by Tom B
Wilhelmshaven 1015 hrs Wednesday January 27, 1915
Upon learning of Spee’s wireless message from Sayville, Admiral von Tirpitz had insisted that Admiral Bachman call an emergency meeting of the Admiralstab. Admirals von Ingenohl and Hipper were summoned to the meeting.
"Admiral von Spee is coming home earlier than we would like," Bachmann informed Ingenohl and Hipper.
"What? How much earlier?" asked Ingneohl.
"We do not have an exact date, but it looks he will try to break into North Sea the middle of next month."
There was a brief silence as Ingenohl and Hipper digested the news. Finally Hipper asked, "Does that mean---"
Tirpitz answered before Hipper could finish the question, "Yes, it means High Seas Fleet must be ready to sortie by then."
"We had based our plans on the assumption that we would have until mid-March," Ingenohl lamented.
"Yes, and those were indeed the assumptions you were given, " said Tirpitz, "but they no longer hold. Admiral Spee has made his decision based on the condition of his ships."
"We should not jeopardize the High Seas Fleet on his account! While I admire his heroism, his squadron should be considered expendable."
Tirpitz shook his head. He let Bachmann answer for him, "Spee is escorting four large ocean liners home from America. They include Kronprinzession Cecilie, which is carrying a large consignment of bullion, and Vaterland, which is the pride and joy of the German nation."
"Not to mention Albert Ballin, " added Tirpitz.
"But the High Seas Fleet should not be risked for the Vater---uh, I mean for a large ocean liner."
Tirpitz snorted derisively. He had discussed this point with Bachmann before the meeting. He let Bachmann answer for him, "What you say is true if the risk was indeed substantially greater, Grand Admiral, but is that really the case?"
"Prinzregent Luitpold and Lothringen will not be repaired until March."
"Agreed. But by that time the Queen Elizabeth may be ready for action, esp. given the British penchant for short shakedown cruises. Around the middle of February repairs on Oldenburg, Posen and Seydlitz are expected to be completed. Furthermore, Kronprinz will have finished her shakedown by then. High Seas Fleet would then have 14 dreadnoughts and all of First Scouting Group. That should be sufficient strength."
"But we are still in the process of developing our battle plans!" objected Ingenohl.
"Understood. The Admiralstab gives you 10 days to finish those plans."
"With a preliminary draft to be submitted a week from today," added Tirpitz, "we also like to know your current thoughts."
Ingenohl licked his lips nervously. He glanced briefly at Hipper; the ideas being as much Hipper’s as his own. "The basic plan is fairly simple. We wish to draw the Grand Fleet into battle in an area, which is favorable to us. The main action should begin late in the afternoon, giving us an opportunity for a night torpedo attack afterwards. Once the Grand Fleet is defeated First Scouting Group will refuel and then rendezvous with Spee’s squadron escorting them back here."
"That seems sensible. Do our submarines play a role in your plan?" asked Bachmann.
"Uh, yes they do, so far it looks like the best plan is to establish a series of submarine ambush lines along the likely path of approach for the Grand Fleet to weaken them before the battle is joined The submarines will also inflict further losses on the remnants of the Grand Fleet trying to limp home after the battle."
"That is why it is imperative that all submarines at sea be ordered back to base immediately," noted Tirpitz, "so that as many of them as possible are ready when the day of decision comes."
-----HQ 6th Bavarian Reserve Division Bukovina 1805 hrs
It had been a satisfying day for the commander of the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division, General of Infantry Count Felix von Bothmer. After days of hard marching his division had positioned itself to interdict the advance of a Russian force—believed to be at least an entire infantry division-- attempting to sweep around the left flank of the 42nd Honved Infantry Division. His men had insufficient time to dig a complete trench line but had manage to set up strong points and dig some rudimentary slit trenches.
In the morning the advancing Russian columns came under accurate fire from well sited Bavarian artillery. The Russians dispersed and retreated. In the afternoon the Russian artillery came into play, trying to draw the Bavarian artillery into a duel. The Bavarian artillerymen were cautious. They saved their shells for the two battalions, which attacked at dusk. One was quickly driven off in disarray but the other foolishly persisted. German machine guns slaughtered those who managed to survive the artillery.
------Dublin 2010 hrs
Class was in session. With some help from Thomas McDonagh, James Connolly was conducting a course in urban warfare. Topics such as communications aConnolly maintained that a dense urban area was like a mountain defile. Snipers posted in windows and rooftops could control the streets, esp. if barricades were erected. In his opinion the best way to advance in an urban battle was to tunnel from house to house.
"Every difficulty that exists for the operation of regular troops in mountains is multiplied a hundredfold in a city," summarized Connolly.
The lecture drew a sizable audience. Seated in the front row the Countess Markieviscz was enthralled, taking detailed notes. Pearse and Plunkett had decided to attend the course and sat next to each other, exchanging comments periodically. Some other members of the IRB like Eamonn Kent, were openly contemptuous of Connolly and the Citizen’s Army, and therefore conspicuously absent. Two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were also in attendance.
At the end of the lecture, Connolly fielded questions. One of the first was, "But the British will soon bring in artillery. Won’t they be able to just sit back and blast us all to Kingdom come?"
"Never! The capitalist ruling class would permit artillery to be used in Dublin—or any other major Irish city for that matter.
"I wish I could be as certain about that as our socialist friend James is," Plunkett muttered to Pearse.
"Aye, so do I," answered Pearse.
Old Admiralty Building 0905 hrs Thursday January 28, 1915
"It is becoming abundantly apparent that the ships we’re losing off Newhaven are due to mines not U-Boats," noted Admiral Oliver uneasily, "All scheduled voyages from Newhaven have been cancelled. Minesweeping vessels have been dispatched to the area."
"See that they do a thorough job," remarked Fisher, He was calmer than Oliver had expected. Fisher’s mind was focused on another topic, which he now shared with the War Group and the First Lord, "The big battle is coming soon—within a fortnight. Admiral Jellicoe needs to be ready."
McKenna looked at Admirals Wilson, Oliver and Jackson. He knew they were thinking the same thing he was but none dared to express. So the First Lord did, "May I ask the logic justifying your certainty, Admiral Fisher?"
"It is very simple. Spee is heading home very soon," declared Admiral Fisher. As usual when he spoke to the First Lord there was an icy undercurrent of contempt in his voice.
"I am not so sure about that. Admiral Oliver has reported intercepted radio messages strongly suggesting he should wait until March."
Fisher answered the First lord without deigning to look in his direction, "It should be obvious, First Lord. He has grabbed the faster liners and is escorting them home. I am certain he will try to break into the North Sea in less than a fortnight."
"There is some possibility he might try to convert the liners into raiders, "Admiral Wilson speculated.
"Bah! Vaterland is too much of a leviathan to be practical as an AMC and Kronprinzessin Cecilie is carrying bullion. Oh, he might arm one of the others but that would only be to serve as a diversion. Spee’s main mission at this time is to return home."
"Should we be reinforcing the Northern Patrols then, sir?" asked Oliver.
