by Tom B
BRITISH TROOPS TAKE CRECY
"Continuing its successful Picardy offensive the British Second Army captured the important town of Crecy yesterday afternoon. It appears that Second Army has achieved a clean breakthrough of the formidable German line of fortifications, which had rendered the entire Western Front static for nearly five weeks. Military experts believe there is now a good chance for a resumption of open warfare. It is also apparent that the flood of German divisions to save the Austro-Hungarians from total collapse has seriously weakened the German strength in France. This was likely a factor in the success of the recent major French offensive in capturing the key city of Suippes."
The Times of London Wednesday December 16, 1914
east of the Dogger Bank 0330 hrs
The High Seas Fleet steamed at 15 knots on a course WNW by ½ W. In its van there was I Squadron with the Helgoland and Nassau class battleships. Following them was III Squadron with the Kaiser class battleships and the newly added Grosser Kurfurst. Admiral Ingenohl’s flagship, Friedrich der Grosse, was positioned in the rear of this squadron. Last came II Squadron with 8 predreadnoughts. To avoid enemy detection the ships were darkened. Because it was a dark night an interval of 5 to 7 nm from flagship to flagship was maintained between the squadrons.
Each flank was guarded by a torpedo boat flotilla. Guarding the rear of the fleet was the Stettin and 2 more flotillas. Scouting out ahead of the fleet was Third Scouting Group with 3 armored cruisers, Fourth Scouting Group with 5 light cruisers and the 5th Torpedo Boat Flotilla.
Both Admiral Tirpitz and Admiral Bachmann had been notified of Ingenohl’s plan to take the High Seas Fleet out as far as the Dogger Bank in support of First Scouting Group. While they had not informed the Kaiser, they had both reassured Ingenohl that this plan of action was in accord with the Kaiser’s policies.
northwest of the Dogger Bank 0330 hrs
The British forces sent by the Admiralty to destroy Hipper steamed at 15 knots on a southeast course. In the lead was the Battle Cruiser Squadron with Lion, Tiger, Queen Mary and New Zealand. A mile away on its port sidet was the 3rd Cruiser Squadron with 4 armored cruisers commanded by Rear Admiral Pakenham. On its starboard 5 miles distant there was the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron with 4 "Town’ class light cruisers commanded by Commodore Goodenough. Five miles behind Beatty’s battle cruisers was the Second Battle Squadron with King George V, Ajax, Centurion, Orion, Monarch and Conqueror.
The Admiralty’s plan was to permit the German battle cruisers to raid the coast and for Beatty supported by Warrender’s squadron to intercept the Germans on their return trip. Warrender’s force was heading en route a point on the eastern corner of the Dogger Bank, which they were expected to reach by 0730 after which they would await news of Hipper’s raid. Warrender had been misled into believing that Harwich Force would rendezvous with him at dawn in the Dogger Bank.
west of the Dogger Bank 0400 hrs
The S-33 had been part of the light forces screening First Scouting Group. In the pitch dark night in very heavy weather it had lost contact with the formation. Its captain decided it was best if he tried to rejoin the High Seas Fleet instead. Now she had stumbled into 4 British destroyers on patrol. The skipper decided to pretend he was British and fell in behind them. They accepted him. About 20 minutes later he found an opportunity to deviate from their course and lost them in the dark.
Meanwhile the rest of First Scouting Group fought its way through the storm heading for the Yorkshire coast. Even the battle cruisers had a very difficult time of it. Some of the torpedo boats had their masts broken. Admiral Hipper was determined though to see his mission completed.
HMS Lynx 0515 hrs
The Lynx was at the head of the British destroyer screen guarding Warrender’s left flank. It now spotted and challenged a strange destroyer off its port bow at 500 yards. The ship responded incorrectly to the challenge and turned away. Lynx gave chase with Ambuscade, Unity and Hardy following close behind.
SMS Friedrich der Grosse east of the Dogger Bank, 0531 hrs
Admiral Fredreich von Ingenohl was deeply concerned about the reports of both the S-33 and the V-155. These indicated a stronger enemy presence than he had expected. He thought long and hard about ordering the High Seas Fleet to turn away. He came very close to doing so. But instead he decided to press on. He ordered the light forces in his vanguard to resolutely engage the enemy. He also ordered the 13th Torpedo Boat Half Flotilla, which was part of his left flank screen to proceed on ahead at full speed. The 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla, which was in the rear was ordered to move forward to reinforce the rest of 6th Torpedo Boat Flotilla screening the left flank of the High Seas Fleet.
SMS V-155 0550 hrs
This German torpedo boat was part of the 5th TB Flotilla in the vanguard of the High Seas Fleet. Here the seas were relatively calm. She had encountered 4 British destroyers, which gave chase. She had notified the fleet flagship of its situation. The V-155 performed remarkably well in its gunnery duel with its pursuers. She managed to score 2 hits on the Lynx, jamming one of its propellers. She also scored a hit below the waterline on the Ambuscade, which caused considerable flooding.
The SMS Hamburg and 2 more German torpedo boats soon arrived to assist. Using its spotlights Hamburg poured shells into the Hardy at a range of 700 yards. The Hardy was set on fire with its internal communication lines severed and its steering gear disabled. The captain of the Hamburg mistakenly believed her to be in a sinking condition. He evaded a torpedo Hardy had launched and with damage to his searchlight platform turned away.
Thic caused a respite of a few minutes in the skirmishes between the light forces. Then the HMS Shark sighted 5 German torpedo boats to the east and the battle resumed with the British destroyers dashing forward. After a few more minutes the Shark caught sight of a larger warship. It took a while in the dim light for Captain Loftus Jones on the Shark to recognize the armored cruiser, Roon. He tried to report this discovery to Admiral Warrender but German jamming frustrated his wireless operators.
SMS 13th Torpedo Boat Half Flotilla 0619 hrs
In the darkness softened with a mere glimmer of twilight one of the torpedo boats spotted large warships WNW heading southwest. They quickly organized an attack.
HMS Ajax course SE 0624 hrs
Lookouts had raised an alarm. Searchlights fanned out over the water even though the visibility had improved to the point their utility was marginal. Two of its 4" secondary guns briefly fired as did another pair on the Centurion. One the torpedo boats was lightly damaged.
Crump! The torpedo exploded near the port diesel generator. The torpedo bulkhead absorbed the worst of the damage but water managed to leak through cracks into the nearby boilers room and within 10 minutes had extinguished 4 boilers. Her maximum speed was reduced to 17 knots.
HMS King George V 0629 hrs
Vice Admiral Sir George Warrender had never been one to make decisions quickly. As he got older this tendency grew more and more pronounced. The fact that he was increasingly hard of hearing aggravated this shortcoming. He was now thinking about the significance of the enemy torpedo attack. As a further complication he had finally received a wireless report from Captain Jones that his destroyers were being forced WNW by Roon, Hamburg, Stuttgart and 5 destroyers. In the local area the weather looked to be clear with only a few thin scattered clouds. Visibility would improve dramatically around sunrise. Once the visibility improved his battleships should rescue his sorely beset destroyers. He took some time then ordered, "Signal a 16 point turn to starboard by division."
"Aye, aye, Admiral. Shall we signal Admiral Beatty as well?"
Warrender thought that one over as well. If Beatty turned around he could run into the same torpedo boats that had damaged Ajax.
"Warn Admiral Beatty of German torpedo boats but signal no course change at this time."
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0632 hrs
Admiral von Ingenohl bit his lip anxiously. He had learned that a British capital ship had been torpedoed. That was good news. The bad new was that the entire Grand Fleet could be lurking out there in the darkness. Part of him wanted to order the entire High Seas Fleet to turn about and make a run for the Bight. But then again maybe it was merely the enemy battle cruisers on patrol by themselves. At Heligoland Bight they had boldly charged in without the Grand Fleet in support. Or perhaps it was Channel Fleet on patrol. In any event the enemy had already been hurt. When dawn arrived he might be able to arrange an ambush. Once the sun rose a running battle back to Bight might not be that bad for the sun would dazzle the British gunners. He decided to continue.
"Signal II and III Squadrons to increase their speed to 18 knots."
But if a fleet action was at hand he needed every resource available, so a minute later he further ordered "Send a wireless message to Admiral Hipper to abort his mission and join the fleet immediately."
HMS Shark 0643 hrs
Captain Jones glumly watched the Hardy burn. In the pit of his stomach he knew she was not going to make it. Hardy lay dead in the water with its fires raging out of control. She went quicker than he had expected, though as there was a sudden series of secondary explosions. They were not violent enough to tear the destroyer apart but they were enough to open up her hull to the sea. Hardy went down by the bow. She was the first ship to sink in this battle.
It would not be the last.
HMS Orion course NW 0645 hrs
The turnabout Warrender had ordered to avoid the German torpedo boats placed Orion, the flagship of his 2nd Division at the head of his squadron. The commander of the 2nd division was Rear Admiral Robert Arbuthnot.
"Admiral Arbuthnot, lookouts report ships to the northeast!"
"Can the lookouts make out the type of vessel?"
"No, sir. The visibility is still too limited. All they can see are three large ships."
"What is their speed and heading?"
"Their heading is anywhere from due west to northwest, sir. Our lookouts cannot even begin to guess as to their speed at this time."
Arbuthnot had been told that their mission was to intercept the German battle cruisers and that the High Seas Fleet was not at sea. He now jumped to the conclusion that it must be Hipper’s squadron they were seeing. He used his own binoculars and after a few seconds remarked, "Hmm, well it appears that we are slowly converging. Visibility is definitely favorable to us. Signal Admiral Warrender that we have spotted the German battle cruisers and request permission to open fire."
Orion’s Captain, Frederic Dreyer, lowered his binoculars, "Pardon me, admiral, but it is very clear those ships are German and we now have sufficient visibility to commence firing immediately. With our advantageous visibility the Germans will not be able to return fire effectively. I suggest we go ahead and open fire."
Arbuthnot shook his head, "Not until the Vice Admiral signals."
HMS King George V 0649 hrs
Admiral Warrender pondered the Arbuthnot’s message that First Scouting Group had been spotted. The lookouts aboard his flagship had just confirmed large ships to the northeast, but could not identify the class. He presumed that because Orion was a significantly closer to the enemy Arbuthnot had a better view.
. Warrender took his time before he finally ordered, "Signal all ships in the squadron to commence firing. Also signal Admiral Beatty that we have encountered the German battle cruisers to our northeast heading west, and that we have commenced firing. Suggest that he should cut their line of retreat."
SMS Ostfriesland 0650 hrs
"Admiral Lans! Helgoland reports large enemy vessels off their port bow."
His heart pounding, Lans took his binoculars and scanned in that direction. Within a few seconds he saw orange flashes.
"We are under fire! Signal ships in the squadron to return fire. Signal Admiral Ingenohl that we are under attack by heavy warships."
Lans returned to staring in horror at the enemy with the binoculars. Waterspouts erupted in front of his vision. The first salvo had been well short.
There were more orange flashes. "Turn one point to starboard in succession," he ordered. Damn you Ingenohl! You listened to Tirpitz’s nonsense. Now we are fighting the Grand Fleet. And now we are all going to die!
The range at this time was 9,800 yards from Ostfriesland to Orion. The British gunners had a better view of the Germans than vice versa, but even their visibility was limited and the battleships of the 1st Division were unable to get a range on their range finders initially. However with each minute the darkness receded and the two formations were moving slowly closer to each other. Both the British and Germans were still in a night formation with a fairly large interval between the ships.
