Part Two "May we be truly grateful!"
"Sir! I think we've hit the target!" It did not seem that Kapitan zur See
von Heinz had to wait long, then. Though the Orion class BB they had been
firing on was badly damaged, most of the hits had been inflicted by the Friedrich der Grosse, directly aft of them... It was about time
they'd gotten a hit. However, as he looked towards their Orion class target
after the shout from a petty officer out on one of the bridge wings, he
did not see any evidence of their hit; Indeed, he did not see the target
Battleship at all.
Vanished into the mists and the damnable fog and darkness of the pressing
night of the North Sea, having hauled out of the line of battle, likely. "Note possible observed hit on target in the log!" he declared loudly,
and then strode out onto that bridge wing, himself.. It was the one on
the side of the Prinzregent Luitpold towards the fighting, of course.
It only took him a moment to study the scene he could see more clearly..
Five enemy battleships in sight... There! One untargeted.. No chance of
another ship's shell splashes being mistaken for their own.. He dashed
back into the bridge, and gave the order over the thundering, echoing den
of the distant and yet so close battle; The massive sounds of the guns
firing all along the lines, the impacts.. Distant thunder, indeed... "Switch
targets... That ship!" He pointed it out, and after a moment's gaze through
binoculars, the order was acknowledged.
He waited as the turrets swung and aimed, and then bellowed fire with
a thundering roar of their own, sending the first half-salvo towards the
ship.. Bellerophon class, maybe Saint Vincent class, he guessed. God, the
rush of battle was never more intense then now. It had caught him like
a wave with the sudden destruction of the Conquerer by the Prinzregent
Luitpold. His ship, his command, and now he rode that adrenaline wave
for the rush it was. Everything seemed slowed down.. Surreal. Time seemed
to pass slowly as the second half-salvo bellowed out.
And then the target fired back... Near instantly with the firing of
their second half-salvo. The first had been a straddle, excellent shooting
for their first half-salvo, but the second had not yet fallen when he saw
the distinctive flare of the guns of his targeting fire.. Were they firing
at Prinzregent Luitpold, though... Yes, they must be firing at him...
And then he saw the shell strike the enemy target.. The sounds throughout
the battlefield drown out much of those one listened for, but he thought
he could hear the impact, as that same Petty Officer as before cried out "Hit!"
And now his ship shuddered. He could feel it.. He could feel it in his
bones, and then heard it, the heavy sound of the explosion.. "Verdamnt!"
His adrenaline got the better of him, and he swore.. They had been hit.
Lower hull, aft... Might well be a flooding hit. "Hit!" cried another lookout,
keeping to his duty despite the hit on the Prinzregent Luitpold,
noting the hit. "Damage report.. Immediately!" He didn't even register
the acknowledgment this time; For he was engrossed with his target; But,
even with the binoculars to his eyes, could not sight damage from the hits..
Wait. He had to wait, while his ship was damaged. It was a hard thing
to do. He might be a captain, and a veteran of the sea, but ultimately,
it was his first time in combat. He was as impatient as all hell.
The report came through. "Kapitan! Damage control parties report moderate
flooding aft.. No danger to the ship." He turned back to the man delivering
it, a crewer on the voice tubes; It had been relayed from engineering,
no surprise, as engineering was closer to the hit.. Faster than runners
straight to the bridge. "Very well.. But find out WHAT is flooding, if
you would, not just that it isn't serious." He bit his tongue slightly
at that; The adrenaline was making him to harsh. "At once, sir!" was the
response, though, and he forced himself to calm.
His XO spoke up then. "Sir.. I think they've got a fire!" Matthias brought
his binoculars up again, gazing towards the.. Well, Dreadnought-type Battleship,
for lack of a sure class. Indeed, he could see the flames below the bridge..
Excellent. They also confirmed the placing of the foremast.. It was not Dreadnought. Definitely Saint Vincent or Bellerophon class. "Excellent.