"No, the Germans still have U-Boats prowling around the Faeroes. We run the risk of losing another predreadnought if we assign them there. Also I would have not thought I would ever hear myself admitting this, but we currently have something of a predreadnought shortage—what with the increased German pressure on the Channel and our Mediterranean plans. Having to send Duncan and Russell to Halifax just to appease the Home Secretary’s worries about his native land did not help matters."
McKenna correctly sensed implied criticism of himself in the last comment. He briefly considered defending that decision but let it pass. Instead Admiral Jackson spoke up, "And then there is Lord Kitchener’s insistence on heavy naval gunfire support for that attack he as planned for the middle of February."
Fisher scowled mightily at the mention of Kitchener and his plans to use First Army to make another attempt to liberate Etaples and Boulogne. Fisher was convinced that the real reason for that offensive was Kitchener trying to prove that he had been correct about being unable to spare troops for the Adriatic. Prior to the controversy over Carson’s plan, Kitchener had said it would be April before the BEF would be ready to make another attempt at a breakthrough. Now suddenly it could be done in February. It did not particularly impress Fisher that King George had become enthusiastic about the proposed February attack.
"By Heaven, Revenge and the monitors is all that the Archbishop of Hypocrisy, Horatio Herbert shall be getting. I would not be surprised if we learn quickly just how effective those bulges we installed on Revenge are."
McKenna knew better than try to criticize the First Sea Lord for being disrespectful towards an esteemed member of the Cabinet. Ever since the controversy over the Carson Plan had erupted, Fisher had become utterly contemptuous of Lord Kitchener. "So what do you suggest about trying to prevent Spee’s return to Germany."
Fisher again answered McKenna without looking at him, "I now think it is best to concentrate on intercepting Spee once he reaches the North Sea. There is a good chance that the First Scouting Group and maybe even the High Seas Fleet as will come north to help him. We have been looking for a way to force the Germans into a battle away from the Bight. I think Admiral Spee is graciously providing us with a splendid opportunity to destroy Hipper and maybe Ingenohl as well."
Taking note of Fisher’s sudden grin, Oliver remarked, "Our intelligence indicates that the Germans do not want a fleet action before March. If Spee’s return forces them to act before they are ready it is another advantage for ourselves."
"Which is why we need to concentrate on preparing for the big battle. Indefatigable’s refit is scheduled to last until the 9th. . I am going to insist that her maintenance finish at least a day early. That should make John happy, but it probably won’t. I am tangling with rapt anticipation at the thought of more of darling memoranda about Grand Fleet lacking sufficient cruisers and destroyers."
------OKW Berlin 1400 hrs
Despite their mutual antipathy Feldmarshal von Moltke and General von Falkenhayn -reluctantly decided it was best to have a meeting to hash out certain details. Falkenhayn wasted no time in addressing the issue foremost on his mind.
"Am I getting the five reserve divisions you promised?"
"Yes. I will release XXXIX Reserve Corps from OKW Reserve a week from today. The remaining three divisions will take a little more time—at most another week—to reach full strength."
"So it could be as late as the 11th before the last of them entrain?"
There as something in Falkenhayn’s expression that irked Moltke, who replied "I recall my exact words. I said ‘early February’. I am complying with that promise. So are you going to release the 6th Bavarian Division as you promised?"
"When the last of the 5 reserve divisions reaches the front, I will release that division."
"How do you plan to use your reinforcements?" asked Moltke.
"I shall be assigning the XXXIX Reserve Corps along with additional heavy artillery to General von Mudra in the Argonne. His command will be elevated to an Army Detachment. The 8th Bavarian Reserve Division will relieve the depleted 6th Bavarian Division. The other two divisions will be assigned to Army Detachment Strantz. My plan is for Mudra to make a major advance south in the Argonne while Strantz advances southwest into the Woevre Plain.
"What is the purpose of this offensive? Do you mean to disrupt the main railways into Verdun? General von Mudra’s front line is not too far from the railroad at Aubreville but General von Strantz would need to reach and cross the Meuse to accomplish this objective. I do not see this is as at all likely."
"I am more optimistic. Our intelligence shows French defenses to be rather weak in the Woevre Plain. As with the Argonne they regard the terrain as unfavorable for a major offensive. I believe the French are once again mistaken. Mudra has had some success in the Argonne, which is the more difficult of the two areas. The main problem in the Woevre is merely a lack of good roads."
"Merely? You make that sound trivial! It is not."
"General von Strantz believes he can overcome that problem. He is a very capable officer and I have faith in his judgment. I have even assigned him the Guard Cavalry Division in order to exploit a complete breakthrough, which I regard as possible. Another thing that has me hopeful is that they are both going to be provided with thousand of the T-Shells. The enemy will not be expecting that weapon and it should give us an important edge."
"I am dubious that Strantz will be able to achieve the type of breakthrough that would allow him to use cavalry effectively. And as far as the T-Shell I thought Ninth Army was going to test those in action during their limited attack near Warsaw, which should be soon."
Falkenhayn frowned and sighed, "That had been my expectation. But General Ludendorff in his cleverness regarded this attack at Bolimov as merely a feint to prepare for the much larger offensive he wanted to carry out in February. When he finally accepted the fact he was not getting the divisions we required for the larger offensive he sulked and called off the Bolimov attack. So these weapons are being shipped to Mudra and Strantz instead."
"Hrumph. Typical Ludendorff! I remain extremely skeptical of both the legality and efficacy of gas used a weapon. You seem to think they are the wonder weapons, which will overcome fortified entrenchments. Speaking of wonder weapons, General von François is intrigued by the automatic rifle manufactured by Madsen. The Russians use it—mostly with their cavalry—and its efficacy has made a most favorable impression on him. He has suggested to me that we should quickly purchase a substantial quantity in addition to using the small number we have captured. He would like to equip 3 battalions with this weapon."
Falkenhayn made do immediate response. Somewhere he had read something about this particular weapon, but he did not immediately had command of the facts and did not want to risk embarrassment by hazarding an ill informed guess. After a few seconds he responded cautiously, "This Danish produced weapon is still being evaluated. Using a foreign made weapon presents several obvious problems."
"Yes, I know it is not compatible in terms of ammunition, which is a valid concern. The supposed blow to morale in using a foreign weapon does not carry much weight with me, though. We use Skoda artillery, do we not?"
"Well at this point at time all foreign trade needs to be carefully scrutinized. This crash program to repair and complete warships, which you have abetted, is sorely aggravating the problem."
"Ah, but perhaps it will be our Navy that will alleviate that problem."
Reluctantly Falkenhayn admitted, "I do not understand."
"I just found out from Admiral Tirpitz this morning. Admiral Spee is escorting several ocean liners back to Germany. One of them is carrying gold bullion."
HQ 6th Bavarian Reserve Division Bukovina 2055 hrs Friday January 29, 1915
"All attempts to establish communication with Oberst List have failed," General von Bothmer admitted to his staff.
The prior day the 42nd Honved Infantry Division after being under heavy pressure for nearly a week finally withdrew to the east. Their commander had communicated that movement to its superiors at XIII Corps where they dispatched a messenger to inform General Bothmer.
The messenger never arrived. In the early morning Russian patrols discovered the gap between the Bavarians and the Austro-Hungarian forces. By noon they were exploiting it.
"It now appears likely though not certain, that the Russians have encircled 16th Regiment."