HMS Lion 0651 hrs
Warrender had just passed on Arbuthnot’s report about First Scouting Group with an approximate position. Beatty was eager to trap and destroy Hipper and with a quick look at the map reached his decision. . The close proximity of Rear Admiral Pakenham’s 3rd Cruiser Squadron on his port side interfered with his ability to change course quickly. "Signal Admiral Pakenham and order him to turn 8 points to port at 20 knots. He is to join with Second Battle Squadron. When we are safely past him our squadron will then turn 6 point to port at 25 knots.
"And what about Commodore Goodenough’s Squadron, sir?"
"Yes, we mustn’t forget him. Order him to turn 6 points to port immediately at 24 knots."
HMS Orion 0651 hrs
"Admiral, the lookouts are now able to make out three smokestacks close together on those ships out there. Those are Helgoland class battleships we are fighting."
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0652 hrs
"Well, this is it. The Big Battle has begun," thought Admiral Ingenohl with grim stoicism. Then again perhaps it was only Beatty’s battle cruisers or even predreadnoughts from Channel Fleet. He did not rule out those possibilities but he thought it much more likely that the Grand Fleet was out there. He now regretted not turning back earlier, but he would not let his regrets paralyze him. His tactical situation was not completely bad. He had torpedoed an enemy battleship. If he formed a line to the east of the British the enemy gunners would be dazzled once the sun rose. He rejected therefore the temptation to turn away and run. He more seriously considered ordering Lans to turn 4 points to starboard but with Lans complaining his men could barely see the enemy at all he decided to postpone that maneuver until there was more light.
What was clear in his mind was that III Squadron would need to enter the battle as soon as possible. "Increase the speed of III Squadron to 20 knots," he ordered. He knew that predreadnoughts of II Squadron—which were struggling to make 18 knots—would fall further behind but it was more important to reduce the gap between I and III Squadron.
HMS Orion 0654 hrs
Shells were exploding around the Orion as well. Both the Ostfriesland and Helgoland were firing at her with both their 12" and 5.9" guns. The shelling of the Ostfriesland had become so erratic it was now proving fairly easy for the Helgoland to distinguish its own splashes, especially since no ship was shelling Helgoland. Admiral Arbuthnot did not let this disturb him in the least as stared at the German battleships with his own binoculars. He had not yet sent word to Warrender that it was the German dreadnoughts and not First Scouting Group that they were engaging. His pulse raced. Was that the entire High Seas Fleet out there or merely just a portion? So far in the predawn twilight he could see only 6 ships. Some of the lookouts claimed to see a seventh by their gun flashes.. Had the Germans sent only a single squadron to support Hipper? It was now believed by the Admiralty that only a single division of 4 battleships had been involved at Heligoland Bight. Well if it really was the entire High Seas Fleet out there Arbuthnot thought the best tactic would be best to sink or at least disable the lead ship, which should be at least a squadron flagship.
"Order Monarch and Conqueror to switch their fire to the lead enemy vessel," he ordered, "Inform Admiral Warrender that we have identified our opponents as Helgoland class battleships. And tell Guns his rate of fire is unacceptable."
Despite the fact he was in mortal danger the Admiral was ecstatic. He imagined himself as playing the key role in this engagement. He was sure than when this day’s story was told it would be entitled "Arbuthnot’s Glory!".
HMS King George V 0658 hrs
Posen and Westfalen were both firing on the King George V. An 11" shell from the former exploded in its superstructure causing a very bright fire to erupt, illuminating not only itself but the other British battleships as well.
"We need Beatty’s firepower! Where the hell is Beatty and his battle cruisers?" complained Warrender.
"Admiral Beatty is heading due north, sir"
"Did you just say due north, sailor?"
"Aye, aye, sir. He is heading due north."
"Due north! Why in blazes is he heading due north? He should be heading northwest so he can assist us as soon as possible."
"You ordered him to hit to cut off Hipper’s line of retreat, admiral. That is why he is heading north."
"Hipper, is that what you just said? Hipper? Does that look like their battle cruisers out there? No that’s their First Battle Squadron out there. Signal Beatty to turn 4 points to port immediately and go to flank speed."
SMS Ostfriesland heading WNW 0700 hrs
"Port engine room is flooding rapidly, sir" came the grim report from damage control.
Shells were exploding continuously around the Ostfriesland. The enemy warships were handicapped by the difficulty in distinguishing their own splashes, but they still managed to score hits and damaging near misses. Two turrets had been wrecked and there were several fires in the superstructure. The Ostfriesland had seen action at Heligoland Bight. Its men had experienced being under fire then but this was different. Many of its crew thought they were facing the entire Grand Fleet and were therefore doomed. The concentrated shelling they experienced reinforced their fears. Even though the visibility was steadily improving their gunnery grew wilder. Nearly all the men expected to die.
Ostfriesland had taken advantage of its position at the head of the line to make some desperate zigzags trying with only partial success to throw off the enemy guns. She had in desperation even fired a torpedo. Now with its speed reduced its ability to dodge in that fashion was much reduced. He was also worried that the British were trying to cross his bows, "Signal another 1 point turn to starboard."
HMS Orion 0702 hrs
Arbuthnot stared through the binoculars at the lead German battleship. It was probably the Ostfriesland, which they had been told was the flagship of German I Squadron. She was listing with several fires, including one in the aft port wing turret. She was clearly badly damaged but while she made several sharp moves to throw off the British gunners, she steadfastly remained at the head of the German line. Arbuthnot sighed in frustration.
"Billy, what does it take to sink the Ostfriesland?"
The officer addressed did not know how to respond. Instead Captain Dreyer suggested, "Even if she doesn’t sink soon, she should be hauling out of line presently. I strongly suggest you shift Conqueror’s guns to the second ship, sir"
"No, no, NO, damn it! I want to see the Ostfriesland sinking I tell you!"
"But sir, with all due respect—"
Before Captain Dreyer could finish, a 12" APC shell fired by Helgoland penetrated the barbette of ‘B’ turret. Arbuthnot turned to see fire erupting from the turret. Seconds later he died in a ball of fire.
The light from Orion’s explosion temporarily dazzled the gunners on both sides. The ship behind her was the Monarch, which was listing to starboard from serious flooding amidships. Monarch was forced to make an emergency turn to port as best she could, narrowly avoiding Orion’s wreckage. This maneuver threw off her gunners though.
SMS Ostfriesland 0703 hrs
Admiral Lans gaped at the pillar of the smoke that had once been the Orion. He now believed in miracles. With less shells exploding around his flagship he began to accept that he was only fighting a single squadron and not the whole Grand Fleet.
"Switch your guns and Helgoland’s to the second battleship!" he ordered.
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0704 hrs
Admiral Ingenohl was gratified to hear that the lead enemy battleship had exploded. But what amazed him more was that there still appeared to be only 6 enemy battleships-- make that 5 enemy battleships. He began to seriously consider the possibility that he engaged only a single detached RN squadron.
SMS Prinzregent Luitpold 0707 hrs
The commander of III Squadron, Kontreadmiral Funke longed to get his ships into the fight, but he did not want his ships trying to fire only by the illumination of enemy gun flashes. There was quite a bit of smoke impeding the visibility now but the strengthening daylight and the illumination cast by the bright fire on King George V had now permitted effective gunnery.
"Visibility is now adequate. Signal all ships in the squadron to commence firing." He ordered.
The enemy was practically due east of his squadron. Only his forward turrets would be able to fire. "Send a message to Admiral Ingenohl asking if we should follow the turn of I Squadron."
SMS Ostfriesland 0708 hrs
"The aft turret is damaged beyond repair, Admiral."
The fire of two British dreadnoughts continued to be focused on the Ostfriesland. Its list had grown and now a third turret had been knocked out.
"Inform Admiral Ingenohl that we are hauling out of line."
HMS King George V 0710 hrs
Admiral Warrender looked at the horizon. "Is it sunrise yet?" he asked.
"It is one minute past sunrise, Admiral."
Warrender nodded and sighed. Soon the sun would begin to dazzle the British gunners. Monarch had reported very serious flooding including the loss of her starboard engines. Meanwhile his flagship’s armor had been thoroughly tested by the 11" shells of Posen and Westfalen. There was only a small amount of flooding but ‘Q’ turret had been jammed by concussion and it’s primary wireless destroyed. More troubling were the several fires raging in its superstructure, one of them quite severe. Ajax had taken a waterline 11" hit in the bow, adding more flooding to that caused by the torpedo.
In compensation the Ostfriesland been forced to haul out of line and Warrender regarded her as likely to sink before long. The Westfalen now appeared to be hauling out of the line as well with a serious list and several fires burning. Warrender thought it was time to make his escape.
"Signal a 6 point turn together to port at flank speed. And signal our destroyers to make a torpedo attack on the battleships."
HMS Conqueror 0710 hrs
A 12" APC shell from Oldenburg penetrated the armor of ‘X" turret and burst inside. About midway though its turn Conqueror cordite flash reached its magazines and it exploded.
HMS Shark 0713 hrs
Having spent more than an hour fleeing from a strong German force of cruisers and destroyers, Captain Jones rallied Unity, Acasta and Spitfire to follow him in the torpedo attack ordered by Warrender. Lynx and Ambuscade were too damaged to effectively participate in the attack. Shark had already taken considerable damage to its superstructure and had unsuccessfully fired on of its two torpedoes at Roon. Ahead of them lay the ships they had been running from. Now they would have to fight their way through them.
The Battle of Dogger Bank continues.
Scapa Flow 0714 hrs
"Admiral Jellicoe, you need to see this message from Admiral Warrender immediately!"
AJAX TORPEDOED BY GERMAN DESTROYERS BEFORE DAWN. HAVE ENGAGED GERMAN SECOND BATTLE SQUADRON AT DOGGER BANK. NO SIGN YET OF GERMAN FIRST CRUISER SQUADRON.
Jellicoe momentarily paled feeling dizzy. He took a deep breath and his head cleared. He promptly ordered the Grand Fleet to raise steam and prepare to sortie as quickly as possible. He sent a wireless message to Admiral Warrender ordering him to disengage with the Germans immediately even if it meant losing Ajax. Color returned to his face with a vengeance. He thought about sending a cable to the First Lord but the one he wanted to send would get him court- martialed.
"Get me Admiral Fisher on the telephone at once! "
HMS Conqueror heading SSW 0715 hrs
The Oldenburg’s guns followed Conqueror through its turn. A 12" APC shell penetrated the armor of ‘X" turret and burst inside. A minute later cordite flash penetrated into its magazine. Unlike Orion there was not a single violent explosion but a series of explosions. The end result was just as fatal.
HMS Centurion heading SSW 0716 hrs
The Centurion had initially done very well in the battle, scoring a dozen hits on Westfalen, forcing her to haul out of line. After she began to make her turn an 11" shell from Nassau exploded in her stern below the waterline which ruined a propeller shaft and reduced her speed to under 19 knots. Now a 12" shell from the Kaiser punched a hole in her aft 10" bulkhead without exploding. Seawater poured into her aft magazine.
