by Tom B
SMS Scharnhorst 0215 hrs (GMT) Friday, February 19, 1915
The chief engineer shook his head vigorously, "We can manage 14 knots maximum for any continued time, admiral. Maybe 15 knots for a short period if there is a battle."
Spee’s melancholia increased another notch. Haking his head he ordered, "Send a wireless message to First Scouting Group that we are going to be an hour late for the rendezvous." He then seriously considered implementing an idea he had been contemplating all night.
------SMS Seydlitz 0655 hrs
Admiral Hipper did appear to be his usual self to his chief of staff, Erich Raeder. Usually Hipper was imperturbable. When the barbette had exploded at Heligoland Bight Hipper had remained calm. At the climax of the Battle of Dogger Bank when the British battle cruisers tried to break through and there was tense close action fighting for several minutes he had been a tower of unflappable strength. Today though he was uncharacteristically ornery and irritable.
Raeder had some good guesses for what caused the metamophosis. He knew that Hipper had to fight Grand Admiral von Ingenohl tooth and nail to get this sortie approved by the Admiralstab. He also knew that Hipper had been shown translations of the reports in the British newspapers about Monday’s skirmish—which they now glorified as the Battle of North Foreland. The distorted account of First Scouting Group fleeing in panic from the Channel Fleet infuriated Hipper. Raeder and others had tried to tell him it was only propaganda and he should simply put it out of his head, but it was clear now that it still bothered him.
The latest source of irritation were the orders from Ingenohl in response to Spee’s message. He ordered Hipper to delay his arrival at the rendezvous point by one hour. Hipper saw this as yet another manifestation of Ingenohl’s negative attitude towards the mission.
------HMS Defence 0708 hrs
"Admiral, lookouts report dense smoke to the northeast"
The 1st Cruiser Squadron was deployed 15nm to the east of the Grand Fleet with its four armored cruisers deployed 5 nm apart in a line. The light cruiser Active was positioned midway between 1st Cruiser Squadron and the Grand Fleet and acted as linking repeater vessel. Defence was the squadron flagship and was positioned on the left flank. Like the Grand Fleet they were steaming at 15 knots on a zigzagging course to the east with a 14 knot speed of advance. The sun was expected to peek above the horizon in 3 or 4 minutes. Visibility was nearly 8 nm-- neither very bad nor very good by North Sea standards as there was some haze and mist. The sky was partly cloudy with the clouds thicker in the west. A light wind blew out of the WNW.
Rear Admiral Archibold Moore was the commanding officer. He briefly gave the matter some thought, then ordered, "Send a message by searchlight to be relayed through Active to Admiral Jellicoe informing him of this development. Signal all ships in the squadron to raise steam for 20 knots."
------SMS Dresden 0712 hrs
"Kapitan, lookout have spotted a large vessel to the WSW. It appears to be approaching."
Kapitan Ludecke frowned. If this was one of Hipper’s ships she should be coming from the south or SSE. Dresden was currently heading SSE at 21 knots. Following approx 2000 yards behind her were the ocean liners Kronprinzessin Cecilie, Kaiser Wilhelm II and lastly the Vaterland. Admiral von Spee had decided to order these ships to speed on ahead to the rendezvous point. There were several possibilities for Ludecke to consider.
"Merchantmen are common in these waters. Can the lookouts tell if she is a warship?"
"Not, yet sir."
"Use one of the short range frequencies and send a message to both Admiral von Spee and Admiral von Hipper informing them of our discovery." Despite the seriousness of his situation thinking about what he had just said changed Ludecke’s expression to a grin. After all these many months at sea so very far from Germany, he was finally sending a message to ships belonging to the High Seas Fleet! He found some glimmer of hope in that fact.
------HMS Defence 0714 hrs
"Admiral, the sun is making it hard for our lookouts to establish a firm identification but there is either 3 or 4 of them and one of them is described as being extremely large."
"Hmm, that certainly sounds like Vaterland now doesn’t it? Notify Admiral Jellicoe immediately. Signal all ships to make 20 knots and raise steam for 22."
------SMS Dresden 0715 hrs
One lookout identified the approaching ship as a predreadnought battleship. Another thought it was an armored cruiser and still another a battle cruiser. They did agree though that it was the wrong shade of gray. None of these possibilities pleased Kapitan Ludecke.
"Signal the liners to turn 8 points to port in succession. We will make the same turn as well but only after they begin to turn. Also send a wireless message to Admiral Hipper and Admiral Spee informing them of our situation."
------Vaterland 0716 hrs
"Wake up, Harry! Ireland needs you!"
Harry Calahan awoke from a strange dream. In it he had been a cowboy out west—though in his life he had never been west of Cleveland. It had something to do with cattle rustling and a crow. Morgan was in it too. No it wasn’t one of those dreams. Harry was not normally one to assign importance to his dreams. He wasn’t sure if this one meant anything either, but it stick in his mind more than normal.
He turned to Morgan. She looked as beautiful as ever. "What is it, my love? Did they start the great sea battle without me?"
------Kronprinzessin Cecilie 0718 hrs
When the squadron was at St. Pierre, Admiral Spee had sent to each of the liners a leutnant and 3 ratings to assist the civilian crews in working with the warships. The liners were not used to traveling in a precise formation, but they were the elite ships of HAPAG and NDL so their crews were all a notch above the usual merchant marine standard. The liners were sailing with an interval of 1,000 yards. They would now try to execute an 8 point turn in succession without colliding.
"Vaterland has a very large turning radius," the captain remarked to the Lt..
"Understood, that is precisely why she was positioned at the tail."
------HMS Defence 0719 hrs
"The ships are turning away from us Admiral. Should we increase our speed? Should we open fire?" asked Captain Sowerby.
Moore pondered the matter for nearly a minute before replying, "Hmm, Send a message to Admiral Jellicoe informing him that the enemy vessels are turning away. Request that we be permitted to pursue at full speed. Meanwhile you can commence firing on the cruiser," answered Admiral Moore.
------SMS Scharnhorst 0722 hrs
Admiral Spee was deeply concerned about the messages from Ludecke. He reminded himself that so far only enemy warship had been seen. Perhaps the arrival of First Scouting Group would eliminate the problem. He was not completely certain of that and this one British warship could simply be the vanguard of many more.
"We are going to detach George Washington. She will proceed unescorted to Bergen at maximum speed. The rest of the squadron will turn 4 points to port. This way we will slowly converge with Dresden’s pursuer. Scharnhorst will continue at 14 knots but the other vessels are ordered to make 18 knots."
------HMS Lowestoft 0722 hrs
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron was deployed 30 nm to the south of the Grand Fleet on a parallel course, heading due east at 15 knots with frequent zigzagging. The 3 light cruisers of 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron were spread 4 nm apart in a line 12 nm ahead of the Battle Cruiser Squadron. The Lowestoft was currently the squadron flagship. The former flagship, Yarmouth had been torpedoed Monday. It was positioned on the left flank. Reports had now arrived from both the Gloucester and Birmingham of dense smoke between ESE and due east. The commander of the squadron was Rear Admiral Trevalyan Napier.
"Admiral, Our own lookouts now report a small vessel—either a destroyer or a light cruiser-- to the east heading in a northerly direction."
"Send a wireless message informing Admiral Sturdee of this."
------SMS Koln 0724 hrs
Admiral Leberecht Maas, the commander of 2nd Scouting Group peered through his binoculars. Lookouts had just reported a ship to the west. It was clearly running a perpendicular course, probably heading towards them.
During the Battle of Heligoland Bight Maas had rushed into battle. He nearly lost his flagship and his life. As it was he spent several weeks in the hospital recuperating. After the battle the Admiralstab had criticized him not concentrating his forces properly. At Dogger Bank he had been more careful. He thought that was the reason one of the British light cruisers escaped. Last Monday he had been cautious too. He recalled bitterly having to turn away from the badly damaged scout cruiser. According to the British press it too had survived. It made his stomach sick just thinking about it.
"Turn this ship 4 to starboard and prepare for action!"
"Signal rest of 2nd Scouting Group to turn 4 points to port and make 25 knots. Send a wireless message to Admiral Hipper that we have located an enemy vessel and are engaging."
His stomach now felt better.
------HMS Iron Duke 0724 hrs
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe tried to digest all the reports. The information so far was in some ways promising, in other ways disappointing and in very many ways puzzling. "Signal Admiral Moore that he is to pursue the cruiser and liners vigorously. Signal Oak to head ENE at 30 knots. Also signal 2nd Flotilla to detach a division of 4 destroyers, which are to steam ENE at 26 knots. These 5 destroyers will be reinforcements for 1st Cruiser Squadron to assist with collaring the ocean liners."
Jellicoe’s working hypothesis had previously been that the liners would follow behind Spee’s warships. He fretted over the possibility that the rest of Spee warships were ahead of schedule and already passed the rendezvous point.
------Vaterland 0726 hrs
Harry and Morgan were watching the battle from the railing. "Why is the British bastard doing all the shooting? Why ain’t our German friend firing back?" Harry demanded to know.
"I believe the German guns lack the range to fire back," Morgan answered.
"Are you telling me that the British make better guns than the German?"
"Not exactly, Harry. The German ship is a light cruiser and it has only 4.1" guns, whereas the British vessel appears to be an armored cruiser and it has larger guns."
"So what you are saying is that the Germans only have little guns? Sheesh—no wonder you’re sleeping with me and not one of them!"
It was the sort of comment that would make most women blush but Morgan merely laughed. Suddenly she pointed at bearded man writing in a notebook as he watched the engagement from the railing. "James, James!" she began yelling.
The bearded man had been writing in a small notebook. He turned to them and walked slowly towards them yelling, "Morgan, is that you?"
"It’s me. It’s been a while hasn’t it?"
"Well I’ll say. I haven’t seen you since Cuba! Look at you! I swear, you haven’t aged a day."
"Why thank you, James. Flattery will get you everywhere," she said with wink.
Harry started to get jealous. However he noticed this James fellow had a unhealthy waxy complexion and he even gave off a strange odor. He looked way too sickly to be much of a rival.
Morgan made the introduction, "Harry this is James Creelman. He is probably the best newspaper reporter in America. James, this is Harry Calahan, a New York police officer."
Harry thought about saying, "former police officer" but he let it pass. The two men shook hands. Then Creelman said, "Uh-oh. This looks like trouble."
Harry turned towards where a Creelman was looking. He saw a very upset purser approaching. Soon the purser began to yell. He said something in German, which Harry failed to understand then switched to English, "It is too dangerous out here! Passengers must remain in their cabins! Get inside immediately!"
Harry let him approach. As the purser drew near Calahan said, "We have authorization to be out here."
"What? What do you mean by authorization? You will have to show it to me!"
"I will be happy to," replied Harry Calahan. He opened his overcoat and pulled out a very large revolver and pointed it at the purser, "This is my authorization."
------HMS Defence 0727 hrs
"Turn 20 degrees to port and make 22 knots. Signal the rest of the squadron to do likewise," ordered Admiral Moore after looking at the message from Jellicoe..
"Aye, aye, sir."
"You were about to say something before, Captain Sowerby. What was it?"
"Well Admiral the gunners are finding it very difficult to get the range on the cruiser due to the glare of the sun, " said Captain Sowerby.
"Are you suggesting that we cease firing?"
Sowerby licked his lips nervously, "Ah, not exactly, sir. You see the Vaterland is considerably closer and presents a much larger target, sir. We should be able to land a few rounds close enough to intimidate her into surrendering."
Moore took his time responding, "I don’t feel very wonderful about this suggestion, but it does make some sense. Send a message by searchlight to Vaterland demanding that she heave to and surrender immediately. If she does not acknowledge within two minutes fire a single round across her bow and send another message."
------Vaterland 0732 hrs
There was a large splash off the ship’s port bow. The ship’s captain looked at the young Lt. and shook his head in dejection. "I am not going to risk the lives of my passengers," he said glumly.
"Does that mean you are going to surrender?" asked the naval officer.
The captain grimly nodded.
------SMS Seydlitz 0733 hrs
Smoke from the torpedo boats of the 1st Flotilla had been interfering with First Scouting Group’s visibility. With a British light cruiser chasing them they were getting out of the way. "Commence firing on the enemy cruiser," ordered Hipper.
------HMS Defence 0734 hrs
"Admiral, Vaterland is turning around!"
"Cease firing immediately!"
:"Guns, cease firing"
"Admiral, we are receiving a signal from the Vaterland. It does indeed look like she is surrendering. What instructions do you wish to convey, sir?"
"Hmm. Order to come to a heading of due west and then slow to 8 knots."
"Are we going to slow to board her, sir?"
"No. One of the destroyers that Admiral Jellicoe is sending us will do that."
"What do we do next, sir?"
"Let’s see if we can capture the next liner. Maybe this will force that cruiser to engage us."
------HMS Indefatigable 0738 hrs
Admiral Doveton Sturdee was ecstatic as he received the latest report from 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron.. "This is our lucky day, gentlemen. We will cut Hipper’s line of retreat and annihilate him. Flags, signal a 4 point turn to starboard in succession and make 23 knots. Hoist."
------HMS Gloucester 0739 hrs
The light cruiser had been chasing German torpedo boats. It was now fleeing the German battle cruisers. An 11" shell burst in her starboard engine room.
------Kaiser Wilhelm II 0739 hrs
"We should surrender, kapitan," suggested the first officer.
The captain slapped him hard, "We are not cowards like that spineless piece of HAPAG shit aboard Vaterland—a name which he disgraces! I will not disgrace the name of the All Highest! I am not going to surrender." The captain wished he could slap the poor excuse for a German who captained the Vaterland.
The Leutnant on the bridge smiled at the captain’s bravado. To encourage him he said, "The British gunners have the both sun in their eyes. It will be very difficult for them to spot splashes or even use their range finders. Our chances are very good. It is worth the risk."
------HMS Defence 0740 hrs
"She’s holding course, admiral. No response to any of our signals."
"Damn stubborn German bastard. What sort of a bloody ocean liner captain would put his passengers at risk like that."
"Maybe it’s the treasure ship, sir. That might explain it."
"So is gold more important to these Germans than the life of innocent civilians?"
Captain Sowerby bit his lip and looked soulful, "I can’t rightly say, sir though it does seem that way. Shall we resume firing, sir?"
Moore exhaled loudly as we pondered the situation. Finally he waved his right hand in the air, "Oh bloody hell. If he’s going to be a fool it’s not my responsibility. Yes, you can resume firing."
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0742 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl was worried over the reports. As far as he could see all his misgivings about this sortie were being vindicated. The British were here in force. Once again they were expecting the Germans. His old pessimism now returned. "This is the wrong battle in the wrong place at the wrong time!" he yelled at his staff in frustration. They stared at him in bewilderment. In a calmer voice he ordered, "Send a wireless message to Admiral Hipper that he is to assume a SSE course and make 20 knots."
Ingenohl seriously considered turning around the High Seas Fleet immediately. Instead he decided to continue north for a half hour and then turn around. That way he could support First Scouting Group if it got in trouble. Admiral Spee’s squadron was another matter entirely. They were expendable—that’s all there was to it. And to Hell with this "German Nelson" crap.
------SMS Dresden 0743 hrs
"Damn it! They’re still firing on Kaiser Wilhelm!" lamented a tortured Ludecke.
"Sir, if we charge the enemy cruiser, she will likely turn broadside. That will give the liners a chance to escape."
"Don’t you think I know that already? It is clearly what the scheming British want! Signal the liners to turn 2 points to port—that will move the battle closer to Admiral Spee."
------SMS Seydlitz 0746 hrs
An enraged Admiral Hipper waved the message from Ingenohl at Raeder, "This is dishonorable. Here we are engaged in a promising encounter and now we are ordered to break off and run for home like children scared by a thunderstorm. We are abandoning Admiral von Spee in his moment of need! And why? Because the Grand Admiral thinks we should not fight this far from home. He should change the name of the High Seas Fleet to the Not Too Far from the Bight Fleet! This despicable order emanates from cowardice."
Raeder looked at Hipper with some concern. It was one thing to badmouth a senior officer in private—in this regard German admirals were worse than fishwives. To criticize a superior officer on duty in the presence of subordinates however was a very serious matter.
"Uh, Admiral, we are going to comply with our orders, yes?"
"Oh, hell. To my eternal disgrace and shame, yes, I will comply."
------HMS Defence 0749 hrs
"Sir, lookouts report three more ships to the north. Possibly cruisers. They appear to be on a nearly parallel course to ours."
"What is the estimated range?"
"We are working on that sir. They are roughly at the limits of our visibility."
Due to the haze visibility had not improved much since dawn—it now ranged between 9 and 10 nm. "Quite likely this is more of Spee’s squadron. Send a message informing Admiral Jellicoe. They are clearly out of range. Hopefully they are coming to the aid of their liners. It will make things easier for us."