SMS Dresden 1345 hrs Saturday January 30, 1915
The boarding party returned from inspecting the Canadian trawler that they had captured. The officer in charge of the party reported to Kapitan Ludecke.
"Our inspection of the trawler is complete, Herr Kapitan. The ship meets all the requirements Admiral von Spee has specified."
"Excellent!" declared a delighted Ludecke who then turned to his executive officer, "send a message to Scharnhorst that we have found what the Admiral requested."
------HMS Lord Nelson Straits of Dover 2215 hrs
The commander of Channel Fleet, Admiral Lewis Bayly stared up at the moon. It was nearly full in a sky with only a thin wisp of cloud. Very soon after taking command of the Channel Fleet he came to the conclusion that morale was bad. The loss of the Implacable and Caesar to U-Boats had greatly intimidated the patrols of Channel Fleet. The fall of Belgium had contributed to a pervading sense of frustration and failure. The tragic loss of Bulwark—still thought by some to be the result of enemy action—had further eroded morale. The fact that the Germans were again having some success in raiding the BEF’s line of communication back to England was very disturbing.
Admiral Bayly had received some vague intelligence based on radio intercepts about another German destroyer sortie this night. He thought with a bright night he might take the Germans by surprise. Accompanied by Harwich Force he departed Sheerness at last light with six of his battleships, rendezvousing with Harwich Force. The plan had been for the weak old destroyers patrolling off Boulogne to fall back on Fifth Batlle Squadron once they were engaged by the German flotilla. The combined forces of Channel Fleet and Harwich Force would then destroy them.
Unbeknownst to Admiral Bayly, the German plan that night was to make a hit and run raid on Dover Patrol, then retire back to Boulogne in the hope of luring pursuing British warships under the fire of their coastal artillery and possibly even into a minefield.
So the end result was that when 4 old destroyers of Dover Patrol positioned off Boulogne were engaged by 7 better armed German destroyers, they retired towardsFifth Battle Squadron, but the Germans failed to pursue. Two of the Dover patrol destroyers meanwhile had suffered fairly substantial damage to their superstructure including a wrecked torpedo tube. Reports of the initial engagement has been sketchy. The Germans had neutralized some but not all of the radio transmissions with jamming.
Now at last it was clear to Bayly that the Germans had declined the bait. He wondered if the Germans had another minelaying mission they thought more important than pursuing wounded old destroyers. He had just now sent Tyrwhitt speeding off towards Beachy Head. Meanwhile with Dover Patrol acting as a screen, he took his battleships to Boulogne at a more leisurely pace with frequent zigzags.
The admiral stopped staring at the moon. He looked towards the shore with his binoculars. He could now just barely discern the harbor. He did not want to get too close. He turned to his staff, "Signal a 10 degree turn to starboard by division. Reduce speed to 8 knots. Hoist."
When those orders were implemented, the battleship’s guns commenced firing. At Boulogne the Germans were surprised as well. They had expected their pursuit to be much more immediate. By this time the flotilla had anchored and were blowing off steam. They were definitely not prepared to launch a torpedo attack. The coastal artillery positions were also slightly surprised by the delayed pursuit. Soon they were returning fire as best they could.
Within a few minutes smoke ruined a visibility that had been borderline to start with. The fire on both sides tapered off. Bayly realized the damage he had inflicted was probably not much but it felt good to blast away at the enemy. He brought Fifth Battle Squadron around for en encore. As that second round of shelling was going on he received a negative wireless report from Tyrwhitt off Beachy Head. Lord Nelson and Formidable had taken a few hits each but their damage was very light. The admiral had other worries. More than the coastal artillery mines were a compelling reason not to approach closer to shore. Nighttime reduced the effectiveness of U-Boats but not to zero. Admiral Bayly decided to call it a night.
Bukovina 1745 hrs Sunday January 31, 1915
The soldiers huddled around the fire, savoring the warmth. They had been on half rations since Friday. They had been told by their officers to conserve their ammunition. This morning it had been finally admitted that they were indeed surrounded by the Russians. One of the soldiers dared to voice what was on everyone’s mind. "Do you think we are going to surrender?"
Nobody was in a hurry to answer that. Finally a messenger spoke up in a defiant voice, "I will never surrender!"
"If Oberst List orders us to surrender, I will surrender," said another.
"In that case we’d just be following orders—like a good soldier," added another.
"I will never give in, and I will never surrender," repeated the messenger. His tone of voice though indicated he was trying to convince himself as much as the others.
The soldiers were quiet in the gloom for a few minutes when one of them sprung up, shouldering his Mauser, saying "Attention! Some people are approaching!"
A dozen civilians, both men and women, slowly approached the soldiers, some of who stood with rifles ready while others nonchalantly remained sitting by the fire. One soldier began to get up then promptly sat down again saying, "Oh, please, it’s only a bunch of pathetic Jews. If they have come here to beg send them away."
The Jewish women carried clay pots. Most of the Jewish men carried either jugs or loaves of bread. There was an elderly man leading the Jews. Seeing that some of the soldiers had readied their weapons, he shouted, "Brave German soldiers, don’t be alarmed! We mean you no trouble. We would like to share some food with you!"
The senior unteroffizier in the group had been one of those who had remained calmly sitting by the fire. Once he heard mention of food he arose and took charge. He assigned some soldiers to take the food from the women. One of them was Hitler. He took a pot with cooked beats from one of the women, saying nothing but looking uncomfortable.
"Have you no manners, Adolf?" chided one of the other solders, "say thank you."
"Why? They probably want something in return. They always do," he snarled sullenly.
One of the Jewish men heard this and stepped towards them saying, "Yes, you are quite right! We do want something in return. We want you to kill as many Russians and Cossacks as you can."
Off St. Pierre 1045 hrs Monday February 1, 1915
Henri could not believe his eyes. This morning his fishing vessel out of St. Pierre had chanced upon an unfamiliar trawler,which called itself the Green Snake and appeared to be in distress with its struggling engines making a fearful clamor. The Green Snake appeared to be Canadian. Prior to the war Henri had nothing but contempt for Canadians. Since Canada was now fighting for France his hostility had softened into ambivalence. In any case as a devout Catholic and a conscientious seaman he could not ignore a vessel in distress, especially as it was close to the treacherous reef near St. Pierre. So along with one of his crewmen named Bernard he boarded the Green Snake.
And discovered Negroes—French speaking Negroes. The skipper called himself Claude Jean Valjean Langlois. He claimed he and his crew were from the island of Haiti, where they had managed to make some money. Their sudden affluence enabled them to emigrate to Canada where they used their money to buy a fishing boat which they now operated out of Newfoundland. They had gotten lost in the fog banks and then their poor engine began to malfunction.
Henri found it incredible that Canada would allow such men to enter their country. But these men were here and Henri never did understand Canadians. He wondered if they were perhaps smugglers of some sort, though just what they could possibly be smuggling eluded his imagination. The Haitians did seem to know something about fishing.
Henri and Bernard inspected the engine. The problem was not immediately apparent. Henri decided it was best if the Green Snake docked at St. Pierre until the engine was made reliable.
"I will leave Bernard here with you. He will pilot you past the reef and into the harbor. Please pay close attention in case you ever have need to do this again. The waters in these parts are very dangerous. The rocks have claimed many a ship."
