Gunnery Officer Commander W. Boy stood at his station, peering out into
the mists. From Fire Control he was supposed to be able to see the enemy
fleets at great distances and fire his guns accordingly. At least that
was the theory. It didn't work in practice with the heavy North Sea mists
obscuring visibility to at best 10,000 feet, and that was if the target
was lit up! I should be able to direct my guns at well over twice that
distance! Hell with these new 15 Inchers I could have sunk four or five
German Battleships before they could have even fired back!
Glancing back, he looked at the men he shared the Fire Control with.
English to a man. Not that he had anything against the English, it was
just that they could become wearing after a while. He got along with them
mainly, particularly the Captain. I sometimes think he's got more than
a drop of Scottish blood in him, the way he allows me to bend the rules
to accommodate Scottish culture. Like letting me keep a claymore in Fire
Control! Most Sassenachs have a fit if they see a Scot with a claymore!
Must be a hereditary memory or something, he chuckled to himself.
But Captain Dave not only allowed him to put the claymore here, but
also told him that he could also wear a kilt, and paint himself with the
traditional blue woad. The promise of a case of good whiskey probably helped
just a wee bit! If any of this ever gets in my record my career is screwed!
Still it's worth it. If only to see the looks on those Sassenach's faces
when I stepped onto the deck. They nearly died.
"Damned Sassenach's." He mumbled to himself chuckling.
The members of the watch all glanced at each other nervously. Having
only caught the words and not the tone they were worried. Commander Boy
started any dressing down with the now famous words, "Damned Sassenach!"
His broad accent was the terror of Junior Officer's and Ratings alike.
You could never understand half of what he said to you when you did something
wrong, but the half you could translate made you eternally grateful that
you could only understand half!
During the ship's first cruise, out to bombard the Turks at the Dardanelles,
Commander Boy had drilled his department without pause. He'd keep them
up for hours on end--running drills and simulations. Officers and men were
driven to almost exhaustion, constantly being pushed that little bit harder.
Boy himself was always there; ready to launch a blistering attack on anyone
not pulling their weight. One practical joker, a Seaman Jones Cranston,
made something of a name for himself with his infamous impersonation of
the Commander's brogue, complete with explaining why a Commander was filling
a Lieutenant Commander's berth. According to Jones it was due to his liaisons
with an Admiral's daughter. And how her father didn't approve!
Well when they stopped over at Murdos, Commander Boy happened to finally
catch Seaman Jones in the middle of a performance in A turret. Boy simply
grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and dragged him out of the turret.
He then proceeded to the bow of the ship and began to discipline Jones.
Most of what was said was inaudible due to the wind, but the snippets that
were heard were enough to chill the bones of all the Seamen listening.
Jones returned pale faced and shaking. Since then he had refused all attempts
to bring the subject of his impersonations up.
Commander Boy was not exactly popular amongst the crew. In fact he was
almost disliked, both by officers and men. Only the Captain and the Engineering
Officer seemed to actually like the Commander. But he was respected. His
Gunnery skills were first class, and although a harsh disciplinarian, he
did allow his men the same scope that his Captain allowed him. They were
not punished for honest mistakes that they could not avoided.
The sound of fire drew the Commander's gaze. It's getting closer,
defiantly closer. Soon, soon I'll let them know what this Lassie can do.
He picked up the phone to the bridge.
"Captain, dae ye ken when ah'll be see'in some targets doon here?" He
asked when he was put through to the Captain.
"Soon Commander, soon. It's around 7o'clock right now; I'd expect to
engage the Germans within the hour. The Fleet has been heavily engaged
for some time, but reports are sketchy. I'll let you know if I hear anything." Captain Dave settled his Gunnery Officer down. That's the problem with
Celts, they're great warriors but they don't like waiting for the action
to start, he chuckled. Still they do make up for their nerves in
Back on the Main Top, Commander Boy once again returned to staring into
the mist, trying to pierce its veil with willpower alone. As always before
action the Commander's thoughts drifted to his career. He knew about the
rumors spreading throughout the ship about his liaisons with the lassies.
Jealousy, pure jealousy! At 28 he was one of the youngest Commanders in
the Fleet, and had commanded a Cruiser briefly before the war, but Captain
Dave had specifically asked him to return to the Battleships as a Gunnery
Officer. Some - including the Admiral's daughter - had seen it as a step
down, but Boy loved the grace of the Queen Elizabeth, her combination
of power and elegance. He'd have dropped to Midshipman to get a berth on
But jealous rivals were trying to destroy his career. When he'd been
a Lieutenant he'd not known how to play the "Navy Game" of patronage and
politics, and his Scot's origins had almost ruined him. Almost every Scot
officer seemed to end up in Engineering! The Powers That Be had tried to
transfer him repeatedly to Engineering, but he'd resisted every move. Engineering
was all well and good, but Engineer's didn't Captain Battleships, and that
was what he wanted! To Hell with Flag Rank, but he wanted to command a
Battleship, the pinnacle of Naval Command.
