by Tom B
Argonne Forest, 0815 hrs Tuesday February 9, 1915
It was a cold winter morning. General Bruno von Mudra observed the assault by 33rd Infantry Division from the top of the butte at Vauquois. The German XVII Army Corps had seized this important high ground back in September and held it during the withdrawal, which began with the Battle of the Marne. Under the leadership of General Mudra they had managed to very slowly move south for a while. Usually he was able to do this with a surprisingly satisfactory casualty ratio. Then came another series of fanatical French attacks around the same time as the Battle of Champagne. The French paid a horrendous price in casualties and made small progress never getting within a mile of the south slope of the Vauquois.
Today’s assault was to east. A brigade of the 33rd Infantry Division would try to capture the fairly important crossroads town of Avocourt. If this was successful it reduce the potential threat to Mudra’ left flank as he pursued his real objective—Aubreville to the south through which ran an important rail line. Contrary to Falkenhayn’s expectations Mudra did not use his reinforcement the fresh XXXIX Reserve Corps in the attack. Instead he committed these divisions to his right flank, thereby allowing him to concentrate his existing forces in the center and on the left.
General Mudra was eager to see how effective his new weapon the T-Shell, was going to be. He hoped it would neutralize the dreaded French 75mm batteries when the German infantry was crossing no man’s land. He was not relying on that alone. Falkenhayn had provided with an impressive arsenal of foot artillery. Mudra was a great believer in artillery even though the rugged woods of the Argonne were precisely the type of terrain where artillery was thought to be least effective. Mudra had developed tactics for making artillery and mortars more effective in the woods. He also provided the infantry involved in the assault with a large number of grenades, which he regarded as extremely useful in trench warfare.
He had been watching the German bombardment. It would be ending soon and the infantry assault would begin. He glanced briefly to the south towards Aubreville. He had told Falkenhayn that he was confident he could take Aubreville by the end of the month contingent on the weather and a plentiful supply of artillery shells. Falkenhayn had seemed vaguely disappointed. Falkenhayn regarded the capture of Aubreville as the minimally acceptable objective. He had expressed hope that once Mudra reached more open terrain he could accelerate his advance. For that reason he had provided Mudra with a brigade of cavalry. To Mudra this indicated that General Falkenhayn still failed to grasp how difficult it had become to achieve a rapid advance on the densely packed Western Front.
------10 Downing Street 1015 hrs
Sir Edward Carson was livid, "Lord Kitchener, the War Council had been led to believe that the both Canadian and Australian Divisions would be disembarking in Albania last Thursday. Then there was some delay never fully explained and the date was moved to Saturday. Now we learn that the Canadians are sitting idle at Malta and the Australians have yet to board their assigned troopships. It had been thoroughly emphasized back when this plan was approved that it was essential to its success that it start as soon as possible. What is your explanation, Field Marshal?"
"My explanation is simple. The Turks attacked the Suez Canal in greater force than we thought they could manage to get across the Sinai Desert. Until I am sure the threat to the vital canal has been eliminated I am not going to release the Australians. The Canadians would be too weak by themselves, so they were ordered held at Malta."
"Oh? But is it not an indisputable fact that the Turkish attack was a total and complete failure? With the threat eliminated why is there any further delay in releasing the Australians?"
"It was not clear to the commander of our forces, General Maxwell, whether we had merely defeated the first of series of attacks."
"The enemy is in retreat! What could be clearer than that?"
"The Turkish withdrawal could have been merely to allow them to regroup before making their next attack."
"If that indeed were their intentions, would it not be readily apparent by now?"
"Not necessarily, sir. There are now heavy dust storms in the area. It is making reconnaissance very difficult. However late yesterday I received a cable from General Maxwell saying that he now believes the Turks to be heading back to Beersheba."
"And does this mean he has released 1st Australian Division? Have they finally boarded the transports?"
Kitchener hesitated before replying, "General Maxwell felt it was best to wait for the dust storm to lift before taking that step—just to be sure."
"Just to be sure? Just to be sure? What in the name of Heaven is the cause of this residual uncertainty? Is it not a fact—an obvious fact-- that the enemy is operating beyond his supply of fresh water? That alone would compel them to withdraw!"
Kitchener made no response to that and merely glowered at the Attorney General.
Carson turned to Asquith, "Prime Minster, I cannot overemphasize how utterly important to the success of this undertaking that there be no further delay. There are reports that the Romanian revolt is Transylvania is faltering. There is also disturbing intelligence suggesting that the Bulgarians are on the verge of signing a secret treaty of alliance with the Central Powers. The window of opportunity is closing and in its stead a chasm of dire peril is yawning at feet. The Turks have shot their bolt at Suez! They will not be able to make another attempt for another month. I am forced to categorize this continued delay as sheer negligence!"
Asquith sighed audibly and fidgeted. The previous day Bonar Law had learned of the latest delay. Bonar Law berated the prime minister over the telephone demanding that there be a meeting of War Council today. Asquith had reluctantly acquiesced. He was about to say something, when Kitchener thundered, "Negligence! You, sir--a fancy barrister who never heard a shot fired in anger—have the brazen temerity to accuse me of negligence!"
"Gentlemen, please. I must insist on civility!" interrupted Asquith desperately.
Kitchener briefly muttered something in disgust. Carson was nimble in his response, "I do not mean to impugn the honor of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Prime Minster. What I desire is not recrimination but rather a firm commitment to decisive action, which I believe still has a decent chance to achieve a speedy victory in this dreadful conflict."
"Lord Kitchener, how soon do you think we can see the Canadian and Australian divisions landed in Albania?" asked Asquith.
"Given adequate naval support and favorable weather, I would say both of them could be landed Sunday."
"Naval support will be much more than adequate," declared Admiral Fisher, "The weather is one is one of the few things on the seas I cannot control—though Heaven knows I’ve tried. However, if General Maxwell can now be dissuaded from further diddling, only a protracted storm could interfere with meeting this schedule."
Asquith smiled. This was resolved with less rancor than he expected. Looking at Carson he said, "Well, no Edward, that seems to be the sort of resolute commitment you’ve been looking for? I hope you’re satisfied."
"What about the third division, Prime Minster?"
Asquith’s response was to look confused. With a frown Carson decided to elaborate, "This Canadian Australian New Zealand Army Corps—CANZAC for short—is to consist of 3 divisions. I am asking how soon its third division—the Australian and New Zealand Division would be joining the others. Because it was still being formed in Egypt it had been accepted that it would arrive somewhat later the others—but supposedly no later than this Friday. Is there any good reason why it cannot arrive at the same time as the other two on Sunday?"
Kitchener remained strangely silent. "Lord Kitchener, did you hear the question?" asked the Prime Minister.
"Yes, Prime Minister. I heard the question. In response the Australian and New Zealand Division would need a full day to reach either Alexandria or Port Said."
"Ah, but that means they would arrive in Albania roughly one day after the other two divisions. Am I correct, Field Marshals?" asked Carson.
Kitchener returned to being silent. Unexpectedly it was Fisher who answered, "No, Sir Edward, you are not correct in your supposition."
"And why is that Admiral?"
"Because the Field Marshal did not requisition enough troopships to carry all three divisions simultaneously. This ANZAC Division as they call it must wait for some of the troopships to return to Alexandria after landing the other two divisions. That would be a good four days."
With a deep sign Asquith cringed in anticipation of the storm.
------Bukovina early afternoon
The Russians had done better in the morning artillery duel and now tried to follow up with an infantry assault. An entire battalion of fresh Russian infantry were now attacking two companies of Landsturm Division Przemysl. The Hungarians lacked machine guns and were not entrenched but they have taken advantage of what limited cover there was. The Russian infantry belonged to a newly formed second line division. Most of the men had received minimal training—sometimes none at all. Before this assault they were told that there opponents were Landsturm and were expected to be weak and would likely flee in panic. The Russian infantry surged forward in a dense congested mass.
Yuri charged forward to attack the enemy with his bare hands. Like nearly a third of the men in his company he had no been provided a rifle. He had been told by the officers to wait for someone in the company with a rifle to fall wounded and then take his weapon. Enemy rifle fire was tearing into the company. His friend Leonid was hit and spun around then collapsed in a heap. Yori ran over to him. Leonid was making a horrid wheezing noise and was having trouble breathing. Blood poured out of his chest. Yuri guessed the bullet had entered his lung. Leonid lapsed into unconsciousness. Yuri grabbed his rifle and then resumed his charge towards the Hungarians. It felt good to be armed finally though he felt sorry for Leonid.
The Hungarians did not flee. The accuracy of their rifle fire was considerably better than expected. Before long many of the men without rifles were able to acquire one. Russian resolve faltered as the bodies piled up. The battle went on for a while but the Hungarians held off the Russian assault.
Yuri was one of the few Russians to reach the Hungarians positions. He managed to fire two rounds at short range. He then attacked a Hungarian soldier with his bayonet. He had not had any really training with the bayonet and made a wild lunge, which his opponent easily sidestepped. The Hungarian was not much better and made an equally awkward attack. This went on for about a minute then something hard hit the back of Yuri’s head and the world went black.
Yuri eventually regained consciousness. He no longer had the rifle. His Hungarian captors said things in their own language, which Yuri did not understand. He felt groggy and disoriented with an intense headache. Someone who looked to be an NCO spoke in Russian to him and three other prisoners.
"Come with us, now."
They were led to a small peasant hovel. Inside were four men. Two were officers. The other two were a guard and a clerk. The officers interrogated them.
"Your men fought better than we had expected," Yuri conceded glumly, "might I ask the name of your unit?"
"We are called Landsturm Division Przemysl," answered one of his interrogators.
"That is our official name, mind you," said the other interrogator, "but many of us—including myself—prefer to call it Division François!"
Yuri wondered if he had sustained a concussion. This was not making any sense. Finally he asked incredulously, "What? You are French?"
BEF First Army HQ, Verton 1015 hrs Wednesday February 10, 1915
Not for the first time General Sir John French was struck by how much General Haig’s face resembled a dead fish—despite the moustache. Smith-Dorrien on the other hand often reminded him of a rabid wolverine. French detested both of them, but in different ways. Smith-Dorrien was ill-tempered bordering on insubordinate. Haig was outwardly correct and proper but there was always a glint in his eye suggesting that he knew better. Smith-Dorrien was annoying but unlike Haig he posed no real danger.
French had a very good guess what would be Haig’s first topic of conversation.
"Preparations for the attack are being rushed, sir. Much better results can be attained if it was delayed. A week should be sufficient, though I would prefer longer. Some elements of South Midland Division did not reach the front until yesterday morning."
"Lord Kitchener is adamant that the attack must begin Friday."
"Does he provide us a cogent reason? I know that the Royal Navy is very desirous of getting Boulogne back "
French paused before answering that. He received no less than 3 telegrams from Lord Kitchener late yesterday. All of them reiterated the urgent need for the coming offensive. Something had obviously ruffled the old boy’s feathers. "The Field Marshal is very much concerned with prestige at this time."
"Prestige? I see, hmmm," mused Haig, "well actually it is not all that clear to me. Is he concerned about morale? I do not see a problem at this time."
General French had been apprised by General Henry Wilson of the controversy within the War Council over the Carson Plan. He knew full well that Kitchener had dug in his heels and things had become ugly when Admiral Fisher sided with Carson. French did not feel like sharing this information with Haig. For one thing he would not like to admit that he agreed with Kitchener on this matter. So he ignored Haig’s question and proceeded to next topic.
"Let’s go over your plan, Douglas."
