For What Its Worth - Keyes
He stood upon the bridge of the old cruiser as the Endymion picked up speed and headed out of the bay. The last two days had been hectic and he rubbed the stubble that had accumulated upon his chin ; there would be time enough for shaving on the voyage ...
He shaded his eyes as a glint of sunlight reflected off the cruiser's newly buffed metalwork. Any ship of the Royal Navy that was going to make an appearance at a foreign port had to look its best, and the ship's captain had had his lads working hard at it all morning.
"Captain Keyes, sir"
He turned, snapping his gaze from the headland as the cruiser edged out of the bay towards the open seas. One of the ship's officers, a veteran reservist by the looks of grizzled features,stood respectfully, waiting.
"Yes, lieutenant?", his manner was pleasant, calm - just how the men needed to see him at a time like this.
"Sir, the Captain reports that your cabin is ready, should you wish to inspect it, and apologises for the delay."
"Thank you", he looked beyond the old sailor at the town now disappearing our of sight, "Please tell Captain Maddox that I will be down presently." The veteran saluted and turned away. Roger Keyes did not move. Beyond the sea that lay calm and glittering in the early Summer sun, the port of Mudros was a hive of activity. Transports and cruisers, destroyers and a mass of smaller vessels, were in as close to the land as they could get. And even from here, as the Endymion passed beyond the headland, the occasional sound still came to him, carried on the wind.
Mudros, the forward staging post of a campaign that was to have won the war. The main town of the isle of Lemnos - now a stepping stone in an ignominious retreat. He clenched his fists and, dragging his eyes from the scene, headed down below into the depths of the ship.
---June 8th 1915, the Corinth Canal, Greece
The banks of the canal were crowded - with the curious, the friendly,
the hostile and most especially the entrepreneurial. Small boats would
dash longside the old cruiser and brave sols attempt to negotiate with
the sailors on the deck. Captain Maddox had attempted to place a ban on
all raternisation but several traders had resorted to the age-old trick
of throwing their wares on board, then demanding their purchase or return.
There had been no way to prevent this type of contact.
Keyes considered the options himself. Marseilles was further, entailed a longer journey and would take more time - but it was safe, both militarily and politically, Brindisi was nearer, might even allow the Endymion to return to the Dardanelles in time, and would enable him to connect with the reailway system, hence shortening his journeytime. But Brindisi was in Italy, and Italy was neutral - and her attitude uncertain in this time of crisis for Great Britain. Would the warship's arrival help or hinder the cause? Would it be seen as provocative and hostile or a useful show of strength? The Italians were wavering. Even as they had made their way into the canal, reports were reaching them of unrest in Rome. Salandra's pro-Entente government was in turmoil. Nobody knew in what way exactly - who could tell with the Italians?! But if Salandra fell there was only one natural leader - Gioliti, and he was at best cool towards the Entente, at worse pro-German.
And the Greeks? He looked up at the banks of the canal, at a group of well-dressed individuals shadowing the cruiser upon ponies. German spies? Maybe that was paranoia speaking, but they were certainly unfriendly in disposition. How much of the Greek populace did they represent in this attitude?
A cabin boy came dashing onto the bridge, shattering his thought processes
and alarming the steersman who allowed the ship to veer momentarily to
He paused, ungrammatically, for breath after his exertions and Keyes, anticipating word from London interupted,
"News from the Admiralty?"
"No sir" the boy replied, then looked puzzled, "I don't know sir. They say another British battleship has been torpedoed at the Dardanelles!"
God damn it! Thought Keyes. To the boy he merely nodded. He looked
out once more, this time unseeing. ANOTHER ship lost? How many more brave
sailors dead? And for what? This time for nothing - not a casualty in
the campaign to eliminate the Turks but a loss in defeat... The campaign
had gone badly from the start, and now was ending in disaster. What was
happening to the British Empire?! The collapse of Churchill's brave plan
at the Dardanelles, the stunning defeat at The Skaggerak ... What more
did Fate have in store for Britannia?