Jutland Side Stories
Into Glory, Steam!
The Gunnery Officer
The Pasha
Return of the Dutchman

After Jutland
Side Stories
Hammerle and U-14
The Woes of June
A Moment's Respite
Ripples Across an Ocean
Symphony In Black
This is No Place for a Boy
Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
The Wolves
Into Glory, Steam!  

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 brought results. 

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, gazing back. 

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 deaths.

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 softly..

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 Prinzregent Luitpold

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.

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