"Very well, sir. As early as visibility permits Friday morning the offshore naval force will commence a bombardment. As I understand it, the battleship selected has some form of experimental underwater protection in case the pestiferous U-Boats are still lurking about. Hopefully its efficacy will not be put to the test. The warships will shell the area around Cucq, which is near where there were naval bombardment during the latter phases of the Somme."
"Is this where your RGA batteries are going to be firing as well?" asked French.
"Initially yes. We wish to create the impression that this sector is where the attack will fall. But in stages the heavy batteries will shift their fire to the real target, which is to the east. Once they have shifted their fire, they will be joined by a concentration of field artillery When the warships cease their bombardment two battalions will make a purely diversionary attack in that sector. Hopefully this will draw the German reserves. An hour later the bombardment of the real target area will lift and two brigades of the 28th Division will attack. The German forward trench line should be devastated by our artillery. The more difficult problem will be to continue the advances and take the second German trench line, but I have the utmost confidence that my officer and their men will prevail, even though I know all too well how fiercely the Germans can fight in the trenches."
French bit his lip. Haig’s plan sounded rather clever but was going to be damned if he would admit it. Instead he asked, "Do you intend to send South Midlands Divisions—by the way it has been officially assigned number 48. North Midlands which saw action during the Battle of Picardy with Second Army has been numbered as 46."
"No, sir. I think it would be a mistake to send it off trailing behind 28th Division. Instead it will wait until Sunday, when it will make its own attack further to the east. It will have the firepower support of the same RGA brigades that obliterated the German trenches for 28th Division. Its objective will be the key crossroads at Montreuil."
French scratched his chin, "What unit then is going to be following the advance of 28th Division?"
"Initially none. The plan is for 28th Division to cross the Canche—which is only a modest water obstacle and then pivot to the left to take Etaples from the rear and trap at least 2 German divisions. The South Midlands Division or should I say 48th Division will disrupt Sixth Army’s ability to reinforce Etaples quickly."
"But this will allow the Germans to dig new trenches while you finish reducing the pocket at Etaples?"
"With the forces available to me at this time a quick liberation of Boulogne is not feasible. Most of my divisions are still sorely under strength from the losses incurred at the Somme. Out best bet is to destroy a piece of Sixth Army at Etaples and then in a second phase made a bid for Boulogne—hopefully with Second Army exerting pressure as well."
"Hmmm. Second Army is still recovering from its losses during the Battle of Picardy. You might be interested to learn that his august magnificence, Lord Kitchener has led the Admiralty to believe that I would liberate Boulogne before the end of the month."
"I do not wish in any way to cast aspersions on Lord Kitchener, but it is my professional opinion that such a timetable is wildly optimistic."
Sir John French was no stranger to wild optimism but this time he did not give into the impulse—in large part due to his antipathy towards Kitchener. But that left the equally distasteful option of agreeing with Haig. He decided it was best to remain vague.
"We shall see soon enough. Do the best that you can Douglas—just make sure it starts Friday."
Top Secret Report of General Bruno von Mudra to General von Falkenhayn and the General Staff dated 10 February, 1915
This report concerns the military efficacy of the new weapon, known as the T-Shell. This report is very preliminary because this weapon was first used in action yesterday. It was considered prudent to submit a report so soon because Army Detachment Strantz is scheduled to begin using the same weapon in less than a week and should be made aware of our own experience. A more detailed and conclusive report on this subject will be produced within 72 hours.
Detachment Mudra used the T_Shell yesterday in the early morning bombardment preceding and during our main attack on the French trench line west of Avocourt. Its intended role was to neutralize enemy artillery positions. In this role it proved ineffective. The French artillery positions were able to lay down effective fire and inflicted heavy casualties on our attacking infantry. As a direct result our attack yesterday was not effective as it should have been and key objectives were not taken.
However I must caution against reaching a hasty conclusion that the T-Shell lacks potential as a weapon. Despite the discouraging results the weapon is sound in theory and should not be abandoned prematurely. Problems are nearly always encountered with any worthwhile innovation. There is a good chance that our tactics in utilizing it were the cause of the failure. Alternatively there might be a simple defect in the weapon itself that can be easily remedied. I hereby request that more detailed technical specifications be sent to this office so I might review and identify possible defects.
------Russian Eighth Army HQ Stanislav 1105 hrs
General Alexei Brusilov, the commander of the Eight Army reviewed the latest reports from the Corps commanders. The attack of the Austro-Hungarian Second Army was making scant progress but it was succeeding in pinning his divisions. His own attack on the left flank of the Austro-Hungarian Seventh Army had stalled. The enemy had inserted a newly formed division that his intelligence section thought was formed mostly of Landsturm. Brusilov had seen this development as a sign of Conrad’s desperation. He was confident that a single fresh Russian infantry division could shatter it—and had cavalry standing by to exploit the rout.
From the latest reports it seemed that expectation had been false. The new division had managed somehow to hold its ground. Eighth Army’s stockpile of artillery shells had been sorely depleted in the last week. Southwestern Front was unable to meet his needs for more shells. Brusilov saw no alternative but to inform Southwestern Front that his attack had failed. With additional reinforcement and sufficient ammunition he could resume the offensive but otherwise to continue would accomplish nothing significant and waste manpower..
Though Ivanov had not seen a need to inform him, Brusilov had learned through more indirect channels that the Austrian offensive in the Bukovina was intended to cut off the flow of Russian aid to a rebellion in Transylvania and to make a demonstration to intimidate the Romanians. The Austrian Seventh Army still held the key city of Czernowitz on the border with Romania. The main purpose of Brusilov’s attack against the left of Seventh Army was to force them to weaken the right so Dniestr Group could retake Czernowitz
It had come close to success but ultimately failed.
Grand ballroom Vaterland 1015 hrs Thursday, February 11, 1915
"Calahan, you’re marching off cadence! What the Hell is wrong with you, y’a stupid Mick!" yelled a middle aged German shaped like a beer barrel.
Harry had hated parades with a passion back when he was the NY police force. Parades were too much about doing things other people’s way. That was not Harry Calahan’s way. It had been over a year since he had thrown off force on charges of insubordination and excessive use of force... Since then he tried to work as a Pinkerton but even their organization had too many rules for Harry. He spent most of his time and money getting into bar fights. His wife had run off to California with a shoe salesman, taking young Harry Junior with her. In the last two months Harry had gotten into deepening debt owed to certain gentlemen who were anything but gentle in their methods of collection.
Harry came from a long line of Fenians—his grandfather had fought at the Battle of Ridgeway—and the Civil War as well, but Grandpa always made it sound like Shiloh was a mere skirmish compared to Ridgeway. In the last decade Fenianism had faded in America. Irish Americans—not counting the Protestant bastards of course—still did not care much for the English, but was once a burning hatred was now merely a feeble disdain. But Harry remained true to the Fenian ideal. When on the odd occasion he attended Mass to prove he was not Protestant, he prayed long and hard for the ruination of the British and their infernal Empire. He knew the great Fenian leader, John Devoy personally, though he did not exactly count that ornery old coot as a friend—he wondered if any did. When opportunity came to New York in the form of SMS Scharnhorst, Harry decided a war was just the thing he needed—just as long as he didn’t have to take orders.
About two thirds of the Americans who had volunteered to fight for Germany were billeted aboard the Vaterland. A day after leaving New York the ship’s captain had decided that it was a good idea if the men who had military experience train those volunteers who lacked it. In addition he ordered that they assist the ship’s crew. There was a distinct possibility that Vaterland might come under fire before reaching Germany. The captain was more worried about the dangers of fire than flooding. Precautionary measures were taken to reduce the threat of fire in case the ship was shelled. Harry did mind these chores too much—contrary to what some people thought he could be diligent if it served a purpose.
Harry was very disappointed with the military training. He had expected better from the Germans and was beginning to think their vaunted reputation as fearsome soldiers was more than a wee bit overrated. So he resisted the impulse to tell ol’ Sergeant Barrel Body that if his foot was where it belonged it would be halfway up the German’s intestines.
------HIJMS Hizen west of Tortuga 1105 hrs
Read Admiral Moriyama had received intelligence from the British that at least one and possibly two, German raiders were again using the Isle of Tortuga as a base. The British had not shared the source of their intelligence with him. Except for some weak patrol craft his warships happened to be the closest to the area. Moriyama dispatched Idzumo to the eastern end of the island. Asama was now heading east in the channel between Tortuga and Hispanola.
Admiral Moriyama had been disappointed in not seeing action in the pursuit. He longed to return to Japan, but he had wanted some to have accomplished something more than protracted steaming. He prayed to Shinto gods that today would bring battle.
------USS Raleigh northeast of Tortuga 1120 hrs
"Well, I’ll be! Now don’t that beat all."
Raleigh’s captain was a chain smoker. Along with his executive officer he had been observing the cruiser that had swung around the north coast of Tortuga from the west. They had been watching it through their binoculars, but the captain had lowered his own so he could concentrate more on his cigarettes.
The United States now had a good suspicion that Spee had used Tortuga as a base for a few days. This was not in accord with the Hague Treaty. What was a greater cause of concern for the US was the Monroe Doctrine--.General Sam, the strongman currently dominating the mess that was Haiti appeared to be in league with the Germans.
In the last few days American agents in Haiti picked up rumors that one or two Germans raiders had returned to Tortuga. An American gunboat had sighted what it believed to be a German AMC in the area two days ago and there had been a radio distress call from a British merchantman out of Trinidad the same day. There was concern that perhaps the mysteriously missing Karlsruhe might also be using this clandestine base.
The USN had quickly passed this information on to the British Naval Attache, Captain Guy Gaunt, RAN. The Raleigh had been sent here to watch. If the German raider attacked a US flagged ship they had permission to engage, but otherwise they were there just to watch. Some of the men longed for some action—preferably as a participant but they would settle for being spectators.
"What is it Number One?"
"That cruiser out there is not British after all—it’s a damn Jap!"
"Oh Lord! You wouldn’t be pulling the Old man’s leg now would you?"
"Take a look for yourself, sir"
The captain discarded a half consumed cigarette and brought his binoculars back to his eyes. After a minute he said, "Hmmm, I think I can make out the damn Japanese flag. Shit! I though the yellow bastards were all on their heathen way back to Japland.!"
The captain continued to watch for a while. Eventually he felt a growing urge for another cigarette. He was almost ready to lower his binoculars when he noticed something, "Hey, did you see that? Looks like she’s changing course."
"Yes, sir, I see it as well. I wonder if he sees something further south that we don’t."
They continued to watch and before too long could see gun flashes. Raleigh move closer to the action though not in a direct way that would seem threatening to the combatants. Eventually they could see Idzumo’s opponent, the Prinz Eitel Freidrich, a German AMC. It was no contest. The Japanese warship had far greater firepower and before long there was a nasty fire blazing away in the AMC’s superstructure.
It was already a doomed vessel when the Americans saw another Japanese cruiser approach rapidly from the west. The Americans not surprised when Prinz Eitel Freidrich struck her colors. The Japanese cruisers did not immediately cease fire, but eventually they did. When Japanese boats arrived the Prinz Eitel Freidrich was already going under.
"Did you think they scuttled her?" asked the captain.
"Quite likely, sir, though I think she would’ve sunk from damage soon enough."
"She’s going down on an even keel. Look’s like a scuttle to me."
Soon afterwards Hizen arrived on the scene. "Jesus H Christ! Talk about using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito," remarked Raleigh’s captain shaking his head. He lit up a cigarette, muttered "Show’s over," and turned to other matters.
------SMS Scharnhorst 1455 hrs
"Admiral von Spee, this wireless message just arrived from the Admiraltstab."
Spee took the slip of paper.