Keep hurting them.. This isn't a target shoot now, gentlemen.. We're in
a slugging match!" He didn't add the 'for our lives' which nearly came
unbidden to his tongue. Damn.. No time to have regrets. He forced that
down, and concentrated on the target, as the roar of the Prinzregent
Luitpold's guns firing another half-salvo bellowed again into his ears.
For the next minute, maybe two, the two ships exchanged their half-salvoes,
each from four 12in guns at a time, achieving many straddles, and indeed
the enemy's shells once soaking the lookouts on the bridge wing with the
closeness of some splashes, but no more hits. Then, to his horror, his
ship shuddered again, though far less than before, indeed, he wondered
if it was his imagination, and then he heard the shout from a lookout on
the opposite bridge wing.. "We've been hit, sir.. Topside aft.. No serious
damage that I can see, sir!" As the report was shouted into the bridge,
the guns bellowed again and he nearly lost the man's words. "Any fire!?"
The report back was prompt and reassuring. "No sir!"
All around them, the din of battle raged on. The awesome bellow of the
guns of the Prinzregent Luitpold as they fired, the dimmer sounds
of thunder as the other ships blasted away, flinging their twelve inch
and now eleven shells, as the older ships committed, towards the enemy
with deadly intent.. And, all things considered in the situation, decent
accuracy. Again, their enemy straddled them, but no hits were made, Matthias
noted grimly, and with some elation, but that quickly fell as he saw their
latest half-salvo likewise had only straddled the target.. Why weren't
they hitting anymore!? Oh well. He couldn't aim the guns and command the
ship, and so he just waited.. His gunnery officer knew the job, it was
merely a matter of visibility. He cursed the weather conditions over the
North Sea again.
Were he not Catholic, he would have also found some offering to give
to Poseidon, he decided. On second thought, perhaps he would, anyway. There
was no room for atheism in war, but in battle, one prayed to whatever God
Suddenly, from behind, Matthias could hear the loudest, rolling explosion
he had heard all that day, and tensed.. It was close, far to close, as
evidenced by the fact they were suddenly alight with yellow and orange
from aft... Had the Royal Navy done to one other Kaiser class battleship
what he had done to Conqueror? He looked to his XO. "Check it out,
now." And gestured towards the starboard bridge wing. "At once, sir!" Was
the crisp answer as the man jogged out to the port bridge wing's edge,
The Executive Officer of the Prinzregent Luitpold, Stefan Kragen,
was a young man for his post, solid but less imaginative and boisterous
than his captain. What he saw, though, shook that calm facade. Though the
Friedrich der Grosse still existed, where once had been the starboard
wing turret was instead a ruin, flames roaring up from it high into the
sky in a tower, though they quickly died down.
All firing from the Friedrich der Grosse had ceased for the moment,
though as the flames fell, surviving gun crews went back to the fight.
However sick Admiral Scheer was, that hit made Stefan all the more concerned
for their injured leader; Though he respected Admiral Letters and the need
to engage the Grand Fleet, he realized too that Germany's battle fleet
was a precious resource.. And one nowhere near as renewable as Britain's.
Satisfied that the Friedrich der Grosse was undamaged beyond the
turret hit and in no further danger, he returned to the main bridge at
a more dignified pace.
"Sir.. Friedrich der Grosse took a direct hit to her starboard
wing turret.. Utterly destroyed. But no other damage I can see, and she's
still in the fight." Matthias nodded crisply to him. "Sehr sehr gut.. I
was rather worried there." And then, rather uncharacteristically, Matthias
laughed lightly, to dispel the brief tension on the bridge of the Prinzregent
Luitpold. However, it was largely drowned out by the firing of another
half-salvo from the Prinzregent Luitpold's guns, Stefan noted.
Belowdecks and by the superstructure hit, things were rather worse;
Eleven men had been killed by the first hit and subsequent flooding, that
damage control parties were now easily rushing to contain. Thirty-eight
others had been injured in various ways; Nine seriously, the others only
shocked or deafened or the recipients of concussions and flying splinters.