HMS Lion heading NW 0716 hrs
"Admiral, large ships spotted to the north!" A half flotilla of German torpedo boat were scurrying away from Beatty’s battle cruisers. Lion had fired a few HE rounds at them with its main battery, causing some splinter damage to one of them. Worried that they might attempt to improvise a torpedo attack Beatty was keeping a watchful eye on them. Despite the smoke the lookouts now could see a line of large vessels behind them.
Beatty raised his own binoculars. He was not very happy with Admiral Warrender at that moment. First he had been told that Hipper’s battle cruisers were present and then he was cursorily informed that it was the German First Battle Squadron and chided for being on a wrong heading. It would be good to shoot something.
"Signal all ships in the squadron to turn 4 points to port in succession and commence firing. All send a message to Commodore Goodenough to turn 4 points to port as well."
SMS Preussen heading WNW by ½ W 0717 hrs
The commander of II Squadron, Vizadmiral Reinhard Scheer stared at the large warships to the south through his binoculars. He had been observing gunfire to west for nearly a half hour without being able to participate with his predreadnoughts, which we falling further and further behind III Squadron. Now suddenly there were vessels visible to the south. They were large and moving very fast.
"Signal Admiral Ingenohl that we observe large ships to the south heading westerly at high speed and that we request permission to fire."
Suddenly orange flashes erupted to the south. Scheer decided it was best not to wait for Ingenohl’s reply. "Commence firing!"
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0718 hrs
"Signal Stettin to proceed northwest at flank speed to scout," ordered Admiral Ingenohl.
"-Admiral, gun flashes to the southeast!"
This latest news came to Ingenohl within seconds of learning that another British battleship had exploded and erased his satisfaction. He was sure that these new arrivals were the rest of the Grand Fleet come to reinforce the embattled Second Battle Squadron. He tried hard not to panic—reminding himself that two of the 13.5" gunned dreadnoughts had already been destroyed with another reported as listing heavily. Within a few seconds there were gun flashes to the east as well.
"Second Squadron is returning fire, Admiral."
HMS King George V 0721 hrs
Warrender gazed as best he could at the ships of German I Squadron through his binoculars. After Westfalen had hauled out of line there was a period when only Posen was shelling his flagship, but Oldenburg had switched its guns to King George V after it had destroyed Conqueror. As he had hoped the German I Squadron continued on its roughly northwesterly course. The range had increased by small increments but now he was more to southwest whereas before the turn he had been just a tad south of due west. His goal was to reach the safety of the Humber.
"Signal all ships to turn 2 points to port together," he ordered.
SMS Preussen 0722 hrs
It was clear now to Scheer that he was fighting the British battle cruisers at a range just under 14,000 yards. His course and the enemy’s was slightly divergent. Scheer feared that the British would attack him from beyond the maximum range of guns once the visibility improved sufficiently. He therefore preferred to move closer to the enemy but wanted to keep his full broadsides in action. Scheer also hoped to get his rather potent 6.7" secondary batteries into action.
"Turn 2 points to port by division," he ordered.
HMS Antrim heading northwest 0724 hrs
"Any reply from the Vice Admiral?" asked Rear Admiral William Pakenham, commander of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron.
This was not the first time Pakenham had seen action. During the Russo-Japanese War he had been an observer with the Japanese at Tsushima. Now it appeared he had a chance to do more than watch. However for the last half hour he had done little more than watch distant gun flashes—first to the northwest and then in the last few minutes to NNE as well. His command, the 3rd Cruiser Squadron with 4 armored cruisers steamed northwest at 20 knots looking to a useful role to play in the battle.
"No, admiral, no response so far to our wireless message."
Pakenham looked again to the north with his binoculars. He could see the German battle line by their gun flashes and fires. He didn’t think they could see him yet but they were getting definitely closer and the daylight was waxing. When he first began to see the gun flashes he thought it was the German battle cruisers that were being engaged and was optimistic that they would be crushed. Eventually he noticed too many gun flashes for it to be just the German battle cruisers. He began to consider more ominous possibilities. He had thought about hanging back until he received further orders or at least turning 2 points to port. He put aside those thoughts. The Royal Navy looked to be in serious trouble. He was going to do his duty.
And he also remembered Troubridge.
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0728 hrs
The guns of Ingenohl’s flagship fired their second half salvo of the battle. The visibility of the British battleships to the west as well as the battle cruisers to the southeast remained marginal so they decided to fire on the enemy cruisers that had just become visible to the south.
Ingenohl was becoming more confident about his situation. The remaining battle squadrons of the Grand Fleet were nowhere in sight. Aided by the reports from his commanders Ingenohl apprehended what the British admiral was up to. He needed to decide two things. The more primordial question was whether he wished to pursue. Part on him wanted to hightail it for home. Even if Ostfriesland ultimately sank he could claim a victory. But he remembered how critical Tirpitz had been when he broke off at the Broad Fourteens. Splitting the battle squadrons was a controversial tactical idea he had discussed with his commanders on more than one occasion since the war began. He decided current circumstances warranted it.
"Signal III Squadron to turn 6 points to port in succession at 20 knots. Signal I Squadron to make a general pursuit Also signal the 12th Torpedo Half-Flotilla to rendezvous with Ostfriesland. Admiral Lans will use one of its torpedo boats to transfer his flag. The remainder of the 12th Half-Flotilla will escort Ostfriesland and Westfalen back to Jade Bay."
HMS Lion 0732 hrs
Admiral Beatty was thoroughly displeased with the results so far of his duel with the German II Squadron. He had had thought he could quickly destroy at least one German predreadnought. German gunnery was barely mediocre scoring 9 hits but his battle cruisers had done worse scoring only 7 hits—none of them by Tiger whose accuracy was simply appalling. Damage was modest to both sides. A 13.5" shell had struck Preussen near the waterline but had broken up on her belt. There was copious dense smoke issuing from Lothringen but otherwise the predreadnoughts appeared unharmed. There was a fire in Lion’s Navigator cabin that was proving persistent and Tiger’s ‘Q’ turret was damaged by a hit on its roof—but repairs were underway that would soon allow it to resume firing. A German ship further to the NW had just opened fire. Its first splashes were way short. From what he knew of the organization of the German battle line, Beatty thought it quite likely it was the flagship of the High Seas Fleet. He wanted to switch his guns to it but the visibility was better for firing at the predreadnoughts.
Beatty was beginning to derive a better understanding of the overall tactical situation. He still had no information about the damage sustained by Second Battle Squadron, and with a strong faith in British designs blindly assumed them to be moderate. He had heard what he thought was a ship exploding but was unclear whether it was British of German and preferred to think the latter was more likely.
"Signal a 30 degree turn to port in succession at 28 knots. We will cross the bows of the German battleships, which will compel them to turn. This should allow Second Battle Squadron to get out of range. Then we shall make our own escape."
HMS King George V 0733 hrs
Warrender muttered under his breath and stared through his binoculars at what remained of his squadron. His formation had become very ragged due to the different speeds his ships now were capable of making—14 knots and falling for Monarch, 16 ½ for Ajax and 18 for Centurion while his own flagship was speeding ahead at nearly 21 knots. While the King George V had suffered many 11" and a few 12" hits her armor had kept its machinery inviolate and her flooding minimal. Her superstructure was thoroughly riddled and there were several fires of varying intensity that were proving troublesome. Her high speed added to this problem by fanning the flames so they spread.
It occurred to Warrender that his King George V now had the best chance of escaping the High Seas Fleet. That thought bothered him. He imagined making it back to Hull with only a badly burned flagship and Jackie Fisher meeting him at the docks. He shuddered.
"Reduce the speed of this vessel to 15 knots," he barked. The Germans could only kill him. "And what in blazes ever happened to our destroyer torpedo attack?"
HMS Shark 0733 hrs
A 8.2" HE shell from the Roon burst near the forward 4" gun, wrecking the weapon and killing the crew. It also set off a few round of 4" shells, and started a serious fire in the bow. The magazine was quickly flooded as a precaution. Splinters from the shell wounded two men on the bridge but Captain Jones had escaped harm.
Jones momentarily turned his gaze away from his own ship’s damage. He saw Spitfire dead in the water far behind him with fires blazing away out of control. Men appeared to be abandoning her. Acasta was down by the bow and listing heavily to port. Unity had managed to pull ahead of Shark and was dueling ferociously with two German torpedo boats at extremely close range.
HMS Southampton heading NW 0734 hrs
Commodore Goodenough had not received the Beatty’s last message to turn 4 points to port. Beatty’s Flag-Lieutenant, Commander Philip Seymour had decided not to repeat it. So the 1st LCS continued heading northwest at 24 knots. New Zealand could be seen heading west—it was lagging further and further behind the other battle cruisers once Beatty had ordered flank speed.
The British lookouts view had been obscured to some degree by the smoke of German destroyers scurrying east, though they had been observing muzzle flashes for several minutes. Now they could discern large vessels in the German shade of gray to the north. At the rear of the German line, the Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien had been troubled by poor visibility during the engagement with the battle cruisers. They now welcomed new targets, which their gunners could see much more clearly.
HMS Monarch 0735 hrs
Her list had grown steadily worse from progressive flooding. Her speed had slowed further to 12 knots. Her ‘Y’ turret continued firing defiantly at Helgoland but the list threw off her gunnery. Suddenly a critical point was reached and she capsized.
SMS Lothringen 0736 hrs
A 13.5" shell from Queen Mary struck the belt amidships. The shell burst on contact creating a hole in the armor letting seawater pour into its boilers. She was soon forced to haul out of line.
Scapa Flow 0737 hrs
"Any word yet from Admiral Warrender?" an extremely anxious Admiral Jellicoe inquired of his wireless section.
"No, admiral, we have received no messages from him."
"Blast it!. Well, go ahead and resend my previous message. And send a similar one to Admiral Beatty as well."
HMS King George V heading southwest 0742 hrs
The 12" shells of III Squadron had caused some flooding both from a penetration of her middle belt amidships and a hit in her stern. Still the steadily worsening fires remained the greater threat. There was now a serious secondary explosion on the starboard side. A more catastrophic explosion was just barely avoided by emergency flooding of the 4" magazine. The ship was left without a single working 4" gun on its starboard side with the fires becoming still more intense.
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0744 hrs
Admiral Beatty’s courage impressed Ingenohl. He dared not let the British battle cruisers cross his bows. "Signal Admiral Funke to turn 3 points to starboard by division."
Ingenohl had other options available to him. Latest reports indicated that the British destroyers had been neutralized. The light cruisers of 4th Scouting Group should be more than sufficient to complete their annihilation. He needed the 5th Torpedo Flotilla for something else. "Signal 11th Torpedo Half Flotilla to join 5th Torpedo Flotilla. Together they are to swing across the path of the British battleships and make a torpedo attack."
And there was something else on his mind. "Send the following message to Admiral Hipper…"
SMS Prinzregent Luitpold heading WSW 0750 hrs
"Admiral, water continues to enter the port fire room. Two boilers are already extinguished."
Admiral Funke nodded grimly. This news had been expected since the waterline hit inflicted by the Lion had pierced his belt.
"Notify Admiral Ingenohl that we are losing speed and will need to haul out of line soon."
HMS Queen Mary 0752 hrs
A 12" AP shell pierced the armor of ‘A’ turret and exploded inside. Less than a minute later the flash reached the magazine. When the smoke cleared from the explosion the aft half of the ship was sticking up vertically into the air.