Admiral Moore was not worried. He had the rest of his squadron to the south and what he regarded as the world’s most powerful naval force not far behind him.
------Kaiser Wilhelm II 0753 hrs
A 7.5" HE shell exploded in a second class cabin. The ship was only about one third occupied. This cabin was empty but the explosion badly wounded Emil Fortscher in an adjourning cabin. Emil survived but he lost his right arm, right eye, his American wife Alice and 17 month old daughter Inga.
Pandemonium broke out amongst passengers already terrified by the sounds of shells exploding roundabout the hull.. A 81 man from Stuttgart died from a heart attack. A modest fire erupted in the quarters. The crew diligently and professionally fought to contain it.
------HMS Defence 0753 hrs
In an ambivalent voice Captain Sowerby announced, "We scored a hit, sir."
"That damn stubborn German fool! Cease firing! Send another message. Maybe the bastard has learned his lesson."
"Guns! Cease firing!" ordered Captain Sowerby.
" I will give their captain 3 minutes to come to his senses. Meanwhile this ship will turn 10 degrees to port. Signal the other ships in the squadron to do likewise."
------HMS Iron Duke 0754 hrs
"It appears that both of our lovers were late for their tryst. Oh well, so much for romance," Admiral Jellicoe commented to Madden. There were still some mysteries but things were becoming clearer to Jellicoe. Spee’s ships were to the northeast while Hipper’s were to the southeast. This divergence of the enemy forces was going to necessitate some decisions.
Madden chuckled, "So much for German punctuality, eh? I take it we are heading south to chase the battle cruisers, sir. What should we be doing about von Spee and the ocean liners, sir?"
"Admiral Moore has sufficient firepower if he can concentrate his squadron. The detached destroyers will round up the liners—starting with Vaterland which has already surrendered."
"We could detach one of the battleships to reinforce him," suggested Madden.
"I briefly thought about that as well. The battle to the northeast is shaping up as an extended chase. It would likely take any battleship we send a very long time to come into action. In the mean time it would deprive us of significant firepower if the High Seas Fleet is out in support "
"Still not trusting the intelligence boys, I see"
"Hmm, that’s a matter of degree. Let’s just say I allow for the possibility of error."
"We could leave Active with Admiral Moore. She could be useful if Spee disperses instead of fighting."
Jellicoe tapped his lips and arched an eyebrow briefly, "Hmmm. I am reluctant to further weaken our meager screening force. Yet we both know that the First Sea Lord will be livid if we let a liner or still worse one of Spee’s cruisers escape us. So go ahead, signal Active that she is now under Admiral Moore’s control until instructed otherwise. However, our most important task now is turn the Grand Fleet to a SSE heading and increase our speed to 18 knots."
------SMS Gneisenau 0756 hrs
"The British cruiser has resumed firing, Herr Kapitan."
Kapitan zur see Maerker had withheld his fire patiently waiting to get a clearer view of the enemy cruiser. Gneisenau had expended a considerable portion of her magazines at Coronel and some more off Cape Cod. Maerker did not want to waste his precious ammunition. Leipzig was 1,000 yards of Gneisenau’s bow. Trailing close behind him was Kronprinz Wilhelm. Scouting further to the north was Nurnberg. Scharnhorst with its troubled engines was several miles behind.
"It is time to express our displeasure. Forward turret will fire both guns at maximum elevation. Let’s see if we are in range."
------HMS Defence 0757 hrs
The crew had seen the flashes from one of the ships to north. Waterspouts erupted off their port bow. They were within about 600 yards After some thought Admiral Moore ordered, "Cease firing on the ocean liner. Train guns on the cruiser firing on us to the north." The admiral suddenly smiled. He almost felt grateful to the German cruiser for relieving him of an onerous duty.
------HMS Indefatigable 0803 hrs
Sturdee would not admit it aloud but he was disappointed that the German battle cruisers were arriving so soon. If he had a few more minutes he would have cut their line of retreat to the south. He was also surprised to see what appeared to be Moltke in the German formation. Apparently it’s damage at North Foreland was not as severe as reported. Sturdee also felt some resentment at Bayly being hailed so widely in the press. When this day was over they would forget about Bayly’s little skirmish.
Sturdee regarded the presence of Moltke as a pleasant surprise. It would be one more German battle cruiser he would sink this day—adding to his glory.
"Signal an increase in speed to 25 knots," he ordered.
------SMS Seydlitz 0804 hrs
First Scouting Group was heading SSE at 20 knots. To the WSW was 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron heading southeast at 23 knots. "Our range finders are showing 18,500 yards, Admiral" came the report.
Hipper acknowledged it. He look to east and then towards the British ships. Turning to to Raeder he said, "There is enough sunlight poking through the clouds to dazzle their gunners."
"That may not last too much longer, though" Raeder speculated.
"Even if the clouds obscure the sun our British opponent will still have the wind blowing his smoke back into his face. I see us having the advantage. So what we have to ask ourselves is whether this British Admiral feels himself to be lucky," said Hipper to Raeder. He then turned towards the enemy battle cruisers and shook his fist defiantly, "Well do you, British Admiral? Go ahead. Make my day."
------HMS Indefatigable 0806 hrs
"Signal all ships to commence firing!" ordered Admiral Sturdee enthusiastically. Behind his flagship there was Inflexible, Invincible, Australia and Indomitable. His second in command was Rear Admiral George Patey RAN aboard the Australia. Following close behind the battle cruisers was the 6th Cruiser Squadron. This meant Drake was Number Six in the British line.
------Vaterland 0806 hrs
"I will tell you one last time, we are an ocean liner, not a scout cruiser," the ship’s captain said to the naval Leutant. They had spotted a light cruiser and another armored cruiser to the south as well as 4 large torpedo boats. A very large quantity of smoke was visible to the west. The leutant had thought he saw some large masts for a few minutes. He had wanted Vaterland to send a wireless message to Spee and Hipper warning them of the likely presence of a fleet. The ship’s captain adamantly refused.
Not far from them was the destroyer Oak. A small boat launched from the destroyer was heading towards the Vaterland.
------SMS Scharnhorst 0809
The duel between Defence and Gneisenau had been going on for a few minutes. With her troubled machinery Scharnhorst was now finally limping her way into the battle. Admiral von Spee peered anxiously through his binoculars.
"Fire two rounds of 28 cm at maximum elevation," he ordered.
------HMS Defence 0809 hrs
"The German gunnery sure is a thing of beauty," Captain Sowerby conceded.
"In that case I sure would appreciate some ugliness right now," quipped Admiral Moore.
"Uh oh, gun flashes now from the trailing cruiser. sir!"
------ SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0810 hrs
Grand Admiral Ingenohl was greatly annoyed that Hipper had allowed First Scouting Group to be engaged by the British battle cruisers. But he decided to make the best of what he regarded as a bad situation. He would come to Hipper’s aid. "Halt all zigzagging! Signal an increase in speed to 18 knots," he ordered.
------HMS Iron Duke 0811 hrs
"What should we do about 3rd Battle Squadron, sir" asked Madden, "They are still heading due east at 15 knots with zigzags."
Jellicoe smiled slightly, "You must be reading my mind, Charles. I was just thinking the same thing. Hmm. Obviously the more important battle is to the south now. Signal Admiral Bradford to assume a due south course at 17 knots but to continue zigzagging."
------HMS Indefatigable 0819 hrs
An 11" APC shell from Seydlitz penetrated the roof of ‘A’ turret. It burst starting a fire. A prompt reaction by the turret crew caused the magazine to be flooded averting catastrophe. This was the 12th hit score by First Scouting Group—the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron had managed only 3 hits in return. All the British battle cruisers now had finally found the range so Sturdee was confident that the British gunnery would now become much more effective.
------HMS Warrior 0821 hrs
The duel between the cruisers was a very cautious affair. Spee was rightly worried about running out of ammunition and continually emphasized accuracy over rate of fire. Aboard the Defence Admiral Moore did not want to get too close to Spee until he had superiority of numbers. The Germans had scored many more hits but at this range both sides’ armor kept their vitals safe. Defence had more fires than Gneisenau and some flooding its stern.
Steaming at flank speed Warrior was now finally in range of the enemy and commenced firing on Scharnhorst.
-----HMS Inflexible 0823 hrs
A 12" shell punched through the ship’s 6" belt and burst in its port engine rooms, which quickly flooded.
------HMS Invincible 0827 hrs
An 11" AP shell penetrated and burst in the barbette of the port wing turret. A minute late there was a loud explosion followed by a still louder explosion. A pillar of smoke arose and when it dissipated there was only debris including bits of flesh that once were men.
------SMS Seydlitz 0828 hrs
"My God, one of them has just exploded," exclaimed Raeder.
"The weakness the British demonstrated at Dogger Bank has not been rectified it seems. Good! One down four to go," answered Hipper.
"What should be our new fire distribution, sir?"
"Hmm. Derfflinger and Seydlitz will double up on the lead British ship, presumably their flagship. Moltke and Von der Tann should fire on the second and third battle cruisers respectively. Have Blucher target the lead ship in the armored cruiser squadron. "
------HMS Indefatigable 0829 hrs
An 11" APC shell exploded in the chain locker, causing considerable flooding in the bow. Sturdee barely noticed it as he tried to put aside his shock over the sudden loss of the Invincible. Together with the Inflexible hauling out of line his margin of superiority over the Germans had been reversed. It began to look like his best strategy at this point was to slow the German battle cruisers sufficiently for the Grand Fleet to overtake them. "Signal 4th Destroyer Flotilla to make an immediate torpedo attack on the German battle cruisers."
------HMAS Australia 0835 hrs
A pair of 11" shells from Moltke exploded in the superstructure amidships. Australia already had one serious fire going. It now had two more. Currently its guns were firing on Derfflinger, while Indefatigable was firing on Seydlitz and Indomitable targeted Von der Tann. This left Moltke unengaged and it was now downright deadly in its accuracy.
Meanwhile the 4th Destroyer Flotilla led by the light cruiser Caroline, were coming under fire from the 9th Torpedo Boat Flotilla. Blucher switched its main battery from Drake to Caroline. The secondary batteries of the German battle cruisers began to fire on the destroyers as well.
------HMS Indefatigable 0838 hrs
An 11" shell penetrated the forward port fire room. When notified of the damage it finally began to dawn on Admiral Sturdee that the battle was going against him. Reluctantly he ordered, "Flags, signal a 16 point turn to starboard by squadron. Hoist."
Meanwhile the melee between the light forces continued apace. A German torpedo boat sank after a 4" detonated one of its torpedoes. One British destroyer was disabled by damage to its machinery.
------SMS Scharnhorst 0839 hrs
"Admiral, the enemy shell which hit our belt3 minutes ago did not penetrate but it smashed in one of the armor plates, which is causing significant leaking."
This report did not surprise Spee much. At this long range a duel between armored cruisers would result in no clean penetration of the vital areas. Instead it would cause precisely this sort of leaking along with fires in the superstructure and upper works. The first British armored cruiser was not burning in several places—worse than either Scharnhorst or Gneisenau. It was also down by the stern but did not appear to be in a sinking condition.
More disturbing was a vessel that looked to be a yet another British armored cruiser had been sighted. It would in range within a few minutes.
"Send following wireless message to First Scouting Group: SITUATION WORSENING ENEMY CONCENTRATING CRUISERS NEED HELP SOON"
------SMS Seydlitz 0844 hrs
"Our British friends are so rude. They are leaving the party without even saying goodbye," remarked Hipper as he lit up another cigar.
"You are thinking about pursuing, sir?" asked Raeder.
"Yes, I am, as a bonus it would be an excellent evasive counter to their torpedo attack. I have decided! Flags—signal a 16 point turn to port in succession."
-------Vaterland 0848 hrs
On one occasion Harry Calahan had still been a policeman he had gotten into some serious trouble and had been worried for a while that he might end up in prison. Harry had heard horror stories about what happens to police officers in prison. He was certain that the British would throw all the Fenians aboard Vaterland into prison for a very long time. The thought made his blood run cold. It filled his soul with horror and then rage as well. Harry assembled a dozen of the Fenians and addressed them, "I just came from the main deck. I couldn’t see a single damn warship anywhere."
"What’s yer fuckin’ pernt, Harry?"
"My point is a mere handful of British sailors have taken control of this massive ship and are taking her back to England. Once we get there they are going to throw all of us Fenians into the darkest hole of a prison that they have—probably for the rest of our lives."
"If they don’t simply hang us," said one of the others.
"And what do you suggest we do about it, officer Calahan? Arrest the British sailors for trespassing?" This comment drew a few nervous laughs.
Harry raised high his most prized possession a Browning shotgun. Most of the Fenians had brought a revolver with them but Harry had taken his shotgun along. He pumped the shotgun then raised it loft yelling, "And why not, Michael? Together we can take back this ship. The liberation of Ireland begins with the liberation of this vessel! I ain’t going to no fuckin’ British prison! Who of you is with me?"
------HMS Indefatigable 0849 hrs
"Well, it appears that Hipper is foolish enough to pursue. Excellent! He follows us to the Grand Fleet and destruction," proclaimed Sturdee.
------SMS Scharnhorst 0857 hrs
Admiral von Spee watched the fourth British armored cruiser approach with gloom. Did he come all this way to die at the edge of the North Sea. He wondered which precedent was more apropos—Tantalus, Sisyphus or the death of Moses. Or was it Eli, eli lama sabachtani? Spee reprimanded himself for having the last thought—it was too close to blasphemy. It was not a matter of being forsaken by Hipper—clearly there were reasons he was not here. And that thought was an added torment to soul. Could his mission be the cause of ruination for the Imperial German Navy?
A British shell struck the hell. Spee still could not distinguish the 9.2" and 7.5" shells. He wondered if the British gunners could distinguish their splashes.
------HMS Defence 0901 hrs
The fires continued to worsen. Those in the bow were so serious that it was necessary to flood the forward 9.2" magazine. Another fire near the funnels was impairing the ship’s draught. With Black Prince joining the battle Admiral Moore decided to take his flagship out of it for a while As the ship began to turn to starboard he cast a worried glance at Warrior. She did not look too good either.
------Vaterland 0903 hrs
Harry led the way up with 8 of his fellow Fenians behind him—6 of them with revolvers and other two armed with knives and clubs—Harry stubbornly refusing to let either of them use cherished revolver. They weren’t sure exactly how to get to the bridge so they forced one of the English speaking crew members at gunpoint to lead them there.
They tiptoed up to the door. Harry whispered, "On the count of three, we go in."
Harry opened the door and ran into the room. A RN Lt. was standing near the ship’s captain. He was momentarily startled then began to raiser his pistol. Harry let him have it with his shotgun. It hit him high in the chest and in the throat was well. He collapsed with blood streaming from his neck. There was a British seaman on the bridge as well armed with a carbine. One of the other Fenians fired his gun and missed. As sailor tried to ready his weapon Harry pumped his shotgun and fired again. The sailor was knocked down to the deck by the buckshot, letting the carbine slip from his grasp. He stirred briefly groaning and then went into shock.
The ships captain yelled some German things Harry failed to understand. The captain soon realized he was not speaking to Germans and switched to English, "Who are you? What the hell do you think you are doing?"
One of the ship’s crewmembers hovered over the wounded officer. Before Harry could reply he spoke in German, "Captain, this one is alive. He requires immediate medical attention."
"Quick! Go fetch the surgeon."
The crewmember stood up and started to move. Harry jumped in front of him and leveled his shotgun at him, "Where are you running off to, Hans? What was all that German blabbering?"
"He is going to fetch the doctor. This man is still alive but requires prompt medical attention," answered the captain.
"Oh, he does, does he?" asked Harry sarcastically. He drew his revolver and went over to wounded officer and fired one round into his chest and another into his head, while the captain watched in horror.
"He doesn’t need a doctor now," said Harry.
"What?" shrieked the captain, "this is barbaric! Who are you and just what do you think you are doing?"
"I am Harry Calahan and we came aboard your stinkin’ overrated ship to fight for free Ireland—not to rot in some filthy British prison. So my friends and I decided to claim this vessel for free Ireland!"
"What! Are you mad? That’s the Grand Fleet out there!" yelled the captain pointing directly ahead frantically.
"If it’s British there is nothing grand about it. Besides you are making this shit up. I don’t see nothing."
"Here use these," said the captain in disgust handing Harry his own binoculars.
Harry did not trust the German so he backed away from him while he used the binoculars. "Hmm, there is sure a lot of smoke. Yeah, but I think I see what you fellah’s are talking about. Lordy, lord, lord! Are those really battleships?"
The first officer answered, "Yes, we heard the British seamen talking amongst themselves about it."