Of the second hit, eight persons had been affected; Two killed, six wounded
by flying shell splinters, one losing a leg to one, the others not as seriously
hurt. However, it was a grim scene. One man, trying to push aside the body
that covered him, the dead body of a close friend, choking down bile as
he did, tears staining his face, and oddly numb, also brushed aside a leg
he thought his friend's.. Until he looked down, and saw that it had been
his own. Mercifully, then, the pain hit him, and he collapsed unconscious.
Less than a minute later, a young, inexperienced corpsman reached him,
hastily bandaging the stump, and, swallowing his own bile, starting to
drag the man belowdecks, for he was very tall, perhaps six three, and the
corpsman short and unable to shoulder the heavy burden, until another crewer
came along, and, together, they carried him to the wardroom. Which had
now become their little, floating hospital of the brutal horrors of war.
All right, casualties had begun to come in. But they were only the first.
It had just turned to 7:11 PM, and as the darkness continued to descend,
Kapitan zur See Matthias von Heinz stood on the bridge of the Prinzregent
Luitpold, silent, soaking in the sounds around him. There was no detectable
list from the flooding hit; Damage control parties had it well under control,
then.. Which was good. Prinzregent Luitpold could not afford much
flooding without losing speed, thanks to the damned uninstalled diesels
on the center shaft.
Matthias was sure, after that hit on the Conqueror, that Kaiser Wilhelm
II himself would visit him with some sort of reward for sinking the British
Battleship.. It would be typical. Matthias would be quite certain now that
the only thing he'd ask for would be engines on the center shaft.. As quickly
as possible. He didn't care if they were diesels or turbines or reciprocating
engines ripped out of some fourty year old harbour guardship, as long as
his center shaft was powered after this battle... It was a weakness in
his ship he could not stand to tolerate.
Just then, the casualty report came in. He took it with only a nod for
acknowledgment, skimming it silently. Verdamnt. Thirteen dead.. Numerous
others wounded, some badly. His heart ached for his crew, then, as the
reality of war began to sink in. It made him think of Conqueror,
and he'd rather not. But thirteen was an unlucky number, especially in
Then, Stefan cried out, breaking the silence.. "Hit!" It was chorused
near instantly by one of the lookouts.. "Hit!" Matthias looked up and out
with his binoculars instantly, dropping the written casualty report from
the surgeon's assistant. It was a bright spark along the waterline, fading
fast, though.. No other affect. But, by now the two ships were no more
than 10,000 yards away, maybe a little less... It had to do some damage,
cause some flooding, that 12" shell.. He only hoped it was more than the
minor flooding on the Prinzregent Luitpold.
The idea of pounding a battleship into the water, and hence giving some
of it's crew a chance to escape, appealed to him more than blowing one
up.. But on the flip side of that brutal coin was the fact he was sure
to insure casualties among his crew that way. Us or them.. What it finally
boiled down to in combat. In the end, he decided he wouldn't mind a magazine
explosion on the Bellerophon class Battleship before him... Them. The guns
roared again, as more shells were sent towards the enemy. A straddle, but
no hits that he, nor the lookouts, could see.
That young corpsman, though, the same that had dragged the legless man
to the wardroom, was back on deck, looking for any possible casualties
that had been missed, when he thought he saw, outlined by flames, some
sort of hit with no affect on their enemy. Oh well. He was sure the bridge
crew had caught it.. He had other duties to tend to.
The time was now 7:14 PM. The gunnery officer on H.M.S. Superb
again found the range.
As the shots from his own guns seemed to miss further than they had
been from the Bellerophon class Battleship Matthias' Prinzregent Luitpold still fired out, damn them, not even a straddle, he heard the distinctive
whistle of the shell coming in, and then it slammed home and the ship shuddered.
Matthias clenched his fists, and called out to the lookouts on the port
bridge wing. "Where was that hit!?" The response was quick.. And not what
he wanted. "Seemed like the hull, sir, near the waterline!" He held in
another curse, and again made that pointless and irrational wish for a
powered center shaft. Hopefully, the flooding would not be too bad.
