---- SM U-20 Northsea 15:52 31/5 1915
Well, it had been yet another wasted patrol for SM U-20, Kapitän-Leutnant
Walter Schwieger thought grimly. Before he wrote 'Returning to port' in
the log they had sunk three small coastal freighters and five fishing
boats from which they had liberated two bottles of fine Scottish liquor,
the only bright spot on this entire cruise...
"Sir, the lookouts want you on the bridge." his XO said.
"I'm coming." he replied. Even if this mission like the last
had been a waste of time and fuel, he still felt the excitement whenever
his boat was summoned into battle. He avoided the sharp edges in the tower
that had resulted from an encounter with a Royal Navy destroyer. Fortunately
it had not damaged the pressure hull or they would never had escaped the
attention of the RN destroyer, but the one hit had wrecked the wireless
antenna and it had taken five days to repair the periscope.
"What is it, what have you got for us?" he asked before he
was all the way up.
"Well... It might be nothing captain but..." the lookout began
"But what?" Schwieger asked.
"There seemed to be a large flash and a distant rumble from south-east."
the lookout said "It might be thunder or..."
"It might be a battle." Schwieger completed the sentence. He
glanced up at the sky "Not thunder, I believe."
"We really can;t hear much over the..."
"Yes quite. Engine stop!" Schwieger ordered.
When the rumblings of the engines had died out and silence had fallen
over the boat the distant sound could be heard, very faintly but quite
"That's not thunder sir! That's heavy artillery," the XO said,
having just climbed the ladder up to the tower.
"Yes lieutenant I agree, all ahead flank!" Schwieger said.
"What course shall we set sir?" the XO asked and smiled crookedly.
"To the sound of the guns, of course, lieutenant!" a grinning
Perhaps this patrol wouldn't be a complete waste after all.
"Double the watch on the bridge, if the battle fleets are out then
half the destroyers in the world will be there to." the XO ordered
"Come to course 145, all ahead flank speed."
Schwieger went down the ladder into the control room. His officers were
there, ready and waiting for his orders.
"Weapons, check the torpedoes and tubes, we might have important
customers soon." the weapon officer nodded and left immediately.
"I want the boat ready to submerge at a moments notice the sea will
be infested with destroyers and cruisers." Schwieger continued.
"Yes sir!" the dive officer replied and turned to his station.
"What is the latest status of the batteries?" Schwieger asked
"Two cells are still out sir but the rest are charged to 90% capacity
and if we stay on the surface for a few more hours they should be at 100%" the engineer answered.
Schwieger looked at the charts, it would be a long day. The dive officer
came over and looked at the charts himself.
"Can we catch them sir?" he asked, scratching the scar on his
"Perhaps lieutenant, perhaps." Schwieger answered. "Does
that still itch?" he asked.
"Only when there are British around sir," the dive officer
answered with a smile.
---- SM U-20, North Sea, 18:32 31/5 1915
The fighting had moved north since the first distant echoes of battle
had been detected but the intensity seemed to have picked up again. This
time it was northeast of U-20.
"What do you think, XO?" Schwieger asked.
"The battle will probably be fought on an easterly heading north-east
of us." the lieutenant answered, disappointment evident in his voice.
"If the fleets had deployed westwards we would have seen some sign
of them, at least their destroyer screens. That smoke must have been laid
to cover their rear."
"Yes I agree. That means we will never catch up with them. But if
they are still in the early stages of deployment we might still have a
shot." Schwieger looked at the thinning smoke screen not far away.
"If we go through there we could stumble on a whole destroyer flotilla
captain." the XO replied.
"BRITISH CRUISERS!" one lookout shouted suddenly.
"Come to course 70 all ahead flank!" Schwieger ordered after
seeing the British ships. "They are still distant maybe we can hide
in the smoke..." he left the sentence unfinished but everyone on
the bridge understood his intent.
The low stealthy U-boat slid quickly towards the dark concealing smoke
and the British cruisers had more important things on their minds than
the low almost invisible predator slipping away to lay an ambush for them.
"They haven't seen us sir." the XO said "They would have
opened fire by now."
"Yes, when the smoke have thickened somewhat slow down and bring
us about. If they continue at this course..."
"Cruiser bearing 310!" another lookout shouted. Barely 1500
yards distant a British cruiser was exiting the smoke.
"Emergency dive!" Schwieger shouted "Dive, dive, dive!!!"
U-20 disappeared beneath the waves in record time. The badly shot up
Galatea never even knew she had just saved the other squadron.
Echoes of Armageddon
---- SM U-20, Surfacing North Sea, 18:54 31/5 1915
Schwieger was the first man on the bridge. The absence of gunfire, ramming
attempts and depth charges meant they hadn't seen U-20 and he had just
thrown a golden opportunity overboard.
"Nowhere!" he snarled after a quick look around "We have
lost them. Verdamnt!"
"Sir listen!" one ensign said.
The heavy thunder of heavy artillery could be heard quite clearly beyond
the smoke and so close not even Schwieger's curses could mask it out completely.
With one last angry glance west Schwieger ordered the boat eastward towards
the sound of the guns.
"There is someone in the water sir! Over there." the XO pointed.
"He seems to be wearing a German uniform, sir." one crewman
"Come to course 70, stop engines." Schweiger ordered after
a slight hesitation.
The man was quickly dragged from the sea and U-20 continued eastward.
A German crewman with a haunted look in his eyes was brought up the tower.