HIGH SEAS FLEET WILL SORTIE WITH INTENT TO ENGAGE THE GRAND FLEET ON FEBRUARY 14. THIS WILL HELP YOU TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE PATROLS. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PENETRATE THE PATROLS AROUND THE FAEROES BEFORE THE NIGHT OF THE 15TH.
Spee frowned but then shrugged stoically. He had planned to pass through the suspected main patrol line between the Faeroes and Iceland the night of the 14th—which was a new moon. But if the High Seas Fleet had plans to engage the Grand Fleet he thought he could afford to wait one more day. He went back to worrying about Scharnhorst’s engines.
Old Admiralty Building 0825 hrs Friday February 12, 1915
"The message to Spee that NID decoded proves that my intuition was correct—not that I ever had the slightest doubt, mind you!" declared a very satisfied looking Admiral Fisher, "The High Seas Fleet is coming out to challenge us. The naval triumph for which we have prepared is about to be gloriously fulfilled.. The Germans have, I must confess, proven to be a worthier adversary than I had anticipated. They have tested our mettle most thoroughly. But their season of success is coming to a close. The day of reckoning is at hand. The Almighty has tested but now He will demonstrate once again that we are His Chosen People."
Admiral Oliver exchanged a glance with Admiral Jackson. They were pleased that Fisher’s mood had lightened, but his rhapsodic speechmaking struck Oliver as being just tad premature and more than tan a tad overdramatic.
"Henry make sure your reemphasize to Commodore Keyes that the submarines positioned off the Bight are to refrain from making attacks of the High Seas Fleet when they sortie. I do not want to hear that Ingenohl has scurried back to the Jade because one of our submarines damaged a dreadnought at the beginning of their sortie."
"I will speak to him again, sir"
"Now, the pathetic remnants of the High Seas Fleet, which will to limp home after their sound thrashing, is a horse of a different color. Our boys in the subs should attack them with the utmost vigor. In that most of them should be badly damaged from shell fire with their screen sorely depleted they should be a bit of an Aunt Sally."
"I would imagine so, sir. I will discuss this issue as well with Keyes over the telephone."
:"Make sure there is no misunderstanding. John keeps telling me that the long range engagement he intends to fight will mean that at best he will only sink half of the High Seas Fleet. Needless to say that I find that sentiment less than exhilarating but I an not going to second guess his tactical judgment. But I expect our submarines to finish off wounded beasts like a pack of hungry wolves."
------HMS Revenge off Etaples 0900 hrs
She was the last of her class. The admiralty had decided to preserve her with a single purpose in mind—shore bombardment. To make this role less hazardous they had fitted her with experimental bulges, which it was hoped would provide protection against both mines and torpedoes. The ships’ obsolete 13.5" 20 cal. guns were sited in open barbettes. In order to get the required elevation a list was deliberately created by flooding the bulge on one side.
A dozen destroyers of Dover Patrol swarmed about frantically searching for periscopes. There was also some worry this time that the German flotilla at Boulogne might sortie. Dover Patrol had 3 scout cruisers carefully positioned to intercept. Revenge was already taking fire from German coastal batteries. She would trust her armor to keep her from serious harm. The 3 monitors—many more were under construction but only the 3 built for Brazil were ready for action—steamed into their firing positions.
Revenge commenced firing with her main battery. She was in radio communication with an observation balloon which would spot the fall of its shells. Her shells were heavy but rate of fire was slow.
------London 1445 hrs
"Insufficient measures are being taken to eradicate the Irish Republican Brotherhood," Curzon chided Birrell.
"You are making a mountain out of an molehill. The IRB had been on the verge of extinction. Due to some very recent political developments it has now grown all the way back to being tiny."
"When you say ‘recent political developments’ are you by any chance referring to my appointment?"
Birrell paused before answering, "The Lord-Lieutenant can make his own inferences."
Curzon reddened, "There is more menace in the IRB than you want to admit."
"Not really. MacNeill is the only one worth worrying about. And everything Chamberlain’s boys at the RIC have sent me indicates he is smart enough not to try anything rash while the war is on. That is provided we don’t go ahead do something really stupid ourselves like trying to seize their feeble little arsenal of rifles."
Curzon knew that the last remark was meant to disparage his belief that all the factions should be disarmed. If he made mention of it, Birrell would again challenge him to bring it before the Cabinet and that would only lead to further humiliation. "Hmm. I do not trust MacNeill as much as you. The hyena is sometimes more dangerous than the lion. Furthermore several of his colleagues are suspected of either belonging to or strongly sympathizing with the IRB."
"MacNeill certainly doesn’t choose his friends very well. I’ll grant you that. But he has a will like a cannon. If the IRB thinks they can manipulate they are even dumber than I thought."
"It may surprise to you to know that I’ve met personally with one of them –Patrick Pearse. He is obstinate, naïve and hopelessly romantic—but very bright in some ways."
Birrell gaped in astonishment, "Pearse! Why in thunder would have anything to do with Pearse?"
Curzon shrugged, "He has some interesting ideas concerning education—though his obsession with Gaelic is risible. I really do want to help Ireland, you know. Education is an area that can use some improvement. So I visited St. Enda’s. It gave me an opportunity to look the enemy in the eye. Whatever he’s up to he’s not the worst of the lot. That honor I bestow on that detestable Socialist viper, James Connolly. Do you know he is openly conducting classes on urban warfare—and we do nothing-- What? Why are you smirking? What’s so blasted funny?"
Birrell had permitted himself to smirk, suppressing the urge to chuckle aloud. He had read s few biting essays Connolly had printed with the new Viceroy as its main target. He had usually found them very funny though the articles always degenerated into turgid drivel towards then end when Connolly mistakenly tried to be serious.
"James Connolly is a buffoon. His so called Citizen’s Army is a pathetic little Socialist charade. Even the IRB treats them with contempt."
------west of the Lotofen Islands 1710
There was concern in the Admiralty that Spee might try to make use of Norwegian ports to either coal or to shelter the ocean liners. A hurriedly organized squadron of Albemarle, Jupiter, Blanche and Boadicea now took up station here hoping to intercept Spee if he tried to reach either Narvik or Tromso. Jupiter had been on its way to the White Sea where it was to assist the Russians as an icebreaker. Norway had a long coastline with many ports though and there was no guarantee that Spee might not slip into one during the long nights.
HQ German Sixth Army 0725 hrs Saturday, February 13, 1915
Crown Prince Rupprecht stoically digested the early morning reports. The British had through a concentration of artillery and infantry succeeded in seizing a section of the German first trench line yesterday around noon. British attempt in the late afternoon to move on and take the second trench line had been repulsed though. Rupprecht had reinforced the threatened sector as quickly as possible. Already there were reports of a new British artillery bombardment. Another assault was surely coming.
In the last two weeks, Sixth Army had lost more than quarter of its heavy artillery. Falkenhayn had sent it to Army Detachment Mudra for the planned Argonne offensive. He had also ordered something still more disturbing. Since the Somme the 6th Bavarian Division had been his fireman unit. But this afternoon it was scheduled to entrain.
"Send a message to General von Falkenhayn: Situation critical. Transfer of 6th Bavarian Division to OKW Reserve must be delayed until the immediate danger is over."
------Wilhelmshaven 0900 hrs
The Admiralstab was holding one last meeting before the fateful sortie to go over the operation plan of battle. Grand Admiral von Ingenohl made the presentation.
"Vigorous minesweeping was begun last yesterday and will continued for the next 24 hours.. Tomorrow afternoon First and Second Scouting Groups along with their two flotillas will leave the Jade. An hour later they will be followed by the High Seas Fleet and proceed northwest. At last light we will change course to WSW. We want the British to know we are at sea but wish to mislead them as to our intended destination."
"Which is to be the Straits of Dover?" said Bachmann. As he had seen a written copy of the plan previously it was more a declaration than a question.
"That is correct. After midnight 7th Flotilla will sortie from Boulogne and engage the warships of Dover Patrol in a series of hit and run battles off Calais pushing on towards Dunkirk. This should cause a concentration of British light forces off Dunkirk. At dawn Second Scouting Group will arrive off Dunkirk with First Scouting Group in support. Admiral Hipper should be able to inflict heavy losses on the British light forces."
"What if Channel Fleet intervenes?" asked Tirpitz.
Ingenohl winced slightly. "Admiral Hipper is to avoid a prolong engagement with Channel Fleet. It is imperative that our scouting forces not be weakened to any sizable degree before encountering the Grand Fleet, since it will likely need to engage British battle cruisers at some point. If it is possible to bring the High Seas Fleet against the Channel Fleet before noon that of course would be wonderful, but I see that as very unlikely. Later in the day we must be alert to the possibility that Admiral Jellicoe might use Channel Fleet as bait in a trap."
Tirpitz frowned. While Ingenohl’s arguments on the surface made some sense there was an undercurrent to them that suggested that the commander of the High Seas Fleet was reverting back to caution and pessimism "We will come back to this topic later," he muttered.
"You do not intend to send First Scouting Group into the English Channel though?" asked Bachmann.
"That is correct. Admiral Hipper is not to proceed beyond Calais. Second Scouting Group may pursue British light forces into the Channel but not too far. We must not let secondary objectives distract from the primary mission."
"Which is to engage and defeat the Grand Fleet."
"Yes, the threat to the BEF’s communication lines should be more than sufficient to force Admiral Jellicoe to do battle. Along his probable line of approach two ambush lines of submarines are being stationed. It is realistically hoped they will substantially weaken his force before he reaches us. The area north of Terschelling is where I would prefer the battle to take place late Monday afternoon."
"This plan appears to be sound.. A relatively short range engagement late in the afternoon followed by a night battle offers us the best opportunity to inflict enough loss on the British to gain control the sea lanes."
Ingenohl had initially wanted First Scouting Group to shell Lowestoft and Yarmouth in the morning. Hipper had talked him into hitting Dover Patrol off Dunkirk but as late as yesterday morning Ingenohl was still tempted to revert to his original idea. When word arrived late in the day of a new BEF offensive, there was an added reason to hit Dover Patrol—it would threaten the communication lines to England even if it did not enter the Channel in force.
------Vaterland 1105 hrs
"This is a scar from a bullet wound," said the ship’s physician examining James Creelman., "were you in a war—the one with Spain perhaps?"
"Yeah, I got that one in Cuba."
"So you were a soldier, yes?"
"No, I went there as a reporter."
The physician arched an eyebrow, "Oh, I had not realized that newspaper reporting was such a dangerous occupation."
"It depends. You see, I was working for the Chief at time."
"Hearst. William Randolph Hearst. That’s what he likes to be called. Maybe you haven’t heard of him what with you being a German and all."
"Germans with no interest in America do not last long with this company. Yes, I have heard of Mr. Hearst. In any event this old wound is not the cause of your ailment. Instead you have an irregular heartbeat, diabetes and what is the most troubling --signs of kidney failure. You are not a well man, Mr. Creelman. Your condition may require surgery before too long."
"I want one more story, Doc. One really big story before I die. Keep me alive and on my feet for the next few days, Doc. That’s all I ask. Something really big is going to happen. I can feel it."
------HMS Vengeance 1540 hrs
Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Limpus watched the three French dreadnoughts—Courbet, Paris and France through his binoculars. They were part of the 1ere Armee Navale. In addition to his flagship Vengeance the British force consisted of the predreadnought battleships Albion, Majestic and Prince George. The rest of his force consisted of the light cruisers Dublin, Dartmouth, Sapphire and Amethyst, the seaplane carrier Empress plus 11 ‘G’ class destroyers of the Fifth Flotilla. The British also had an ‘E’ class sub posted off Pola along with four French subs and another off Cattaro along with two French subs. Tomorrow they would cover the landing of 1st Canadian Division at San Giovanni de Medua and the 1st Australian Division at Durazzo.