Stefan Kragen saw the shell splashes rise around the target.... Not
the Prinzregent Luitpold's.. And the direction seemed impossible.
Matthias had not yet noticed them. As the guns of the Prinzregent Luitpold
bellowed, and, it seemed, from far down the line, even more sounds of heavy
guns joined the battle.. Another group of shells, likewise not Prinzregent
Luitpold's, straddled the Superb.. But the direction... "Captain...
Someone else is firing on our target.. But from that direction.. Who?"
Matthias turned towards him, a triumphant grin on his face where a moment
before had been the grimness of a commander facing damage to his ship.
"The First Scouting Group, Stefan... We have Superb in a crossfire
between ourselves and the Baron!"
It was a glorious thing, to have the Baron Letters himself on the other
side of your enemy, your commander, pouring fire into your target with
you. It made him feel more powerful; His ship helping the Baron's, and
receiving help. And his respect for the Baron grew, as well. The British
were caught in a crossfire. Who knew what that might bring! This was not
just a possible victory; This might be Der Tag. The decisive battle he
and the other men who had listened to the Baron speak of strategy and tactics
had hoped and dreamed and prayed for!
And then it happened again. In the darkness of the night, for now it
seemed like it was truely the night, though not quite yet dark enough for
searchlights, everything was lit up. Matthias and Stefan both looked towards
the source of that explosion, just as the thunderous roar of a magazine
detonation reached them.. And saw, ontop of a column, an expanding sphere,
maybe both, of fire and smoke, a spinning turret, blown off, high into
the air, and, spinning out to a side from it, part of a foremast and funnel.
Shielding his eyes, Matthias realized the ship had almost certainly been
another of the 13.5in armed battleships. From the debris that had been
briefly seen violently lifted into the air, probably another Orion class
ship. Simply incredible.
In the sudden explosion of the Orion, nobody had heard the report
of the First Scouting Group scoring a hit on Superb. However, as
they recovered from the shock, much, much faster than the first three times..
It was becoming almost normal for RN Battleships to blow up, Matthias thought,
though faintly numb from THAT concept, that von Hase sighted on the flames
produced by Von der Tann's hit on Superb, and Derfflinger
also commenced fire on that target.
"Hit.. From First Scouting Group!" announced the lookout. Matthias and
Stefan both brought up binoculars, though they couldn't see the damage..
The brief impact might have been visible from this direction, but the shell
that had inflicted the massive flooding on Superb did not leave
clear signs to on observer in the Hochseeflotte's Line of Battle. They
could, however, both see that Superb was in dire straits. "Yes..
Keep it up. Together we're bashing them under the waves..." Matthias muttered
But, on the battered Superb, despite being fully aware that his
ship was badly damaged, perhaps even sinking, the Gunnery Officer knew
his duty, and was now certain he had the range. He fired.. The guns of
valiant Superb bellowed again, hurling their deadly shells towards
At 7:16 PM, three of the 12" shells slammed home on the Prinzregent
Luitpold with deadly accuracy. They seemed to hit all at once.. The
hull shuddered as one slammed home, rather above the waterline but low
enough to let water in.. Still minor flooding. The other hits were far
more horrendous, though.
Matthias von Heinz grabbed Stefan's arm tightly as he was nearly thrown
to the deck, clutching onto the nearest piece of metal his gloved left
hand could find to keep them both from being thrown to the deck as those
three shells hit. The second had slammed into the superstructure, killing
twelve men and wounding many, countless others. However, there was no serious
damage from it, and not even a fire to make the valiant, glorious, battered
Superb's last stand any more damaging. The third hit, though, did
the most of the damage. The shell struck the superimposed after turret
of the Prinzregent Luitpold and penetrated the turret. Though there
was no major detonation of even the shells ready there, the damage was
horrendous enough. It seemed like every man in the turret had been killed
then. About fifty had been.
As the Prinzregent Luitpold staggered under the blows, Matthias
helped Stefan back up to his feet.. Kapitan zur See von Heinz's eyes abruptly
very, very serious. "Stefan.. Go. Get me a damage report personally, swiftly....