Bernard’s jaw dropped. The thought of being left alone with what he regarded as savages terrified him. "Captain, do you think this is wise?" he groaned.
"Oh, I think can do without you for one day. After they dock you can spend the rest of the day drinking."
Bernard did not look assuaged. Henri ignored Bernard’s discomfort. Claude spoke up, "We are most grateful for this kindness, Monsieur. God bless you and your family."
"Oh, and a word of warning before I go. When you make it to the docks, do not stray far from the boat. It would cause alarm if men of your race were seen wandering around the town. Do not try to talk to any of the women, understand me?"
------Sinai Desert 1305 hrs
A French Nieuport seaplane was out on a reconnaissance patrol. They were looking for something. They soon found it.
------Alexandria 1620 hrs
The CANZAC commander, General William Birdwood was on the telephone with General Maxwell, the commander of British forces in Egypt. Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges, commander of the 1st Australian Division was seated in the office along with the CANZAC staff. When the call was over, Bridges immediately proffered an educated guess, "It sounds like my men are not going to be boarding the transports today or tomorrow, sir"
Birdwood tapped his fingertips together and made a stoic grin, "Yes, William, that is pretty much the long and short of it. "
"Any idea when we will be boarding, sir? For that matter, are we still going at all?"
"Excellent questions. Too bloody bad I don’t have equally sharp answers. General Maxwell is apparently in no hurry to wave us off. It’s all up to Lord Kitchener and Johny Turk, I’m afraid."
"And the Canadians?"
"It looks like they are just going just have to sit tight at Malta."
St. Pierre 0410 hrs Tuesday, February 2, 1915
Claude descended with a lantern into the hold of the trawler. He spoke in German, "Now is a good time to go." At that three men dressed as fishermen emerged from beneath the fish. They were not Haitians. "Not so loud," Dietrich admonished in French with only a trace of an Alsatian accent. He produced a small map. "Come here and show me where we are?" he ordered Claude in a hushed voice.
.Claude came over and briefed Dietrich as best he could what streets were nearby. While they were talking Otto and Caspar cleaned themselves up and checked the gear in their satchels. Claude did not know quite as much as Dietrich hoped, but still he gave them a general idea of where they were in relationship to their objective. .
The Germans went topside escorted by Claude who shuttered his lantern to keep from attracting the attention of the townspeople. Light from a nearly full moon poked through gaps in the cloud. There were patches of thickening fog. Dietrich asked a few more questions, the last of which was, "Did you fix the engines like the chief engineer instructed you?"
"Yes, we undid what he had done. The engine works just fine now."
The three Germans left the Green Snake. Their destination was on a hill isolated from the dwellings. The fog was mixed blessing for them as it obscured them from any of local residents who might be about. But it made it harder to find the small building they sought. After wandering for a while in cold damp air that made the chill penetrate through their coats into their bones. Caspar felt it the worst and began to shiver and complain. Dietrich rebuked him but permitted him to smoke a few cigarettes.
"Look there, I think that’s it," said Otto in German pointing. All three of them could speak French –that being one of the requirements for the mission, but Otto and Caspar were not anywhere as fluent as Dietrich and they had accents that were clearly German.
It was a small wooden building with a metal roof and a minimal chimney, scarcely more than a large shack, though stoutly constructed. There was a small window emanating a feeble light diffused through drapes. The Germans drew their Lugars from holsters concealed within their coats. Otto also produced a long knife he grasped with his left hand. Casper extinguished a half consumed cigarette.
Dietrich looked around checking to see if any one else was nearby. "You both know what to do, ja?" he asked the others. They both nodded, though Caspar continued to shiver. "Remember—avoid shooting unless absolutely necessary. The sound could easily draw attention we do not want. Understood?"
"Understood," they mumbled. Caspar’s teeth clattered and chattered as he spoke.
Dietrich strode up to the door yelling in French, "Hello, hello. Anyone in there? We need help!"
There was sound of footsteps from inside the building. The door opened and a young man peered out into the darkness, and began to ask, "What is the wrong? What—"
Dietrich shoved his pistol into the Frenchman’s face, then ordered in French, "Back, back, step back now!"
The Frenchmen slowly paced back into the building. Dietrich followed by Caspar and then Otto stormed inside. There were six small desks in the main room. Sitting on each desk there was a telegraph key. At one of the desks there was another young man who had just risen from his chair.
Dietrich pointed his gun at this man, "You there! Step forward. Put your hands in the air."
After an slight initial hesitation the man near the desk did as Dietrich ordered, asking anxiously, "What do you want?"
"Do as you are told and you will not be hurt." said Dietrich.
The Frenchmen who had opened the door had a sudden intuition, which he expressed in a nervous voice, "Are you Germans? What are you going to do to us?"
His partner was startled by the possibility being suggested. As he gaped, Dietrich pointed his Lugar back at him, "You there! Put your hands on your head. Now I say!"
When the Frenchmen complied Dietrich about the room to make sure no one else was there hiding. A clock on the wall reminded him of something. "When does the next shift arrive? How many men will be coming?"
Neither Frenchmen answered. Otto strode menacingly towards the one near the desk with his knife held high.
"Four men work the day shift," the telegraph operator suddenly babbled in panic, "They arrive at 9:00!"
A submarine cable that ran all the way to Brest, France was connected in this building to other cables—which terminated at Cape Cod, Placentia and Cape Breton. There was a wood stove in the room. Caspar had moved close it to warm himself. Dietrich had brought his satchel inside. He opened it and removed a coil of rope, which he tossed to Caspar, saying in German. "Tie these two up. When you are done you can warm yourself!"
Dietrich then turned to Otto, and in a slightly softer tone said in German, "Warm yourself while Caspar ties these two. After that you must be going."
Otto groped his way through the thickening fog to return to the harbor. As he finally approached the Green Snake he saw one of Claude’s crewmen who was standing watch and shivering still worse than poor Caspar. The Haitian was muttering a relentless stream a French profanity augmented by a few Voodoo curses. When he saw Otto though his mood lightened as he suspected that his ordeal was over.
"Go fetch your boss--quickly," Otto said in French. He tried to keep his voice down as he knew that his German accent was more pronounced that Dietrich’s.
A grinning Claude came quickly. "We were successful. Now it is time for you to go," Otto announced in French Despite the cold Otto did not want to linger by the Green Snake. He did not want curious souls taking note and coming around to ask questions he would rather not answer with his limited command of French and a German accent.
Claude’s grin faded and with a sigh. He waved his arm demonstratively around him, "I must wait for this to get better. But when it does I shall leave promptly."
"Just don’t wait too long. I must be getting back to Dietrich," replied Otto.
------Shakespeare Cliff 1450 hrs
Accompanied by General Sir Ian Hamilton, the Commander of Home Forces, Lord Kitchener inspected the defenses of Kent against invasion. This awesome responsibility fell mainly on the 2nd London Division, which had been moved here soon after Christmas. The 4th London Brigade, once in the Territorial Force division’s organization chart, had been thrown into the furnace, which was the final days of Belgium and had not escaped in the evacuation. The 1st London Brigade replaced it with 2nd London Division. Three of its battalions guarded the coast from St. Margaret’s at Cliffe to Hythe, with the fourth battalion back at Ashford as a reserve. The division HQ along with most of its artillery, were also located at Ashford. As with most of the Territorial Force divisions, the artillery brigades were in process of upgrading from obsolete 15 pounders and 5" howitzers to 18 pounders and 4.5" howitzers.