"And did you then use your wireless to inform your own navy of this fact?"
The captain opened his mouth but then decided to say nothing. Harry holstered his revolver and walked over to the captain and slapped him hard, "I asked you a question, Herr Kapitan Verstehen Sie?"
"No we could not send a message! The boarding party controlled the ship."
Harry slapped the captain again. He wanted very much to use his blackjack and beat the pathetic excuse for a man into a bloody pulp. But we thought the man might just have some utility though it looked like the only thing he was good for was surrendering. So he merely yelled, "What the hell is wrong with you stupid Germans? No wonder you are having so much trouble winning this war."
------HMS Indefatigable 0908 hrs
A 12" AP shell struck the starboard bow of the battle cruiser a few feet above the waterline It ripped through compartments without exploding to exit the port side below the waterline.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0910 hrs
"Admiral, we have just received a very strange wireless message."
"Uh, exactly what do you mean by very strange?"
"It was unencrypted and claims to be from the Vaterland. It gives the position and heading of the Grand Fleet."
------HMS Indefatigable 0911 hrs
The ship was down by the bows with a list to port. The damage control party reported the bad news, "We are struggling to contain progressive flooding in the bow. Combined with the forward port fire room and ‘A’ turret magazine being flooded our forward buoyancy could become critical in the next half hour."
Captain Sowerby turned to Admiral Sturdee, "We cannot afford another hit anywhere near the waterline in the fore part of the vessel, admiral."
Sturdee shook his head and sighed. Admiral Patey had just signaled that the fires aboard Australia had reached a dangerous level. Inflexible had rejoined the battle line and was now its van dueling with Seydlitz. The Grand Fleet was on its way but it now looked like it would arrive too late to save Indefatigable and perhaps Australia was well.
"Flags, signal a 6 point turn to port together. Hoist."
------Vaterland 0911 hrs
The great ocean liner was turning once again—this time to try to escape to the NNW. "Send the wireless message again, I want to make sure your navy got it" ordered Calahan, "But this time add something about the Free Irish Republic liberating this vessel."
"Hey, Harry, that gives me an idea," said on of the other Fenians, "You know that flag Liam brought with him?"
Harry grinned wide, "Oh, now that’s grand, me boy. Go fetch Liam and his flag. This ship sure could use it."
-----HMS Warrior 0912 hrs
The fires amidships flared suddenly reaching the ammunition hoist of one of the 7.5" guns. There was series of explosions. The ship was not broken apart but her hull was opened to the sea and she capsized.
------SMS Scharnhorst 0913 hrs
A cheer had gone up amongst the crew at the destruction of the enemy. Admiral von Spee had cheered as well. Yet deep in his heart he did not see this one final victory as being his salvation. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were both nearly out of 8.2" shells. Both of them had serious fires of their own and some flooding.
The British had stayed beyond the range of their 5.9" guns so far this engagement. He expected the British to close eventually. Then the 5.9" guns that remained operational would get their chance. He could not see them being decisive. Even more desperate was his plan to send Leipzig and maybe Nurnberg as well to charge the enemy so as to use their 10.5 cm guns and torpedoes.
Dresden was definitely not part of that plan. She was his fastest warship and she would escort Kronprinzessin Cecilie and Kaiser Wilhelm II to safety at Bergen. Those two liners had been able to move out of range during the last hour.
------SMS Seydlitz 0915 hrs
"You think that the wireless message from Vaterland is a ruse?" asked Raeder.
"Yes, I do. A rather desperate one at that. And look now, the British are turning to the west That message was meant to dissuade us from pursuing. I am sure of it."
"But what if the Grand Fleet is actually heading straight for us?"
Hipper shrugged, "We can still outrun them."
"In this visibility we could wander into range for several vulnerable minutes."
"Understood. I am willing to take that risk. Flags. Signal a 6 point turn to port in succession."
------HMS Iron Duke 0918 hrs
Most of the second transmission of the message from Vaterland was intercepted by the radiomen aboard Iron Duke. They brought it to Admiral Madden, who brought it quickly to Admiral Jellicoe’s attention.
"Christ Almighty, this is completely insane! Irish rebels from the United States have seized control of Vaterland?" yelled an incredulous Jellicoe.
"Apparently so sir. Vaterland is not longer in sight. Should we detach another destroyer to go fetch her back?"
"By all means. Damn! Hipper likely now knows that we are coming. Then again he may not believe this message. Even with Vaterland absconding I scarcely believe it myself. Send a brief wireless message to Sturdee asking if the Germans are still pursuing him."
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0921 hrs
Since first light Admiral Ingenohl had been haunted by the suspicion that the Grand Fleet was waiting for him off Utsire Island. His staff was not so sure. Now there had come this message confirming his suspicions. His staff thought it to be a hoax. If it was he did not see a reason for it. He decided he would treat the information as genuine and use it as the basis to set a trap for the Grand Fleet. If the Grand Fleet did not fall into his trap he would have an excuse to present the Admiralstab and the Kaiser when he got back to Germany.
"I am going to order 1st Scouting Group to break off its pursuit of the British battle cruisers," he announced to his staff.
------HMS Defence 0924 hrs
Neither of the two German armored cruisers had fired in the last few minutes. There was a good chance they had expended all their 8.2" ammunition. The tide had been turned against the fires aboard Defense though there was still one that was very stubborn. Admiral Moore decided it was time to move closer. Revenge for the loss of Warrior was a pleasing thought.
-----SMS Seydlitz 0925 hrs
The British 4th Destroyer Flotilla was struggling to position itself for another torpedo attack on the German battle cruisers. In their first attack they had only fired a single torpedo each. This time Admiral Sturdee ordered that they fire all their remaining torpedoes.
The flotillas were again beginning to fire on each other. Von der Tann’s main battery was firing on Caroline without success. Blucher did much better disabling Tipperary with an 8.2" HE shell exploding in its boilers. This development should have pleased Admiral Hipper but he was distracted at the moment.
"The Grand Admiral is a fool!" snarled Hipper, "he has either fallen for the British ruse or is using it as a wretched excuse to withdraw."
His staff stared at him, looking a bit embarrassed. Hipper pounded his right fist on a table in frustration.
-----HMS Indefatigable 0928 hrs
"Admiral, the Germans are turning away."
"Let me take a look," said Sturdee bringing his binoculars up, "Oh, yes, very good! They are definitely turning. But this could be temporary maneuver to counter our torpedoes. And then resume their pursuit in a few minutes. Signal 4th Flotilla to break off its attack. They are not to launch any more torpedoes. Instead they are to fall back and form a screen for us."
Sturdee pondered the situation. Except for Indomitable all his battle cruisers were severely damaged. He had a hunch that Hipper’s next move would be a torpedo attack to finish them off. To counter that threat Sturdee would concentrate his cruisers and destroyers to form a screen around the battle cruisers.
A few minutes earlier Sturdee ordered a brief positive reply be transmitted to Admiral Jellicoe. Sturdee sorely doubted that Hipper had given up the pursuit. Sturdee saw no reason to countermand his wireless message.
------SMS Seydlitz 0929 hrs
Hipper watched the British flotilla leader slowly sinking by the stern. That cheered him a bit helping him regain a semblance of calm. Hipper forced himself to consider the remote possibility that the Grand Admiral’s foolish plan might have a chance of succeeding. "I am attaching Blucher to 2nd Scouting Group, which is to tail the British battle cruisers. We want them to continue feeing to the west. Both of our flotillas are to head NNW at 27 knots."
------SMS Scharnhorst 0936 hrs
The British cruisers had closed with the Germans. Spee had brought Nurnberg and Leipzig into the battle. The former engaged Active in a furious close range duel while the latter tried to position itself for a torpedo attack on Black Prince. The British destroyers did not participate but continued their pursuit of Dresden and the ocean liners.
Spee prayed. He prayed silently but he prayed fervently. He saw the end coming soon. British shells were now penetrating armor that had frustrated them previously—though 9.2" shells still apart sometimes against even thin armor. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau fought as best they could with their secondary guns. Meanwhile there was an endless chorus of damage control reports despite mounting casualties amongst the damage control parties. Spee grimly wondered if life itself was really little more than a protracted exercise in damage control.
----HMS Indefatigable 0938 hrs
"The forward flooding continues to worsen, sir. We need to slow to 15 knots if this ship is going to have any chance of making it."
Admiral Sturdee carefully studied the chief engineer’s face. He saw signs that the man was even more pessimistic than he was admitting. The ship was very down by the bow. So far the dreaded attack by German torpedo boats had not materialized. Sturdee expected the Grand Fleet to arrive very soon, so he began to worry less about a German attack. The Grand Fleet was about 5 nm further north that he was estimating, though.
He reached a decision, "I am going to transfer my flag to Indomitable."
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0940 hrs
Admiral Ingenohl decided he was at the right spot. "Flags. Signal fleet to turn 7 points to port in succession." His orders did not apply to the 7th TB Flotilla, which raced due north at 27 knots.
-------SMS Stettin 0941 hrs
The lookouts had been seeing a large amount of smoke to the north. They were now seeing a large number of vessels as well. In this visibility they were in range of the British guns. The captain immediately ordered a turn to the south at 23 knots, while he transmitted his discovery by searchlight.
------HMS Iron Duke 0942 hrs
"Lookouts have sighted a small ship ahead of us, admiral. Either a light cruiser or a torpedo boat, sir"
"What is its heading? Is it one of ours?"
"Can’t tell just yet, sir"
There had been no further word from Sturdee since a brief confirmation that the Germans were still pursuing. Sturdee had never informed Jellicoe that he had changed his course from NNW to due west. The horizon was black with smoke. That at least confirmed that they were heading in the right direction and getting close. But there were no gun flashes.
"Should we open fire, admiral."
------Old Admiralty Building 0945 hrs
McKenna, Fisher, Oliver, Jackson and Wilson waited for more news. They had learned of Invincible’s catastrophe but not Warrior’s. "There is going a thorough investigation of Invincible’s magazine explosion when this is over," announced Fisher.
"Yes, sir, we will identify and correct the problem," answered Jackson.
"I am still confident in our ultimate victory, mind you," continued, "those ships are fundamentally sound. You’ll see. You and all those mindless wags in the press who ridicule me for saying the ‘Speed is armor.’ They don’t have half a brain between them."
------HMS Iron Duke 0950 hrs
"Admiral, lookouts report at least eight large ships in a line ahead of us!"
Jellicoe remained outwardly calm but his heart race. Using his own binoculars his eyes strained desperate to see what was in front of him. Haze, mist and smoke blurred the shapes but after a few anxious seconds it was painfully obvious that after an initial group of 4 large ships—quite possibly battle cruisers followed not too closely by 3 smaller ships which could be cruisers. But following behind the cruisers were at least 4 more large ships.
Grand Fleet was still in cruising formation. It was now painfully obvious that the High Seas Fleet was dead ahead. Jellicoe hesitated slightly. He briefly considered forming his line to port, which would put them on a reciprocal course with the High Seas Fleet. After a few minutes exchanging rounds as they passed it would be easy to disengage. But to decline battle this far north would likely mean being relieved of command. The tactical disadvantage should dissipate quickly and he would be at long range from the Germans. It was time to do battle. "Damn it! Flags! Signal immediately the formation of battle line to starboard. Hoist."
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 0952 hrs
" The range finders now indicate 18,000 yards Admiral."
The Grand Fleet had arrived several minutes early—probably a navigation error on the part of Vaterland. Ingenohl had hoped to catch the Grand Fleet formed into a line and cross its ‘T’. Catching it in cruising formation would provide a more transient tactical advantage. The High Seas Fleet deployment was not yet optimal—1st Battle Squadron had just begun its turn. It was not perfect but it would do.
"Flags! Signal all ships to commence firing immediately!"
Now it was time to adjust his plans for the flotillas.
------HMS Iron Duke 0952 hrs
"Send a wireless message to 1st Cruiser Squadron including the attached destroyers that it is to head SSW at flank speed. Likewise order 3rd Battle Squadron to head due east at flank speed immediately."
"Admiral, gun flashes to the south!"
"Flags, signal all battleships to commence firing. Hoist. And damn it all where the hell is Sturdee?"
-------HMS Indomitable 0957 hrs
The report of gun flashes to the east was very satisfying to Admiral Sturdee. It meant the Grand Fleet had engaged the German battle cruisers. He was saved.
"This wireless message from Admiral Jellicoe just arrived, sir"
Sturdee looked at the piece of paper.
WHERE IS 1ST BCS REPEAT WHERE IS 1st BCS? THE WORLD WONDERS
------HMS Iron Duke 0958 hrs
The two great battle lines were squared off against each other. Their guns blazed. It was steel against steel--the great battle many an officer in both fleet had dreamed of. But for some in the High Seas Fleet that dream had been a nightmare. Since the war had started the attitude of the German sailors had grown more confident. They now thought they could defeat the British at their own game.
The Grand Fleet had been on SSE course when it deployed out of cruising formation. With the High Seas Fleet on a due west heading the range was slowly closing. This did not please Admiral Jellicoe, who wished to fight a long range engagement. He had no expectation of annihilating the High Seas Fleet. He hoped that at long range 13.5" shells crashing down the German decks would prove decisive. For that reason he was glad that the superdreadnoughts were at the front of the division columns and would come into action almost immediately. He expected to prevail despite the initial German tactical advantage. With only a limited number of destroyers available he thought the best he could hope for would be to sink 3 or 4 German dreadnoughts without losing any of his own. This would more than compensate for the loss of Invincible. The Grand Fleet’s margin of superiority would be increased and Britian would retain control of the sea lanes. This was how wars were won.
"Flags, signal a 20 degree turn to starboard in succession."
------SMS Scharnhorst 0959 hrs
Hail May, full of grace, the Lord is with thee--
Spee’s prayers were interrupted, "Admiral, look! I think the British are breaking off."
------Vaterland 0959 hrs
Harry thrust his blackjack into the captain’s face, "Don’t you even think about surrendering again!"
HMS Nemesis had spotted chasing them a few minutes ago. Despite the frantic efforts of the German stokers, the destroyer was overtaking them. It would soon be in range.
The captain had tried to explain to the Irish madman just how vulnerable ocean liners were to fire. He prayed that the British captain might be a humane sort and wait until he got close enough to disable the rudder. Even though his ship was in danger the thought of the British catching up with Harry gave him some comfort. Maybe they will shoot him in the kneecaps, groin and stomach. Or maybe they would take him alive and torture him for a few days before they hung him. Just as long as the Vaterland wasn’t turned into a blazing inferno in the process.
A crewmember suddenly spoke in German, "Captain, the pursuing warship appears to be turning away."
------SMS Roon 1001 hrs
Leading the German battle line was 1st Scouting Group. Between 1st Scouting Group and 3rd Battle Squadron was the 3 old armored cruisers of 3rd Scouting Group commanded by Kontreadmiral Rebeur-Paschwitz He had been given very firm orders from the Grand Admiral to withhold his fire until the British came with 15,000 yards. Ingenohl wanted the capital ships to find the range without interference from the 21cm shell splashes. Rebeur-Paschwitz seethed with frustration. His poor ships were being used merely to distract British gunners, soaking up shells like a sponge.
Roon now took its second hit. The 13.5" shell from Iron Duke easily penetrated it 4" belt between the middle and lower deck. The shell burst in a coal bunker immediately after penetrating. If it had struck a few feet lower the resulting flooding might have ultimately sunk the vessel. As it was it admitted enough seawater into the boilers to force Roon to haul of line before too long.
The reports coming from Yorck were also disturbing. While it had not yet been hit it had been straddled—by a salvo with an awfully large number of shells.
------HMS Iron Duke 1003 hrs
"How in blazes did Sturdee get that far west?" demanded a very upset Jellicoe looking at the wireless reply, "is he having some navigational problem with his longitude?"
"I do not know so, sir," answered Madden, "Do you wish to recall him as well?"
Jellicoe frowned pensively while making a tent of his fingers, "Yes and no. The downside to recalling Sturdee is ironically that except for Indomitable his ships are so battered that having them join this battle would make it much more difficult for us to disengage if we need to."
"Our screen is weak, we sure could use 4th Flotilla, though"
"That is a good point, Charles. But Sturdee may need them as well for all we know. It is so absolutely bloody infuriating to be told less than half what I need to know."
They were silent for nearly half a minute. Madden then suggested, "To be safe we could let him keep 4 destroyers and send us the rest, including Caroline"
Jellicoe thought that over for a few seconds, "A sound suggestion, Charles. Make it so."
"Admiral Jellicoe, message just arrived from Admiral Gamble."
"What is it, sir?" asked Madden as Jellicoe read the message.