So he'd learnt to "Play the Game". Indeed he'd swiftly mastered it.
Using his old school's connections with more than one politician and Admiral,
and his friendship with one Admiral's daughter in particular, he'd moved
to safeguard his career in Gunnery and Command. He didn't want special
treatment, but he made damn sure that he wasn't persecuted for being Scottish.
He'd swiftly put a stop to attempts to transfer him. He swiftly learnt
that his expensive Public School accent was hindering him with the crews,
they saw him as a "turncoat, a wannabe Englishman" so he'd developed his
Grandfather's Scottish brogue, although he still spoke perfect King's English
in front of the Flag Officers, and his Mother. Heaven help him if she caught
him using Scot's slang! That was not what she'd sent him to George Heriot's
School to learn!
Suddenly a shape appeared out of the mist. He trained binocular on it.
Wing Turrets all of the same caliber, either Nassau or Helgoland class,
a single funnel and a higher fore bridge than a Helgoland. A Nassau class
then. Damn. Just a first generation dreadnought. Still it's a start.
He quickly began analyzing the Nassau class in his head. 12 11 Inch
guns, 12 6 Inch guns and a top speed of over 20 knots. But her armor's
only 290mm! My 380mm Gun's will go right through her!
A lieutenant called over "Sir, the Captain orders you to commence firing
at the Nassau class Dreadnought!"
"Inform the Captain, that ah'm already workin' on it! All Turrets! Rangefinder
give mae bearin's and distance on the wee bogit. A Turret! What dae ye's
think yer on here?! A bloomin' pick-nick! Get yer arses in gear! And as
fer ye lot oh useless cretin's in Y Turret?! Ye call yerself gunners?!
More like a bunch oh' schoolgirls back haeme."
In Y turret there was a whisper "Look who's talking! The skirt wearing
"Ah" heard that! Dinnae think ah've forgotten ye' Jones!" Boy hissed.
" Fire on ma' mark. Fire! Take that ye' Hun bastard!" Commander Boy
watched the fall of shot. "Tae far, shorten' the distance by 200 feet!
Fire!" Commander Boy was only vaguely aware of the fall of shells around
his own ship.
"Lieutenant! Inform the Turret's that they're tae take strict precautions
against flash fires! Ah' dinnae want tae gae fer a swim right noo!" Commander
Boy had a sneaking suspicion that it was flash fires that had caused the
destruction of the Battle Cruisers.
The Queen Elizabeth belched fire again, slowly gaining the range.
Commander Boy himself took the rangefinder for the fourth salvo, making
several small adjustments before ordering the guns to fire. From the guns
lances of flame shot out, projecting the 15 Inch shell's on their way.
"A hit! A hit!" The lookout screamed.
"Inform the Bridge, in case they didnae see it. Take that ye bastards!" Commander Boy strode back to the slit. Yes I've hurt them this time.
Hurt them bad.
Another salvo went out. But the German Dreadnought must have been slowing
and the shots were too far forward. Damn. "Correct! Compensate fer her
This time however the German ship suddenly veered away, still slowing
but throwing the aim off. And then she was gone in the mist.
"New targets! Give mae a new target!" The whole watch swept the seas
for a viable German target. But other British ships obstructed their line
of sight. After a few long shots, Captain Dave ordered a cease-fire. Slowly
silence descended on their part of the battle.
"Sae Captain, how bad dae ye think we hurt her?" Boy asked over the
"Badly Commander, badly. She was slowing quickly when we lost sight
of her, I'd say we have certainly crippled her, maybe she won't even make
Kiel!" Both men knew this to be a long shot, but after the reports of numerous
British sinkings any hope was worth holding onto. God if the reports were
true half the fleet was gone! Not just damaged but GONE!
Head's are going to roll for this, he thought silently. There's
going to be a lot of officer's left on the beach, blamed for this disaster.
But Queen Elizabeth should be all right. We've performed well.
Soon the British Line of Battle veered away from the Germans.
"Captin! We're nae running are wae?!" Commander Boy's voice was filled
with dismay at the prospect that his battle might have been so short.
"Maybe Commander, maybe, or we could just be getting some room. Don't
worry you'll get another crack at the Germans soon, of not today maybe
some other day." Only a Celt would still want to fight after the drumming
we just took! God but they're a weird and wonderful people, Captain
Dave thought. Could do with a few more like them!
by Billy Boy