Admiral Limpus suddenly found himself thinking about Churchill. At the beginning of the war Limpus had been in charge of the British Naval Mission in Constantinople. For that reason Churchill had thought him most qualified to command the British squadron off the Dardanelles. This was back in September when the Ottoman stance towards the war was a matter of conjecture. The British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire had strongly opposed this idea. Limpus had found himself as a mere pawn in a political dispute between the Admiralty and the Foreign Office. After much haggling he ended up replacing Vice Admiral Carden as the Admiral Superintendent at Malta.
Limpus had hoped that the combination of the Ottomans entering and Churchill entering would bring about a reconsideration of his commanding the squadron, which guarded the Straits and periodically bombarding the forts. That would have best suited his skills. Instead the Admiralty had selected to lead this ambitious expedition. He had an explicit mission of escorting the transport to their ports. The use of naval firepower if there was a problem once the CANZC’s were ashore was also a possibility. But more disturbing was another aspect of his mission---the British squadron would serve as bait for the Austrian navy.
Limpus continued to watch the French battleships. Behind the dreadnoughts there was a column of 4 Danton class semidreadnoughts and another column of predreadnoughts. More than a match for the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Tomorrow they would be nearby but not so close that Limpus would be able to see them. He would have to trust that they would appear promptly if needed.
------London 2005 hrs
Andrew Bonar Law, Edward Carson and David Lloyd George were dining together. They discussed mostly politics. "The War Council in its current form is simply too cumbersome," declared Lloyd-George, "it is paralyzed by endless argumentation. It could well be Herbert’s downfall."
"What we have been going through trying to get Edward’s brilliant Adriatic Strategy speedily implemented has made that painfully obvious," answered Law.
"I once had the very highest regard for Lord Kitchener. Some fine wines age well—others do not. He apparently falls into the later category," mused Carson, "I am ashamed to admit it but I have concluded that Lord Northcliffe is spot on when it comes to that man."
"Even a stopped clock is right twice a day," Lloyd-George quipped.
"Quite apropos. As far as Kitchener is concerned he has shown himself to be just another obstinate Kerryman—if you pardon my redundancy," said Bonar Law, "but you are quite right, David. The so called War Council is an inexcusable mess. I am most curious though as to what you see as the solution."
"It is really very simple. There should be a small group, call it a War Committee that meets and is authorized to render speedy decisions."
"Hmm. This would greatly reduce the ability of those Cabinet members not on the Committee to influence policy."
"You make that sound like a bad thing, Andrew"
"It will seem that way to certain people."
Lloyd-George shrugged, "There is a war on. We all must make sacrifices—even politicians."
"Perish the thought! You are a cruel man, David Lloyd-George!" said Carson and they all laughed, even the usually dour Bonar Law.
"All kidding aside, David, just how small do you think this War Committee should be?"
"Oh, I was thinking it could be as small as three."
"Three? Like the three of us?"
Again the Welsh Wizard shrugged nonchalantly, "Why not?"
U.5 Gulf of Cattaro 1350 hrs Sunday February 14, 1915 (CANZAC Day)
British agents had made contact with Essad Pasha’s men in both ports in advance of the arrival of the CANZAC. An man secretly favorable to the AustroHungarians had learned some bits and pieces of this plan to an an agent of the Dual Monarchy. This was passed on to both Conrad and Admiral Anton Haus, the head of the Imperial and Royal Kriegsmarine. Neither of them considered the information to be very reliable—esp. since the source had made the ridiculous, claim that the troops landing at Durazzo were Austrians. Since Admiral Haus had thought it best to increase the submarine patrols off the northern coast of Albania. Additional doubts were cast on the veracity of the source when nothing happened during the first week of February, which was when they were allegedly due to arrive. The submarine patrols were winding down-- all that remained was U.5 and it was planning to head back to Cattaro after dark.
Then the captain spotted a cruiser through the periscope. It was definitely not friendly. Eventually he identified it as one of the British ‘town’ class. He had late last year sunk a French armored cruiser. Once again he positioned his submarine and prepared to fire a torpedo.
Among other things the commander of this submarine, Georg Ritter Trapp was noted for his fine singing voice. Though far from being a frivolous officer, he was known only occasion to break into song when particularly happy. With intense professional skill he maneuvered his submarine into firing position. Finally he attained what he regarded as the proper firing position and ordered, "Fire torpedo!"
"Torpedo launched, Captain"
Trapp watched patiently through the periscope. After nearly a minute of tense anticipation the crew heard first a muffled explosion and then something else.
"The hills are alive with the sound of music…"
-----SMS Frederich der Grosse, leaving Jade Bay 1510 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl proudly watched his battle squadrons from the bridge of his flagship. He tried to decipher his own feelings. It amused Ingenohl when he read articles calling him the "German Nelson". He certainly did not feel "Nelsonic"—though he really only had a vague notion of what that meant. He was now steaming out to sea with the express purpose of engaging the Grand Fleet in a decisive battle. This was something at the beginning of the war he never expected to do—despite all the talk about the kleinkrieg strategy eventually wearing down the British margin of superiority. He remembered Dogger Bank—in some ways it seemed like yesterday and in others it was a lifetime ago. He recalled how fearful he had been at Dogger Bank when he thought he had engaged the entire Grand Fleet. Now there appeared to be a good chance to obtain control of the seas. Not as good as he would have liked—he still thought things were being rushed on account of Spee’s precipitous return home but Tirpitz and Bachman did not want to hear that.
But still there was now a reason to hope. He had a duty. That was all that mattered.
------Durozzo, Albania 1600 hrs
The Australians had finally arrived at their destination—the Albanian port of Durozzo. Well some of them had arrived. They were supposed to start unloading at 1100 but the convoy of troopships out of Alexandria was behind schedule and the first Aussie did not step ashore until 1415. When they did they found a land that was more like the Egypt they had just left than Europe—or to be more accurate what they expected Europe to be.
Many of the Australians would have to wait another day. By dusk only two brigades and the signals company were ashore. To the north the Canadians had arrived at San Giovanni de Medua soon after dawn but that port was much more limited in its capacity than Durrazo. They had managed to land all of their infantry but only half of the 18 pounders, none of the howitzers and only a small portion of the ammunition. The news of Dublin being badly damaged—but not sunk by a submarine was seen as proof that they no longer had a measure of surprise. Fearful of an Austrian torpedo boat raid during the dark night, the transports would withdraw to the south at last light. Tomorrow they would return at dawn and finish unloading.
------Vaterland 1640 hrs
The clouds had parted sufficiently to give the passengers a gorgeous sunset. Some defied the chill weather to watch it from the railing. Harry Calahan was one of those. He noticed a beautiful woman who looked vaguely familiar but for the life of him he could not recall where or when. She had long flaming red hair and wore a bright red woolen cloak over a dress of the same color. She suddenly turned from admiring the sunset to glance at Harry. She grinned appreciatively.
With that encouragement he moseyed over to her. Her skin as well looked a bit red and he wondered if she might be part Indian. It did not in any way detract from her fey beauty. But there was some about her that spelled trouble—big trouble. And it wasn’t just the gray riding crop encrusted with diamonds she carried so enthusiastically.
"Remember me, Harry?" she asked coyly as he drew near.
"Morgan?" he responded intuitively but he was far from sure how or why he knew her name. There were times in his life he had drunk more than should and his memory some gaps here and there.
Her smile broadened, "Ah, you do remember me."
"Well to be honest, not as much as I would like. Jesus, I don’t even recall if you are Irish."
"Oh, I am many things. I am even part Crow. But I am 100% percent Irish."
Harry nodded. His hunch about Indian blood was correct. Sometimes people who were part Irish could end up being more Irish than a greenhorn. Whether it was a memory or his policeman’s instincts something was warning him that trouble followed this woman wherever she went.
"Are you worried that this ship might end up being the in the middle of a battle? Now that we’re getting close to the North Sea, many on board are getting anxious," he asked.
"On the contrary, I very much look forward to that possibility. And yourself?"
"Oh, I reckon it might be entertaining—provided the damn British lose of course. But it could be frustrating watching a fight without being able to do anything."
She nodded knowingly at his last remark. She looked at Harry in a way that made him both excited and fearful. They exchanged glances for a while. Finally Morgan slithered closer to whisper invitingly into his ear, "Well maybe this time I will interest you more."
------HQ BEF First Army 2245 hrs
General Haig reviewed the latest reports. The 48th South Midlands Division had attacked in the morning. The preliminary reports painted a disappointing picture. Its artillery bombardment had failed to remove the German wire in most sectors. Many brave men had died from shrapnel and machine gun fire and only a single battalion involved in the assault ever made it into the German trenches. Attempts to reinforce even that limited success were proving difficult.
More encouragingly though the 28th Division had finally taken a good slice of the German second trench line. Tomorrow it would try to push on. There was reason to believe it might reach the Canche River before the day was over.
Off Cape Gris Nez 0255 hrs Monday February 15, 1915
The 8.8cm guns of a German torpedo boat raked a British ‘C’ class destroyer illuminated by the searchlights of another German torpedo boat. Dover Patrol had been warned by NID that the German flotilla would sortie again during the dark night. Admiral Bacon had no idea of what direction the Germans were headed. He was most worried that they would be heading either west to raid off Beachy Head again but also thought it possible that they would try to head south and attempt to ambush the British warships, which were bombarding the coast. Revenge and the monitors had been recalled for the time being but the Germans were not likely to be aware of that.
------HMS Lord Nelson Sheerness 0635 hrs
Over three hours age the Admiralty had ordered Admiral Lewis Bayly, the commander of Channel Fleet to raise steam but not to leave port before first light. There had been reports from Admiral Bacon in command of Dover Patrol of a running battle with the German torpedo boats out of Boulogne. Bayly had been informed that Harwich Force would not bet reinforcing Dover Patrol as Commodore Tyrwhitt had been ordered north to rendezvous with 1st Battlecruiser Squadron at the edge of the Dogger Bank at dawn. Bayly had already sent the half dozen ‘E" class destroyers that served as Channel Fleet’s screen heading for North Foreland. The rest of his force consisted of the battleships Lord Nelson, Prince of Wales, Formidable, Queen, Irresistible and London with the scout cruiser Topaze used to repeat signals.
"It is time for us to leave the harbor," Admiral Bayly announced.
-------SMS Koln 0650 hrs
In the twilight Admiral Maas watched in satisfaction as the cruisers of Second Scouting Group—Graudenz, Stralsund and Kolberg as well as his flagship tore into the cacophony of mostly obsolete vessels belonging to Dover Patrol.
"Admiral, lookouts report two enemy scout cruisers closing rapidly from WSW."
"Relay that information immediately to Admiral Hipper!"
------HMS Yarmouth 0714 hrs
The British 1st Battlecruiser Squadron and 6th Cruiser Squadron were positioned about 40 miles ahead of the Grand Fleet. About 10 nm ahead of them serving as a screen was the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron consisting of Yarmouth, Gloucester, Birmingham and Lowestoft. They were heading SSE when they ran into the U-Boat ambush line. Lookouts failed to see to either a periscopes or a torpedo wake. There was a loud underwater explosion forward on the Yarmouth.
------SMS Seydlitz 0740 hrs
Two British scout cruisers were burning and listing from their fight with Second Scouting Group. A third scout cruiser could be seen fleeing into the Straits of Dover with Graudenz and Koln in hot pursuit. "Commence firing on the damaged scout cruisers," Admiral Hipper ordered.