"Admiral Gamble is convinced that this vessel along with Agincourt and Bellerophon have been firing on cruisers and has ordered a change the in fire distribution. "
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1003 hrs
The explosions were very near. "Admiral, the British straddled us on the last salvo."
Friedrich der Grosse had not been scratched during Dogger Bank. Grand Admiral von Ingenohl did not think it would be so lucky this time. The British took their time finding the range but now they had it. Between that delay and deploying from cruising formation, the first 10 minutes of the gun battle had been very satisfactory—the British had scored only 12 hits to 33 for Germans. Ingenohl knew that the ratio would be much more even from now on. At this range he did not think he had much to fear from the British shells, even the 13.5" ones. The vitals of his ship were well protected.
"Signal Admiral Hipper to turn 2 points to starboard and make 25 knots. His mission is to disable the lead British battleship. Signal Admiral Scheer to make 20 knots and move his fire distribution forward one ship," ordered Admiral Ingenohl.
------HMS Bellerophon 1007 hrs
The 12" APC shell penetrated the 1.25" upper armor deck amidships and then burst upon striking the 1.75" lower armor deck. The armor was holed and some fragments ruptured the steam lines for the starboard engines.
------SMS Seydlitz 1009 hrs
"The two ships at the head of the British battle line are definitely superdreadnoughts," remarked Raeder.
Hipper removed his cigar and spit, "Well, one of the many advantages of getting closer to the enemy is that we get a better look at them It’s a damn shame that the Grand Admiral is depriving himself of the wonderful experience."
Raeder did not know what to say. He had already taken Hipper aside once and warned him about openly criticizing his superior in front of junior officers.
"Ssuperdreadnoughts, you say," continued Hipper, "Well then we should be grateful to Him that HE has only ordered us to sink one of them."
"Our orders merely said "disable the lead ship’, sir" corrected Raeder.
"I stand corrected, Erich. So, merely ‘disable’ will do. That should be a snap. We should have that done in no time," he said snapping his fingers.
Raeder merely looked awkwardly at Hipper, who then gave his cigar a few good puffs. Seydlitz and Derfflinger were both firing on the lead British battleship. Hipper removed the cigar and in a less sarcastic tone of voice ordered, "This vessel will go to full salvos while Derfflinger will continue shooting half salvos. Hopefully that will reduce the difficulty is distinguishing splashes."
------HMS Iron Duke 1011 hrs
When it was trying to rescue Admiral Sturdee, Grand Fleet had been steaming at 20 knots when it encountered the High Seas Fleet. Initially Admiral Jellicoe saw no compelling reason to reduce speed Now came news that Bellorophon was losing speed.
"If she hauls out and takes position behind First Battle Squadron the German predreadnoughts will be able to concentrate on her," Jellicoe commented to Madden.
"And First Squadron would mask her guns while she’s falling back."
"Yes, that too. Flags! Signal a reduction of speed to 17 knots. Hoist."
------SMS Blucher 1012 hrs
In accord with Admiral Jellicoe’s orders Admiral Sturdee sent Caroline and 6 destroyers (one of which had its forward 4" gun disabled) back to reinforce the Grand Fleet. Sturdee knew that there were at least 2 possibly 3 German light cruisers shadowing him to the east. He thought Caroline would be sufficient to handle them allowing the destroyers to reach Jellicoe. He did not know that Hipper had reinforced 2nd Scouting Group with Blucher.
While the 3 light cruisers of 2nd Scouting Group intercepted the destroyers, Blucher opened fire on Caroline.
------HMS Erin 1013 hrs
A 12" shell penetrated and burst in the ship’s port secondary battery. A fierce fire cordite fire ensued causing more than a 100 casualties and disabling the entire battery. Only prompt damage control measures averted an explosion in the 6" magazine.
------SMS Von der Tann 1014 hrs
A 12" AP shell from Dreadnought crashed into the face of the aft turret. It penetrated the armor and burst destroyed the turret.
------HMS Iron Duke 1015 hrs
"Iron Duke is shooting extremely well but overall the Germans are still scoring more hits," Jellicoe told Madden, "I am convinced the smoke is impacting us more. The wind is blowing it in our gunners’ faces. The Germans seem to have less of a problem."
Madden nodded, "That is my impression as well. However if we move closer then the German advantage would become almost negligible."
"Engage the enemy more closely, eh?" asked Jellicoe.
Madden nodded enthusiastically, "Why, yes sir, my point exactly."
Jellicoe shook his head and sighed, "Et tu, Brute?"
"Uh, I don’t understand what you mean, sir," answered Madden defensively.
"Oh, Never mind. I will consider your suggestion but hold off for the time being."
-------KM 6th Torpedo Boat Flotilla 1016 hrs
The German torpedo boats approached the van of the Grand Fleet as if they were making a torpedo attack. However they were armed with obsolete 45cm torpedoes. This attack was intended as a feint. It succeeded in drawing 7 British destroyers of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla.
------Vaterland 1018 hrs
"I hate sardines! I don’t want to go to fuckin’ Norway!" yelled Harry Calahan.
Wishing to spare his poor captain any further abuse the first officer spoke, "Uh, and just what are you suggesting, Mr. Calahan?"
"That British warship—the destroyer—it’s out of sight now, right? So why the fuck are we still heading northwest?"
"North northwest," corrected the first officer.
"It could be north, north, north fucking northwest for all I fucking care, you dick head! The point is that we are going away from Germany. You do remember where Germany is, don’t you, Mr. Smarty Pants?"
"Yes, I know where Germany is."
"Let’s turn this baby around. Uh, how about southwest for a while in case there are still some of those Limey bastards back where we were. That way we slip around them and can make a bee line for some German port like Hamburger or Frankfurter once the sun goes down."
------HMS Agincourt 1019 hrs
When she was laid down she was the Rio de Janeiro. Then for a while she was the Sultan Osman I. Now she flew the British flag and was called Agincourt. She was positioned right behind Iron Duke as part of the 4th Battle Squadron. The 12" APC shell penetrated the 3" crown of Thursday turret at a range of 16,500 yards. It burst inside. A minute later fire erupted from the turret and the ship exploded.
-----SMS Rostock 1020 hrs
The destruction of Agincourt did not take Kommodore Hartog by complete surprise. He had been at Dogger Bank where 3 British capital ships had exploded. Still it was too jarring an event to be casually dismissed. For about a minute it seized his attention filing it with a macabre mixture of horror, fascination and triumph. It inspired hope. It instilled dread.
His attention returned to another vessel. A British flotilla leader was rapidly approaching. Following close behind it were 7 British destroyers. When the High Seas Fleet had opened fire Rostock had been abreast of Preessen at the head of Second Squadron. It had already raised steam for 25 knots and soon made that speed. Behind it was the 5th TB Flotilla and the 16th TB Half-Flotilla.
Like the attack of the 6th Flotilla Kommodore Hartog’s attack was intended to draw the British screen to the south. However, unlike the 5th Flotilla his attack was not a feint. These torpedo boats had 50cm tubes.
------HMS Iron Duke 1021 hrs
A piece of debris from the Agincourt crashed hard on Iron Duke’s boat deck damaging one of the boats. The news that ship next in line had just had a sudden demise of extreme violence deeply disturbed Admiral Jellicoe. He recalled yet again that Queen Mary had exploded at Dogger Bank and now earlier this day so had both Invincible and Warrior. It made him wonder if any of Warrender’s battleships had exploded as well. That was a distinct and deeply disturbing possibility.
Even before the loss of Agincourt, Jellicoe had not liked the way the battle was going. Smoke continued to impair the British gunnery more than the Germans. There was no sign that the British 13.5" shells were making a decisive difference. There were reports of more than a dozen German torpedo boats approaching from the southeast. Apparently the German admiral was going to make a two pronged torpedo attack even though the smoke of the flotillas would interfere with gunnery. One prong was approaching the van. Jellicoe thought this the more dangerous due to it more favorable position. The other force was threatening 1st Battle Squadron from SSE.
Jellicoe had already sent 2nd Destroyer Flotilla to intercept. The 6 destroyers he had detached to pursue von Spee and the German ocean liners were now beginning to look like a precious commodity. His screen was insufficient. "Signal a 2 point turn to starboard by subdivision," he ordered.
This maneuver would soon take him out of range. It would make it easier for him to break off the engagement—something he was now seriously considering.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1022 hrs
"The flotillas are converging on the Grand Fleet. It is time for the next phase," announced Grand Admiral von Ingenohl, "Signal 1st Scouting Group to turn 3 points to starboard. Signal Third Squadron to turn 2 points to starboard in succession. It is also time to change the fire distribution of Third Squadron. They are now to target the corresponding enemy ship in line."
------KM 1st and 9th Torpedo Boat Flotillas 1023 hrs
The torpedo boats were having a busy week. They were the screening flotillas for 1st Scouting Group. Monday they had participated in the attack on Dover Patrol sinking 2 small obsolete British destroyers. Today they had skirmished twice with the British 4th Destroyer Flotilla when it made torpedo attacks on 1st Scouting Group. They had lost V.27 and two more of their ships were too badly damaged to participate in their present mission. The remaining 13 were now heading SW by ½ S at 30 knots in a formation of half flotillas abreast. Ahead of them they could now see the disengaged side of the Grand Fleet
What they did not see was any screen—other than the two repeater cruisers and they were not moving to intercept.
------HMS Iron Duke 1025 hrs
"Admiral, there are reports coming in of light ships to the northwest steaming rapidly on an intercept course."
Jellicoe blanched, "What!? Did you say northwest? How many?"
"Yes, sir, from the northwest. Reports range from 7 to a dozen, admiral"
"It could be 4th Destroyer Flotilla," Admiral Madden speculated, "Though it would mean that Sturdee was not so far west after all."
"I pray to God that is what is happening. Determine their identity at once!"
------HMS Broke 1026 hrs
Hits from the German cruiser had caused the helm to jam and knocked out the telegraph lines to the engine room. Out of control the flotilla leader rammed HMS Sheldrake in the bow.
-----SMS Rostock 1026 hrs
Kommodore Hartog was amused by the chaos he had caused amongst the British flotilla. There was a possibility that a 3rd British destroyer might collide with the others His gloating was interrupted by large waterspouts blossoming in front of him. One of the British battleships was now firing its main guns at him. Around him there was a fiercely melee of flotillas. The Germans had a modest superiority of numbers, compensating somewhat for their lighter guns.
"I believe we are close enough. Signal the 7th Flotilla to fire a single torpedo each immediately. This vessel will do the same."
------KM 1st and 9th Torpedo Boat Flotillas 1028 hrs
Splashes from the secondary batteries of the Grand Fleet and the two light cruisers were everywhere. The torpedo boats’ 8.8 cm guns returned fire on the light cruisers. Two of the German torpedo boats had been forced out formation by damage. Another continued on despite a nasty fire in its mainmast. Their orders had specified that they were not to get too close. Each vessel was to fire 3 torpedoes rapidly then the flotillas would withdraw behind a screen of smoke and artificial fog.
The first of the torpedoes began to hit the water.
------HMS Benbow 1029 hrs
The commander of the 4th Battle Squadron was Vice Admiral Douglas Gamble. His flagship was at the van of the Grand Fleet. While the firing along most of the battle line was becoming more sporadic in the last few minutes due to the smoke of flotillas interfering with gunnery, the Benbow on the other hand was finding herself subject to an increasingly intense bombardment. Benbow had sustained a dozen hits and her armor had performed well so far—though there was some damage to superstructure and a serious fire in the sick bay. Thunderer, which followed her was also coming under heavier fire.
Their opponents had been identified as the German battle cruiser squadron. Gamble had thought they would be relatively easy to defeat, but not only were they holding their own so far they were had gradually moved closer. Now they had altered course more to starboard."
"Do you think they are going to try to cross our bows, admiral," Captain Parker asked him, "Should we inform Admiral Jellicoe?"
Gamble frowned slightly, "It is too soon to tell for certain. They may just be reacting to our own turn. I am going to wait before bothering Admiral Jellicoe."
------Harwich naval base 1031 hrs
"Commodore, here is an urgent cable from the Admiralty!"
Commodore Tyrwhitt took the message. His intuition was that the Germans were making another attack on the Channel. His intuition was wrong.
URGENT GRAND FLEET HAS ENGAGED GERMAN BATTLEFLEET NEAR UTSIRE. RAISE STEAM IMMEDIATELY AND PROCEED AT FULL SPEED TO 57º N 4ºE.
-----SMS Rostock 1032 hrs
A 13.5" shell exploded in the cruiser’s engines. Both of them were disabled and the ship was soon dead in the water. Kommodore Hartog signaled the torpedo boats to each fire two more torpedoes.
------HMS Australia 1033 hrs
The fire reached the forward turret. It set off charges in the turret itself but thankfully the flash was sealed off from the magazine. The entire crew of the turret was killed. Most of the turret crown was blown clean off. The roof tumbled in the air then landed on the bridge killing two officers and causing some damage. Admiral Patey escaped injury but remembered standing in that spot a few minutes earlier.
------KM 5th Torpedo Boat Flotillas 1034 hrs
This flotilla had been part of the High Seas Fleet’s screen. It had swung around to the north when the Grand Fleet approached. It now charged southwest at in two columns at 30 knots. It too was armed with 50cm torpedoes.
They could not see the Grand Fleet. All they could see ahead of them was the opaque mass of smoke and fog created by the 1st and 9th Flotillas. It provided them excellent protection but when they emerged from it they would need to react quickly to position themselves and fire their torpedoes effectively before the secondary batteries of the battleships could react.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1035 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl watched in satisfaction the unfolding of the battle. The initial phase when he caught the Grand Fleet in cruising formation yielded a more transient and limited tactical advantage than he had hoped. On the other hand, the loss of a British battleship to a magazine explosion was encouraging. None of the German capital ships had been seriously hurt though there were some fires.
Ingenohl’s current plan was to attack the center and rear of the Grand Fleet with 50cm torpedoes launched from different directions so the British could not turn away from one without running into another. Hopefully this attack alone would sink some of the British dreadnoughts. But just as importantly it would severely disrupt the middle and rear of the British battle line. This would allow 1st Scouting Group and 3rd Squadron to concentrate on the leading British battle division.
Like Jellicoe did not fantasize about a complete annihilation. His hope rather was to sink 6 maybe 7 British dreadnoughts and then return to Germany. The attack on the British van by 1st Scouting Group was the most hazardous part of the operation. He accepted that there was a good chance he would lose a battle cruiser in the process. But if he sank a half dozen dreadnoughts it would be worth it. Tirpitz and Bachmann had repeatedly told him that a battle where he sinks one or two battleships and returns home without loss would not decisively impact the war—especially if there was another two months spent repairing damaged ships. Ingenohl had grudgingly come to see the wisdom of that argument. But surely to destroy a third of the Grand Fleet would make a difference. Probably force the British to negotiate their way out of the war.
Ingenohl would carry out his plan and go home. He had no intention of pursuing. Some of his torpedo boats were near the limits of their range—many of them had left the Jade with piles of coal on their deck. He still thought this was a shitty place to do battle. Ingenohl had found an opportunity to weaken the enemy despite the disadvantages. Surely he had done his duty as best he could.
He did momentarily wonder if he was forgetting something.
------SMS Scharnhorst 1036 hrs
Admiral Graf von Spee watched the boat approaching from Kronprinz Wilhelm with mixed emotions. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were in very bad shape. They were both listing dangerously and there was fire everywhere. They staggered their way at a mere 8 knots through the waves like a pair of punch drunk prizefighters on their last legs. Their smokestacks had been shot away so the smoke from their engines languidly coiled over their decks to intermix with the effluence of their many fires. Leipzig and Nurnberg were in better shape but not by much. None of them had a working wireless.
Kronprinz Wilhelm did. Admiral von Spee was going to transfer his flag to the AMC. He needed very badly to find out what else was happening.
------HMS Marlborough 1037 hrs
Admiral Cecil Burney was dismayed at what was happening to the formation of 1st Battle Squadron, which he commanded. Trying to evade torpedoes from NNW and southeast it was already breaking apart. He wondered and fretted about getting them back together.
Crumph! The explosion of a torpedo amidships gave him something else to worry about. It detonated near the front edge of the screen protecting the forward magazine on the starboard side. The screen kept the explosion out of the magazine but it cracked in several places letting seawater leak into the magazine. There was also more rapid flooding in the compartment of the bow near the explosion.
------SMS Derfflinger 1038 hrs
1st Scouting Group was closing with the van of the Grand Fleet. It was close enough to use its 5.9" guns. A 13.5" shell from Thunderer pierced the belt of Defflinger at the waterline. It detonated in the wing compartment, perforating the torpedo bulkhead. Water entered the fire room.