"What ship are you from?" the XO asked.
"SMS Elbing sir." the man replied. "We were ambushed
by four British cruisers when we returned from the torpedo attack."
while he was speaking he glanced nervously around. "We nailed one
real good, but they were too many."
"That must have been the one that surprised us by the edge of the
smoke screen," the XO said.
"Yes, it must have been." The notion that he had abandoned
his planned ambush because of a cripple didn't improve his mood and the
sailor from Elbing annoyed him. "What are you searching for,
Sailor?" he snapped.
The crewman from Elbing flinched.
"Have you seen a ship sir? I mean a sailing ship around here?"
he asked. "There was one around earlier, picking up survivors..."
Fear was evident on his face and in his voice "I didn't want to go
sir, don't let them take me!" he almost screamed.
"No we have not seen any sailing ship around here! What is the matter
with you?" Schwieger told the frightened man rather harshly.
"Shock most likely sir," an ensign whispered.
"Yes. Ensign, take him below and let him dry up and rest, and gather
While the rescued sailor was taken below, a huge, thunderous sound echoed
over the sea from the east.
"What was that?" someone asked.
"That must have been a magazine explosion sir," the XO said
"Yes. Things are heating up out there." Schwieger said and
looked at his watch. It was 18:57.
The boat pressed ahead at flank speed trying to reach the battle ahead.
A flash was seen briefly against the darkening eastern horizon followed
quickly by a second flash even brighter and a mighty rumble rolled over
the waves towards the small boat racing for the centre of the raging storm
"Good God." Schwieger whispered and he wasn't the only one
on the bridge to do so once the realization of what they had seen hit
them. "Three ships in as many minutes. Engineering I need everything
you've got and then some!"
"We will never catch them sir, the battle speed of the Grand Fleet
is over twenty knots." the XO said. "As long as they are heading
away from us we will not have a chance of catching up."
"I know that XO. But what should we do, who do you think is winning
out there, do we turn north or south?" Schwieger asked "Go below
and have a talk with our guest; if he has come to his senses try to find
out something about the events so far today."
The XO disappeared down the hatch. The thunder of the distant battle
didn't seem diminished by the destroyed ships rather the contrary. Schwieger
stared into the gloom, the distant flashes of gunfire, explosions and
fires creating a strange ghostly glow over the eastern horizon.
"Well what did he have to say?" Schwieger asked when he heard
his XO returning to the bridge.
"He said that Baron Letters had sunk three British battle cruisers
earlier today and that the torpedo attack Elbing was covering was intended
to get the last two." the XO reported excitedly. "Oh, by the
way our guest doesn't remember anything about mysterious sailing ships
or us rescuing him. Very strange, sir."
"Is he sure about everything else? Is he reliable?" the captain
wanted to know.
"Yes. I asked him about specific details that no British or civilian
"Well in that case it would seem the battle fleet and first scouting
are earning their pay today." Schwieger said reluctantly, he generally
didn't have anything good to say about the surface fleet. "Change
course, come to course 60"
"You believe the High Seas fleet is winning, sir," the XO observed.
"If our scouts defeated the British then the fleet might have been
able to engage on very favourable terms. They might even have T-ed them." Schwieger replied.
"Those explosions earlier! Yes that would make sense, not even Scheer
would throw away such an opportunity." the XO said excitedly not
noticing the slight frown on his captain's face when he mentioned throwing
It was now 19:15 and Orion blew up. This time the flash and thunder
of the blast was greeted by silence onboard U-20 as it raced across the
battlefield that the fleets had left behind them.
Waves of Death
---- SM U-20, North Sea, 31/5 1915
The slightly northerly heading of U-20 took it across the waters in which
the Grand Fleet had fought. That trail was visible through the steady
stream of floating debris they passed. Mostly it was wood and paper and
other light materials that had been thrown overboard by exploding shells.
There was also a steady stream of dead men floating by. The power of the
guns needed to destroy a modern Dreadnought was enormous. What those weapons
did to the frail human body defied description. One of the young men in
the tower had already thrown up after seeing one horror too much. The
fighting ahead seemed to have faded somewhat.
"Sir there is something off the starboard bow, bearing 40."
"Yes I see it, engineering half speed come to course 100, prepare
to dive." Schwieger said after he spotted the... well whatever it
was. "There is something wrong here. Can you see what that is, XO?" he asked.
"Yes, it is the propellers and aft section of an overturned large
vessel, probably a Dreadnought, sir." the XO replied, as the visibility
The dead ship rose from the surface of the sea like a mountain of steel.
The XO, a devout Catholic, crossed himself and murmured a prayer for the
crew as they approached the wreck.
"Can you read her name?" Schwieger asked.
"Yes, It's HMS Conqueror sir," the XO replied in a thick
"Can you see any survivors?"
"No, none, they might have been picked up already or..."
The bridge was silent as U-20 passed the once mighty warship only 500
yards away. There were many dead and much debris but not even one living
crewman from HMS Conqueror could be seen.
"The battle seems to have shifted north again." Schwieger said
to no one in particular, breaking the spell that the dead battleship seemed
to have cast over the bridge. "Change course to 30 and all ahead
"Yes sir," someone replied.
Schwieger didn't notice he was still staring at HMS Conqueror
slowly fading in the mists behind his boat. He felt cold; there was enough
death out there in the gloom to kill them all this night. It was 19:36
and a dozen Dreadnoughts opened fire as one.
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