------HMS Iron Duke 0755 hrs
The wireless report of Admiral Sturdee relating the damage to Yarmouth was deeply disturbing to Admiral Jellicoe. It was still not clear if it was from a torpedo or a still worse a mine. He had also just received a report of German light cruisers attacking Dover Patrol, but had not yet received word of the enemy’s battle cruisers. Jellicoe sympathized with the plight of Dover Patrol but his old worries of minefields and submarine ambushes were bothering him still more. He would not lose the war this afternoon!
"It’s a trap," he concluded, "Flags, Signal a change of course to NNE."
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0835 hrs
The report from Hipper was that one British scout cruiser had already been sunk and two more were badly damaged and had fled into the Straits. Second Scouting Group was pursuing them. The British had lost a few small destroyers as well but there was some confusion in the various reports about the exact number. It could be as few as 3 or as many as 5.
"We have drawn the attention of the British. Signal Maas and Hipper by wireless that they are to cease all pursuit and rejoin High Seas Fleet at once. The 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla will accompany them."
------HMS Attentive 0845 hrs
Admiral Bacon watched stoically from the bridge of his flagship as the 3 German light cruisers closed in for the kill. The Attentive was steadily slowing from damage to its engines and would soon be dead in the water. .Half of its 4" guns had been knocked out. The fires ravaging the ship and its ever increasing list made it difficult for the men to work the remaining guns. They had already launched a torpedo in desperation. It had only bought them a little more time when it forced Graudenz to turn sharply.
The damage control parties were working feverishly to fight both flooding and fire. It seemed so very hopeless with the relentless German shelling. Dover Patrol had already lost one brave commander. Admiral Bacon thought it nearly certain they would soon lose another.
"Admiral, they are turning away sir! The Germans are turning away."
------HMS Lord Nelson heading ESE 0916 hrs
"Admiral, lookouts report large sharps to the east."
"How many? What’s their heading?" asked Bayly.
"Four maybe five, sir. Heading looks to be northeasterly."
"Any indication of class, range or speed?"
"No clear indication of any of those, Admiral, thought range appears to be on the edge of visibility."
Bayly had received two wireless messages from Admiral Bacon that Dover Patrol was engaged by the German battle cruiser squadron as well as light cruisers. The destroyers in Channel Fleet’s screen confirmed those sightings. But the last message he received had the German battle cruisers heading WSW. Were these ships to east heading ESE the battle cruisers or perhaps the High Seas Fleet? It was widely believed that the late Admiral Warrender had rushed into battle without accurately identifying his opponents. Bayly hesitated briefly. He thought about the plight of Dover Patrol.
"Flags, signal a 4 point turn to port in succession. Hoist!"
------SMS Seydlitz heading ENE 0923 hrs
"Admiral Hipper, lookouts report large ships heading towards us from the west."
Hipper extinguished a cigar and took up his binoculars. Raeder did the same and soon remarked, "It looks like the British Channel Fleet, Admiral."
After a few seconds of squinting and staring Hipper replied, "Yes it certainly does. And they are turning. It looks like they are coming after us."
"Should we signal an increase in speed, sir? We can easily outrun them."
"No. Second Scouting Group is still off Gravelines. If we run from the Channel Fleet it may well turn to the southeast and get between us and Maas. So Signals send an immediate message to Admiral Maas that he is to proceed NE at utmost speed. "
"Jawohl, Herr Admiral."
"Good. We need to distract Channel Fleet for a while. Signal First Scouting Group to turn 4 point to port and train guns on the ships to the west. After that send a wireless message to Admiral von Ingenohl that we are preparing to engage Channel Fleet."
------HMS Prince of Wales 0937 hrs
The German battle cruisers had attained the range—which was nearly 18,000 yards-- more readily than the British. They had already scored 5 hits, wrecking a 6" gun on Formidable but otherwise causing only minor damage and a few casualties. Now a 12" APC shell from Derfflinger managed to penetrate both armor decks reaching the port engine room. The shell failed to explode but nevertheless damaged some of the equipment and ruptured a steam line. She soon began to lose speed.
------HMS Lord Nelson 0941 hrs
The British were starting to find the range as well, though Lord Nelson’s gunners continued to have difficulty distinguishing the splashes from their 12" and 9.2" guns.
"Admiral! Look at the third German ship!"
"Yes, yes, that looks like she’s burning very nicely," remarked Bayly with considerable satisfaction.
"Admiral, Prince of Wales has signaled that due to engine damage she can no longer keep place in line."
------SMS Seydlitz 0944 hrs
"Maas should be out of danger by now. The British gunnery is finding the range. The destruction of Channel Fleet will interfere with our effectiveness later against the Grand Fleet and their scouting forces. It is time to make out exit," said Hipper, "Signal a simultaneous 4 point turn to starboard and make 24 knots."
------HMS Lord Nelson 0949 hrs
"It looks like they are breaking off, Admiral"
"Yes, it certainly does."
"Should we pursue, sir?"
"Unless Moltke has been seriously slowed—which I think highly unlikely-- they will easily outrun us. Also they may be trying to lure us towards the High Seas Fleet. Send Topaze
to tail them for a while. We follow at 15 knots in case the Germans turn on her."
------HMS Iron Duke 1005 hrs
Admiral Jellicoe could clearly see the Zeppelin in the distance. It was painfully obvious the Zeppelin could just as clearly see the Grand Fleet. It was not trying to bomb but merely tailed the fleet outside the range of their guns.
"Send the following message to Admiral Fisher…"
--------Old Admiralty Building 1025 hrs
Admiral Fisher glumly stared at the piece of paper he had been handed a few minutes ago. Every time he looked it said the same damn thing.
GERMANS HAVE PRPEAPRED AMBUSH INVOLVING EITHER MINES OR SUBS. POSITION OF GRAND FLEET COMPROMISED BY ZEPPELIN TO ADVANCE NOW MEANS LIKELY ENGAGEMENT LATE IN DAY WITH SERIOUS RISK OF NIGHT BATTLE. BATTLE WOULD BE MOST UNFAVORABLE UNDER THESE CONDITIONS SUGGEST HARWICH FORCE ATTEMPT A NIGHT TORPEDO ATTACK IF SUCCESSFUL GRAND FLEET WILL ENGAGE IN THE MORNING
Oliver and Jackson exchanged glances and breathed deeply. They both knew what was in the message. The First Lord was not yet present. He would be joining them shortly. Perhaps it would be best if Fisher blew off some steam first. For a few minutes there was an ominous silence. They anticipated that he would soon lash out at them in rage. They were mistaken.
"The Almighty still tests the faith of his Chosen People. Order Tyrwhitt to detach from Grand Fleet. He is to locate the German battle fleet, and then attempt a night torpedo attack. He should not attempt a daylight torpedo attack. Grand Fleet is to remain north of Dogger Bank until nightfall then retire at 10 knots to the Long Forties," commanded Fisher in an even authoritative tone but his nostrils flared as he spoke..
-----SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1040 hrs
Admiral Ingenohl stared at the wireless message with puzzlement. One on the scouting Zeppelins had spotted the Grand Fleet. Their location was little further south than Ingenohl had expected but was much more puzzling was their enemy’s heading, which the airship had reported as northerly.
------BEF First Army HQ 1105 hrs
When General Haig picked up the telephone call from General French he was expecting the usual inquiry about the progress of his attacks. He was surprised when French blurted out the main purpose of the telephone call, "The flow of supplies across the Channel is completely disrupted right now."
Haig was dumbfounded, "I am deeply distressed by this news, sir. What has happened to cause this disruption?"
"The bloody Germans are off Flanders in force right now, that’s what! Battle cruisers and maybe their whole battle fleet is nearby."
"How can this have happened, sir? I know the Grand Fleet was badly hurt back in December but I was told we were still stronger than the Germans."
"How the bloody hell do I know? I have my hands full right now with being a general without seconding guessing the bleeding admirals. I assume there is going to be a big battle very soon. It could be going on right now for all I know. But what I have been told is there is that cross Channel shipping will not resume until late tomorrow at the earliest. Of course, for the rest of the day you will be receiving what was already offloaded, but come tomorrow the flow of ammunition will cease for a while. If necessary I think I can scrounge up food and fodder from the French, but not ammunition."
"I have a sufficient reserve of food and fodder. But it is ammunition—at least artillery shells—is what I will need most for the next two days. The 28th Division is going to attempt to cross the Canche tonight. This is a very critical period."
"Damn it! I understand that, Douglas! Do you understand what I just said about my not being in command of the Royal Navy?"
Haig momentarily try to imagine what it would be like if Sir John French did run the Royal Navy. That thought was not very reassuring. He put it out of his mind and tried to be respectful, "I understand perfectly well, sir. I have full confidence that our glorious navy will soon rectify this intolerable situation."
"It’s good that you do, Douglas, because I sure and hell don’t."
------HMS Vengeance Durazzo Bay, 1205 hrs
After the torpedoing of the Dublin, the British squadron had become wary. They escorted the transports back to the docks at San Giovanni and Durazzo. The early morning was a bit hazy for the normally clear south Adriatic and Limpus worried that the Austrian fleet must come crashing down on them with little warning. There was nothing to be seen, other than a half dozen periscope sightings. Early in the morning Empress had managed to get one of her seaplanes into the air. It flew over the Gulf of Cattaro and spotted a pair of Austrian coastal torpedo boats on patrol near the base. A little more than an hour ago an Austrian seaplane flew over San Giovanni, causing some consternation even though it made no attempt to bomb.
Lookouts now spotted an unidentified ship approaching from the south. Soon the reports identified it as being either a predreadnought battleship or an armored cruiser. For a minute the officers wondered if this was actually the expected Austrian attack coming from an unexpected direction. A wireless message was hurriedly prepared for 1ere Armee Navale. But just was they began to transmit it the ship was identified as being Italian—the Amalfi, a rather powerful armored cruiser . There was an exchange of messages sent by searchlight. Amalfi slowed as she approached the British flagship.
"Find out what the Italians want," ordered Admiral Limpus. There had been some speculation while the expedition had been in the planning phase that while neutral the Italians would be willing to help supply the CANZAC’s.
The message was sent. A reply soon came from the signal lamp of the Italian cruiser.
"What did they say?" asked Limpus.
"They want to know why we are here, Admiral."
------HMS Arethusa Dogger Bank 1510 hrs
Commodore Tyrwhitt watched as Harwich force steamed due south. It consisted of 1st Destroyer Flotilla with Penelope acting a flagship and 3rd Destroyer Flotilla with Galatea as its flagship. There was no firm intelligence as to the whereabouts of the High Seas Fleet—only some speculation they were somewhere north of Terschelling. He was to position Harwich Force for a night attack as he lacked sufficient strength to risk a daylight attack—even if he could manage to attack the German battle fleet from two different directions. Suddenly there was the sound of a distant explosion.
"What was that?" demanded Tyrwhitt. He again scanned his vessels with his binoculars and soon saw Penelope was now down by the bow and listing to port.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1700 hrs
There had been several periscope sightings throughout the afternoon. A wireless report had arrived from a submarine in the ambush line that it had torpedoed a light cruiser leading a force of destroyers heading south at rapid speed. There was not going to be the expected gun battle. Admiral Ingenohl did not want to come under torpedo attack. He looked around at his staff and said, "It seems the British do not want to play with us today. So very rude of them, don’t you think? We are going home."
------CANZAC HQ San Giovanni de Medua 2045 hrs
Lt General Sir William Birdwood, the CANZAC commander, gazed once again at his maps which reviewing his latest reports. He turned to the commander of the 1st Canadian Division, Lt. Gen Edwin Alderson.