Aboard the Lion the ‘Q’ turret had been wrecked a few minutes earlier and the loss of the vessel prevented by emergency flooding of the magazine. Thick dense smoke continued to pour copiously out of the turret.
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0753 hrs
With cold fascination Admiral Ingenohl contemplated the pillar of smoke that had once been a British battle cruiser. It was the third capital ship to explode in this engagement and he had a better view this time. Did the mighty Royal Navy have an Achilles Heel?
Just before the explosion he had received a wireless message from Admiralstab. Germans frequently were verbose but when the need arose they could be terse. Ingenohl looked again at the message.
PURSUE TO THE UTMOST
Ingenohl both smiled and sighed. While this message putatively came from Admiral Bachmann, Ingenohl had an image of a grand admiral with a forked beard standing beside him. Or at the very least yelling at him over the telephone.
HMS Lion 0755 hrs
"Admiral, Tiger reports water rising rapidly in her starboard engines!"
Beatty made no immediate response and kept his binoculars glued to his eyes. The German battle squadron had turned away with its flagship both burning and listing. That was very gratifying. But many other things were not. In the last few minutes Warrender’s battle squadron had come into view.
There were only three of them.
Beatty hoped there was some good tactical reason that its second division had become separated and that they would make an appearance any second now. With every passing second he was less sure of that hypothesis. Neither did the visible 3 RN dreadnoughts reassure him much. Beatty knew full well that Warrender was in a difficult situation and he expected to see some signs of damage in his battleships. But not the amount he was seeing now. One battleship was listing badly to port and down by the bow, another was down by the stern and the third was burning very fiercely. They were all making less than 20 knots. Even though Beatty’s battle cruisers had diverted some guns there was a continuous torrent of shells bursting around them while their own return fire from just their aft turrets seem pitiful to Beatty. In fact one battleship seemed not to be firing at all.
Beatty had received a wireless message from Jellicoe and in reply quickly sent a brief acknowledgement, saying little more than that Second Battle Squadron and Battle Cruiser Squadron had been engaged by the High Seas Fleet and were attempting to break free and escape to the Humber. Beatty did not know much more—in fact the Humber was merely a well educated guess on his part. This was just before Queen Mary had exploded. He was in no hurry to pass that information on.
How had they gotten into this bloody damn mess? Beatty decided Captain Hall was responsible. Beatty had criticized Hall’s performance at Heligoland Bight, and how does the Admiralty react? They put him in charge of Naval Intelligence. It was no wonder then that Warrender and Beatty had been given fatally flawed intelligence.
"Admiral, sir, did you hear the report about Tiger?" asked Chatfield, worried that Beatty had become distracted.
"Christ Almighty, yes, yes, yes--Captain Chatfield, I have indeed heard the latest batch of bloody damn news, thank you all so very much!"
This latest news forced Beatty once again to recall Heligoland Bight. "..but if I lose one of these valuable ships the country will not forgive me" He had uttered those words to Chatfield back at Heligoland Bight. It had proven to be a false prophecy. Princess Royal was lost and yet Beatty managed to become a national hero. Now Queen Mary was gone. Tiger was now seriously slowed. Both Lion and New Zealand had several fires that were proving difficult to control. How many battle cruisers could he lose and still be forgiven? David Beatty did not want to find out.
"Signal a 8 point turn to port together."
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0759 hrs
Peering through his binoculars Ingenohl could see that there were limits to Beatty’s bravery. It was not a critical thought. Far from it, Ingenohl appreciated prudence and caution.
"Signal III squadron to 4 points to port. As the Prinzregent Luitpold is now too damaged to keep up, I am assuming direct command of III Squadron. Kaiser will become the lead ship. Oh, and how is out flotilla torpedo attack progressing?"
HMS Arethusa off Yarmouth heading north 0800 hrs
In very heavy seas Harwich Force struggled to make its way north to assist Second Battle Squadron. The destroyers were having a very bad time of it and even Commodore Tyrwhitt’s cruisers rolled alarmingly.
HMS Ajax 0803 hrs
The forward flooding had grown too severe and she was beginning to go down by the bow. Orders were reluctantly given to abandon ship.
HMS Lion 0804 hrs
"The enemy battleships are turning back in pursuit, sir" came the report from the lookouts.
Beatty nodded with a frown. This development was not expected. He had hoped they would have more time. The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron had managed to escape from the German predreadnoughts with only moderate damage to Falmouth from a single hit. It was time for something desperate.
"Signal Commodore Goodenough that he is to make a torpedo attack on the lead German battleships."
HMS King George V heading southwest 0806 hrs
Admiral Warrender stoically took in all the bad news. Apparently all his destroyers had been lost before they could launch their torpedoes at the High Seas Fleet. Ajax was in a sinking condition and being abandoned. Beatty’s battle cruisers had forced the Germans to turn but then Beatty turned away and now the Germans were back in pursuit. The damage control parties aboard his flagship had begun to express doubts about bringing her raging fires under control.
And now off his starboard bow he could see more than a dozen German destroyers plus a light cruiser beginning what was obviously a torpedo attack. Turning away from the destroyers would make it easier for the pursuing battleships to close. Warrender decided not to turn. Centurion had only half her starboard 4" guns working while King George V had none. The 3rd Cruiser Squadron was on his left flank with Roxburgh limping behind due to damage from a pair of 12" shells. The Vice Admiral had just ordered Pakenham to cross over to his right flank to disrupt the enemy flotillas but it did not look like they would arrive in time to be decisive.
HMS Centurion 0817 hrs
The damage she had taken to her stern had not jammed Centurion’s steering but they had made her slow in response to the helm. Turning ponderously she had evaded two torpedoes, but the next one struck it amidships on its starboard side. It failed to explode.
The one which struck its bow a minute later did.
HMS Lion 1038 hrs
Ahead of them were the storm and a minefield. Beatty yearned for both. The storm would reduce visibility and keep the German flotillas from making torpedo attacks The minefield was well known to the Germans—they had laid a portion of it. It was not too thick and while Beatty in desperation was willing to trust his luck, he expected the Germans to turn back at its edge. Then again part of him wished they would pursue him and thereby suffer destruction.
Lion was at the head of the squadron, followed by New Zealand. At the rear was Tiger struggling to make a little more than 21 knots on its port engine alone. If Beatty had none better the Trailing behind Tiger was the 3 remaining cruisers of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron—Roxburgh having been lost. Ahead of them was Southampton and Birmingham. Falmouth and Nottingham had been sunk during the torpedo attack on the High Seas Fleet.
Visibility had fallen markedly in the last hour. It was now estimated at only 12,000 yards and steadily worsening. When they were last seen the lead battleship of the pursuing High Seas Fleet Admiral Pakenham had calculated the range to be 24,000 yards.
"Admiral Beatty, Commodore Goodenough reports large enemy vessels to the west heading southeast."
When this expedition began Beatty had longed ardently to find Hipper. A few times in his life people had tried to him, "Be careful what you wish for—you just might get it." He always hated that saying but not as much as he hated it now. He had found Hipper—cutting off his retreat.
:"To hell with canards and platitudes" muttered Beatty under his breath. That included the one about the hunter becoming the hunted. He then yelled his fateful orders.
"Battle cruisers at the enemy! Give it everything!"
Conclusion of the Battle of the Dogger Bank
Old Admiralty Building 1041 hrs
"It still baffles me how this could have come to pass," remarked an anxious and dejected Sir Winston Churchill, "Admiral Warrender had superior speed. He should have been able to refuse battle."
Seated in the First Lord’s office were Admirals Fisher, Oliver and Wilson. The First Sea Lord talked to Churchill alone about an hour ago saying many very critical things about Churchill’s handling of his position. The word Fisher had used most often was ‘dilettante’ and that had stung Churchill worst of all. Now that there were others present Fisher would not be openly disrespectful, but the look in his eyes radiated pure condemnation.
Fisher rolled his eyes. This was one of those situations were a conversation endlessly repeats the same points over and over. Did he want mention yet again that the engagement may have begun inadvertently under conditions of limited visibility and that Admiral Warrender was unable to disengage when each passing minute lengthened visibility. Instead Fisher remarked, "What is insufferable in this situation is the paucity of information. It has been hours since there has been any communication from Admiral Warrender. There have been a few from Admiral Beatty—too few to be blunt about it. And not one has been adequately informative. We have learned that it is the entire High Seas Fleet but not their battle cruisers, which they are fighting. We know that they are trying to retreat to the safety of the Humber, even though they must cross a minefield to get there. Admiral Beatty has told that he has seen three of Warrender’s battleships and that they all appear damaged. We learn belatedly that Queen Mary has been sunk and Tiger was been seriously slowed. Nothing—not a peep--about German losses."
Churchill nodded. He avoided making eye contact with Fisher. "I agree, Admiral. I find this lack of knowing simply serves to heighten the ineffable horror of the situation. We our left to our own imaginations, which in a fervor of ill fancy spawns waking nightmares. We must remember the power of those warships in Second Battle Squadron. Surely they must have accounted for themselves admirably and made the enemy pay a heavy price. And as far as Admiral Beatty, we must remember that is he is doing his utmost to escape a devilish predicament—just as he did so admirably well at Heligoland Bight. I have full confidence that he will do so again losing only poor Queen Mary."
Fisher only acknowledged Churchill’s existence with sideway glances. He acted as if the remarks of the First Lord were of no importance whatsoever.
Churchill rambled on. Then there was a knock on the door. Captain Hall poked his head in the door. His eyes blinked more than usual. "Sorry to interrupt, sir. But Room 40 has just decoded a wireless message Admiral Ingenohl sent to the Admiralstab an hour ago."
Admiral Oliver stood up and walked over to Hall, "Here let me have it, Captain."
Fisher also went over to Hall though, glaring at Oliver, "No. Let me have it. Now is not the time to be hoarding information, Henry."
Admiral Oliver frowned at the rebuke and sat down. Admiral Fisher took the message from Hall then addressed him, "You are dismissed, Captain."
Captain Hall left, shutting the door. For a few seconds Fisher remembered that Hall had commanded of the Queen Mary before being assigned to the NID and was surely saddened by her loss.
Fisher’s jaw tightened as he read the intercepted message.
"What does it say, Admiral?" asked Churchill in a tremulous voice.
"Oh, this is too much! The terrible irony of it all is worthy of a Greek tragedy for we now learn more from our enemy than our own commanders! Ingenohl is pleased to inform the Admiralstab that he has sunk six enemy battleships and one battle cruiser and that he is pursuing the remaining battle cruisers, which he believes have been seriously slowed by damage. He says he will use First Scouting Group to cut off the enemy retreat. Five Germans battleships have been heavily damaged but only two are in any danger of sinking."
SMS Seydlitz 1043 hrs
Puffing heavily on a cigar Admiral Hipper peered at the approaching British battle cruisers through his binoculars. He put down the binoculars and removed the cigar, then turned to his chief of staff, Fregattenkapitan Erich Raeder, and commented, "I am convinced they mean to break through us. They may even try to ram us. Beatty---or whoever is leading the British forces—must be really desperate. Ingenohl must be hot on his heels."
"I am surprised he has not been able to put more distance between himself and High Seas Fleet, sir," replied Raeder, "that would allow him to engage us in a more prudent manner."
"One or more of his ships must be badly slowed, probably due to damage they sustained when they engaged III Squadron. If he does not try to ram he will turn to starboard and try to slip around us on an opposite course. We need to have our light forces ready to make a torpedo attack if he tries that."