On the left flank the 5th London Brigade guarded the coast up to the Isle of Thanet, with its HQ and fourth battalion stationed at Canterbury. It was Hamilton’s opinion that if the Germans did try to land in Kent their main effort would come ashore in Sandwich Bay. The two of them had thoroughly inspected the beach defenses there earlier in the day.
The morning snow flurries had stopped. The clouds were thinning and the sun now made a welcome appearance. Lord Kitchener looked down and saw his own shadow for the first time. He looked across the Straits towards were the threat was. He walked up to the edge of the chalk cliff and stared down at the narrow beach below. "The Germans would have to be insane to come ashore here," he opined.
"Quite so," agreed Hamilton, "as I said this morning the most likely landing zone would be north of Deal. Still we can’t rule out a landing between Hythe and Dymchurch."
Kitchener nodded, but a disturbing thought was gnawing away at him. The coast west of Hythe was the responsibility of the 6th London Brigade. In their sector defenses that had been a century ago during a previous invasion scare—the Dymchurch Redoubt, Royal Military Canal and some of the Martello Towers--were again figuring prominently. But the 6th London Brigade only extended as far as Rye. After that the southern coast was essentially naked. Kitchener thought a German invasion was improbable but he regarded a raid in at least battalion strength as near certain. There was a place not far from here where foreign forces had once succeeded in landing in England.
Kitchener trembled as he tried to imagine the headlines in the despicable Daily Mail:
GERMANS LAND AT HASTINGS
Hamilton had known Kitchener for a very long time. He sensed something was wrong, "Are you feeling well, Field Marshal?"
"We need to extended the defended sector to the west, Ian—at least as far as Bexhill."
Hamilton scratched his chin pensively, "At this time, I would recommend against it, sir. We are stretched thin already. What with the Canadians off to the Mediterranean and South Midlands Division going to First Army, I would counsel—"
"—your professional counsel is duly noted, Ian My decision stands. Consider it an order."
Kitchener had been downright ornery the last two weeks. He was livid with Carson, Bonar Law and Fisher over the new strategy that had been approved by the War Council, despite his opposition. Hamilton glumly realized that it was pointless to argue with the Field Marshal. He responded with stoic professionalism, "I will see to it right away, sir."
------SMS Leipzig 1505 hrs
Claude Jean Valjean Langlois wished the German sailors would trust him with helm. The German officers maintained that there was world of difference between steering a puny fishing boat and a cruiser and categorically refused to consider it. Despite that imperfection Claude still felt wonderful and he guided the Leipzig safely around the rocky hazards off Dog Island and into the large roadstead. There was a bar near the mouth of the harbor that prevented the warships from entering so they would have to settle for using the roads.
Following behind Leipzig were Nurnberg, Kronprinz Wilhelm, Gneisenau, Kronprinzessin Cecilie, Kaiser Wilhelm II, George Washington, Scharnhorst, and 3 prize ships. It was Admiral von Spee’s plan to coal from these prizes—all of which were outbound and therefore had nearly full bunkers. One of them out of Ontario carried refined nickel as its main cargo. This was an important resource, which Germany sorely lacked due to the blockade. Spee had tried unsuccessfully to purchase some in the New York spot market. He now hoped to transfer some of the cargo to Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Ponderously Vaterland entered the roadstead last, anchoring further out than the rest. Dresden remained on patrol to the southwest. Meanwhile Green Snake and another captured trawler chugged towards the harbor each carrying a contingent of seamen armed with Mausers. They were to take control of the town. If the telegraph station had remained under German control, Admiral Spee planned to stay for two days. Otherwise he would depart tomorrow at dawn.
Suez Canal 0415 hrs Wednesday, February 3, 1915
The Ottomans had managed to cross the arid Sinai with a force of 25,000 men. Their German adviser, Baron von Kessenstein had drawn up a plan, which emphasized the element of surprise. This he hoped to achieve by taking the central route across the desert. He had not counted on the British and French air patrols. He had been aided by some unusually heavy rains, which made his water situation less difficult.
The Ottoman assault force, consisting of units belonging to the 23rd Homs and 25th Damascus Division, had brought with them rafts and pontoons for crossing the formidable water obstacle, which was the Suez Canal. They had hoped to find only very weak forces opposing them and cross the canal before dawn. Instead the forewarned British had 6 Indian rifle companies waiting for them on the East Bank and 6 more on the West Bank. The Ottoman forces charged forward. Despite heavy machine gun fire including some from the armed troopship Hardinge, the largely Arab Ottoman forces pressed on bravely. Some even managed to reach the west bank, only to perish in a bayonet charge by the 62nd Punjabis.
Despite the heavy losses suffered in the initial assault, the Ottomans made additional attacks after sunrise, this time with some artillery support, which drove off the Hardinge. This however drew two small French cruisers Requin and D’entrecasteaux into action. The warships quickly neutralized the Ottoman artillery. Realizing that they had failed the Ottoman forces retired to the east. Fearing a reversal General Maxwell ordered a very cautious pursuit.
------ off the Dardanelles 1305 hrs
All three British battleships were firing at the Ottoman fortifications. Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss’ flagship, Agamennon was the closest to shore and moving at only 5 knots, letting her 9.2" guns supplement the main battery. She was firing on the fort at Orkanie. She drew Ottoman return fire and had taken a few hits. Her armor prevented any serious damage but one sailor had been killed and another badly wounded.
Further out Cornwallis and Triumph both steamed at 12 knots on their separate bombardment runs firing away—Cornwallis targeting Kum Kale and Triumph targeting Helles. .Wemyss also had two French battleships Suffren and Verite. He planned to use them later.
------Bukovina 1730 hrs
The encircled Bavarians had surrendered to the Russians who led them away to captivity. Hitler had seriously considered taking his own life. He had husbanded one rifle round for expressly that purpose. But he did not go through with it. He berated himself over and over for his cowardice. A good German woman would kill herself rather than have her honor violated. It was not a comforting thought.
An hour ago the Russians who were guarding the column of prisoners relinquished their custody to a bunch a Cossacks. The Russians had not been gentle but the Cossacks were proving downright brutal. When he could Hitler studied the faces of his captors. The Russians were quite obvious inferior to the German Race, but now it seemed to Hitler that Cossacks must be step lower. He engraved that observation in his mind.
Before they left the Russians had told the Bavarians that trains with cages would be waiting for them the next day.
St. Pierre 1130 hrs Thursday February 4, 1915
The dynamite exploded, completely destroying the telegraph station. A half dozen Germans, including Dietrich, watched from a safe distance. With only sparse conversation they scurried to the harbor where captured trawlers awaited to ferry them back the warships.
The villagers cast hostile glances at the German seamen. In addition to being the enemy and seizing some of the better trawlers the Germans had taken half of their coal and even some food. Now the Germans had wrecked the telegraph station. The Frenchmen were happy to see the Germans leave and the Germans were glad to be leaving.