"I had been thinking of sending you on ahead in a force march to Mount Lovcen and try to take this Cattaro naval base by coup de main with the help of the Montenegrins. But then the Austrian U-Boat attacks Dublin, and then this morning there is a seaplane. Without the element of surprise a sudden lunge at Cattaro too damn risky. I am thinking now that it’s best if you sent one brigade on ahead to make contact with the Montengrins at Lake Cutari while the rest of your division waits here for the Aussies."
Alderson nodded, "I had a look at the draught horses. As I suspected the sea voyage has them in bad shape. They are going to need a good day to recover. In retrospect we should have brought more mules and fewer draught horses. And not only for this reason—much of the local terrain is decidedly rugged."
Birdwood grimaced briefly then shrugged, "Isn’t hindsight always 20/20? Another consideration is our line of communication. The Albanian reaction is not as wholeheartedly supportive as Essad Pasha had led us to believe."
Alderson frowned slightly, "That is certainly my impression as well. Just looking at people’s faces in the streets I detect a wide range of sentiment. Some do look overjoyed to see, but more are suspicious and a few downright hostile. Are we going to be able to live off the land as easily as the blokes back in London seem to believe/?"
"It could very well be a serious problem. You will need to retain an entire battalion here to ensure the line of communications. The Aussies are going to have to do the same at Durazzo. As far as supplies go, we have enough ammunition for a week’s worth of fighting, but only a three days supply of food and fodder. It’s another reason we do need to make direct contact with the Montengrins as soon as possible. They should prove to be more reliable than our supposed friends here in Albania."
"Any word about whether we can get supplies through the Italians?"
"Hmm, yes but it’s not too promising. An Italian cruiser paid Admiral Limpus a visit this afternoon and while their senior officers were respectful they did make it abundantly clear that the Italians have their own interest in this land and see us as something akin to poachers. It may be wise to put the men on reduced rations starting tomorrow."
------northwest of the Faeroes 2200 hrs
The German convoy made their dash through what they expected to be the densest region of the blockade patrols. Dresden was in the van. It was followed by Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Kronprinz Wilhem, Vaterland, Kronprinzessin Cecilie, Kaiser Wilhelm II and George Washington. Nurnberg was stationed on the left flank and Leipzig on the right flank. They steamed at 18 knots, which was the maximum speed of George Washington but also the maximum speed Scharnhorst could dare to attempt with its cranky engines.
On the bridge of each ocean liner there was a very worried captain. The ships were all completely darkened. The captains of the great HAPAG and NDL ocean liners were superior to most merchant seamen. Still they were not used to sailing in close formation at night. Fortunately the seas were not unusually rough that night.
While the helmsmen tried desperately to avoid a collision, and the stokers furiously shoveled coal the pursers did their best to calm the mounting fears of the passengers. They barely managed to overcome their own fears.
------SMS Seydlitz 2245 hrs
"As I suspected the damage to Moltke is not that bad," Admiral Hipper said to Raeder after reviewing message from Moltke’s captain, "Her ability to function in battle is not appreciably impaired. Now when we get back to Wilhlemshaven I want all our ships to replenish coal and ammunition as quickly as possible, while making interim repairs."
Raeder was surprised, "You wish us to prepare for another sortie with a quick turnaround?"
"Exactly, Erich. We have some unfinished business "
------HMS Arethusa northwest of Borkum 2310
"Galatea still reports nothing, sir"
Commodore Tyrwhitt stared out into the Stygian gloom. He tried not to think too much about the loss of Penelope. Most of her crew had made it off before she capsized. Tyrwhitt had split apart his two flotillas to improve his chances of locating the Germans. He had not found them. Admiral Fisher was going to be very disappointed.
CHANNEL FLEET ROUTS GERMANS
Emboldened by their earlier successes the German Navy brazenly attacked the Straits of Dover in force yesterday morning. This time they received a short sharp shock when the Channel Fleet, ably led by Admiral Lewis Bayly from the bridge of the HMS Lord Nelson, arrived in the nick of time to rescue the brave but badly outgunned forces of Dover Patrol. Heroically fighting in the spirit of the immortal Nelson, Admiral Bayly soundly thrashed the German battle cruisers, turning one of them into a blazing inferno. The German raiders fled back to Germany in panic. It was only their superior speed that saved them from annihilation at the hands of a British admiral who has finally demonstrated the resolute vigor previously missing from the Royal Navy in this conflict.
----Daily Mail Tuesday February 16, 1915
SMS Leipzig 0120 hrs Tuesday February 16, 1915
One of the lookouts thought he saw a ship to the southeast. None of the other lookouts saw it. Even he now wasn’t completely certain. Gun crews stood ready as did the sailors manning the searchlights. Men spoke a little less loudly than usual as if there was a chance that the ship out there—if there was a ship at all-- might hear them. Inside the radio room knobs were twisted anxiously trying to pick up a wireless transmission. They detected nothing.
Tense minutes passed anxiously. The lookouts saw nothing more. The Germans steamed on into the dark unknown.
------Old Admiralty Building 0620 hrs
"Admiral Bacon was not in any way injured. Attentive was very badly damaged, though. It is at Dover now making interim repairs. Gloucester is towing Yarmouth to Newcastle. Latest reports is that the damage control teams have contained the flooding. It appears she is going to survive as well," declared Oliver.
"Well this at least is some good news. It appears our newer cruisers are not as vulnerable to torpedoes as we had thought. So our losses amount to Penelope, Adventure, Diamond and 4 destroyers. Only a single German torpedo boat was seen to sink. Yes I know Moltke had a nasty fire but it is dangerous to assume that it was fatal—people in this building made that mistake after Heligoland and we ended up paying dearly for it."
Oliver sensed some implied criticism in the last remark. He ground his teeth then decided it was best to move the discussion forward, "NID is convinced that the High Seas Fleet along with their battle cruisers are back at Wilhlemshaven."
"All safe and cozy. Insufferable. Intolerable. What’s the latest intelligence we have concerning Admiral Spee? Did he make it through the patrols?"
:"We have no direct evidence either way, Admiral. NID’s best guess right now is that he penetrated the patrols of 10th Cruiser Squadron last night. It was a very dark night."
"Hellfire and bloody damnation! Our fleet badly needs a victory. We had hoped von Spee’s return would force the High Seas Fleet to sortie and we could destroy it. And they did indeed sortie. But John decided conditions were ‘unfavorable’ and so there no battle. No battle no victory. I will not pretend that I am in any way satisfied with this course of events. Order Admiral Gough-Cathorpe he is to take his ships into the Norwegian Sea to pursue and destroy Admiral von Spee. More importantly Admiral Jellicoe is to position the Grand Fleet to intercept Spee’s ships between the Shetlands and Norway."
"Will do sir," replied Oliver. He paused and licked his lips wondering if he should bring up an unpleasant topic. He decided to risk it, "Might I ask Admiral as to when we allow shipping to resume across the Channel, sir? Certain parties have been pressuring the First Lord."
"Certain parties being first and foremost, Lord Kitchener?"
"Yes, sir. He is indeed one of them."
"Why then for Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, let us be as accommodating as we can. Nothing is too good for the great war hero! Perish the thought we keep him waiting while we try to destroy the German battle fleet. Silly us," he answered in a sarcastic tone. After a brief paused he continued in a more serious voice, "Make it 1300 hrs--send wireless instructions to Tyrwhitt what his vessels are to vigorously patrol the Straits of Dover until tomorrow evening then they can return to Harwich to coal."
------SMS Scharnhorst Norwegian Sea 0810 hrs
Scharnhorst had struggled during the night to maintain 18 knots. Admiral von Spee now relented to the frantic worries of the chief engineer and slowed his entire squadron to 15 knots. He kept his ships in a close formation. He was definitely not seeking to seize any prizes at this stage. He frankly hoped he would not see any other ships all day.
Spee had decided to wait until before sending a wireless message to the Admiralstab. He was eager to hear what the results of yesterday’s sortie by the High Seas Fleet had been. If they had defeated the Grand Fleet it should make it easier for him to reach home.
------E.8 Durazzo Bay 0920 hrs
The British and French warships had headed back to Malta during the night. The need to refuel their destroyers had necessitated their withdrawal. There was a considerable amount of ammunition piled in a small area near the piers of both San Giovanni and even more at Durazzo. It would not be a good time for an Austrian warship to start shelling the docks.
Admiral Limpus had been provided a small ration of mines—more than half of them French when he departed Malta. He had laid them all in one modest minefield off San Giovanni late yesterday. If the Austrians swung wide them avoid the minefield altogether and either port would be vulnerable. The Canadians and Australian had each deployed one battery of 18 pounders facing the sea. But it was manned by men with neither training nor experience in shelling warships and completely lacked armor piercing ordinance. Its only other line of defense was E.8 and two French submarines—one of which developed mechanical problems, which forced it to withdraw.
A warship was now approaching. The skipper peered through the periscope. "I have good news, boys."
"The cruiser is Austrian, sir?"
"I am absolutely positively one thousand percent certain the target is Austrian."
The crew laughed heartily at the Captain’s tone of voice. Admiral Limpus had been vehement in stressing the dire consequences of torpedoing an Italian ship.
The captain’s tone then became more serious, "What is not so wonderful is that we are not going to get a very good firing position on this baby because she is really moving right now. But it’s worth a shot I say. Ready torpedo tube number one."
------SMS Novara 0926 hrs
Linienschiffkapitan Miklos Horthy von Nagybanya was in command of this new AustroHangarian scout cruiser, the fast scout cruiser in the KuK Kriegsmarine. He had been dispatched by Admiral Haus to conduct a quick reconnaissance along the outskirts of Durazzo Bay.. A seaplane had made a quick patrol soon after dawn and reported the enemy warships and transports had departed. Horthy’s mission was to scout the area more thoroughly. If he encountered any warships it was hoped he could outrun them.
Suddenly one of the lookouts was shouting "Torpedo! Torpedo!".
There was indeed a torpedo approaching on a converging path. It looked like it was going to miss but Horthy ordered left rudder to make sure. When it passed them by he ordered, "That is enough. We will head back to Cattaro."
------Enoco France 1020 hrs
During the night patrols of the British 85th Brigade had discovered the Germans to be to in some disarray, possibly even retreating. The brigade had exploited the apparent weakness and infiltrated the enemy’s lines with two battalions crossing the Canche River before dawn. Early morning patrols still showed gaps in the enemy positions and the infantry continued their advance. This did so cautiously as they had begun to suspect was that what happened was one German unit had been clumsy in moving aside to let another enter the fray.
A brief but accurate artillery bombardment heralded the arrival of their new opponents. It was elements of the 6th Bavarian Division. The rest of the day was decidedly unpleasant. The paucity of artillery shells did not help matters.
------Pola naval base 1105 hrs
"General, what do you plan to do about the Canadian and Australian troops in Albania. They pose a grave threat to our base at Cattaro," spoke Admiral Anton Haus, the head of Imperial and Royal Kriegsmarine to General Conrad over the telephone.
"Hmmm. I do not deny this is a disturbing development. However with the situation in the Bukovina still not completely resolved I can afford to send only a single division and a cavalry regiment plus 3 maybe 4 Landsturm battalions to reinforce Cattaro. So perhaps it’s time the Navy finally did something for a change."
Haus knew that Conrad was trying to goad him. It was not surprising. Since the beginning of the war Haus had heard complaints that the navy was not doing enough.