"They are quite battered from the storm and the wind is picking up again, sir" noted Raeder.
"I did not say it would be easy. We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it. Anyway as I anticipate an attempt to ram signal a 2point turn to starboard and slow to 12 knots. We can now commence firing with main batteries. Seydlitz and Derfflinger will fire on the lead ship. Moltke and Von der Tann on the ‘I’ class ship behind it. Blucher will fire on the light cruisers. Secondary batteries are to hold back until I signal otherwise. Oh, and signal Admiral Ingenohl we have engaged the British battle cruiser squadron."
HMS Iron Duke Pentland Firth 1050 hrs
"This wireless message had just arrived from Admiral Beatty, sir!"
Admiral Jellicoe accepted the message with mixed emotions. It was part dread but there was also a desperate need to know. There had been nothing from Admiral Warrender since the initial one about engaging the German First Battle Squadron. There had been four messages from Beatty before the one he now held. They had answered only some of Jellicoe’s questions. It was now clear that the entire High Seas Fleet was involved in this battle—except for the German battle cruisers whose whereabouts remained unknown. .Jellicoe was not yet informed of Room 40’s intercepted message.
Steeling himself against the worst he looked at the message.
GERMAN FIRST CRUISER SQUADRON SIGHTED AHEAD ON INTERCEPT COURSE. THEY INTEND TO CUT OFF MY RETREAT WILL FIGHT MY WAY THROUGH THEM.
Jellicoe shook his head. Still not a word in Beatty’s message about Second Battle Squadron! And now to learn that Beatty’s already battered squadron would be forced to fight its way through Hipper’s fresh forces which would surely include at least one flotilla. And if they did make it through the battle cruisers there would be the minefields to cross.
The Grand Fleet had just finished forming up and was now preparing to steam south, but Jellicoe realized they could not reach the Dogger Bank before nightfall. While he was eager to do battle with the High Seas Fleet there were several aspects of his current situation that had Jellicoe worried. Some of them of were his usual fears of being lured into a minefield or a submarine ambush or a dark night torpedo boat attack. But another concern was his scouting resources. Most of what the Grand Fleet was involved in the battle down near the Dogger Bank. Because of the units Fisher had committed to the hunt for the German raiders, esp. Spee, all Jellicoe had left for scouting this day was 1st Cruiser Squadron.
HMS Lion 1101 hrs
"Admiral Beatty, I strongly recommend an immediate 8 point turn to starboard so we can bring our broadside to bear!" yelled Captain Chatfield over the explosions of the near misses.
Lion fitfully struggled forward. Seawater was now pouring into her forward boilers. Her ‘A’ turret had been disabled by an 11" shell that penetrated its armor but failed to explode. She was firing on the lead German ship, believed to be Seydlitz.
"No! And watch your tone of voice, Captain Chatfield!" replied Beatty tartly. His plan remained the same. He would ram one of the German battle cruisers after firing torpedoes at short range. In the confusion he expected that to cause the remaining ships would turn to starboard and snake around the German rear.
A 12" shell from Derfflinger now struck the edge of the conning tower. It did not. completely penetrate the armor but holed it.
SMS Blucher 1105 hrs
Blucher had already badly damaged British light cruiser. It now switched its guns to the lead ship in a column of 3 armored cruisers that had steamed into view.
HMS Lion 1126 hrs
Captain Chatfield slapped Admiral Beatty. When the admiral did not respond Chatfield slapped him again.
"Admiral, admiral! Please wake up, sir! Lion is going down, sir. We need to abandon ship immediately."
The storm had arrived but had not yet achieved its full force. Lion was dead in the water down by the bow. The wind and waves tossed it about at their impish pleasure as if it was a toy. When the shell had holed the conning tower armor a splinter had creased the admiral’s skull.
Beatty stirred semiconsciously. He tried to open his eyes. There was some blood in his right eye. He groaned, trying to clear his groggy head by shaking it. He tried to speak but the words were incoherent.
Chatfield could see that Beatty was not going to be able to make it out without assistance. At least he wasn’t going to be dead weight. He turned to Commander Seymour who had his right hand wrapped in a hurriedly wrapped bandage, "Ralph, give me a hand where the Admiral. Let’s get him to his feet."
Beatty’s mind cleared a little. "Tiger and New Zealand?" he croaked.
Chatfield exchanged glances with Seymour before responding, "Tiger has capsized, Admiral. It now appears that New Zealand is sinking as well."
"Did we sink any of the Germans?"
Chatfield shook his head, "Seydlitz is listing and burning but if she could survive Heligoland Bight, she should be able survive her current damage even with this storm. And the others show even less sign of damage."
A seeping black void already worming its way in Beatty’s soul grew stronger with the latest news. Beatty momentarily feared that Lion had struck her colors. But he continued to hear the whang of enemy shells striking the hull and that meant she had not surrendered The hits were quite frequent; the German secondary batteries had joined in while he was unconscious. Beatty tried to think of something to do, some order to give. It escaped him. He then wonder how he looked just then. He could accept death but wanted to look good when it happened.
"How be it that we’ve come to this awful doom, eh? Why it’s Captain Hall’s fault, I tell you, me darlings. The bloody twit with the twitching face has guided us all to ruin" Beatty muttered and sputtered in a slurred voice with the Irish accent he usually suppressed.
The sky had darkened with the storm despite being midday. The bridge lacked electrical power. The light from fires burning forward and the flashes of gunfire were all the more visible. Then there was the sound of a large German shell exploding now from them in the mainmast.
"We cannot afford to delay, sir " announced Chatfield. Seymour and a medic who had been treating Beatty put their arms around him and steered the stricken admiral off the bridge and down to the base of the mainmast. The floor was slick from a mixture of seawater and blood. The acrid smoke of nearby fires filled their nostrils. Chatfield followed not fair behind.
HMS Devonshire heading southwest1150 hrs
The Devonshire was all that remained of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. She steamed into the heart of the storm. Her machinery was intact but her bridge had been completely obliterated by an 11" shell from Von der Tann during the battle. She was now being commanded by her chief engineer from the aft steering compartment. Chasing her was Blucher. Devonshire’s aft 7.5" mount was now wrecked. She continued to take hits but fortunately they were all in the superstructure. She had some fires burning—none too serious as yet but the storm winds did fan the flames.
Suddenly a lookout reported Blucher had turned away. The acting captain surmised that she though she had reached the edge of the minefield. He thought the German captain probably had it right. Devonshire continued on its course.
HMS Arethusa heading NNW 1155 hrs
Gun flashes had seen indistinctly to the north in the last few minutes. Commodore Tyrwhitt watched as best he could from the bridge. Visibility in the storm remained wretched though it seemed to be improving slightly. Galatea was 500 yards behind the flagship. The storm battered destroyer flotilla had lagged far behind and had not been visible for over an hour.
"Sir, a ship is visible off our port bow."
Tyrwhitt looked with his own binoculars. What his lookouts were seeing were just the fires of a burning ship and the flashes of its guns rather then the ship itself. There was obviously a battle going on ahead.
"Guns prepare to fire and standby!" he ordered.
Even with the storm limiting the speed of the ships the range closed rapidly. Soon Tyrwhitt added, "I think she might be one of ours. Transmit a challenge."
The challenge sequence was transmitted by searchlight. .
"No response, sir. Shall we commence firing?"
"No! Send it again! I think she is a ‘Town’ class light cruiser."
"I think you may be right, sir"
This time the proper response came back by searchlight.
"She is one of ours and she needs some assistance it appears," said Tyrwhitt with some relief, "Find out who she is, what ships are pursuing her and if there are other British ships nearby. Be ready to open fire on her pursuers once they become visible."
It took a while for the inquiry and response to be transmitted in Morse Code by searchlight. "Says she is the Birmingham, sir. She is being pursued by two light cruisers."
The Graudenz came into view with her 4.1" guns firing rapidly. She had some fires of her own burning in her mainmast.
"Commence firing on the German warship!" ordered Tyrwhitt. The guns on Arethusa erupted and were soon joined by Galatea. As it did the Stralsund came into view. Tyrwhitt ordered Galatea to switch her gun to the new threat.
Meanwhile messages were exchanged searchlight with Birmingham. "She says she that is fleeing from an engagement with the High Seas Fleet, Commodore"
Seeing themselves now outnumbered the German cruisers broke off the action before either side suffered significant damage and headed NNE at flank speed. Tyrwhitt considered pursuing. Part of him wanted very to pursue vigorously but another—larger—part of him recalled how Harwich Force was nearly obliterated at the Broad Fourteens. He decided instead to tail the German cruisers cautiously at the limit of his visibility.
SMS Stuttgart 1205 hrs
What remained of the battle had degenerated into a series of pursuits. When the cruisers at the van of the High Seas Fleet arrived Hipper promptly ordered them to rescue those seamen it could find in the icy waters. The crew of the Stuttgart tried their best but hindered by the heavy seas rescued less than 80, mostly from the Lion. Clinging to a lifeboat capsized by the storm were two British officers, half dead from exposure. One was unconscious and was being held by the other.
Despite the difficulty of the heavy seas, they were hauled aboard.
"Brrr. –c-c-cold. I-I_I am Commander Ralph Seymour of the Royal Navy and this is Admiral David Beatty. I think he, he has gotten s-seawater into his lungs. He may also have a concussion. I fear he is dying. Can you help him, please—bitte?" He thought about mentioning that the others in the boat—Captain Chatfield and the medic, had perished, but said nothing. Just how much information he should be sharing with the enemy was unclear in his mind.
The drenched shivering Seymour looked imploringly at his rescuers. He feared that he might not be communicating effectively. The rescue crew however was led an officer, who spoke some English. He was familiar enough with British naval uniforms to see that the unconscious officer was indeed was indeed an admiral.
HMS Doon heading southeast 1215 hrs
When news of the battle reached the Admiralty they ordered their ships stationed at Hartlepool for local defense to proceed immediately to the Dogger Bank. The 4 small River class destroyers were already on station off the coast. They bravely steamed out into the heavy seas The old submarine C.9 tried to follow but could make little headway in the storm while the two old light cruisers, Patrol and Forward raised steam
These British destroyers now encountered 5 German destroyers belonging to the High Seas Fleet. A battle began at high speed. Rostock soon arrived to reinforce the German torpedo boats but soon after that Patrol arrived erelong to reinforce the British destroyers. Both sides fought cautiously. When the Prinz Heinrich was seen approaching the British forces withdrew to the west. Ingneohl had ordered the High Seas Fleet back to Wilhelmshaven so the Germans made no attempt to pursue. Damage had accumulated on both sides. The most damaged ship was the old British destroyer Moy, which loon lost steam and then foundered as Patrol attempted to tow her back to port.
SMS Ostfriesland 1525 hrs
The damage control teams worked furiously, despite being badly depleted by casualties. The storm had for about two harrowing hours put the warship’s survival in jeopardy. Two of the wooden cofferdams, which had been erected were breached allowing progressive flooding. However Ingenohl’s decision to send Ostfriesland and Westfalen back to Wilhelmshaven had meant that they only caught the edge of the storm and were spared its worst. The starboard engines remained inoperative but the list had been reduced and she could make 14 knots. Weatfalen was doing a small notch better and was making nearly 16 knots and had pulled ahead of Ostfriesland.
