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
The Gunnery Officer  

Queen Elizabeth

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 a fight!

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 her!

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 bastard!"

"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 slowin' doon!"

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 phone.

"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

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