------HMS Bellerophon 1039 hrs
Some of Bellerophon’s 4" guns were sited on the top of the main turrets. These weapons were now proving completely worthless. The casement mounted guns at least got to fire—except for the one wrecked earlier by a German shell. Against small torpedo boats trying to get very close the 4" guns were more than adequate but against larger boats capable of launching torpedoes further out their utility was unimpressive.
Like the others she turned desperately trying to avoid the torpedoes. It was hit amidships on the starboard side. The torpedo had run shallow and hit the lower edge of the belt, which it buckled badly. The wing compartment flooded but the bulkhead kept the machinery dry.
------HMS Iron Duke 1041 hrs
Admiral Jellicoe tried not to think about Audacious as he watched the torpedo approach. His flagship had side stepped one but this one looked certain to hit. He held his breath awaiting the detonation.
The torpedo hit but mercifully it failed to explode. The admiral stopped clenching his fists and exhaled. His tension was only partially relieved, though.
"Admiral Jellicoe, Marlborough has reported that it has been torpedoed."
"Damn! We will wait a few minutes then request a damage report," Jellicoe commanded. The battle was looking worse and worse. He reached a decision, "Send a wireless message to Admiral Sturdee that he is come hither at utmost speed with Indomitable, Lowestoft and Birmingham. Admiral Patey will assume command of the remaining forces."
-------HMS Erin 1042 hrs
The battleship turned too late and the torpedo took her in the stern, where it flooded several compartments. It jammed the rudder and the ship turned out of control to port.
------HMS Dreadnought 1042 hrs
The battleship, which had created a new standard for battleships and started a naval race, was positioned between Superb and Iron Duke. A 12" shell from Kronzprinz plunged into the water and struck beneath the belt, bursting after it penetrated the ship’s side. There was no torpedo bulkhead to protect the forward boiler room and the shell fragments caused it to flood.
------SMS Seydlitz 1043 hrs
"Derfflinger is losing speed, sir. Should we order her to haul out and take position behind Von der Tann?" asked Raeder.
"No, If she turns to port her guns will be masked for a while. If she turns to starboard she will make mask the others. Moltke and Von der Tann will reduce speed behind her."
"But not Seydlitz?"
"No, just the opposite," said Hipper who turned to Kapitan zur See von Egidy, "Turn this ship 15º to starboard and hit the flank bell. Be ready to fire starboard torpedo tube. We are going to try to crow the bows of the Grand Fleet!"
------SMS Rostock 1043 hrs
A 12" shell exploded in the mainmast just below the bridge of the disabled cruiser. It killed everyone on the bridge including Kommodore Hartog.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1044 hrs
In the last few minutes there had been considerably fewer splashes around the flagship. And he had not heard any more of that ever so annoying "whang" sound. Part of it was on account of the smoke from the flotilla battle and maybe some of it was due to the exhaustion of the gun crews—for the ship’s guns were also firing less. Still Ingenohl regarded this as another sign that most of the British battle line had been disrupted by the torpedo attack. The smoke from the flotillas had now largely cleared in the westward portion of the battle where 1st Scouting Group and 3rd Squadron were engaged and the German rate of fire was picking up .
What was less satisfying to Ingenohl was how slowly 3rd Squadron was closing the range on the British van. What was not satisfying was that the British admiral had so far frustrated his efforts to slowly bring his 3rd Squadron in closer to the British 4th Battle Squadron—the range was still about 16,000 yards. It was time for another change of course, "Signal Admiral Scheer and order a 1 point turn to starboard in succession. Signal Admiral Lans to follow Third Squadron"
Ingenohl now paused biting his lower lip. He had been praised by the Admiralstab for splitting up his squadrons at Dogger Bank. Bachmann had even described it as "Nelsonic". He was already allowing some separation of 3rd and 1st Squadron. What was tempting him now was a bolder idea. At this distance reports of torpedo hits on the enemy battleships were very unreliable. But even with the limited visibility it was obvious that the enemy battle line was in disarray as he had planned.
"Signal Admiral Mauve that his squadron is to turn 7 points to starboard in succession."
------HMS Hercules 1044 hrs
The torpedo had not been seen until the last minute. It struck the port engines. Hercules had only screens protecting its magazines. The unprotected engines flooded very rapidly.
------HMS Collingwood 1045 hrs
Collingwood had just evaded a torpedo coming from the southeast. But another torpedo coming from the north could not be evaded as well. It struck the bow on the starboard side. This torpedo had also run shallow hitting the lower edge of the 7" belt. There was a pronounced concussion effect causing the entire ship to vibrate and starting a fire in the sick bay. The protective bulkhead did not extend this far forward and several compartments flooded very quickly.
Less than minute later still another torpedo approached. The ship turned hard but it was struck abreast the starboard engine room. The torpedo bulkhead ruptured in one section and sea water poured into the engines.
------HMS Temeraire 1046 hrs
Temeraire was positioned at the tail end of the 4th Battle Squadron. A 12" APC shell from Konig Albert plunged through the roof of the port wing turret at a range of 16,100 yards. It wrecked the turret and started a fire, but prompt damage control caused the magazine to be flooded.
-------HMS Erin 1047 hrs
A torpedo was approaching from the north. Unable to steer the crew of the Erin were certain it would hit them. But now it appeared to be slowing. It ended up passing a few feet behind their stern. The crew breathed a sigh of relief, but they were not completely out of danger. Shells were exploding around her.. The Erin was beginning to come under concentrated fire from the German 1st Battle Squadron. Her own guns fired as best they could but the constant turn made effective shooting very difficult and the turrets were placed under local fire control.
------HMS Benbow 1047 hrs
A pair of 12" SAP shells from Konig struck Benbow. One sliced into the base of the mainmast and started a massive fire. Another plunged through the upper armor deck amidships and exploded. It also caused a fire, though not as fierce. Just a few seconds later an 11" shell from Seydlitz pierced the 8" upper belt between the barbette of ‘B’ turret and the mainmast. It started a fire as well. Communication lines to the forward turrets were knocked out. The forward gun crews switched to local control. Meanwhile a steady stream of 5.9" shells from Seydlitz and Derfflinger rained down upon the decks and upper works.
Even before these latest hits Benbow’s fires were starting to worry Captain Parker. Flooding was less serious. The machinery spaces remained inviolate. All the main turrets were still firing though ‘Q’ turret had been damaged and turned very slowly. Half of the port 6" guns had been knocked out though and fires threatened 2 more. The operational 6" guns were returning fire.
"The leading ship—which we still believe is Seydlitz—may have turned slightly towards us, admiral," Parker reported to Admiral Gamble.
"Hmm. And Derfflinger is still listing to starboard? Does she appearing to be slowing?"
"Yes, to both questions, sir"
------HMS Vanguard 1048 hrs
The torpedo struck just forward of the starboard wing turret. The bulkhead further forward ruptured allowing water into the boilers. The 3" bulkhead protecting the magazine did somewhat better but it bulged and cracked at the junction with the thinner bulkhead protecting the boilers permitting water to leak into the magazine.
------HMS Superb 1049 hrs
An 11" APC shell from Von der Tann pierced Superb’s 8" upper belt and exploded in the port water feed tank, which shattered. This caused considerable flooding and soon permitted water to reach the engines through the ventilation shaft.
Meanwhile the secondary battery of Von der Tann peppered the upper works of Superb.
------SMS Blucher 1050 hrs
Caroline had retreated to the west listing to starboard with two fires raging. Blucher pursued cautiously. She now observed Indomitable charging towards her.
------HMS Iron Duke 1050 hrs
The flagship of the Grand Fleet had not suffered much so far taking only 8 hits. One of these had plunged down on the starboard side to disable a 6" gun and badly wound 3 seamen. Another had caused a small fire in the superstructure. The rest had done negligible harm including a waterline hit defeated by the 12" belt and a hit, which had glanced harmlessly off the roof of ‘A’ turret only momentarily distracting the gun crew.
"What do you make of what the German battle cruisers are doing at the van, sir?" asked Madden.
While still appearing outwardly calm, Jellicoe’s nerves were frayed by the German torpedo attack—and he had not yet learned about Vanguard. He was finding it hard to concentrate on details of the gun battle. He shrugged slightly as he replied, "Hipper’s battle cruisers should be badly hurt from the encounter with Sturdee. In fact according to the infallible Lord Northcliffe Moltke had been seriously damaged at North Foreland! I am finding it hard to believe they pose a threat to Benbow and Thunderer. Instead I eagerly look forward to hearing anon that one or more of them is sinking."
"Fourth Battle Squadron is having trouble reforming the line, sir. Bellerophon was having trouble making 17 knots even before the torpedo struck her. So perhaps should we—"
"---reduce the fleet speed again? Hmm, reluctantly I must agree with you on this one, Charles. Flags, signal a reduction in speed to 14 knots."
------HMS Indomitable 1052 hrs
"That ship is definitely Blucher," said Sturdee, still confident despite his set backs so far, "she’s turning to bring her broadsides to bear."
"Should we turn as well, Admiral?"
Sturdee frowned, "I am afraid we must. Let’s keep the range at 13,000 yards to keep her stronger secondary battery from coming into action. We should be able to dispose of Blucher quickly."
------HMS Nemesis 1053 hrs
This destroyer had been hurriedly sent off to chase Vaterland. Then it had been abruptly instructed via wireless to terminate that mission and rejoin the Grand Fleet immediately. It now saw to the SSE 9 or 10 small ships of the sort the British called destroyers but the Germans called large torpedo boats.
These were the 1st and 9th Torpedo Boat flotillas retiring after having conducted a bold and successful torpedo attack on the Grand Fleet. Their mission now was to scout to the north. They had found something they did not like.
------HMS Benbow 1054 hrs
A torpedo fired from Seydlitz had just passed harmlessly in front of Benbow. The ship’s crew redirected their anxiety to other matters.
"Our aft turrets can no longer train on Seydlitz, Admiral. We should either turn to starboard or switch our guns to Derrflinger." announced Captain Parker.
Admiral Gamble frowned deeply. He had held off on a change of course hoping for further guidance from Admiral Jellicoe. All he that he had received was an order to reduce speed which would only make the situation worse. Seydlitz had moved a little more quickly than expected and now Gamble found himself overdue a decision.
"Turn 1 point to starboard, this vessel only."
------HMS Superb 1055 hrs
A 12" AP shell from Grosser Kurfurst penetrated the 7" bow armor just below the waterline and exploded, causing considerable flooding.
--------SMS Seydlitz 1056 hrs
They had just received a wireless message from Blucher. "The British battle cruiser has turned his broadside to Blucher. His course converges with our own," Raeder remarked.
"Blucher is delaying the arrival but not by all that much," answered Hipper.
"Now’s she turning, Admiral!" announced Kapitan von Egidy, referring to Benbow.
"What’s our range?" asked Hipper.
"7,800 yards, sir," answered the captain. Suddenly another voice spoke up, "Sir, we just decoded this message to us from Admiral von Spee aboard Kronrpinz Wilhelm." He promptly handed the paper to Hipper.
ENEMY HAS BROKEN OFF MYSTERIOUSLY FOUR OF OUR CRUISERS ARE SEVERELY DAMAGED DOES THERE REMAIN ANY HOPE OF RENDEZVOUS?
------HMS Benbow 1056 hrs
The cause of the ferocious explosion, which destroyed Benbow remains a matter of considerable controversy. The most commonly held theory has been that a penetration of the ‘B’ turret barbette by either a 12" shell from Derfflinger or an 11" shell from the closer Seydlitz, caused a cordite flash which reached the magazine. There are however those who remain unconvinced and offer an alternative hypothesis. They believe the fierce fires near the mainmast caused by the 1047 shell hits were the more likely cause of the fatal explosion. One of the problems historians have had in resolving this dispute is that unlike Invincible and Agincourt there were no survivors from Benbow.
------HMS Thunderer 1057 hrs
Thunderer has once been part of the 2nd Battle Squadron. A refit kept it from participating in the events of December 16. Many of its crew felt that had they been present they would have been able to turn the tide of battle that fateful day. This sort of speculation of course, belongs rightfully in the nebulous phantom world of "What If?" The fact was that the crew yearned for revenge. They almost felt ashamed that they had missed Dogger Bank. When the expected showdown with the High Seas Fleet Monday had not materialized they were bitterly disappointed. This morning they had once again hoped to see action. This time they did.
Thunderer had initially been engaged by Derfflinger at long range, but in the more recent phase of the battle it had come under heavy fire by both Moltke and Markgraf. The former had managed to close to within 10,500 yards and had been able to penetrate Thunderer’s upper belt causing a fire and to hole its middle belt causing some flooding. It had also jammed "Q’ with concussion though repair teams hoped to fix that soon. Another gun had been wrecked in a misfire so Thunderer was currently firing a 7 gun broadside at Derfflinger, which remained her target.
Moltke’s 5.9" guns were able to cause additional damage to the decks and upper works. Meanwhile the plunging shells from Markgraf had caused some damage as well, esp. a fire in its stern. When Benbow had begun its turn there was some confusion as to whether Thunderer was expected to follow. Now there was the awful explosion. Some of the flaming debris from what had once been Benbow rained down on Thunderer. Turning to starboard would risk a collision with the remains of Benbow. To be safe Thunderer turned slightly to port.
------SMS Seydllitz 1057 hrs
Hipper let the bridge crew cheer, then he issued orders, "Reduce our speed to 20 knots. Signal a change in fire distribution—all ships to fire on corresponding ships in line—except Von Der Tann which is to assist Blucher of fighting the British battle cruiser."
Hipper then turned to the perspiration drenched Raeder and snapped his fingers, uttering in an sarcastic voice "Hah! Now wasn’t that easy?"
Raeder forced himself to grin, "Perhaps the Grand Admiral is smarter than we thought, yes?"
Hipper’s smile evaporated, "Hmm. I will give you an answer to that when this day is over. But that reminds me. Someone else deserves an answer."
------HMS Iron Duke 1057 hrs
"Oh, my God! Benbow had just exploded!" exclaimed one of the bridge crew.
Jellicoe started to bring his own binoculars up to look for himself but then with resignation let them fall to his chest. Looking would serve no useful purpose. He shook his head despondently and turned to Madden, "We need to disengage quickly,"
"First Battle Squadron is still too disrupted to form cruising formation," argued Madden.
Jellicoe nodded soberly, "Yes, that is painfully obvious. We will retire by squadron, not by division. Signal Admiral Burney to form his squadron as best he can and head NNE. We will wait a while to keep the Germans occupied then withdraw on the same course."
"Erin is still out of control, sir" Madden reminded him.
"I know Charles, I have not forgotten. Her situation is very bad. Apparently so too is Hercules, and Collingwood is not much better. We need to save what we can. The pertinent question right now is not ‘Have we lost the battle?’ No the real question now is ‘Have we lost the bloody war?’ So we must be firm with Burney that he is to make 18 knots and any ship that cannot keep up must be allowed to fall behind. Also 2nd Destroyer Flotilla must form up an prepare for a torpedo attack on the German line."
Madden whistled, "The flotilla took a beating trying to deal with the German torpedo attacks, sir."
"Understood. This is not intended as a decisive blow. It’s merely to force the Germans to turn away and cover our withdrawal. "
Admiral Madden looked in the eyes of Sir John Jellicoe. There were no tears but the profound sadness was unmistakable.
------Vaterland 1057 hrs
"What was that?" asked James Creelman. He had learned of the Fenian mutiny and decided there was a story in it. The number of Fenians participating had grown in the last hour. They had taken to wearing armbands—either solid green or with a shamrock festooned on it. Creelman was not wearing a green armband and for a while the Fenians barred him from the bridge. Eventually Harry learned he of this and allowed him to enter. Everyone on the bridge heard the loud explosion.
"I see a large pillar of smoke 3 points off the port bow," remarked the first officer.
"Lordy! Something really big just happened that away. Why don’t we go take a look?"
"What?" exclaimed Vaterland’s captain, "We need to avoid British warships if we are to have any chance of reaching Germany."
Harry glowered at the captain, then he relaxed a trifle, "OK, OK, Herr Kapitan zu Ocean or whatever your freakin’ title is, I do recall saying I wanted to reach Germany. And British warships do present a problem in reaching that goal. But I think that there is a battle going on to the south of you and so that means there are some German warships involved as well. And I have this wild hunch that the Germans are winning though if they are anything like you all they’d be doing is surrendering."
------SMS Blucher 1059 hrs
When 1st Scouting Group had initially fought the British battle cruisers, Blucher had come under fire from Indomitable at the beginning of the engagement. It had suffered only a single hit then which had not done much damage. This time though the British were no longer staring into the sun. A 12" shell disabled Blucher’s port engine.
------SMS Scharnhorst 1101 hrs
There was a sudden explosion. Not from ammunition which the ship sorely lacked but rather from coal dust in a near empty bunker. The explosion ruptured a key bulkhead. The ship’s list grew still worse and the order to abandon was quickly given.