When the Battle of Dogger Bank began Commodore Keyes was cruising in the Lurcher off Terschelling with Firedrake and 8 submarines—one of which was French. Their mission had been to guard against the possibility of Hipper attacking the Straits of Dover. When he learned of Warrender’s plight at 0733 Keyes quickly rounded up 4 of his submarines and sent them off with Firedrake while he tried to locate the other four.
When the storm had passed it left mist and fog in its place. The escorting torpedo boats of 12th Torpedo Half-Flotilla stumbled upon a British submarine, the E.8, on the surface. Before the submarine could dive the German 88mm guns damaged her conning tower. After diving the E.8 found conning tower leaking too much and was forced to resurface. The torpedo boats pounced on her. E.8 managed to send a wireless distress call. This brought the nearby Firedrake into action.
As they were doing this, another British submarine, the E11 was able to approach the two damaged battleships. The E.11 successfully torpedoed the leading battleship, which was the Westfalen. The skipper of the E.11, Lt. Cmdr Martin Nasmith, .was disappointed with the resulting damage and so to make certain that Westfalen sank, torpedoed her again then withdrew. Even with the second torpedo hit there was enough time for nearly three quarters of her crew to escape before she capsized and sank.
Old Admiralty Building 1805 hrs
Admiral Fisher was on the telephone with Prime Minister Asquith.
"You see Prime Minister, not only is the firepower of the Grand Fleet sorely diminished, but what is more disturbing still is the fact that so much of its scouting element was—"
"---you can spare me further details, admiral. I must confess that my head is spinning from what you shared with me so far. I will need a good night’s sleep before I can absorb all this. I nonetheless I feel that I now have a grasp of the Big Picture. It is painfully obvious that there are going to be some serious consequences to today’s events. Some somber decisions will need to reached quickly, even though I loathe haste in matters of any significance. However there is one thing that I can state most emphatically at this time. You are permitted—indeed I will say expected—to disregard any and all orders from the First Lord that you deem imprudent in the slightest. Is this perfectly clear?"
For the first time that dreadful day Fisher smiled.
"Completely clear, Prime Minister."
sickbay SMS Stuttgart 1950 hrs
Because of his rank the ship’s physician gave David Beatty some extra attention. The ship’s captain had notified Admiral Ingenohl of his capture. A crew member who spoke English was assigned to watch over and attend Beatty. The admiral now suddenly began to stir on his cot.
"Herr Doktor, the British Admiral is moving!"
Beatty became semiconscious for a few minutes. He muttered a few things that were completely incoherent. Then in a stronger voice he cried out, "It is not my fault, I tell you! Captain Hall is responsible for this mess. God damn Blinker Hall and his bloody intelligence!"
That was the last thing David Beatty of County Wexford would ever say. He soon lapsed into a coma and despite receiving considerable medical attention died during the night.
Off the Tyne 2040 hrs
Due to their being damaged early in the battle, the destroyers Lynx and Ambuscade had become separated from the main action. They were able to skirt to the north of the battle and made it back to the Tyne. They were challenged by a local patrol and identified themselves. Upon docking a great many questions were asked. Their crew was able to provide only a few answers.
Berlin 2100 hrs
"Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, what has happened that you have insisted upon seeing me on such notice?" asked Kaiser Wilhelm with considerable concern.
"Your Majesty, I strongly recommend that you sit down before hearing the news I bring."
"Oh dear, my poor fleet! Is your news that bad, Alfred?"
"No, Your Highness, it is because it is that good."
New York City 0105 local time
Dressed in a fine silk bathrobe, the publisher William Randolph Hearst trundled over to the telephone receiver. His people at the long distance radio station at Sayville on Long Island had called and demanded to speak with him, saying it was urgent. For the sake of the caller it had better be.
"This is WR Hearst," he spoke into the telephone. He listened for a little more than a minute then he spoke excitedly in his high pitched voice, "What? Are you sure? Go on. Uh, huh. Incredible! Wonderful! Distribute this story to all my papers. Tell the editors to make sure dominates the front page in the next edition. I am going to write my own editorial about this! Don’t hesitate to call if there is anything more that I should know. This is the story of the century!"
"What is it William?" asked Millicent, his wife as he hung up the telephone.
"Wonderful news, my dear! There was a big naval battle. The German Navy caught a portion of the Royal Navy and destroyed them utterly. Do you have any idea what this means?"
"No, William, other than some sailor wives are widows this evening, I don’t know what it means?"
"British naval superiority, Millie, is the only thing that has been keeping the Entente from making peace. Now that it is gone as well, their final delusion of victory has been dispelled. Mark my words! Peace negotiations will start before Christmas. An armistice agreement should be reached soon thereafter. This abominable European war, this insane orgy of fratricide which disgraces the white race will be over!"
Berlin 0720 hrs
"General von Falkenhayn, have you heard the big news, sir?" asked a member of his staff.
The general shook his head, while trying to think of all the battles going on that could be causing a stir. The French attack in Champagne had been completely stopped last he heard—though the repeated German counterattacks had failed to retake Suippes. The British advance in Picardy had also appeared to be faltering. Hmm, so was it something on the Eastern Front? He thought Hindenburg had given up on breaking the Russian defenses on the Bzura and that the assault on Lemberg was delayed on account of François being abruptly relieved of command of Center Army. Maybe Conrad had done something stupid again.
"No, Alois, what is it?" he replied.
"It is the navy, sir. They won a big victory. They sank six British dreadnought battleships and four battle cruisers, while losing only one dreadnought."
"What? What? Are you sure this is not some sort of hoax?"
"Hmm, I think it’s for real, sir. We received an official cable less than an hour ago."
Falkenhayn smiled broadly, "This is very good news. I have of late regarded the British as the linchpin of the Entente. Maybe they will decide to make peace, now that their precious control of the seas is slipping—though I would not place a wager on that proposition. In any case our brave sailors and their officers can be proud of themselves for it is a most remarkable achievement!"
"Yes, indeed, general. The Kaiser himself says it is the equal of Tanenberg. He is calling Admiral von Ingenohl, the German Nelson!"
Falkenhayn’s smile waned and he sighed. He tried hard to keep envy from his undermining his patriotic appreciation of the great naval victory. Maybe it would bring peace. If it did he would celebrate with the rest of Germany. But if did not Falkenhayn could only see more complications to an already complicated war.
BEF IV Army Corps HQ 0810 hrs
"We have confirmation about the identity of the reinforcements the Germans have thrown into the battle north of Crecy, General. It is indeed the 6th Bavarian Division," remarked General Rawlinson, the Corps Commander.
"Oh, Hell, why am I the least bit surprised!" snarled General Smith-Dorrien, "we know it’s been Sixth Army’s best division so far. They know it too. Prince Rupprecht gets in some trouble he sends in his bloody best to fix the damn problem."
"It sure looks like it, sir."
After a promising start the advance of the BEF Second Army had stalled as the German Sixth Army poured reinforcements into the breach of their lines. General Smith-Dorrien was meeting with General Rawlinson to keep it moving before the front solidified once again to barbed wire and trenches.
"How are the Belgians doing?"
Rawlinson grimaced, "To be brutally frank, sir, they’ve proven to be something of a disappointment. Sometimes they fight fiercely –too fiercely, ignoring their own casualties in a frantic attempt to kill Germans. More often my observers say they are dispirited even sullen, merely going through the motions in a war they no longer see as vital. They are still not the soldiers they once were."
Smith-Dorrien nodded grimly, "I was afraid of that. There was too much wishful thinking about their involvement in this battle."
"Will North Midlands Division finally made it into battle today?"
"Hopefully this afternoon, " answered Smith-Dorrien with a sour face, "they are coming off a forced march and there is some confusion in its rear echelon."
Rawlinson sighed, "Well it is the first time the Terriers have been committed to a battle as a complete division. There was bound to be problems. And I don’t mean losing some of their artillery to a torpedo, unfortunate as that was."
"Oh, that fuckin’ torpedo cost us more than you know, Henry. On account of it the Admiralty now says Dieppe is too dangerous to use except in an emergency."
"I take it the current critical juncture in this battle does not count as an emergency."
"Hah! You got that one bloody right! Everything must now come through Le Havre. This is the main reason you are not getting the supply of artillery shells you were promised."
"As you already know full well, sir, we fired off most of artillery stockpile in the bombardment Monday morning. It was effective, but since then the Germans have always had more shells available. "
"Well, if the Navy was leery of using Dieppe, what happened yesterday is going to make them more so. Quite frankly, sir, I still find that news near impossible to believe. I had told instructed my junior officers not to pass it on to the men for fear it would be very bad for morale at this important time."
"Hmm, you’re probably wise to do that. But you are going to have to tell them sometime soon. If you wait too long, they will find out anyway and think you are treating them like children. Now there are some officers who do treat their men exactly that way but I find that attitude foolish and condescending, bordering on reprehensible."
"Understood, sir," said Rawlinson dryly. Smith-Dorrien had a reputation for being much more concerned about the feelings of the enlisted men than most British senior officers.
"Well, our bloody navy really went balls up, yesterday. Found it hard to believe myself when I first heard about it and I’ve had my doubts about them Navy bastards for some time, mind you. So I tell you what’s coming, Henry. The bloody Royal Navy is going to lay claim to every blessed shilling that Parliament even thinks they can lay hands on. We will be lucky if we have enough bullets much less artillery shells. You mark my words, but the British Army will end up paying the Navy’s stupidity yesterday."
HMS Iron Duke northwest of Heligoland Bight heading SSE 0830 hrs
Admiral John Jellicoe was nervous. For several months now he had told the Admiralty that he would never battle the High Seas Fleet in the Bight—and they had agreed with him. Now here he was at its outskirts looking for a fight. His logic was that the High Seas Fleet must have been heavily damaged in the previous day’s encounter. He wanted to sink those ships before they could be repaired to sortie again.
It made sense, but still he was nervous. The news that E.11 had sunk a German dreadnought made him nervous despite being the only real good news. If British submarines could sink German dreadnoughts, German submarines could sink British dreadnoughts. Perhaps more easily—Jellicoe had not forgotten Audacious. The Grand Fleet had already changed course once this morning after a periscope sighting. The risk of submarines was much less at night, but he had managed to get little sleep because he fretted about the possibility of German torpedo boats infiltrating his screen of only 31 destroyers during the pitch dark night. What he regarded as the weakness of his flotillas worried Jellicoe a great deal. It worried him still more now. He had lost 5 of his destroyers at Dogger Bank. Everyone else in the Admiralty made it sound like a trivial thing compared to the loss of 6 superdreadnoughts and 4 battle cruisers. Sir John Jellicoe did not regard it as trivial.
His chief of staff, Read Admiral Charles Madden, approached him, "Still worrying about the German submarines, sir?"
Jellicoe tried with much success to smile, "Aye, that and some other things. For instance, our only real scouting asset today is 1st Cruiser Squadron. I do not mean in any way to disparage its excellent officers and their fine ships, but the fact is it is simply not enough!"
"The Admiralty believes the German scouting assets were badly hurt in the battle," argued Madden, "so they have their own problems in that regard."
"They may true but then again it may not. It appears that we know very little of the details about what happened during that encounter. For all we know the Germans could have a much stronger scouting force available. Add that to the fact we are on our enemy’s doorstep and the result could be more unpleasantness."
"So it sounds like you are still thinking about heading back around noon, if you find neither a battered High Seas Fleet nor stragglers to attack."