Meanwhile aboard the liners the passengers wondered about the strange detour. The pursers were told little—Spee had ordered the crews aboard the liners to restrict knowledge of their location to the bridge personnel. Most of the passengers knew that the trip back to Germany would not be an ordinary Atlantic crossing but there were a few naïve souls who were taken aback by the detour and made complaints.
Back in the roadstead Scharnhorst’s engineers were glad that they had another two days at anchor to work her ailing engines. They wished they had more.
------Teschen 1305 hrs
Conrad was on the telephone with General Ludendorff. "The Russians have expanded their offensive to include most of my front. This is preventing me from adequately reinforcing Seventh Army in the Bukovina, which is still having a difficult time handling the attack of the Russian Eighth Army against its left flank. Neither can I afford to strengthen my Second Army so it can increase its own pressure against Eighth Army. STAVKA is content to let Northwestern Front remain on the defensive, and is funneling all its reserves against me."
"So you would like us to go on the offensive to force STAVKA to divert forces away from you."
"Yes, that is what is needed," answered Conrad trying unsuccessfully to avoid making it sound like a confession of weakness.
"Unfortunately we are unable to comply with that request. Because we have been negligently deprived of reinforcements—in particular those reserve decisions formed in late December, we are completely unable to go on the offensive at this time. Now if you could manage to persuade Moltke to release those divisions to us, we could rectify this situation very quickly."
"A limited series of attacks would suffice. Any pressure you could apply would help out in this situation."
"Our policy remains that our armies will remain totally on the defensive until they receive adequate reinforcements."
"Hah! I had suspected but now I am certain. You want me to intercede with Moltke and Falkenhayn to send those divisions to Hindenburg. Until you get what you want the two of you are going to sulk in your tents like Achilles!"
"What! This is outrageous! In the interests of diplomacy, the Feldmarschal and myself have been extremely forbearing with your arrogance, but now you cross the line! I insist on an immediate apology!"
Conrad slammed down the telephone in disgust. Ludendorff had no class, even by the low standard of Germans. Still part of him wondered if alienating him at this moment was wise. The campaign underway in the Bukovina was very important. For this reason Conrad had taken a desperate measure. He had committed the division, which François had put together at Przemysl and sent it off to Seventh Army as reinforcements. He even provided it with artillery stripped from the fortress, as François had intended—despite the ferocious complaints of General Kusmanek.
Scapa Flow 0650 hrs Friday February 5, 1915
Unlike Feldmarschal von Moltke, Admiral Sir John Jellcoe did not believe in ghosts. Nonetheless he was being relentlessly haunted by one. It was a fearful specter with one glass eye. It called itself Horatio Nelson.
The ghost did not choose to manifest itself with ectoplasm. Instead it manifested itself in impressions—in the ever pervasive British expectation of another Trafalgar. Jellicoe remembered when the war started most of the RN officers expected the big battle to happen in a few days. Jellicoe had not been one of them. He expected the Germans to pursue a fleet in being policy while the Schlieffen Plan was in play and that was precisely what they did. When the Schlieffen Plan turned into the Moltke Plan things became more complicated. Then the disaster of Dogger Bank occurred. That changed everything. When the Germans finished their repairs it was likely they would sortie forth to challenge the Grand Fleet. Then Jellicoe would have his chance to play Nelson.
It was a game he was not sure he wanted to play. Churchill would often speak of Nelson but Churchill had also repeated reminded him that he was the only person who "could lose the war in a single afternoon." That was a very sobering thought. With the geographic advantages Britain possessed and a massive wartime construction program underway, he saw no reason for rashness.
Since Dogger Bank, the ghost which didn’t exist haunted poor Admiral Jellicoe ever more fiercely. It accentuated the problem that the American William Randolph Hearst published stories in his newspapers and magazines calling Ingenohl the German Nelson. In a similar vein his Engliish doppelganger, Lord Northcliffe, dared to ask in the Daily Mail if the Germans had become more Nelsonic that the British? Nelson, Nelson, Nelson—as if the accursed admiral’s name was a synonym for divine perfection!
Jellicoe was again sleeping badly and had prematurely wakened drenched in sweat from a terrible nightmare. He did not try to remember the dream—he did not want to remember the dream. Dreams were not real—just like ghosts. Still one image persisted in his mind—that of a man pulling out his glass eye and showing it to him.
Jellicoe did not attempt to get back to sleep after that. He tried to exorcise the image from his mind by immersing himself in work.
"Good morning, Charles. I hope you had a good night’s rest."
"Good morning, sir. Yes I am fit and fiddle. I hope you managed to get an equally good sleep," answered Admiral Madden politely. While Jellicoe[‘s uniform was in meticulous condition and he appeared alert and energetic, the bags under his blood shot eyes gave Madden some concern.
Jellicoe declined to answer Madden’s question. Instead he held up a slip of paper, "A wireless message from the First Sea Lord was delivered to me a few minutes ago. He made two suggestions—both of which I think are unwise. The first idea is to terminate Queen Elizabeth’s shakedown cruise after one more week and then immediately incorporate her into the Grand Fleet. As you are already well aware that I am firm believer in the necessity of an adequate working up period. It takes time for a newly commissioned vessel to become efficient. I look forward with great anticipation adding its awesome firepower to the Grand Fleet but not for another month. To rush the process is utter and complete folly."
"I couldn’t agree more, sir. And what was the second proposal?"
"Admiral Fisher wants to pressure the repair crews to complete Neptune’s refit ahead of schedule. As you recall there had been some discussion of postponing that needed maintenance after Dogger Bank but I insisted that it go ahead because while the Germans repaired their damage ships we should be doing everything to ready our own. It was the same situation with Indefatigable’s recent refit. "
"Most true, sir. Though we did agree too postpone Superb’s refit."
Jellicoe arched his eyebrows and sighed, "Well. I thought a compromise was in order. It seemed reasonable at the time, though perhaps I will come to regret it later. One thing Admiral Fisher is losing sight of is structure. Right now we have 16 dreadnoughts ready for action organized into two squadrons of eight. We have them trained to fight from that formation. I have detailed plans for conducting combat from that formation. In March when Queen Elizabeth and Neptune are truly ready for action, I will divide the Grand Fleet into 3 squadrons of six each This is not a simple matter—commanders and flagships will need to be assigned and the battle plans thoroughly revised. I have already looked into this and be warned in the days ahead shall be assigning you many detailed tasks in this endeavor."
"Anything to ease your burden, sir. I positively look forward to it. That’s what I’m here for."
"Well said, Charles. The First Sea Lord has convinced himself that the decisive fleet action will occur in the next two weeks. While it is definitely a possibility I regard it as far from certain or even the most likely scenario. Admiral Oliver had been leading us to believe the Germans were making plans for March."
"But sir, the latest intelligence report from Admiral Oliver now indicates a high likelihood of a sortie by the High Seas Fleet in the middle of February in order to assist von Spee’s attempted return."
"Ah, but is Henry saying that because he believes it or simply because he fears Fisher’s wrath? I think Oliver’s original assessment was better grounded in the facts than this latest flash of intuition from Admiral Fisher. Admiral Spee may take his good time coming home. And when he does the Admiralstab may merely order him try to sneak his way past us only coming out to meet him only when he is within a 100 miles of the Bight. With the long nights he would have some chance of succeeding."