I must know what was hit." And then a shot came to him from the starboard
bridge wing. "We've lost the aft superfiring turret, sir!" Matthias' expression
became harsh. "Hurry to it, Stefan.. Supervise the damage control personally..
Get that turret back into action if you can.. Even if it's an open barbette
mount now.. I want all the guns firing at that damned ship!" He knew that
perhaps nearly a hundred of his men had been killed by those hits, as the
small fire flickered in the wreck of the turret that he could not see.
He felt the sickening knowledge that soon he would have to see the work
of the enemy up close, in the ripped and torn crewers of the Prinzregent
Luitpold.. But for now, all his mind wanted... Was vengeance.
"At once, sir.. I'll do my very best, Captain.. I swear!" So declared
Stefan, and he meant it.. The battle had ceased to become an academic matter
of trajectories and damage control, even on the bridge of the Prinzregent
Luitpold. Calm stoicism had been lost, replaced by all the emotions
of battle, when it finally hits home, fear, anger.. But in his Captain,
he saw more of the later. For the better, he decided. A leader, however
much he fears, can never show it. Without waiting further, he dashed off,
heading aft, to the dead turret.
Back, among the ruins of the turret, that same young corpsman hunted,
his own hands bloody from grabbing on to twisted, ruined metal, his hair
and uniform crisped by fire. He had been thrown to the deck by the hit
on the aft superfiring turret, and when he had gotten up, had realized
he was deaf. But then he had seen the turret, battered and wrecked, and
known his duty.. To save lives, no matter the cost. Bravely, he had climbed
into the ruins of the burning turret, heedless of his own safety, and searched
through the horribly mangled bodies.. He saw one, particularly bad.. No,
horribly bad.. A face. Nothing else, not even a full head, just a face,
laying there. He vomited.. For the second time, in that turret, but forced
himself onward, deeper into the turret.. And miraculously, he found a survivor.
Out of the fifty casualties from the turret hit, fourty nine were dead....
And this man looked like he might well not survive. But there was a chance..
And it was the Corpsman's duty. The flames in this area were spreading..
He didn't have time to try and secure the patient.. Just to move him. This
time, through all the effort he could muster, he slung the man up in roughly
what would later be called a fireman's carry, and started to bring him
out of the battered turret.
Kapitan von Heinz's fury.. And his adrenaline, had fled quickly at the
realization his ship had been hit, and rather badly. But still.. Vengeance
was gripping his heart. He briefly considered opening fire on Superb
with the other wing turret, firing cross-deck, but then realized the angle
would not allow for it. Well, with only six guns, there was no point in
half salvoes. Still, it was procedure, and Von der Tann had been
doing successfully with three gun half salvoes. He would hold back from
ordering full salvoes.. Or risky cross-deck firing, for that matter. At
this angle, he doubted the turret could bear, anyway.
In what seemed like an eternity later, Prinzregent Luitpold fired
at the well-illuminated, battered Superb with three guns, and soon
after, another three, half salvoes once again, a thundering roar pounding
into Matthias' head... A very sweet one, to him, now, again, and again.
They'd hurt his ship, hurt it badly, and he'd see that Bellerophon class
ship, now, as he could tell from the funnel markings, faintly visible thanks
to the fires, when viewed through his binoculars, the Superb, on
the bottom of the North Sea.
At the aft super-firing turret, the young Corpsman thought he could
not shoulder the living man any further. He was exhausted, and wounded
from his efforts. Then strong arms grabbed the man from him, and hauled
him out of the turret and to safety.. Followed a moment later by the young
corpsman himself. He looked up, to see the ship's XO standing above him,
smiling grimly. "Good work, son," were the words spoken, as the damage
control party went to work, and another corpsman began to tend to his fellow
and the only survivor of the turret both.
All about them, the battle raged, the epic of this century, the greatest
naval clash between iron ships in all history, and through it all... Prinzregent
Luitpold fought on.
Back to Part 1 --
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