------SMS Konig 1101 hrs
"Explain this to me one more time," demanded a thoroughly annoyed Admiral Reinhard von Scheer, the commander of 3rd Battle Squadron. His ship had sustained 15 hits which disabled a pair of 5.9" guns, started 3 modest fires and caused some minor leaks which were under control. Now he learned the most serious harm to befall his ship was due to a miss!
"Yes, admiral. A near miss caused starboard propeller shaft to deform. This was not discovered until too late and the deformed shaft damaged the bearings to overhear which damaged the starboard engine."
"All this from a near miss!" groaned Scheer, "well what can we make on the remaining two engines?"
"Seventeen knots, admiral"
"Flags, signal a reduction in squadron speed to 17 knots. Inform Grand Admiral von Ingenohl of our situation and ask if he wants us to haul out of line."
------HMS Indomitable 1101 hrs
An 11" shell from Von der Tann ripped through the roof of ‘X’ turret. The shell failed to explode. It smashed the starboard gun but caused no fire. The turret was soon able to resume firing with its other gun.
Meanwhile Sturdee meanwhile identified Derfflinger had ordered his guns aimed at her, thereby sparing Blucher.
------SMS Seydlitz 1102 hrs
A 13.5" AP shell from Thunderer penetrated the belt at the waterline near the forward magazine. It exploded as it penetrated and the bulkhead saved the magazine but it was perforated in a few places allowing water to leak in.
------SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm 1103 hrs
Admiral von Spee grimly watched the end of Scharnhorst. It had come so far only to die so close to home. He briefly wondered if future historians and poets would see this as metaphor for the futility of all warfare. He glanced at Gneisenau, which continue to burn furiously and speculated whether her doom was imminent as well.
"Admiral, we have decoded a wireless message from Admiral Hipper."
There was a pronounced tremor in Admiral von Spee’s hands as he took the piece of paper. Was there any sliver of hope?
WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE DELAY WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY
Maximilian Graf von Spee could no longer hold back his tears.
------HMS Indefatigable 1104 hrs
"Abandon ship! Abandon ship!"
The progressive flooding had reached the point of no return. She was going down by the bow. Her screws were already out of the water. Nearby the Devonshire waited to rescue the crew.
------HMS Superb 1104 hrs
Thunderer had been shelling Defflinger but a few minutes after Benbow had exploded Thunderer shifted her guns to Seydlitz. No ship was currently firing on Derfflinger and her gunnery improved. She took to firing full salvos to reduce the spotting confusion as Grosser Kurfurst was also shelling Superb, though the marked difference in angles of the shooters helped as well. A 12" shell from Derfflinger penetrated Superb’s 10" lower belt armor then burst against the lower barbette armor of the port wing turret. Most of the explosion was contained outside the barbette thoroughly perforating the hull but the barbette armor was holed allowing water into the magazine.
------HMS Iron Duke 1105 hrs
"Is the attack by 2nd Flotilla underway?"
"Yes, admiral it is. As they make their attack they will generate as much smoke as they can."
"Yes precisely what we need. Then it is time for 4th Battle Squadron to retire as well," ordered Jellicoe, "Thunderer will act as guide. Come to a NNE heading at a speed of 17 knots."
------HMS Superb 1106 hrs
A 12" shell from Derfflinger penetrated Superb’s 10" lower belt near the waterline and burst in the boilers. Superb already had a significant list and it now got much worse.
------HMS Preussen 1107 hrs
Admiral Mauve observed the change in the British 1st Battle Squadron. Grand Admiral von Ingenohl’s plan had been for 2nd Squadron with its predreadnoughts to attack the rear of the Grand Fleet’s line. Now it look as if the two squadrons would be running nearly parallel with some convergence.
Mauve realized there was some danger in this. Still the British opponent had been pounded by shellfire for an hour and mercilessly savaged by torpedoes. One British superdreadnought turned out of control. Admiral Lans’ 1st Squadron were giving it a sound thrashing and some of his ships had participated as well.
So far his squadron had taken just two heavy shells—both of which had hit his flagship causing some damage to the superstructure and a modest fire. Mauve knew this would soon change but his enemy looked to be defeated and in disarray. Mauve therefore was eager to pursue. In addition the potent secondary armament of his battleships had finished off two British destroyers, which had been disabled in the previous clash of flotillas.
------Seydlitz 1107 hrs
Thunderer scored two hits on Seydlitz. One destroyed the remaining generator and started another fire. The other smashed into the face of ‘X’ turret demolishing it.
"We need to break off the engagement, Admiral," implored Kapitan von Egidy.
Hipper looked towards Raeder who merely nodded. Hipper brought out a new cigar and lit it. He took his time and a deep puff, then answered in calm voice with only the faintest hint of disappointment, "Our ammunition is getting low as well. You may disengage from the Grand Fleet, Herr Kapitan But please let this poor admiral have some fun with the British battle cruiser the south west."
------HMS Superb 1108 hrs
A 12" shell from Grosser Kurfurst penetrated the upper belt, which due to the ship’s severe list was barely above the waterline. It failed to explode but due to the depressed angle hit the top of the torpedo bulkhead. As it penetrated the bulkhead the shell broke into fragments some of which reached the engines.
------Von der Tann 1108 hrs
Iron Duke had switched her guns to Von der Tann. A 13.5" AP shell slammed into the Von der Tann’s bridge and exploded. No one there survived.
------HMS Iron Duke 1109 hrs
"Admiral Jellicoe, Superb reports heavy flooding and a severe list. It is hauling out of line, sir!"
Jellicoe muttered an acknowledgement. So now Superb was on his list of ships that might not make it back to port. Jellicoe had been able to obtain a better view of the German battle cruisers in the last few minutes. They all looked heavily damaged but disappointingly none was in an obvious sinking condition.
It had been a while since his last wireless message to the Admiralty. He was in no hurry in that department. A minute ago he had learned that Indomitable was battling the German battle cruisers. He considered telling Sturdee to break off but decided the distraction decreased the likelihood of High Seas Fleet pursuing.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1109 hrs
The flagship’s main guns had stopped firing The 5th and 5th Torpedo Boat Flotillas furiously engaged the desperate British destroyers. The smoke from the flotillas, esp. the British, had obscured all targets for the main battery. The secondary battery still fired at the destroyers and even that was intermittent.
The forward division of 3rd Squadron was still firing its main guns, but even that was tapering off. Torpedoes would certainly be racing towards the High Seas Fleet. While the British appeared to be fleeing there were aspects of his tactical situation that were making him uncertain and cautious. Only 3 British capital ships had been sunk so far—all due to magazine explosions. Several of his own capital ships had nasty fires right now—and in the case of 1st Scouting Group some serious flooding as well.
Having his predreadnoughts engaging a squadron of dreadnoughts was not what he had planned either. There were other disturbing developments. Ingenohl had received an inaccurate report that 3 British battle cruisers had returned from the west when it was 1 battle cruiser and 2 light cruisers. This confirmed his suspicion that Hipper had not mauled the British battle cruisers as much as he pretended. Konig losing its starboard engine was also disturbing—Ingenohl had not been given the details and assumed a shell had penetrated. And a periscope had been reported sighted less than 15 minutes earlier.
And then there was the thought that had never left him. The idea that he was far from base in waters unsuitable for a crushing victory. He had nonetheless won some measure of victory despite the disadvantages. He was determined not to lose it.
"Flags, Signal all ships to make a simultaneous 2 point turn to port."
------Indomitable 1112 hrs
Jellicoe had not yet informed Sturdee of his withdrawal. So Sturdee still thought Grand Fleet was vigorously engaged with the High Seas Fleet. So the fact that he has coming under fire from several battle cruisers did not bother him overmuch. An 11" shell from Seydlitz plunged though his 6" belts and exploded in his aft fire room.
------HMS Marlborough 1114 hrs
"Water level is still rising in the forward magazine, Captain. The rate is slowing but it’s still rising."
"Not good. And how about the bow?" asked Captain Ross.
"There is some leaking into adjourning compartments, sir"
"The flooding must be contained!"
Admiral Burney passively observed the conversation. The engineer glanced nervously in the admiral’s direction before speaking, "If we could reduce our speed, it would help, sir."
Ross waited a few seconds in case the admiral might choose to address the topic. Burney did not. Ross felt compelled to ask him, "Admiral, a reduction in speed would make our repairs much easier, sir"
Burney took his time responding, "Does maintaining this speed pose a serious risk to the survival of this vessel, captain"
The captain turned to the engineer who shook his head and frowned. A German shell had bit below the belt on the port side and flooded a wing compartment. This now served to partially balance out the starboard flooding. Turning back to Burney Ross answered, "No, admiral. It does not."
"Then I will continue to comply with Admiral Jelllicoe’s instructions." Burney turned away to watch the gunnery. Behind Marlborough was Colossus instead of Erin followed in turn by Emperor of India instead of Hercules. Erin and Hercules had been in the battle division but he had been forced to leave them behind in accord with Admiral Jellicoe’s orders.
------Von der Tann 1114 hrs
A 13.5" shell from Iron Duke tore through Von der Tann’s belt and exploded in the wing compartment. Shell fragments perforated the bulkhead and water soon entered here starboard engines.
------SMS Preussen 1116 hrs
The 13.5" AP shell sliced through the 2" roof of the aft turret, then exploded with great ferocity destroying the turret. Admiral Mauve was soon notified. The enemy shell was becoming more effective and he was starting to worry about his tactical situation. Hessen had a serious fire amidships.
------SMS Kaiserin 1117 hrs
A lookout mistakenly reported a torpedo approaching the port bow. Kaiserin turned hard to starboard. A real torpedo was coming from the northeast. It was nearing the end of its run and slowing. It managed to strike Kaiserin amidships. The torpedo bulkhead did not collapse but it leaked in several places admitting water to the starboard engines.
------SMS Seydlitz 1118 hrs
A 13.5" shell from Iron Duke struck the side armor of Seydlitz. It simply broke apart. It was not the first British shell to do so.
"Admiral, lookouts have sighted a large ship approaching rapidly from the north."
Hipper brought his binoculars up and took his own look. After a few seconds he made a deeply ambivalent facial expression, "Why I think I know what that is. It’s the floating Irish lunatic asylum."
------HMS Indomitable 1118 hrs
An 11" shell hit just above the waterline amidships. The already worrisome list to starboard grew worse. Sturdee had finally been informed that Jellicoe was breaking off. It was now clear to him that the German battle cruisers were not pursuing the Grand Fleet—he could see that they were too battered to risk that—all of them were listing and all except Blucher were burning. But not too battered to gang up on a lone British battle cruiser. Seydlitz, Moltke and Blucher were already firing on him while Derfflinger and Von der Tann still fired at the Grand Fleet.
"Come to a heading of WSW," Sturdee ordered. He would rejoin Australia and Inflexible and the armored cruisers of 6th Cruiser Squadron and together they would make their stand.
------HMS Superb 1119 hrs
Superb was barely making 12 knots. It had taken up the rear position in the squadron, behind Bellerophon. When it had hauled of line Superb had been temporarily masked from Derfflinger’s shell fire, but now the battle cruiser renewed the acquaintance but from a longer range. A range she had just found again as Superb was straddled. The course of the German battle cruisers and 4th Battle Squadron were diverging. Even with its reduced Superb would be out of range in a few minutes but in those few minutes there was risk of additional damage she could ill afford.
Superb had taken a beating during the battle. Initially Moltke had fired on Superb and it had shot very well, starting fires in the superstructure, which had no armor above the main deck. After a while Von der Tann and Grosser Kurfurst had become her tormenters. The fires worsened and there began to be some significant flooding.
Then Derfflinger had replaced Von der Tann. The shell that had reached into a fire room was particularly bad, causing one of the boilers to explode. Superb had a worsening list to port. It was now severe enough to render her guns ineffective.
------Vaterland 1120 hrs
"It’s beautiful. Sort of like Morgan," commented Harry Calahan.
They were now close enough to observe the battle. Harry was ecstatic. The captain was horrified, "You Irish madman! Those guns could destroy this vessel with a single shell. You are taking us to our doom. You simply must turn this vessel around now!"
Not all the Fenians were as happy as Harry. One of them spoke up, "Maybe the captain here’s got a point, Harry. Looks awfully damn dangerous out there."
------HMS Iron Duke 1121 hrs
"Should we open fire on Vaterland?" Admiral Madden asked Sir John Jellicoe.
"Part of me would like so very much to do that. She has caused us a great deal of trouble this day. But she is an unarmed ocean liner carrying innocent civilians."
"Not all those civilians are innocent, sir. And she functioned as a German auxiliary. A very important auxiliary."
"Yes indeed, a 50,000 ton scout cruiser! What will the damn Huns think of next?"
"Sounds like to you are not going to fire on her then, sir. Am I correct, sir?" Madden asked in a disappointed voice.
Jellicoe did answer that question. Instead he said, "You know I think he’s probably looking straight at us right now"
"Pardon me, sir, but who are exactly are you referring to?"
"Why their leader of course. Even amongst lunatics there is always one more insane than the rest who takes charge. That’s what makes history."
"If you say so, sir"
"Oh, I ‘m certain there is a leader. And highly likely he’s staring straight at us. I think I’ll wave to him," remarked Jellicoe in a sardonic voice. He even raised his right hand and waved.
Madden did now know what to make of Jellicoe’s dark humor, "He wouldn’t be able to see us this far away even with a telescope, sir. If he could I would be making a different gesture."
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1121 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl accepted news of Kaiserin’s torpedo hit with stoic disappointment. Overall the cursory damage reports he had received from 1st and 3rd Squadrons had been most encouraging. Most of his battleships were fighting fires but even aboard Kronprinz where the fires were the most intense the prognosis was good. Less satisfying was a wireless message he had just received from Admiral Mauve about 2nd Squadron."
"Does that British superdreadnought continues to turn in circles?" he asked his staff.
"Yes, admiral. We have identified it as the Erin."
"Hmm. Send a wireless message to Admiral Mauve to turn back and finish off the Erin. Assign 2nd Flotilla to assist him. As far as 3rd Squadron is concerned, Konig will now haul out line and its speed will be raised to 21 knots. We should be able to quickly finish off the damaged battle cruisers to the west. Then we will rendezvous with Admiral von Spee and go home."
-----HMS Hercules 1124 hrs
An 11" shell from Hanover had exploded at the base of the forward funnel 2 minutes earlier. It had nothing to do with what happened next. Some of the earlier hits in the battle, which caused some modest flooding on the port side may have, though. Too much water had entered the port side. A belated attempt at counterflooding proved inadequate. The ship slowed and heeled to port. A few sailors realized what was happening and jumped overboard into the frigid sea before the battleship turned turtle.
------HMS Lowestoft 1124 hrs
Lowestoft had dueled with Graudenz inflicting more damage than it had suffered in return. Pursuing a burning and listing Graudenz it saw a line of large German vessels approaching.
------HMAS Australia 1126 hrs
Fires continued to ravage Australia. The damage control teams thought they would eventually get the fires under control—provided there was no further damage. Australia had lost wireless capability. Inflexible relayed Sturdee’s orders to Admiral Patey. He complied but realized that he was probably leading Australia to her destruction. He now know had another to think so. Indomitable was to the southwest with German battle cruisers in pursuit. But now Patey saw heavy gun flashes a little south of east.
The fire was not yet interfering with Australia’s draught so she could still make 24 knots—though the engineer had warned such a high speed was likely to fan the flames. Inllexible could make only a little more than 17 knots and trailed behind Australia. With the lightly damaged Drake leading the way 6th Cruiser Squadron steamed alongside at 22 knots.
Patey had a clear view of Indomitable. He did not like what he saw.
------HMS Erin 1126 hrs
There was a ray of hope. Erin had just managed to regain steering. It was very tiring manual steering and there was a widely held suspicion it could jam again any minute but the ship had stopped circling and was gingerly coming around to a NNE course. She had taken 11 shell hits before the steering jammed and another dozen heavy shell hits as she turned helplessly. Two of these hits aggravated the already serious flooding in the stern from the torpedo hit and water was slowly leaking into the aft magazine. She had also been hit by seven 6.7" shells. One of these struck the muzzle of the right gun of ‘Q’ turret deforming it. The rest of Erin’s main armament remained full operational but she had lost a pair of 6" guns from her starboard battery.
------HMS Blanche 1127 hrs
Blanche was the repeater cruiser for the 3rd Battle Squadron. She was not serving as their scout and was 8 nm ahead of them. She had spotted a British light cruiser to the ENE. It was the Gloucester, which had sustained boiler damage early in the battle and now could only make 14 knots.