"That is correct. However I think it is when I get back to Scapa, that the real battle will start"
"I am afraid I don’t follow sir? Are you still worried German submarines will infiltrate Scapa? My understanding is the improvements they made too care of that."
"Hmm, I hope they did. But no the battle I was referring to will be getting Admiral Fisher and whomever is going to be the new First Lord to bring back all the remaining battle cruisers. You hear me. I said all of them! Immediately!"
Wilhelmshaven 0940 hrs
Kaiser Wilhelm had never felt happier in his entire life. He strode forward triumphantly to greet his conquering admiral. With him were Admirals Tirpitz, Muller and Bachmann but Kaiser Wilhelm had insisted that they stay back at this dramatic moment. It would be just Ingenohl and Wilhelm—the two most important people in the world!
"Grand Admiral Frederich von Ingenohl! Yes, you heard me correctly! You are hereby promoted, effective immediately! Germany is forever in your debt! But to be more accurate I should say the entire world is in your debt, for this war will determine whether or not the world is to be denied the inestimable treasure of German culture. And now by precisely following my carefully formulated policy about the proper use of the High Seas Fleet you have delivered the decisive blow in the struggle! The spell of Trafalgar is finally and irrevocably broken. In a few days my royal relations make known to me that they are now ready to be reasonable. I will treat with them firmly but wisely and the result will be a new Golden Age of Europe with Germany as its heart."
Ingenohl smiled. He had always tried to do his best, but never thought he had been appreciated. He thought Admiral von Tirpitz had been overly harsh in condemning his withdrawal when Moltke was torpedoed in the Battle of the Broad Fourteens. This now was his opportunity to gloat, but it was not something Frederich von Ingenohl delighted in doing. On the voyage back to Wilhemshaven he made a vow that he would not be one of those commanders who downplay the contributions of their subordinates. In particular, he would acknowledge Hipper’s skillful handling of the final phase of the battle.
Kaiser Wilhelm held a Pour le Merite in his good hand. As he strode forward he did not think his feet were touching the ground.
Buckingham Palace 1105 hrs
Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd-George were briefing King George V on the recent naval debacle. Asquith had wanted to bring Fisher, despite the monarch’s famed antipathy for the man, but the king demanded they come by themselves. This forced the prime minister to memorize details of the battle he would have preferred to leave to others. He was glad therefore that David was accompanying him this time. The Welsh Wizard had an impressive memory.
"It is simply incomprehensible. Six of our mightiest dreadnoughts and four excellent battle cruisers destroyed. And we believe that the enemy has lost perhaps two dreadnoughts, and maybe—just maybe--a predreadnought and a battle cruiser. It is unthinkable, gentlemen. It is unacceptable. This has been the darkest day of my rein," King George V lamented.
Asquith thought it best to say as little as he could get away at this point. His king was not as completely angry as he dreaded.
"Well it seems that everyone is so very willing to blame the First Lord for this catastrophe. Churchill’s enthusiasm was in many ways admirable," King George said with a deep sigh, "but I am afraid it sometimes interfered with his clarity of thought."
"Well, at least, the Army appears to be doing well in Picardy."
Asquith just barely suppressed a frown. This morning Kitchener had told him the Battle of Picardy had become "complicated." When pressed for clarification of just what that meant, Kitchener said German counterattacks had intensified stalling the British advance.
"The confidence of the nation is wavering, Prime Minister. Your government is teetering. We think that a vote of no confidence at this moment would be yet another cruel blow for my suffering subjects. It must not happen! You must do whatever needs to be done to get the Conservatives to support you!"
"Understood, Your Majesty. I shall meet with Mr. Bonar Law in the next few days—"
"—You will meet with Bonar Law tonight or tomorrow!"
"Uh, but of course, Your Majesty. Tomorrow is what I meant. Have no fear, we shall work something out."
Lloyd-George then spoke, "Your Majesty, we are confident that if we offer Mr. Bonar Law the position of Home Secretary he will provide us with the support we need to govern. We will then move McKenna back to the admiralty "
Home Secretary? We? Asquith turned towards Lloyd-George and stared at him with a mixture of bewilderment and ire.
King George raised an eyebrow, "Hmm, Home Secretary? Yes, I think that would do it. I am so glad that you are grabbing the bull by the horns this time, Herbert. Though I do wonder whether McKenna will feel diminished by having to relinquish Home Secretary?"
Though King George had addressed Asquith, it was Lloyd-George who presumed to answer, "If I might answer that extremely perceptive question, Your Majesty, that in our current crisis the Admiralty is temporarily a more important post than Home Secretary. Surely Reginald will see that as being the case and be honored to serve his nation."
"Splendid! Well at least on this topic we are reassured. Though in addition to Bonar law serving as Home Secretary, you will need to find suitable positions for Austen Chamberlain and Lord Curzon. As far as Carson is concerned we see no reason to move him. Redmond remains most unhappy with Carson’s presence in the Cabinet but nonetheless he would vigorously oppose a no confidence vote as he dreads the prospect of Bonar Law becoming your successor."
"I quite agree, Your Majesty. Despite our political differences, Carson has proven himself to be a capable Attorney General. I further concur that we need not worry ourselves overmuch about Sir Redmond at this time."
King George sighed deeply and went over to his desk where he picked up a telegram and waved it in the direction of the ministers, "This arrived a little more than an hour ago. It is from President Poincare. I will skip the more formal first section, ‘We know full well how much your great nation values its navy and the control of the sea. We know therefore what a shock this latest development must be for you. It is for this reason that the French government gives its assurance that despite any and all adversity it is completely resolved to see this struggle through to final victory. Together our victory is inevitable."
King George stared at his ministers, "I think President Poincare sent this cable both to reassure our government and to ask that we reassure his government in return. Will shall reply to him and do precisely that in unambiguous terms. But what I am afraid I must ask now you gentlemen, is whether you are hearing any whispers from members of your party to the effect that this would be a good time for Britain to leave the war, leaving France and Russia to fend for themselves."
"Rest assured, Your Majesty," said Asquith, "that the Liberal Party remains steadfast in this great struggle."
"Thank you, Prime Minster. Your answer dispels some haunting concerns," said King George. After a pause he continued," King Albert has requested that I meet with him tomorrow. What I am about to tell you is not to go beyond this room, is that understood?"
"Understood, Your Majesty," replied Asquith and Lloyd-George in rough unison.
"Well, the short of it is that King Albert has been in a deep melancholia since leaving Belgium. We have been sending all around England to deliver speeches and meet with both domestic patriotic groups and foreign correspondents. On the one hand he has been large effective in that capacity, but evidently this role is taking a toll on him for he seems to have a sensitive nature underneath the Soldier King veneer. He does his very best but inwardly he broods. Now with this dreadful news of our misfortune at sea, he is going to have doubts about our steadfastness. It is comforting to know that I can put his fears to rest with honesty and sincerity."
Port Stanley 0805 hrs (local)
Admiral Doveton Sturdee had decided to bring his ships back to the Falklands to top off their coal bunkers before proceeding on to the River Plate. He was just finishing a very nice breakfast when a messenger ran in.
"Admiral, sir, this message has just arrived from the Admiralty." The messenger’s face was very pale.
"What is it, son? Is it something about Spee’s Squadron?"
"Uh, you had better read for yourself, sir."
London 2050 hrs
"Sir, Mr. Lloyd George, is on the telephone, " said Bonar Law’s manservant, "and he wishes very much to speak with you."
Old Admiralty 2325 hrs
"It is so incredibly frustrating! We lose a third of our capital ship strength and yet we still know so little about the battle," remarked Churchill. He was with Admirals Oliver and Wilson. Fisher was decided to get some sleep. For Churchill the night was young.
"We are doing our best, First Lord," replied Oliver defensively, "Of the ships that we sent to ambush the German battle cruisers, only four survived. Lynx and Ambuscade were rendered impotent by damage before first light and therefore were on the periphery of the battle until they made their escape. Devosnhire escaped Blucher and made it safely through a minefield but everyone on their bridge were killed by a German shell. The rest of the cruiser was not too badly hit but the crew can tell us little. Birmingham was in sight of Beatty’s battle cruisers most of the battle. We are getting some details from their officers—"
"—Yes, yes, I know all that, including the disturbing reports from some of Birmingham’s officers that Queen Mary was destroyed in an explosion. We know that one of their predreadnoughts as well as a Kaiser class battleship were forced to haul of line with a serious list. But except for the reports of one British battleship burning out of control and another down by the head fairly late in the battle we know so damn little about what happened."
"There is no gainsaying that, First Lord," conceded Wilson, "The other late actions in the battle—those involving Harwich Force, the submarines and the ships from Hartlepool, shed very little light on what was the main action of this battle."
10 Down Street 1105 hrs Friday Dec 18, 1914
Once again it was just the two of them—Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and the leader of Conservative Party, Andrew Bonar Law. Asquith made a perfunctory attempt at light conversation when Bonar Law arrived. Neither politician was in the mood for levity. It was time to get down to the business of governance.
"The reason that I have asked you here today, " said the Prime Minister, "is that the recent naval defeat has sorely shaken the confidence of our people. In order for our Empire to emerge victorious in this war it is necessary that there be solidarity at the highest level. I conversed with His Majesty at length on this subject yesterday and can relate with utter and complete honesty that he concurs wholeheartedly. "
"The last time I was in this office, I had strongly suggested that Sir Edward Carson was best qualified to be First Lord," replied an upset Bonar Law." If you had taken that suggestion this disaster would have been averted,"
Asquith frowned. He wondered how Law knew about Churchill’s fateful orders. It was best to quickly shift the focus of the discussion, "McKenna is going to be giving up the Home Office to return to the Admiralty. How would you like to be the new Home Secretary?"
Asquith had expected the sudden offer of such a high position without any haggling would catch Bonar Law off guard. What he did not know was that David Lloyd-George had a lengthy telephone conversation with Bonar Law yesterday evening. Knowing the offer was coming Bonar Law’s reaction surprised the Prime Minister with its lack of excitement.
"That is a very constructive offer, Prime Minster. I thank you deeply and I accept it. However I must reiterate that I firmly believe Carson is the best choice for the Admiralty."
"That position is not subject to negotiation. McKenna will function most effectively as he had done in the past."
Bonar Law nodded his head slightly. Lloyd-George had predicted that the Prime Minster would be adamant about the Admiralty. Bonar Law’s intuition was that the Chancellor was probably right. While he preferred Carson he regarded McKenna as acceptable. There was some thing Law had not discussed with Lloyd-George, whom he only trusted so far. It was time to give it a go.
Bonar Law spoke in a grave voice, "Let me be direct, Herbert. While I appreciate your generous offer of the Home Office, it is not going to be sufficient. I now ask yet again that you make Carson the new First Lord. If you had agreed to that one change I would make no further petition and leave this office content. But again you brusquely dismiss my extremely sensible suggestion presumptively regarding the Admiralty telling me that the position is ‘not subject to negotiation.’ The Home Office is not enough! If you are going to be obstinate about the admiralty then I must make two demands."
Asquith drummed his fingers on his desk. This was becoming unpleasant. "Go ahead, let me hear what you want."
"First is that Austen Chamberlain must be included in the Cabinet. And not as a minister without portfolio either."
Asquith relaxed and smiled slightly. This was something he had anticipated. ."I see no problem with Chamberlain replacing you at the Colonial Office. What is your other condition?"