The call did not last long. When Haus hung up the phone he looked at the two German naval officers sitting in his office. He drummed his fingers on the desk. Finally head said something he did not want to say, "Perhaps it is time to put some of your ideas to the test."
------Wilhelmshaven 1700 hrs
"The Grand Fleet declined battle. There is no other explanation," said Admiral von Ingenohl
"Yes, it would appear so," was Admiral Bachmann’s laconic answer.
"Hell and damnation--this is most bittersweet!" groused Admiral Tirpitz, "sweet in that we have come to the point where the Grand Fleet would actually choose to do this. Bitter because we have been deprived of our chance to win the war quickly."
"We can try again once the battle cruisers are repaired," remarked Ingenohl diffidently.
"We do not have that luxury, Grand Admiral" interjected Admiral Hipper
.Ingenohl and Bachmann stared at Hipper in bewilderment.. Tirpitz though scratched his chin then nodded knowingly, "You are thinking of Admiral von Spee, are you not?"
"Yes, precisely, sir. The British saw that yesterday’s battle would not favor them. They plan to intercept and destroy Admiral von Spee first, then deal with High Seas Fleet at their leisure."
"I am forced to agree," said Tirpitz with a heavy sigh, "The prestige they lost by refusing battle will be more than compensated when they sink our cruisers and capture our most prestigious liners."
"What do you suggest, Franz?" asked Bachmann.
Hipper licked his lips nervously before answering, "First Scouting Group must rendezvous with Admiral Spee and escort him home. The High Seas Fleet must come out as well to cover us."
"What! This is irrational. Your ships need repair, esp. Moltke," complained Ingenohl.
"With all due respect, Grand Admiral, I personally conducted a thorough inspection of Moltke. The fire was all bark and very light bite. True, it did destroy most of her boats but her fighting efficiency is not impaired. I just need to make sure those boats are not needed."
"If we encounter the Grand Fleet we would be far from base. It is precisely where we do not want to fight."
"More distant than we would want—more distant than say fighting off Terschelling, where we wanted to fight yesterday. But not so far that we would be deprived of our flotillas. The British would not be too close to their own bases either. I think we could prevail in a battle off Lindesnes."
"I must reiterate what I have said before," objected Ingenohl, "Admiral von Spee’s return must not jeopardize the High Seas Fleet. It is utter foolish for us to risk battle that far away. He can try to evade the British patrols just as you did after your raid on the blockade squadron north of the Faeroes."
"He can try, sir, but his chances of succeeding are much less—I’d say at best one in three. After Dogger Bank I had correctly guessed that we had eliminated all British battle cruisers in the North Sea. The British have now assembled their remaining battle cruisers into a potent squadron, while Spee’s ailing ships are now slower than First Scouting Group. These are the major reasons I expect his attempt to fail, though there are other considerations. The nights are not as long as they were back around Christmas. Also my hit and run raid caught the British off guard—now they will be better prepared."
Ingenohl looked at Tirpitz. He did not like what he saw. Not at all.
HMS Arethusa Straits of Dover 1510 hrs Wednesday February 17, 1915
"Commodore, here they come again."
Tyrwhitt sighed making a stoic grin. In the morning the German coastal artillery surprised him by scoring a pair of 13cm hits on Galatea at a range where he thought his ships would be safe. Galatea on suffered minor damage. The cold morning rain finally ceased and the clouds began to break up around noon. Soon after that the first German air strike arrived. At the beginning of this war many in the Royal navy were very worried about the danger to ships from bombs dropped by airships. A few incidents where airships and airplanes proved unable to hit a maneuvering warship had caused the pendulum to swing towards complacency about air attacks. When a bomb in the first attack had come within a few yards of his flagship, the commodore began to wonder if the pendulum had swung too far.
There were only 3 planes this time. They did not favor the cruisers but attacked a division of destroyers. This time a bomb hit Minos amidships near one of its double torpedo tubes. A seaman was badly wounded and shrapnel penetrated one of the tubes ruining the torpedo.
------Lake Scutari 1625 hrs
Brigadier General Sir Arthur Currie, commanding officer of the Canadian 2nd Brigade, stood patiently on the terrace of a mansion overlooking Lake Scutari, just north of the city of Scutari. The morning clouds had broken up and the view of the large lake nestled in the mountains was simply spectacular. The air was cold but not unbearably so—at least not for a Canadian. With the clear water and the trees and the snow on the mountains it seemed deceptively peaceful. It was hard to imagine looking at the lake that a war was going on. Before the war Currie had sold real estate. He tried to estimate what property like this would fetch in Ontario. The thought made him smile still.
The 2nd Canadian Brigade had marched out from San Giovanni early yesterday. The rough terrain and the marginal quality of the road made the march rather grueling on the men but they were a hardy breed. The lead company arrived in Scutari around noon. The draught horses had still not fully recovered from their sea journey and the supply wagons had lagged behind. Hopefully all—or at least most—would reach Scutari by nightfall. There had been promises that his men would be fed by the locals, but there was no clear commitment as to when the food would arrive. So it had proved wise to keep the men on reduced rations.
During the Second Balkan War the Montenegrins had taken the city of Scutari and claimed as rightfully belonging to them. The London Peace Conference though had forced them to relinquish it to Albania. There was some hard feeling between Montenegro and Albania over this issue and Currie had been able to sense it in the streets of Scutari..
A Montenegrin high official now approach him and said in French, "General Currie, His Majesty will see you now. Please come with me"
From what General Birdwood had told him, Currie had expected to be dealing with General Bozodir Jankovic, the Montenegrin chief of staff. He was not told that he would be meeting with King Nikola I until a little more than an hour ago. The ruler of Montenegro had been educated in Paris and had made French the language of his court. Currie could speak French. When he found that his division was going to the Adriatic instead of France he regretted that he would not be able to put that skill to use. Now he was worried it might not prove good enough. He had brought along a captain from Quebec to assist if his own fluency proved inadequate. He turned to him and catching his eye gestured with his head that he should follow.
The two of them were ushered into a large study. The mansion belonged to a local wealthy noble, who was more than willing to give King Nikola its temporary use. The monarch was seated in the most comfortable chair in the room. He was an elderly man but not decrepit. He wore a dark green cap with a gold emblem on his head and veritable junkyard of medals on his chest.
After official introductions were made King Nikola remarked, "General Currie on behalf of my country I wish to welcome you and your valiant officers and soldiers. However I must ask where is the commander of your expedition—General Birdwood is it not?"
Currie did not exactly know so he surmised, "General Birdwood remains in Albania for the time being, Your Majesty. There are many details involved with this operation which require his undivided attention at this time."
"Such as meeting with Essad Pasha, I presume?" said King Nikola in an ambivalent tone of voice.
This was the sort of question Currie thought it best not to risk guessing. So he scratched his head and replied frankly, "I have not been told informed of that, Your Majesty."
"Is that a yes or a no?"
"Neither, Your Majesty, I simply do not know if he has."
The king stared intensely at Currie’s face. The brigadier suspected he was trying to see if he was being honest. Finally King Nikola waved his left hand dismissively, "Bah, it does not matter if he does. It is probably best for all if they meet." He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself more than Currie.
Currie looked briefly at his captain from Quebec to make sure he was not missing something in the French. The captain replied with a slight shrug. Currie waited for the king to continue.
"How about the Italians? Have you notified them of this little adventure of yours, yet?"
Birdwood had thought this topic might come up and had given Currie a precis of the situation. Currie could therefore answer, "We notified an Italian warship two days ago. To my understanding that is the first information the Italians have been given of this operation."
"Did they say thank you?"
"Uh, no, Your Majesty—well at least to my knowledge that is."
"Of course they didn’t even though you are doing them a great favor. They just do not realize it right now. Once you and I take Cattaro they will understand it is time fort hem to join us. But today many a foolish tongue is saying idiotic things in Rome."
King Nikola’s remark alarmed Currie, "Surely Your Majesty is not implying the Italians might at this moment enter the war against us?"
"Not to worry they are not that stupid. And besides their king is married to one of my daughters. She will not let him do that. Ah, but alas she has put on airs of being a ‘pacifist’. Where did I go wrong? I must have been too lenient with her when she was a child. If I had been a better parent Italy would already be fighting on our side."
------Old Admiralty Building 1720 hrs
Captain Hall eagerly handed the piece of paper to Admiral Oliver, "This is the latest message we have intercepted between Admiral Spee and Wilhelmshaven. It appears they have agreed on when and where their battle cruisers are going to rendezvous with Spee."
"Hmm, Friday morning at 0730 hrs at 59º12’ N 4º’ E. Well this is extremely useful information. I take it you’ve looked those coordinates up on the map?"
"It’s off Utsire, sir"
JAPANESE COMMIT ATROCITIES IN CARRIBEAN
There have been confirmed reports that Japanese warships attacked a weak German auxiliary warship in the Caribbean last week. When the badly outgunned Germans attempted to surrender the Japanese in violation of all standards of decency continued firing. Furthermore there is serious questions about whether the Japanese violated the territorial waters of a neutral—Haiti-- during this incident. America is shocked and is deeply worried about the continued Japanese presence in the Caribbean.
------NY Journal Thursday, February 18, 1915
Jade Bay 0410 hrs Thursday, February 18, 1915
The High Seas Fleet was departing once again. Friedrich der Grosse was again the flagship. The Third Squadron under the command of Vizadmiral Scheer consisted of Konig, Markgraf, Kronpriniz, Grosser Kurfurst, Kaiser, Kaiserin and Konig Albert. The First Squadron under the command of Vizadmiral Lans consisted onf Helgoland, Thuringen, Oldenburg, Posen, Rheinland and Nassau. Riginaly Grand Admiral Ingenohl had not wanted to take the Second Squadron with Presussen, Hessen, Deutschland, Hannover, Pommern, Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien. However its commander, Kontreadmiral Mauve had pleaded with him and Ingenohl relented.
As a screen there was 3rd Scouting Group with the armored cruisers Roon, Yorck and Prinz Heinrich under the command of Kontreadmiral Reubeur-Pashwitz. 4th Scouting Group under the command of Kommodore Restorff with the old light cruisers Munchen, Stuttgart, Stettin, Danzig , Frauenlob and Hamburg. There were 49 torpedo boats organized into 5 flotillas led by Kommodore Hartog in the light cruiser Rostock.
------HMS Shannon NW of the Faeroes 0815 hrs
Admiral Gough-Calthorpe watched as signals were exchanged with HMS Alsatian, the flagship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, which was responsible for enforcing the blockade. He had lost the French cruisers but the predreadnought Glory remained attached to 2nd Cruiser Squadron. The Admiralty now longer worried about Spee’s cruisers raiding the Atlantic sea lanes. They believed Spee was now in the Norwegian Sea and would soon make his final dash for Germany. Gough-Calthorpe would now continue his hunt in the Norwegian Sea. Other forces were positioned so as to intercept Spee off southern Norway.
------Old Admiralty Building 0905 hrs
Assisted by a cane an officer slowly hobbled his way into the Naval Intelligence Division. He wore a VC on his chest.
"I am Lt. Erskine Childers," he informed the secretary, "Admiral Oliver has assigned me to work here."
"You’re the one who destroyed that Zeppelin base! I read all about it in the Daily Mail," the secretary exclaimed with a smile, "And you’re the bloke who wrote that book everyone is reading. Riddle something or other. I keep meaning to read it myself, even though I usually read only romances."
Childers sighed slightly and returned a friendly smile, "The Riddle of the Sands is the title of the book. Yes, I wrote it." He stoically awaited the usual question.
"Do you think the Germans are going to try and do it?"
"Invade England? I really don’t know, my dear. It was only a novel. I am glad it is making people think about the possibility—but they have been carried away. Some people are becoming hysterical."