------HMS Indomitable 1129 hrs
The starboard list continued to worsen. The engineer was blunt, "She’s done for Captain. We need to abandon ship immediately."
The words were addressed to Captain Kennedy, but it was a dumbfounded Sturdee who answered, "What? Are you certain, son?"
The engineer looked at the admiral. If he had time he would explain what was happening in all the compartments, but he did not think they had much time, "Yes, Admiral I am certain and we have only a few minutes to get the men off. Every minute we delay will cost lives."
In addition to the German battle cruisers at least one squadron of German battleships was entering the fray from the east. Sturdee realized that what was important now was to save what could be saved. "Signal Admiral Patey to assume command again and withdraw with all ships to the west," he ordered, "Meanwhile I hereby approve the recommendation to abandon ship."
------SMS Preussen 1130 hrs
"So Erin has recovered use of her steering," observed Admiral Mauve, "She is is trying to follow the rest of the Grand Fleet. We will intercept and cut across its path. Then we will finish her off at close range.
------Old Admiralty Building 1132 hrs
"Is it a message from Admiral Jellicoe?" Admiral Fisher demanded of the messenger.
"Yes, Admiral it is."
Impatiently Fisher grabbed the piece of paper out of the young man’s hands. As he read he read his heart pounded dangerously and he momentarily swayed.
A deeply worried McKenna went over to him, "Are you feeling ill, Jackie? Should we fetch a medic?"
"No, No! by Heaven," Fisher started to say in a weakening voice as he was having trouble breathing. Then there was a tightness in his chest followed by pain, which he was unable to hide. Clutching his chest he was barely able to mutter, "Ugh! Maybe that would be a wise precaution after all, First Lord."
Fisher then thrust the foul message at McKenna.
------Vaterland 1133 hrs
The motion picture film crew for the Hearst-Selig Corporation had finished setting up their equipment. They had been provided a good view of the column of British battleships scurrying past off their port as they streamed north. Smoke poured copiously out of the lead battleship. But Creelman told them to focus on another battleship that was listing badly and burning even worse. This was Superb. They were now able to capture on film the second set of boiler explosions that caused it to capsize.
Creelman looked at his pocket watch. He had roamed much of the world during his life as a journalist. He had come to regard time zones as being a bit elastic.
"You know what Colonel Selig is going to call this when you get back home, boys?" he asked the crew with a grin.
"No, what, Mr. Creelman?"
"High Noon on the High Seas!"
------HMS Erin 1134 hrs
Captain Victor Stanley anxiously watched the approach of German predreadnoughts. They were obviously attempting to cur across his path and keep him from rejoining the Grand Fleet. Even if he had complete confidence in his rudder’s reliability—which he did not—he still would be disinclined to run from the old battleships to the south. That way would’ve taken him further from the Grand Fleet and closer to Germany. Captain Stanley decided to resolve the situation quickly. "Helm, turn the ship 30º to starboard. Don’t do it too hard though."
He felt like crossing his fingers as the wounded ship ponderously maneuvered. His plan would bring him on a reciprocal course with the German battleships. He hoped to pass them and then cut behind their line badly damaging the rear ship then making his escape with Erin.
------HMAS Australia 1136 hrs
Soon after Australia came out of its turn a 12" SAP shell from Markgraf burst near the base of her aft mast. There was already a fire in the superstructure there. A few seconds later there was a modest secondary explosion in that section and the mast toppled crashing down on the deck. The threat posed by the fires caused the aft magazine to be hurriedly flooded.
Admiral Patey was now faced with a difficult decision. He could order Australia to retreat at 24 knots and thereby leave Inflexible behind for the Germans. It briefly occurred to him that this was an unpleasant recapitulation of Beatty’s dilemma at Heligoland Bight. Since Inflexible had lagged behind him he did not have to make this decision immediately—it would take a few minutes to overtake Inflexible.
------SMS Preussen 1137 hrs
Admiral Mauve observed the British maneuver. "Turn 16 points to starboard by division," he ordered as a counter. He was determined to finish the destruction of Erin. It was an entire squadron against one ship.
------HMS Iron Duke 1137 hrs
Admiral Jellicoe struggled with far from perfect information about an extremely complicated battle. He had just learned that Erin had regained control of steering but he was not going to let that alter his planned escape. 1st Cruiser Squadron and the destroyer, Oak had rejoined the Grand Fleet a few minutes ago. The other 4 destroyers that had been sent after the liners were expected back shortly.
Admiral Jellicoe suddenly smashed his left fist into his palm, "Blast it! We are forgetting about Admiral Bradford. There is some risk of 3rd Battle Squadron blundering into High Seas Fleet. Send an immediate wireless message asking for his current position, heading and speed."
------HMAS Australia 1138 hrs
A 12" shell from Markgraf demolished the aft turret. The magazine had been already flooded.
------HMS King Edward VII 1140 hrs
The two divisions of the 3rd Battle Squadron were deployed in two columns abreast. A line of German battleships stretching to the east were in vigorous pursuit of what was left of the battle cruiser squadron. The commander of the 3rd Battle Squadron, Vice Admiral Bradford saw what he needed to do. He was now in position to cross their ‘T’. There was not enough time to ask approval from Admiral Jellicoe.
"Flags! Signal form line to port, this vessel to act as guide," ordered Admiral Bradford.
------SMS Hanover 1146 hrs
The German predreadnoughts and Erin were converging courses but able to bring their broadsides to bear. Hanover already had two large fires in her superstructure when a 13.5" AP shell penetrated her belt a few feet above the waterline. Seawater poured into the starboard engines.
------HMS Iron Duke 1146 hrs
"Admiral Jellicoe, this wireless message from Admiral Bradford has just been decoded."
"Well he certainly took his time replying," groused Jellicoe as he took the message. When he read it he gaped and nearly dropped the paper.
3BS IS NOW CROSSING THE VAN OF LINE OF ENEMY BATTLESHIPS CHASING BCS
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1147 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl was composing a message to send the Admiralstab about his great victory when there came reports of a column of battleships crossing his ‘T’. The sense of satisfaction over the results of the battle evaporated. How the Grand Fleet had managed to pull off this ambush eluded him. He recalled a certain desperate maneuver the High Seas Fleet had prepared for just this contingency. It was an extremely difficult maneuver to carry out—a simultaneous 16 point turn by the High Seas Fleet.
"Signal battle turn about to port!" he ordered.
------HMS Erin 1149 hrs
"She’s definitely hauling out of line, my boys. Heavy list and a serious fire as well," observed Captain Stanley, "Guns, switch to the second battleship."
Meanwhile the German 11" and 6.7" shells continued to punish Erin both with hits and near misses despite the problems in distinguishing splashes.
------HMS King Edward VII 1151 hrs
"Admiral, an urgent wireless message has just arrived from Admiral Jellicoe, sir."
BREAK OFF ACTION WITH GERMAN BATTLEFLEET IMMEDIATELY RETIRE UNDER COVER OF TORPEDO ATTACK AND SMOKE SCREEN
------HMS Collingwood 1152 hrs
The damage control teams would likely have prevailed against the flooding caused by either of the two torpedo hits, though damage from gunfire had cut some hoses and disabled a pump. But two strikes in quick succession on the same side proved to be too much for them and the ship’s list to starboard steadily worsened. She now capsized.
------SMS Seydlitz 1154 hrs
Admiral Hipper looked again at the capsized British battle cruiser. It reminded him of of Princess Royal capsized at end of the Battle of Heligoland Bight. With the arrival of the British battleships to the west Hipper had ordered 1st Scouting Group to retreat to northeast. He considered the possibility they were predreadnoughts but even if they were they could still harm him. Hipper now shifted his binoculars towards the badly burning British battle cruiser fleeing to the west. He did not think it likely it would survive its fires.
All of 1st Scouting Group was badly damaged. Von der Tann’s survival remained uncertain but otherwise the latest damage reports were guardedly optimistic provided the ships suffered no more damage. With very little ammunition remaining he had no inclination to renew the pursuit of the fleeing British forces.
"Kolberg is the least damaged ship in 2nd Scouting Group, yes?" he asked Raeder.
"That is correct, admiral."
------SMS Pommern 1155 hrs
As Pommern turned sharply to port to evade a torpedo a salvo from Erin scored 3 hits in the vicinity of the secondary battery. Half a minute later there was a secondary explosion followed seconds later by a still more violent explosion.
------HMS Erin 1156 hrs
There were cheers among the bridge crew at the news that one of the enemy battleships had been destroyed. But there were other battleships still firing on Erin. Hits were scored and the range had closed sufficiently that an 11" shell penetrated her middle belt, seriously adding to her flooding. There were also two new fires burning in Erin’s superstructure.
So despite his apparent success Captain Stanley decided to send a wireless message to Admiral Burney asking for assistance.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1157 hrs
A German torpedo boat escorted the massive ocean liner to what has hoped would be a safe position behind 1st Battle Squadron. Admiral Ingenohl’s panic had subsided. The battle about turn appeared to be a success. He therefore paused to view Vaterland as she passed by. He had a brief impulse to salute the liner and its Fenian rebels. He easily resisted the impulse. Ingenohl had a better view than Admiral Jellicoe had been granted. He noticed one thing that was very odd about the liner---her flag. It was green with a yellow symbol etched on it.
------HMS Iron Duke 1158 hrs
Jellicoe’s tension began to subside. It appeared that not only was 3rd Battle Squadron successful in disengaging from the High Seas Fleet but two battle cruisers and some badly damaged cruisers and destroyers would escape as well due to that intervention. There was some other good news as well. Thunderer’s fires turned to be less fierce than they appeared and would soon be extinguished. The flooding caused by torpedo hits to Bellerophon, Marlborough, and Vanguard was under control. Apparently the same was true for Erin, but Jellicoe tried not to think about that difficult situation.
------HMS Marlborough 1201 hrs
It was not that Admiral Cecil Burney was indifferent to the plight of Erin. But he had his own orders and he was not about to deviate them. This earned him some looks from the men on the bridge that made him decidedly uncomfortable. He decided to send a message to Admiral Jellicoe about Erin’s plight. He had an unpleasant hunch what the answer would be.
------SMS Schleswig-Holstein 1203 hrs
A 13.5" AP shell slammed into the barbette of the aft turret. It exploded as it passed through the armor. Flash did not reach the magazine but the turret itself was completely wrecked.
------HMS Iron Duke 1205 hrs
"Going back for Erin will result in the Empire losing the war!" Jellicoe yelled at his staff, esp. Madden.
The chief of staff said nothing. He merely hung his head. Jellicoe continued, "It is time we start turning towards home. The Germans may still try to cut across our line of retreat or attempt a night torpedo attack. Flags! Signal squadrons to turn 8 points to port."
------HMS Erin 1208 hrs
In the distance Schleswig-Holstein burned in several places and was down by the bow but she had not hauled out of line and her remaining main turret continued to fire.
Erin was sinking by the stern. Her steering had jammed again as well. She had no longer had wireless capability. The torpedo boats of the German 2nd Flotilla had merged to make a torpedo attack on her port side. One of the 6" guns, which had been damaged by the cordite fire earlier in the battle had been restored to action. German 45mm torpedoes from both the destroyers and the battleships were headed for the superdreadnought. One of them exploded amidships.
--------10 Downing Street 1217 hrs
"I happen to be in the middle of lunch, Reginald, can’t this wait?" asked Prime Minster Asquith, speaking into the telephone.
------HMS Australia 1302 hrs
There was still a fire in one of the coal bunkers, but it was contained and all the other fires were now finally extinguished. It had been a hard struggle with many sailors burned, but Admiral Patey was feeling confident Australia would make it to port and be worth repairing. But with two turrets destroyed and extensive fire damage he realized it would be a long time in the docks.
------Vaterland 1340 hrs
Jim Creelman did not feel at all well. He had trouble standing for an extended period. His heartbeart was very irregular. His physical symptoms did not spoil the exhilaration he felt. Harry Calahan has been persuaded to allow the reporter to use the liner’s radio for a while. Through it he was now communicating with the Hearst representative at the Associated Press at Berlin. The story he was sending would now be sent across the Atlantic by the powerful German radio station. It would reach Sayville and from there it would go to the front pages of the Hearst newspapers.
------SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm 1415 hrs
The AMC was towing Gneisenau, which had lost all power and still burned. Dresden, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kronprinzessin Cecilie had rejoined the squadron. The wounded sailors had been moved to the ocean liners. George Washington had not been recalled. She had reached Bergen safely and was taking shelter there.
Another German light cruiser had appeared from the southwest a few minutes ago. She was soon identified as the Kolberg. She showed signs of having seen some action recently. Kolberg now transmitted a message by searchlight.
WE ARE HERE TO TAKE YOU HOME FOLLOW US
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1427 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl had been considering his route home for nearly an hour. He announced his decision "The fleet will return home through the Skagerrak,"
------HMS Hibernia 1705 hrs
The Grand Fleet was now heading west for Scapa Flow. Its screening flotillas had lost 9 destroyers and half of the remaining destroyers were seriously damaged. Jellicoe was deeply concerned about a night attack by German torpedo boasts and had now deployed most of his screen to the east and southeast to counter the attack. To the west the screen was decidedly weak. The Grand Fleet encountered one of the U-Boats, which was intended to intercept them on the way to the battle. The U.20 positioned itself to attack the 3rd Battle Squadron, which was about 8 nm ahead of the Grand Fleet, steaming with divisions abreast. The sun had set a few minutes earlier but there was still enough light for the U.20 which fired 2 torpedoes at Hibernia, which led the 2nd Division. One of the torpedoes ran too deep but the struck and exploded amidships. Hibernia sank in 40 minutes.
------Berlin 2015 hrs
For a moment Grand Admiral von Tirpitz was afraid the Kaiser would kiss him. The Kaiser did embrace him ardently with his good arm.
"The war is over, Grand Admiral! The war is over! George will now acknowledge my superiority and ask for our terms. The superiority of our mighty warships, the zeal of our German seamen and the boldness of the strategy I clearly laid out at the very beginning of the war have brought us victory! So stop looking so serious and help me celebrate. Within a week all of Germany will be celebrating their triumph over our enemies."
Tirpitz smiled but inwardly he wondered if this really was the end to the Great War. He sincerely hoped that it was but thought it best to start thinking about what strategies to pursue if it was not.
------HMS Arethusa 2315 hrs
Harwich Force had orders to make a torpedo attack the High Seas Fleet as it returned home. The moon was a waxing crescent and there was some hope it would appear through gaps in the clouds and let Harwich Force attack while the Germans were silhouetted against a setting moon.
There clouds remain dense so the night remained dark. Commodore Tyrwhitt wished very much to attack. He had not been told the results of battle during the day but had been instructed that the Grand Fleet would be far removed from his operation so not to hesitate for fear of damaging a British warship by mistake. One thing clear about his orders was that he was to break off any action well before there was even a hint of dawn in the sky. When day came 6 British and 1 French submarine under Commodore Keyes would be waiting in the Bight for Ingenohl, Hipper and Spee.
------London 2320 hrs
"It is Mr. David Lloyd-George, sir" announced the manservant.
"What, Lloyd-George! Why in Thunder is he calling at this hour?" asked Andrew Bonar Law.
"All he told me, sir, is that something important has happened and he needs to speak with you now."
GERMAN NAVY DEFEAT BRITISH OFF NORWAY
There was a titanic battle between the battle fleets of Britain and Germany near the coast of Norway yesterday. According to James Creelman, a reporter for this newspaper aboard the German ocean liner Vaterland, the German navy has won a decisive victory of the British. In the midst of the battle a courageous band of Irish Americans traveling aboard the Vaterland, overpowered a British boarding party and transmitted vital information via wireless to the German fleet! It is quite possible that this impromptu action was of critical importance in this history making battle. Exact losses by each side are not yet known but this now appears to be the battle that decides the outcome of this most tragic European war.
Americans eagerly await the return of peace.
--NY Journal American, Saturday February 20, 1915
------Friedrich der Grosse 0120 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl examined the latest damage reports. Von der Tann, Gneisenau, Koln, Roon, Rostock and 3 torpedo boats were being towed home. Gneisenau was now just a burned out hulk. Its surviving crew had been evacuated hours ago. If the sea state had been just a little rougher it would most likely have sunk already. But its rudder had jammed around midnight and it had slipped the tow. .
Ingenohl realized she was probably too badly damaged to be worth repairing. Truthfully she had lasted much longer than Ingenohl had expected. She had lasted longer than Hanover, which had despite the heroic efforts of its crew had capsized just before midnight. Gneisenau was now little more than scrap metal and a symbol. Ingenohl was not much for symbols. The British naval officers were fond of raising their cups to toast their ships. Sometimes Germans were that way as well. But to Ingenohl a ship was merely a tool to attain an end—nothing more.