"I want Lord Curzon to become the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland."
Asquith nearly gaped and for a few seconds he merely stared, both bewildered and annoyed. Was this a joke? No, he could see in Law’s blazing eyes that he was deadly serious. Finally Asquith shook his head vigorously and glared "You go to far, Andrew. That is completely unacceptable and you damn well know it."
Bonar Law stared back for a minute then sprung out of his chair, pointing his finger at the Prime Minster and yelled, "Go too far! Will y’a listen to yourself, eh? Your inept administration is perched on the edge of political oblivion, Herbert! All I need to do is push and over you go! Then I can move in here. But in a time of crisis I am trying to serve my King and country and so I came with the absolute minimum of demands. Two small positions and only one of them is a member of the Cabinet. The absolute minimum I tell you!"
"Making Curzon Viceroy would disrupt what we have accomplished in Ireland, Andrew. You know that and I know that."
"Why? You have the Home Rule Bill on the books. We have been looking for a replacement for the Earl of Aberdeen the last few weeks. Everyone keeps saying that the Lord Lieutenant is largely ceremonial, that the real decision making is done by the Chief Secretary, who unlike the Viceroy is included in your Cabinet. To clarify my position I am not demanding that the Lord Lieutenant be included in the Cabinet. For one thing, there would be some obvious problems with Curzon and Kitchener being in the same Cabinet. For another, I am perfect content if Birrell remains as Chief Secretary."
Asquith fumed. It was not that Bonar Law’s points were completely specious. Birrell had recently persuaded the Cabinet of the need to replace the current Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Aberdeen John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon. Ironically the Baron Wimborne Ivor Churchill a cousin of Churchill, had been the leading candidate. The Lord Lieutenant was definitely less important in determining policy than the Chief Secretary for Ireland. But the position did have considerable symbolic value and at this time the Irish situation was wrapped up a great deal with symbols. Furthermore someone as forceful and dynamic as George Curzon would soon find ways to regain some of the power that the Viceroy had once wielded. Asquith was deeply worried that Birrell would resign if Curzon became Lord Lieutenant.
"Do you know if George would accept this position?"
Bonar Law shrugged, "If you agree I will ask him this afternoon. If this makes it any easier for you to decide, I will not insist on placing another Unionist in that position should he refuse it."
Bonar Law was being misleading. He wanted Asquith to think Curzon had not been asked, but in fact he had been asked late last night. At first Lord Curzon thought Law was jesting, and dryly remarked that Ireland was probably the only place on the globe he knew less well than his fellow politicians. But Law continued to press the idea, promising that the position would be granted more of the authority it once had. Eventually George expressed some interest but refused to make a commitment. Bonar Law was fairly confident he could entice him into accept in the afternoon if Asquith agreed. George Nathaniel Curzon liked a challenge.
:"Sweet Jesus, I am sure I am going to regret this, but in exchange for your support, I will make this accursed appointment. So here is my condition. His Majesty wants very much for this crisis to be resolved before Monday. So Chamberlain and Curzon must accept their positions Sunday afternoon at the latest. If they have not accepted by then their offer is withdrawn, but you must still give me your support. Is this acceptable?"
"It is. If I can get their assent tonight though, I think the announcement should be made tomorrow."
"Hmm. Yes, it would be best to get this done as quickly as possible. If you can let me know before 9 o’clock I will make the announcement tomorrow," said Asquith with resignation mixed with dread. He then weakly extended his hand, "Well do we have an agreement? Do I have your word, Mr. Bonar Law?
"You have my word, Prime Minister."
Wilhelmshaven 1600 hrs
The Admiralstab was meeting. Grand Admiral von Ingenohl and Rear Admiral Hipper were ordered to attend.
"Once again I must express my awe at your great victory and extend congratulations on your well deserved promotion, Grand Admiral von Igenohl," said Admiral Gustav Bachmann, the head of the Admiralstab with great enthusiasm. There was a round of applause from everyone in the room. Ingenohl nearly blushed.
Bachmann continued, "The accomplishment staggers the mind. You sank 6 dreadnought battleships, 4 battle cruisers, 3 armored cruisers, 3 light cruisers, 7 destroyers and a submarine, while losing only Westfalen and 3 torpedo boats. Admittedly many of your ships were damaged, some of them quite severely—esp. Ostfriesland whose very survival was most remarkable—but that does not in any way diminish your glory. In fact it appears that the battle was as close to perfect as one could."
Tirpitz interrupted, "I can hope for better. We did lose Westfalen."
Bachmann was taken aback. Was there no satisfying Grand Admiral Tirpitz? "But surely the lose of one battleship from our oldest class of dreadnought is a very small price to pay for the ships we destroyed?"
Tirpitz turned to Ingenohl, "Admiral von Ingenohl, what I am about to say is not meant in any way as criticism. Your tactical skill was most impressive Wednesday. But I think we should pay close attention to the manner of Westfalen’s loss?"
"Westfalen was severly damaged by British 13.5" shells and was forced to haul out of line. On her way home a British submarine penetrated the half flotilla screening her and sank her with 2 torpedoes. Just what is your point?"
"My point, dear Gustav, is that we need to take the danger that British submarines pose to High Seas Fleet more seriously. The fact that Moltke and Helgoland only suffered very limited damage when they were torpedoed has made us complacent about the British submarines."
"That criticism is harsh and unfair. We have expanded out minefields esp. those guarding the Bight. Besides that there is little else we can do at this time."
"Yes and no. As you will recall at one point during the Battle of the Broad Fourteens, a British submarine made an unsuccessful attack on Yorck off Borkum. Some of our officers later reported that they could actually see the submerged British submarine in the clear water. We discussed this report and started a project to see if there was some way of destroying submarines with explosives set to detonate once they reached a preset depth. Whatever became of that project?"
Bachmann shrugged, "Yes I recall the incident and subsequent project. We assigned it a low priority. I read a report from the project leader about two weeks ago saying that they have experimented with prototypes but are several months away from even a limited deployment of an operational weapon."
Tirpitz shook his head, "Low priority! I should have paid more attention back then, but quite frankly there were other issues that dominated my attention. I say in light of the loss of the Westfalen, we should assign the development of this device a much higher priority."
"Westfalen would most likely still be torpedoed and sunk. Actually seeing a submerged submarine is very rare. Until we have a reliable means of detecting submerged submarines, this experimental weapon is of very limited usefulness. There is also an argument that I have heard from some senior officers that if plan to start a submarine blockade along the lines of the Bauer Memorandum, then we should not be the ones to introduce new methods of destroying submarines."
"The Bauer Memorandum! I have made known on more than one occasion that we have insufficient submarines to undertake the campaign outlined in that memorandum. Furthermore, our victory at Dogger Bank has now made the Bauer Memorandum irrelevant. The goal of our entire navy should be focu sed on the destruction of the Grand Fleet in a decisive fleet action. As the British were able to do to Westfalen, we should be prepared to do with greater ferocity upon British stragglers after the decisive fleet action, which lies ahead."
Ingenohl decided to speak up, "That fleet action is many months away because we need to repair our damaged vessels. In the interim period the submarine campaign advocated by Bauer’s memorandum is worth considering."
Tirpitz shook his head in dismay. Admiral Ingenohl had indeed shown himself to be a surprisingly good tactician. The decision to split the squadrons was impressive, though the High Seas Fleet was still in its night formation when the battle opened and Tirpitz wondered if Ingenohl would have thought to do so that if the fleet was already formed into a compact battle line. But Tirpitz still thought that Ingenohl would never amount to much as a strategist.
"The fleet action could come earlier than you think, Friedrich" Tirpitz answered, "I believe it is imperative that we repair the damaged ships as quickly as possible. Do we have the preliminary damage report yet?"
"I have the preliminary report on the repair time needed," answered Ingenohl, "It does not include the torpedo boats as yet. Their inspections will not be concluded until tomorrow."
"Make sure that it is so. I want a copy this afternoon and a copy of the amended report tomorrow. In the meantime I would like to know the expected repair times."
"Hmm, Ostfriesland is our most severely damaged warship. Her repairs are expected to take 18 weeks. Repairs on the Prinzregent Luitpold and Strassburg are expected to take 12 weeks. Repairs on Lothringen and Kolberg are expected to take 10 weeks. For Seydlitz, Posen and Oldenburg repairs are expected to take 8 weeks. Repairs on Kaiserin and Preussen are expected to take 6 weeks. For Derfflinger, Grosser Kurfurst, Koln and Hamburg repairs are expected to take 4 weeks. Repairs on all other ships are expected to be completed in two weeks or less."
"Hmm, so if we can do without Ostfriesland the fleet could be ready for the decisive battle in the middle of March?" Tirpitz noticed Ingenohl fidgeting uncomfortably. .
"Yes, but there is some constraints we need to address. This is a large number of ships to repair simultaneously. I am very concerned that we may lack sufficient workers and materials to complete all these repairs in the estimated time frame."
"Yes, I think you are right. I need to see what I can do to get the Navy what it needs right now."
"The Army is going to be difficult. Even with our impressive victory, they will tell the Kaiser that their needs take precedence over ours."
"Hmm, I agree that it is going to be painful," mused Tirpitz. Suddenly he had an inspiration and he grinned, "I think there is a way to make this easier."
"And that is?"
"I need to talk to a certain Generalfeldmarshal as soon as possible. What do you say, Franz? Would you like to come along with me and visit your dear friend? I understand he is having trouble adjusting to his new position. You can cheer him up and get him thinking straight. Heaven knows you’ve done it before."
Admiral Hipper was a bit embarrassed by Tirpitz’s jocularity, but he realized that he was given an opportunity to bring up something he felt he needed to say, "Thank you, Grand Admiral. But there is something that I must bring up at this time."
"Go ahead, Franz," replied Bachmann.
"Our current best intelligence is that yesterday we destroyed all British battle cruisers in this region and that their other battle cruisers are in remote areas. It is highly likely that most of those battle cruisers will be summoned home very soon. But before they arrive there is a priceless opportunity for First Scouting Group."
"Priceless opportunity? This is absurd. Your ships are damaged. They need repair before you can undertake a sortie," Ingenohl scathed. .
"Moltke was not hit at all and only suffered very minor splinter damage. I acknowledge that Seydlitz is in an unsuitable condition for a sortie. But the other battle cruisers were not hurt than badly. Their repairs can wait until after the sortie."
"This is most rash—" Ingenohl chided.
"—please let Franz finish his thought, Friedrich. I for one am very interested in his suggestion." interrupted Tirpitz, who then turned to Hipper, "So when would you like this sortie to begin?"
"Sunday night, Grand Admiral"
Panama Canal 1630 hrs (local)
The battleship once had a different name and a different flag. A great battle had changed both. She was now called the Hizen and the flag she flew was the Rising Sun. She had just exited the canal. Waiting for her in the Caribbean were the cruisers Asama and Idzumo. The other members of their squadron, Australia and Newcastle had just started to pass through the Canal because American law allowed only 3 foreign warships to be in the Canal at one time.
The Americans were pleased with Japanese warships entering the Caribbean. There had been some tense hours during which the Americans had stalled their entry while they consulted their diplomats. Rear Admiral Patey had insisted that the Japanese go through first. Rear Admiral Moriyama thought that was most honorable. He would wait for him just outside American territorial waters and together they would proceed to Kingston.