The secretary didn’t know what to make of that answer. She still smiled though saying "Captain Hall told me you’d be coming. I must say I am deeply honored to meet a great real life hero such as yourself. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable while I’ll go off and find the captain. It’s even busier than usual in there today for some reason so it may take me a few minutes.".
------Northern Albania 1105 hrs
Soldiers of the 3rd Australian Brigade marched through yet another defile into the rugged countryside. The Australians had become painfully aware in the last two days of just rough most of the countryside was. The soldiers made comments amongst themselves about the strangeness of the land and the people who lived there. They marched resolutely. A few soldiers found reason to complain but as long as they did not complain too much or too loudly their complaints were ignored.
There was a rumor working its way through the brigade that tomorrow they would get to meet some Canadians. There was some speculation in the ranks about what Canadians were like. They were part of the British Empire so they had to be basically decent but still they might have a peculiarity or two worth talking about.
A bunch of soldiers were engaged in a spirited and some ribald theorizing about Canadians when suddenly shots rang out. There were some Albanians who did not appreciate Essad Pasha and were favorable to Austria-Hungary. A half dozen of them had secreted themselves behind some boulders overlooking the defile. They each fired two shots then melted away into the hills.
A private named Ned Ryan from Victoria fell to the ground. None of the other soldiers were hit.. The bullet shattered Ryan’s lower spine.. He lived but he was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of life. He was the first CANZAC combat casualty.
He was not the last.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1130 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl watched his fleet sailing north with great apprehension. The wind had picked up in the last hour and the torpedo boats were having a difficult time. So far it was not as severe as it had been at Dogger Bank but still it was interfering with his progress. The weather was also grounding the Zeppelins, which gave him additional cause to worry. Ingenohl disliked the idea of this sortie more and more with each passing minute. Hipper had persuaded Tirpitz and Bachmann as usual did what Tirpitz wanted.
There were other aspects of this plan he did not like as well. A half dozen U-Boats from the previous ambush line now were repositioning themselves to form a new line around 1ºE running from 59º to 58ºN. Ingenohl had been impressed by the use of U-Boats in the old plan, but he sorely doubted whether this hurried redeployment would accomplish anything useful. On the other hand he expected British submarines to be more of a threat as he he approached the Skagerrak and had already changed course once in response to a periscope sighting.
Dogger Bank had been his great victory. It was the reason people called him the "German Nelson." But there remained one thing about the great victory, which made Admiral von Ingenohl uneasy. Why were the British there?
Hipper was approx. 40 nm ahead of the High Seas Fleet. He had gotten his way and kept Moltke as part of 1st Scouting Group. However Bachmann had decided that Stralsund and 2 torpedo boats had suffered too much damage Monday to participate. Unfortunately Augsburg, which would’ve been a suitable replacement, had been badly damaged by a mine in the Baltic on January 25. So Hipper had only 3 light cruisers, Koln, Graudenz and Kolberg in 2nd Scouting Group and 16 TB in the 1st and 9th TB flotillas for a screen.
------Woevre Plain 1350 hrs
One general, the commander of the 9th Infantry Division, was pointing, "That one there is Crete des Combres. And that one over there is Les Eparges."
"Hmm, you said Les Eparges was the bigger one. They look to be about the same size," remarked General Hermann von Strantz, commander of Army Detachment Strantz.
"Les Eparges is six meters higher. So it does not make taking Crete des Combres a waste of men and ammunition."
Strantz brought up his binoculars again and focused on the butte of Crete de Combres. . The hard driving rain had tapered off to blustery drizzle, but he still could not see as much as he liked due to in part to the large number of evergreens covering the objective.. He had hoped to see a German flag on the crest. He was disappointed.
"Do you think your men can take the top of Crete de Combres? Take it and then hold it--I mean?"
"Yes, sir. I think we can do that but it is not going to be easy. We are going to have our hands full there for the next two days, maybe longer."
"Does that mean will have insufficient strength to continue the advance and take Les Eparges as well?"
"I am afraid it does, sir. A quick thrust to capture Les Eparges as well is simply out of the question."
Army Detachment Strantz had started its offensive with all 7 of its infantry divisions yesterday morning. So far the offensive had achieved it greatest success with 9th Infantry Division here on the right flank. They had advanced nearly two miles in two days and looked to be on the verge capturing an important piece of high ground The cost in casualties had been acceptable and they had taken an impressive number of prisoners—even a few artillery pieces. Elsewhere though Army Detachment Strantz had been less successful. In some sectors they had failed to capture the first French trench line. In others they had captured the trench at a steep cost in casualties only to subsequently lose it to fanatical French counterattacks. The result was a jagged line of small salients. Enfilading fire often pinned down the men in the areas where there had been progress.
But even if all of his divisions had done as well as the 9th Division had done here the attack would still be progressing slower than Falkenhayn had envisioned. The clean rupture of the enemy line that would allow the Guard Cavalry Division to be used effectively had not occurred. Moreover Strantz had shot off most of stockpile of artillery shells He was receiving significantly less shells than he had been originally promised by the General Staff—a new British offensive was the quartermasters’ excuse. The topic of shells reminded Strantz of something.
"You reported having some success with the experimental gas shell yesterday. Can you elaborate?"
"Yes, sir, we were able to capture a battery of 75’s because the gas had incapacitated the gun crews. Have the other units experienced similar success?"
"Hmmm. No, on the contrary it has been something of a disappointment—and I was warned by General von Mudra’s report not to expect much. It seems this weapon requires further evaluation."
------HMS Iron Duke heading east 1500 hrs
"Is our latest intelligence that it’s still just going to be the German battle cruisers and not their battleships as well?" Jellicoe asked his chief of staff.
"Yes, it is, sir. Operations Branch keeps telling us that its flagship, Friedrich der Grosse remains in Jade Bay."
"Hmm. We both remember the NID boys told poor Warrender that only the battle cruisers were involved in that fateful sortie. We will proceed on the basis of what NID tells but allow for the contingency that the High Seas Fleet is out providing distant support—say 100 miles distant. That’s our best guess right now what happened at Dogger Bank. There is some reason to believe it was been their pattern during Monday’s encounter."
"Well, sir, since we never exactly located the High Seas Fleet Monday it’s only a working hypothesis—but it would explain why Admiral Bayly got away with engaging the German battle cruisers."
Madden noticed a dark look in the Jellicoe’s eyes. The comparison of Bayly to Nelson in the Northcliffe papers had proved to be yet another source of aggravation for Sir John Jellicoe.
"Moltke is probably going to be absent tomorrow due to the damage Channel Fleet inflicted. We will destroy the other German battle cruisers and Spee’s squadron as well, capturing the liners as prizes. This will be the blow from which the German Navy will never recover. Mark my words--history will vindicate our strategy."
"I would like to think so, sir. Though if you will pardon the awkward analogy, our strategy for tomorrow makes us seem not unlike a cuckold looking to catch his unfaithful spouse and her lover in flagrant delicto "
Jellicoe briefly chuckled, "Yes, that is one way to look at the situation, Charles. And if I might pursue the analogy further stumbling upon either party too soon will make things more difficult as they will warn off their lover."
Jellicoe’s plan was to pounce on Spee and Hipper with the Grand Fleet itself. The 1st Battle Squadron under the command of Vice Admiral Burney consisted of Marlborough, Erin, Colossus, Hercules, Emperor of India, Vanguard, St. Vincent and Collingwood with the light cruiser Bellona attached a repeater. The 4th Battle Squadron under the command of Vice Admiral Gamble had in addition to Jellicoe’s flagship, Iron Duke, Benbow Thunderer, Agincourt, Dreadnought, Bellorophon, Superb and Temeraire with the light cruiser Blonde attached as repeater. As a screen he had 1st Cruiser Squadron under rear Admiral Moore with the armored cruisers Defence, Warrior, Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh as well as the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla with Broke and 19 ‘I’ class destroyers plus the Oak, which was attached directly to the Iron Duke.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron with Indefatigable, Inflexible, Invincible, Australia and Indomitable would be positioned 30 nm to the south and would not be used to intercept but rather to cut off the German escape route. In addition Sturdee would have command over 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron under Rear Admiral Napier with Lowestoft, Gloucester and Birmingham, 6th Cruiser Squadron under Rear Admiral Grant with the armored cruisers Drake, King Alfred, Leviathan and Devonshire as well as most of 4th Destroyer Flotilla led by the cruiser Caroline with Tipperary, 2 ‘M’ class and 10 ‘K’ class destroyers.
The 3rd Battle Squadron under the command of Vice Admiral Bradford consisting of the predreadnought battleships King Edward VII, Africa, Britannia, Commonwealth, Hibernia, Dominion, Hindustan, and Zeelandia with the light cruiser Blanche and 4 ‘K’ class destroyers detached from the 4th Destroyer Flotilla as a screen. Jellicoe still felt some embarrassment that Hipper had slipped past him off the Shetlands after the Faeoes raid. Jellicoe therefore planned to position 3rd Battle Squadron about 60 miles west of Sturdee in case there was a last minute change in the German plans and Spee tried to slip around to the west of the rendezvous spot.
------Oval Office 1930 hrs (GMT)
"Things always go astray when Negroes are allowed to govern themselves," declared an annoyed President Woodrow Wilson. He was meeting with Secretary Bryan, Secretary Daniels, Admiral Fiske and Col House.
"The Japanese did cease firing after a delay of a few minutes. Their commanding officer, Rear Admiral Moriyama, claims that an internal communication problem aboard the cruiser Idzumo delayed the implementation of the ‘cease fire’ order. He says the junior officer responsible has been disciplined," commented Admiral Fiske, evoking a smile from House.
"And does this Admiral Moriyama continue to insist this engagement took place in international waters?" asked William Jennings Bryan, evoking a frown from House.
"Frankly William I don’t give a damn," countered the President. The Secretary of State looked shocked at Wilson’s language. Wilson then turned to Daniels, "It would be best for everyone if the Japanese sailors were reunited with their loving families, Jospehus. Is that going to happen?"
"The Japanese warships are expected to arrive at the Canal tomorrow morning Mr. President."
"Finally some unabashedly good news. Make sure to tell Mr. Hearst when they are once again in the Pacific. if you please
"I will be happy to do so, Mr. President."
"We have more serious problems than the Japanese warships. It is time we did something about Haiti."
------Berlin 2230 hrs
Traveling though Holland under the assumed name of James Macolm, Joseph Mary Plunkett of the IRB had finally reached Berlin to see what was going on with Sir Roger Casement. . After securing lodging he contacted Casement by telephone.
"Sir Roger? Is that you?"
"Speaking, and who am I talking to?"
"It’s Joe Plunket, Sir Roger. Clarke and Pearse sent me to see what progress you have made. There have been telegrams through Devoy that speak of vague promising developments. We need to know more."
"Yes, for a while there was what I thought was a serious breakthrough, but of late I am not so confident. The damn Germans have not yet committed themselves and I am starting to get worried again. I am not going to go into details over the telephone. Come here tomorrow and we will talk more at some length."
Suddenly Plunkett heard the sound of another man’s voice in the background. He could not make out the words clearly—they sounded like a mixture of German and thickly accented English. Next he heard Casement’s voice but it sounded muffled as if he was not speaking into the receiver, "Leopold, please, this is a very important telephone call. I will be with you shortly!"
More unintelligible words issued from the background. The tone of voice sounded whiny and pouting. Plunkett recalled some unpleasant rumors about Casement within the IRB. He briefly prayed for the man’s soul then banished those thoughts from his mind. He had more important things to think about.