyone dead without being certain. yet he was sure no mortal standing on the bridge at the instant of impact was still alive. But someone seemed to be in command - or control - of Konig.
He drew in a deep breath, watching ahead for a few minutes, scanning for any British destroyers that might decide to engage them. None had offered themselves so far, but the threat was there, hanging over them. He didn't like the fact that there were no enemy light ships visible. None. Where were they? Sooner or later, he was convinced they would show up. Which will we encounter first, direct fire from the battleships, or the British light? He frowned as another scenario presented itself to his mind: both at once.
Hurry, Rostock, he thought urgently. Shall my flotilla make a torpedo run on the British fleet while we can? Or do we need to stay here and provide a screen for our battleships? His flotilla was ready, if it came to that, to do whatever was required of them. Should they perform a torpedo run? He was proud of his ship, aged or not. She, for the moment, was still afloat, while there were many far more modern ships now lying on the bottom of the sea this day. His torpedo boats were of the newer type, but old Frauenlob could only fire her torpedoes from the side, which would make her own participation in a straight-on run problematic. Still, there were ways. His musings were interrupted by the excited voice of his XO.
"Captain, Konig is turning out of the line, finally," Lieutenant Commander Bauer, pointed astern. As he had indicated, Konig was limping steadily into a turn out of the direct line of battle. Quickly, Ehrhart looked behind Konig. He relaxed a degree when he saw that the rest of the battleships were staying on course. The sight made him feel a little better.
I'm so glad we know what we're doing, he thought with a small, tight smile.
----Approx. 8:00-8:11 pm, "sickbay" of Frauenlob, course 000, speed 18 knots.
"Herr Doktor, would you like something to. eat.?" The voice of the young seaman trailed off in that way which indicated to the trained ear the rapid onset of nausea. Dr. Constans did not have the time to spare a glance to confirm his diagnosis, being fully occupied in trying to stop the bleeding re-started by his patient's sudden movement upon awakening. A hard roll dropped to the floor within his range of sight, which gave a further clue to the seaman's distress.
Hands busy, he spoke calmly. "Look at the ceiling. Don't look down; just look up for a little. Take a breath. Now take another. Don't look down."
While speaking, his hands were repacking the spear-wound, holding on steady pressure. "Easy now," he addressed the injured officer. "You were hurt and we've patched you up, but you must lie still for awhile and rest, ja?"
Seaman Gensher approached bearing a syringe and morphine. With a smile of thanks, Constans took the bottle, filled the syringe and gave his patient a healthy dose. Almost like magic, the tension drained out of the man's body and he sighed with relief. "There, that's better. You should be able to sleep now. I want you to rest as much as possible. If you wake in pain, call me or my orderly and we'll give you more medicine."
"Thank you, Herr Doktor. How - how is the ship?" The lieutenant patted a careful hand at the heavy bandage over the hollow of his shoulder that covered the exit wound of the steel "spear" the doctor had removed earlier. He hadn't noticed, but he sported a matching bandage on his back that marked the entrance wound.
"The ship still floats," the doctor shrugged. "Beyond that, I'm not sure. We were hit hard enough to generate over 20 casualties. I saw damage on deck when I came up perhaps five minutes ago. Perhaps Seaman Gensher knows the tally better than I?" He nodded to his orderly.
"Sir, we've lost the bow 4" gun on the port side," Gensher said quietly. "Other minor damage topside, but we're fully watertight, sir. All fires are out."
"Sehr gut," the lieutenant murmured, his eyes closing as drugs and the need to rest took over. "Carry on." The next sound from him was a soft snore.
Constans nodded. "This is normal. He'll sleep now, and God willing, will mend quite nicely now that the crisis is over." He rose to his feet, stretched, and turned to find the young crewman who had tried to bring him food rooted to the deck, eyes still fastened assiduously to the ceiling above. "Ah, good man! You didn't faint!"
"I'm very sorry, Herr Doktor!" he gasped, face pale. I just felt strange all of a sudden."
With a wry chuckle, Constans put his arm around the seaman's shoulders and led him away from the rows of wounded sailors. "Actually, you have done better than I, on my first visit to the surgery. Come along, let's fetch some water for those who will need it when they wake." Together they moved into the small area of the galley to commandeer a pot, tin cup, and some drinking water.
While the injured and their caretakers snatched a moment of rest, Frauenlob and her light companions sailed steadily onward toward the British Grand Fleet.
By Colleen Winters