"I see your point, sir. We do definitely not want to risk a fleet action that close to their main base. But still what if Admiral Fisher is correct and the German do sortie further out?"
"A fair question. According to Oliver and Hall our current best estimate is that the Germans have 12 dreadnoughts and 3 battle cruisers—not counting Blucher—ready for action. We have 16 dreadnoughts—6 of them armed with 13.5" guns—and 5 battle cruisers. I have every reason to think we will prevail. Oh, it may be beyond our capability to completely annihilate the enemy, mind you, but nonetheless---."
Jellicoe’s voice trailed off. He suddenly felt clammy as an image and a voice from his nightmare burst unbidden into his consciousness. I do not believe in ghosts! He felt like throwing an inkpot.
"What is it, sir? Is something wrong?" asked a concerned Admiral Madden.
"Oh, it’s nothing, Charles." Yes, nothing. It is something that does not exist. "I momentarily lost my concentration. We can and will inflict greater losses on the Germans than they will inflict on us, thereby ensuring our continued control of the sea lanes. It is almost scientific."
"I beg to differ, sir-- there is more to war than mere science."
"It’s too early in the day for philosophy, Charles. Getting back on topic what has me worried is not the firepower of our battle line, but rather our scouting forces and TBD’s. If Admiral Fisher wants to send me something I need he can send me more destroyers. We lost 5 destroyers at Dogger Bank. Since then 11 destroyers of the new M class have become available. We received only two of them! Keyes receives Matchless as a replacement for Firedrake and the rest went to Harwich Force. Simple outrageous!"
"Well, if I might be permitted to play Devil’s Advocate, sir, Harwich Force did suffer heavy losses last year and now with the increased German pressure on the Channel, there is some logic to the Admiralty’s decision. Especially with the Army getting ready to start a new offensive. And as far as our having only two squadrons of armored cruisers and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron to assist the battle cruisers in scouting, well there is our planned operations in the Mediterranean as well as the losses of the last few months."
"Listen, I am not saying Admiral Fisher and the First Lord are complete dunderheads. As far as the cruisers I concede they have many requirements to fill and we have been promised a new 1st Light Cruiser Squadron next month. It is also true that they firmly believe that in any likely encounter with the High Seas Fleet, we shall be reinforced by Harwich Force before the main battle is joined. So they argue that Harwich Force is effectively part of Grand Fleet after all. But I do accept that line of reasoning. For every possible scenario where I am reinforced with Harwich Force before engaging the High Seas Fleet, I can conceive of another where I am not."
"Harwich Force might have been able to save poor Warrender if it had rendezvoused with him earlier—like it was supposed to," mused Madden.
"Precisely! Furthermore what remains most vexing about Dogger Bank is that we still are in the dark about just what happened, esp. the early and middle phases of the battle. Warrender reports by wireless merely that Ajax has been torpedoed—not bothering to tell us how—and that he is engaging the German Second Battle Squadron. After that we have fragments from the crew of Birmingham about Beatty becoming involved and some better knowledge of the awful end game. I know it is only a glorified guess, but I regard it as highly likely that the Germans sprang a trap involving either U-Boats or mines on him."
"And so you think the Germans will try it gain, sir?" asked Madden.
"They would be fools not to."
------Dublin 1045 hrs
Lord Curzon had decided one area he would make his mark on Ireland would be education. As he solicited advice about possible reforms to the Irish educational system, more than one person mentioned a certain small private school in Dublin, run by an energetic idealist, incorporating many bold ideas for a reformed educational system. So Lord Curzon decided to pay a personal visit to this school—which was called St. Enda’s.
"Students, might I have your attention. This is Lord Curzon, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.," Pearse announced to the startled pupils, "He has expressed an interest in our school and has come here to watch how we learn—and perhaps even learn a thing or two himself."
Lord Curzon stared at Pearse and tried –without much success--to comprehend the man. The RIC had a large and steadily growing file on Pearse. Curzon had recently seen a good portion of it. The RIC strongly suspected that Pearse had joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and now held a high position in that outlawed organization. The head of the RIC had told Curzon that when the war started the IRB had shrunk to less than a thousand but in recent weeks it had begun to grow again.
The Viceroy took a seat and attended class. He was forced to admit that he was impressed with what he saw. He took Pearse aside.
"Overall, Mr. Pearse, I must confess that I find many admirable features to your pedagogy."
Pearse with a partially sincere smile answered warily, "I thank you for being so appreciative, Viceroy."
"Well don’t thank me too soon. There are a few things that do not impress me. The one that stands out is your emphasis on using the local dialect of a language the Welsh and Scots long ago realized they no longer needed."
Pearse’s smile evaporated, "The Irish Language is a priceless treasure! It’s preservation is essential for the spiritual enrichment of the Irish people!"
Curzon was about to counter that argument, but decided to hold his tongue. The use of Gaelic was at best secondary. Curzon had other fish to fry. "I have neither the time nor inclination to debate this issue now. Let me reiterate that I find much of value at this school. Despite a few misgivings subject to negotiation, I am inclined to recommend public funding for St. Enda’s and least on an interim basis for my understanding is that it is currently in dire financial straits. Furthermore I am going to recommend to the Cabinet that ‘seed money’ be allocated to form a dozen schools like it all over Ireland."
Curzon was being partially sincere in what he just said. He did think there was considerable merit in Pearse’s theory of education--if it could be shorn of its Gaelic obsession.
Pearse was nonplussed. Hardly an hour went by when he did not worry over St. Enda’s finances and the very real possibility of it closing. Part of him regarded what he just heard as a small miracle. But then another part of him remembered who this blessing came from and became suspicious. "That is a remarkable proposal, My Lord—as bold as it is gracious," he said with a strange admixture of sincerity and suspicion.
"Of course, for me to an effective advocate for your educational practices, you can’t be ruining things by getting yourself involved with rabble rousers, like that vile godless Socialist, James Connolly or that cowardly saboteur, Tom Clarke.
Pearse felt simultaneously immense rage and bottomless sadness. Blood surged into face and tear rolled down his cheek. He clenched his fists. Curzon looked at him strangely—fearing with cause that Pearse might dare to strike him. Suddenly Pearse’s seething emotions transmuted into beatific calm. He was inspired by revelation from the angelic realms—Satan had invented a Fourth Temptation.
------Washington, D.C. 0925 hrs
"Good morning, Franklin, what is it you want to discuss with me?" Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels asked of his Assistant Secretary, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"God morning to you as well, sir. If I may come to the point I have been talking with the admirals about the political impact certain recent events are likely to have—"
Daniels had a good hunch where this was leading, so he interrupted,"---by events I take it mean things like Dogger Bank, and Admiral von Spee’s recent adventures at New York and Boston."
Out of habit Roosevelt made a certain smile of his that usually disarmed people, but unfortunately seldom worked on Daniels. Roosevelt had a largely favorable relationship with his superior, but the two had different perspectives towards the Great War.
"That, sir, is precisely what I an referring to. In light of the ominous implications of these events, the admirals and I think the Administration would be amply justified in asking Congress for increased construction. We should resubmit the request for a pair of battle cruisers that was rejected in ’13. A fourth New Mexico class battleship should also be proposed."
Daniels liked his morning coffee. He was not going to let the Assistant Secretary ruin it. He considered asking Roosevelt exactly which admirals he had been talking with. He had a very good guess as to who they were and decided not to ask. Instead he forced himself to put on a straight face and said, "Some additional oil fired destroyers as well—those large ones of which our admirals are now so enamored. Maybe a new class of oil fired scout cruisers would be a good idea as well."
"Yes, sir, that is precisely what I am driving at!"
Daniels rolled his eyes. Roosevelt suddenly realized Daniels had just been subtly sarcastic. Daniels took his time finishing his coffee, then made a patronizing grin, "Franklin, Franklin, I do admire your enthusiasm and no doubt many of the admirals are indeed fond of you. But you can be so naïve at times. Instead of getting additional funding this year the President and I feel it will be a struggle to prevent the third New Mexico class battleship from being cancelled."
Roosevelt looked confused, "Clearly the menace of the German Navy has now been demonstrated for everyone to see! Only the most befuddled pacifists will oppose our requests."
Daniels shook his head. Roosevelt leaned towards the Entente’s cause more than he did. Roosevelt was definitely not an inveterate Anglophile along the lines of Col. House—indeed Daniels had often heard him disparage British colonial policy. Roosevelt favored the Entente because he deeply feared and reviled the Germans.
"You are not thinking clearly, my dear fellow. What was our greatest fear at the beginning of the war?. It was that the Germans would win a quick triumph on the ground while keeping their navy intact. After defeating France and Russia, the British would be forced to make peace and the end result is a new intensified battleship race with the Germans able to commit more resources on account of their victory. But what has happened instead? There is a static front in France and only a slightly more fluid situation on the Eastern Front. However Churchill made a monumental blunder and this has given the Germans an opportunity to pursue a naval strategy."
"Which makes the Germans more of a threat!"
Daniels pounded his desk with his right fist, "No, Franklin. Just the opposite! It makes the Germans less of a threat—and the same logic applies to the Brits as well. You were provided a copy of Fiske’s paper. By any chance did you read it? He thinks a terrible battle is coming where the winner—I repeat the winner, loses only half his major warships. The British and Germans are going to destroy a goodly portion of each other’s battle fleet before too long. With luck we could find ourselves the world’s most powerful naval power before the end of year."
Roosevelt never appreciated criticism so Daniel’s remarks rankled him. He hid his resentment under a mask of calm, "But Admiral Spee has just demonstrated our vulnerability. He caused panic in New York and—"
"Spee has come and gone. He had the eminent good sense not to overstay his welcome. You don’t read the NY Journal, do you? Hearst is running stories where he’s interviewing some of the people who fled New York when the Germans showed up and now they all readily confess to how foolish they were. Well at least the ones Hearst is willing to publish."
"William Randolph Hearst is a reprobate!"
"Most assuredly so. But he knows something about people and is a force to be reckoned with. British and French merchantmen resumed sailing from New York and Boston yesterday morning. The stock exchange has fully recovered from its case of the vapors. And the people who witnessed the engagement off Cape Cod are the envy of their neighbors. If as we think likely, Spee ends up dying a heroic death in the Atlantic or the North Sea, many people here are going to feel sorry for the poor bastard."
These thoughts did not sit well with Roosevelt. Struggling to maintain his precious smile, he asked, "And what does the President think about all this?"
"So far he has concluded that the best position is to proceed with our current construction plans but to request some modest increase for operating expenses. What Spee demonstrated more than anything else is our need to conduct more patrols than we have been doing. However even in the Cabinet there are voices advocating a slowdown in our naval buildup."
"How did you ever guess? One other point to consider is that the battles that are coming will tell us a great deal about what does and does not work in naval warfare. One of the frustrating things about Dogger Bank is that we know next to nothing about what happened there other than the outcome. As far as we can tell the British know just a little bit more and it’s driving them crazy. The Germans must know and in desperation we even asked Admiral Spee about when he was in New York. He said he knew nothing and I can believe that. So the point is so far Dogger Bank is not helping our ship designers. But battles are coming that will help."
FDR diverted a small portion of his rising bile into sarcasm, "It’s so gracious of them to be so helpful."
Valletta Harbor, Malta 1030 hrs Saturday February 6, 1915
Bob and Doug were talking. They shared a third class cabin with Dudley, who was busy cleaning his Ross rifle, which he regarded as the finest rifle in the whole world and loved more than his fiancé back in Calgary.
"I overheard our captain talking with the sergeant major. He mentioned a strange word—Kanzak. He said it at least three time, eh.. Kanzak. You wouldn’t happen to know what it means, eh?"
"Kanzak, kanzak? Never heard of it—or him, it could very well be some fellow’s name. Are you sure that’s what they were talking about?" replied Doug who then turned to Dudley, "What about you Dudley? You know anything about this here Kanzak, eh?"
"Kanzak was an Egyptian god," answered Dudley without bothering to look at Doug, "It must mean we are headed for Egypt."
"Egypt! Why in blazes would we be going there?" said Doug.
"Because that’s where the Suez Canal is, you dunce. That canal is very important to the Empire and there are some very unfriendly Turks not too far from it."
"Well don’t that beat all, eh? Egypt. We are going to get to see the Pyramids. I still don’t see why the officers just come out and tell us."
"Because they think privates are like mushrooms and do better when kept in the dark, Doug."
"Well if Egypt’s where we’re going, why are we stuck here at Malta?" asked Bob.
Dudley didn’t have a good answer for that one and so he went back to ignoring Bob and Doug.
"I ain’t convinced about this here ‘kanzak’ much less Egypt. The officers probably talking about Kansas, eh."
"No, I clearly heard Kanzak--with a ‘K’ at the end. But all this mystery about where we are going to starting to drive me, loony if you know what I mean, eh"
"Don’t I ever. First they herd us all on to a train for Weymouth, where we board a ship and land at Cherbourg. Then we board another train and we all think it’s goin’ take us to the front and soon we will be killing Germans. But instead the train heads south and we wind up at Marseilles where we board this over the hill ocean liner. We stop here at Malta with the other troopships and everyone thinks it’s to get supplies."
"They did spend a day loading coal and some food."
"I know that. But my point is that after the first day nothing more got loaded and we are still here, just sitting in this harbor. After all the blasted hurry to get us here we just sit here and wait."
HMS Shannon off St. Pierre 0835 hrs Sunday February 7, 1915
Rear Admiral Cough-Calthorpe could see little more than rolling fog from the bridge of his armored cruiser, flagship. Having received information that Spee had raided this French owned island, the admiral had arrived here during the night. Having been thoroughly warned of the hazards on the rocks he patrolled slowly at a safe distance. Soon after dawn he decided to send Condé, one of the French cruisers, into the roadstead, thinking the rattled citizens of the island would be best reassured by their countrymen.
He would spend the day searching for Spee in the immediate vicinity. His orders were to make sure Spee was not preying upon the western Atlantic sea lanes. It was expected though that Spee would be heading for home very soon. When he did other forces would be waiting for him.