"Sink Gneisenau where she will pose the least hazard to navigation" he brusquely ordered. He did regret a little the loss of needed scrap metal. It was time to get some sleep.
------Alexandria harbor 0835 hrs
The loading of the ANZAC Division, which consisted of a mixture of Australian and New Zealand units, was nearly complete. It was planned for them to join the rest of then CANZAC already in Albania. A cable just arrived from the War Office. Lord Kitchener had ordered an indefinite delay in the departure of the convoy.
------Vaterland, Rostock harbor 1040 hrs
Ingenohl had sent the great Hamburg-Amerika ocean liner ahead of the High Seas Fleet to the port of Rostock escorted by Stettin and 2 torpedo boats. As soon as it had docked Albert Ballin had quickly come aboard. He was immensely relieved to see the ship unharmed by ordinance though a night long celebration by the Fenians had not yet been tidied up by the overwhelmed pursers so the ship was not a tidy as it should be in more than one conspicuous place.
The chief purser though warned Ballin that the ship’s captain was badly shaken. Ballin speculated that this was due to the many hazards Vaterland had experienced the prior day and so had some measure of sympathy for the captain. He had also heard that the Captain had sustained some bruises and wondered how that had come to pass. Ballin now met with the Captain in his cabin.
"I do not recall your flag ever flying on one of my ships before," was Ballin’s opening remark, hoping to defuse tension with some levity.
"I can’t wait to lower that abomination and then I will burn it myself after I wipe my ass with it," answered the Captain with loathing in his voice.
Ballin was surprised by the seaman’s bitterness towards his rescuers, "Now, now, that would seem to be an extremely poor way to demonstrate gratitude towards the brave people who rescued you from British internment."
"Gratitude!" bellowed the Captain, "These Irishmen are a bunch of raving lunatics. Their leader is a vicious killer and deserves the most painful form of execution we still practice."
"Hmm. On the contrary Admiral von Bachmann has suggested giving him a medal."
------Mount Lovcen 1105 hrs
Another Austrian reconnaissance plane lazily circled overhead. It was too high for small arms to threaten it. The CANZAC’s had seen more Austrian planes than they had expected. They themselves had only a pair sea planes left behind by Empress in Durazzo harbor as air assets and one of them was currently having engine trouble.
General Arthur Currie escorted General Birdwood as they toured the Montenegrin fortifications at Mount Lovcen. The ability to speak French was a doubly useful trait—not only did many senior Montenegrin officers speak French but there was also a French artillery detachment located at Mount Lovcen. They had been deployed during the fall and had tried to disrupt Austrian naval activity at Cattaro.
"Mount Lovcen is the Gibraltar of the Adriatic," a Montenegrin junior officer acting as their guide proudly proclaimed in French.
Currie translated the remark to Birdwood, who smiled amiably then uttered in low voice, "I am always amazed that everyone always compares their favorite fortress to Gibraltar. But nobody ever calls Gibraltar the Mount Lovcen of the Mediterranean now do they do?’
Currie chuckled at that jest but not too loudly for fear of offending the Montenegrins.
Birdwood then looked down at the road that torturously snaked its way down Mount Lovcen to Cattaro. "I assume that must be the main road to Cattaro. Ask our friend here to confirm that and also ask him if there is any others."
Currie spoke in French to the Montenegrin officer who replied. Currie then turned to Birdwood, "He says yes it is the road to Cattaro and no there is no other direct route. There are a few very indirect paths through the mountains that men familiar with mountains can use but only this road is suitable for wagons."
"That road looks to be bloody suicide by day," remarked Birdwood. Currie did not like the way he said "by day."
"I say it looks like it would be suicide either day or night, sir."
Birdwood sighed and gazed intensely at the slithering road, "Ah, if those were the bloody Germans down there I would be forced to agree with you, Arthur. But the intelligence I have been provided says that the enemy we face falls into one of three categories. First, there are the predominantly Austrian units that have good morale but lack the firepower and combat skills of the Germans. Then there are the units of the melancholic Magyars. They too have a good morale but are another step below the Austrians when it comes to tactical skills. Lastly there are the many units that are neither Austrian nor Magyar and have very bad morale and still worse combat skills. I have been led to believe that our enemy at Cattaro falls into the third group. Against such a 3rd rate unit a night assault down this road is worth a chance."
Currie made no retort. He had an inkling about what was going to come next.
"I want you to take your brigade down the road after last light. There is sufficient cloud cover not to wait until the moon sets. Tomorrow there will be a combined assault by the rest of Canadian Division as well the Australians and some Montenegrin units. I hope to take the naval base before the Austrians can reinforce it."
Currie looked at the road some more and grimaced, "I must go on record sir and state my belief that this operation is ill advised. Even at night the men will be too exposed on that road."
Birdwoord frowned slightly arching an eyebrow. He took his time replying and Currie thought there was a chance he would change his mind, but eventually Birdwood after a deep sigh made his answer, "Duly noted, Brigadier but my decision stands. If it gets too rough, mind you, then I will not think ill of you if you find it necessary to beat a hasty retreat. But we simply must give it a try. Is that clear?"
Currie’s mouth felt dry as he answered professionally, "Perfectly clear, sir."
------Scapa Flow 1620 hrs
Admiral Madden found himself deeply impressed by Admiral Jellicoe’s selfless devotion to duty. They both knew there would soon be another commander for what was left of the Grand Fleet. The two of them had discussed this in private on the way back. They both thought it likely that other heads would roll first—starting with Prime Minister Asquith. While the new government was taking shape it was likely Jellicoe would remain. Once the new Cabinet was resolved there would be a search for Jellicoe’s replacement.
This prospect would have wilted many a naval officer into a pudding of self pity. Jellicoe remained a paragon of stoicism. He had always done what he thought was best for the Empire. Now that he faced disgrace he remained much more concerned with the needs of King and country than his personal ambition.
Yesterday the Royal Navy had lost Benbow, Agincourt, Superb, Erin, Hercules, Collingwood, Indefatigable, Invincible, Indomitable, Hibernia, Warrior and 9 destroyers. Upon docking at Scapa Flow, Jellicoe had made a quick personal inspection of each of the capital ships, while demanding a brief written damage report from each ship’s captain. He now discussed his greatest concern with Admiral Madden.
"All of our capital ships—every single one of them—should be sent to the docks for repair. Iron Duke it turns out is apparently the least damaged of them but even she requires some repair. But to send all of them into docks is too dangerous."
"Are you worried, sir that the Germans might try something while the repairs are underway? Surely they are going to be out of action for at least two months from the damage they suffered yesterday."
"They should be, Charles, but one of the things that has me deeply disturbed about yesterday’s engagement is that our shells did not appear to hurt the German warships anywhere nearly as much as I expected. At least two of their battle cruisers should have sunk before our eyes. I think at least one did afterwards but nevertheless this has me worried that maybe half their battleships did not look to be that badly damaged and could be patched up in a week or so and sent against us. Perhaps even as a covering force for an invasion."
"A most disturbing thought. What then do you propose, sir?"
"I see both of the battle cruisers and 5 of the battleships as needing to go into the docks immediately. On the other hand Iron Duke, Emperor of India, Colossus, Temeraire and St. Vincent can afford to delay their repairs for a while, though Temeraire is really borderline. Queen Elizabeth and Neptune should be joining the fleet in a week. That will give us 7 dreadnoughts immediately available in case there is an urgent need—such as an invasion or an attempt to cut the lines of communication to the BEF."
"But five of which will not be fully effective, esp. Temeraire which had a turret destroyed."
"Understood, Charles. Still some useful interim repairs can be done while the fleet is at anchor. There are going to be far fewer sweeps for the next two months. When the repairs are finished on the ships we’re now sending into the docks, we will then start sending the less severely damaged ships in for repair starting with Temeraire."
"This staggered approach could well mean the repairs will not likely be completed before the end of June, sir"
"There is no avoiding that as far as I can see. The High Seas Fleet is basically a sortie fleet. They can pick and choose when they make their next sortie. We do not have that luxury. We need to maintain at least some presence at sea at all times."
"But will 7 dreadnoughts be enough, sir?"
"By themselves, no. But if they are backed up with the predreadnoughts of both 3rd Battle Squadron and 5th Battle Squadron as well it will be. Channel Fleet as it currently exists will probably need to be dissolved. Agamennon must be recalled from the Mediterranean immediately."
------Kiel naval base 1910 hrs
The 3rd Battle Squadron had just completed docking. 1st Battle Squadron’s docking would be complete in a few minutes. The badly battered 2nd Squadron was still more than an hour away as was 1st Scouting Group and the surviving ships of Spee’s Asiatic Squadron.
Night had fallen. Every light on the base had been brought into action on this auspicious occasion. Underneath their glare Kaiser Wilhelm was impatiently waiting at the quayside, driving Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, Admiral von Mueller, Admiral von Bachmann and Feldmarschal von Moltke crazy.
"Oh, look, Alfred! Look there he is now!" exclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm excitedly pointing with his good hand. Kaiser Wilhelm ran off towards Grand Admiral Ingenohl like an excited little boy.
Ingenohl had not gotten much sleep in the last two days. His reactions were slow. He was momentarily worried that Kaiser Wilhelm in his excited dash might bowl him over. He stepped aside awkwardly.
Kaiser Wilhelm stopped short though. He was flushed and panting from both the exercise and his excitement. "Your Majesty---" said Ingenohl making a deep bow.
Wilhelm cut him off slobbering, "Grand Admiral von Ingenohl, do you realize what you did yesterday? You have won the war! My brilliant strategy and your tactical genius have destroyed the British completely!"
"Is that true, Admiral?" a hopeful Moltke asked Tirpitz, "Have we really knocked Britain out of the war?"
Tirpitz’s attitude was not as ebullient and Moltke would have expected. He turned to the feldmarschal and shrugged, "Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. We can certainly hope so. What the Hell! I am not clairvoyant—perhaps you should ask Rudolf Steiner, yes?"
Moltke’s grin evaporated at Tirpitz’s unwarranted sarcasm directed at his anthroposophical beliefs.
"There is going to be a meeting of the Admiralstab Monday morning," announced Tirpitz abruptly, "Gustav did you hear that?"
"Yes, Grand Admiral, I heard," replied Bachmann with some annoyance as Tirpitz had no authority to order the meeting.
Turning again to Moltke, Tirpitz said, "I am inviting you to attend this meeting, Generalfeldmarschal. It is important to the interests of Germany that you do."
Moltke felt more than a little irritation at Tirpitz’s presumptive tone. However he did not want to pick a fight at this moment so he answered, "If it is that important, I will find time, Grand Admiral."
"Yes it is that important, Helmuth," Tirpitz turned again to Admiral Bachmann," Gustav! When the All Highest is done heaping copious honors and prizes on Grand Admiral von Ingenohl, you and he will see to it that there is a preliminary inspection of First Scouting Group, First Battle Squadron and Third Battle Squadron. I want tentative estimates of likely repair time for all our battle cruisers and dreadnoughts ready for Monday’s meeting. Tentative does not mean ‘wild guess’, mind you."
"Monday morning! That is not a reasonable deadline, Grand Admiral!"
"I am not being unreasonable! We shall schedule the meeting for 0900 hrs. Von Ingenohl looks very tired to me to me. It is likely that Hipper, Lans and Scheer will be equally exhausted so you, my dear Gustav are the one who will need to work through this busy night. And tomorrow night as well if that’s what it takes. It can be done. It will be done."
.Bachmann cast a beseeching look at Admiral Mueller, who merely raised his eyebrows and shook his head as if to say, "Leave me out of this."
A band began to play.
------Paris 2015 hrs
President Raymond Poincare had summoned Premiere Rene Viviani, Minster for Foreign Affairs, Theophile Delcasse, Minister of Justice, Aristide Briand, Minister of Marine Jean Augagneur and Alexandre Millerand, the Minister of War to an emergency meeting.
"The British have not yet acknowledged the full extent of their losses," said Augagneur," but they are not denying the fact that what is being called the Battle of Utsire was another clear naval victory for the Germans."
"We were led to believe that after Dogger Bank the Royal Navy still had a small but significant margin of superiority over the Germans. So this latest defeat must mean the German navy has now attained superior strength," remarked Poincare.
"Yes, Mr. President, but we do not yet know the full extent of the German losses. Their newly won margin of superiority could well be a threadbare abstraction. Likely many of their ships were heavily damaged meaning they may be unable to make effective use for their advantage for at least two months maybe more."
"If the British negotiate a separate peace with the Germans it will be ruinous," said Poincare looking at both Viviani. Then he turned to Delcasse, "Who do you see as the new British prime minister?’
"Hmm. My best guess is that there are three possibilities—David Lloyd-George, Andrew Bonar Law and former Prime Minister Balfour."
"I have no trouble with either of the Conservatives. Indeed they may be able to turn things around, esp. at their navy. On the other hand I distrust David Lloyd George. The man was regarded as a despicable pacifist when the war started. Considerable persuasion was required before he came around. Now he might be tempted to turn around once again."
"What you say is true, Mr. President, but there is some potential problems with the Conservatives---for one thing they are Unionists and that could catalyze discontent in Ireland," replied Delcasse.
"Hmph! I remember back in July that the crisis in Ireland would distract Great Britain so much that they would stay out of the continental war. That prediction proved false. The expected explosion in Ireland never occurred. As far as I am concerned Ireland is a chimera."
Delcasse made no reply. Viviani spoke up, "Besides the British there is the problem of the currently neutral nations. While we now must worry about Italy, Rumania and perhaps Sweden, the most obvious situation is the Bulgarians. Is there no hope remaining that they can be dissuaded from joining the Central Power?"
Delcasse frowned and shrugged, "There were some clear signs that the British expedition to Albania was giving them some pause. If it can still achieve some significant triumph and we can persuade the Serbs to make concessions we may still keep them out," answered Delcasse.
"In that case, I think it would be fruitful if we contributed at least one division to the Albanian expedition as speedily as possible. Not only will it help the expedition’s original goals but it will also make it harder for the British to withdraw," interjected Briand.
"I would point out that General Joffre remains steadfastly opposed to that idea." Millerand commented, "as he was to your suggestions about Salonika late last year."
"And that is the main reason I have not previously approved it," replied Viviani, "I have the greatest respect for General Joffre and what he has accomplished, but now I feel that even if he remains opposed we must act irregardless."
------Kiel naval base 2040 hrs
Vizadmiral Maximilian Graf von Spee wiped away his tears. He was in a state not much different from shock. His voyage had started so very far away. For a while he thought the war would reach a quick climax and end without him. He would then bring his warships home traveling through waters made safe by the triumph of the German Army. That hope had faded in September and largely disappeared by the time of his victory at Coronel. After that he had slinked his way through the oceans like some petty thief. He had with each sunrise wondered if the day ahead would be the one when the superior enemy force would arrive to destroy him.
After a while a transformation had taken place. The thought that each day was his last had irreversibly altered his perspective on life. He had lost Scharnhorst and Gneisenau but he had managed to bring the 3 light cruisers, an AMC and 3 large ocean liners home to Germany. He did not see this as a sign of his own greatness. It was a simply manifestation of Providence.
Ahead of him some important men awaited him. He hoped they would not see him cry.
"But Vizadmiral von Spee, why are you crying?" asked a concerned Kaiser Wilhelm.
He had not succeeded. "I cry for joy, Your Majesty. My joy at being home at last," Spee answered. It was not a lie but it was not completely true either.
------Mount Lovcen 2205 hrs
The Canadian 2nd Brigade wormed its way down the road leading to Cattaro. They had managed to advance further than Currie had anticipated. But now a flare could be seen light the sky. It was followed by another, and suddenly there were searchlights lathing the column of troops. A machine gun erupted, then another.
Currie knew what he had to do and wasted no time. He blew his whistle then yelled as loud as he could, "Pull back! All units pull back immediately." The Canadians began a hurried but orderly retreat. Soon there came the ominous whistles of incoming artillery followed by explosions. Not very accurate at first but they got better. The Canadians did not panic but withdrew in good order up the road—that is except for the lead company, which was pinned down by machineguns and artillery. Its men left the road and took shelter in a nearby defile.
Canadian 18 pounder field guns and 4.5" howitzers now erupted to provide a barrage to cover the withdrawal. The retreating Canadians did not panic. The Austrians failed to mount a pursuit. But the enemy artillery and machine guns continued to pin down the lead Canadian company.
-----Mount Lovcen 0915 hrs
Despite the setback with the Canadian 2nd Brigade, General Birdwood was continuing with the other elements of his attack. The rest of the 1st Canadian Division along with 1st Australian Division tried to make their way through the mountains assisted by Montenegrin guides. The Canadian field artillery along with the French artillery detachment made sporadic bombardments of the Austrian positions.
Now a wireless message had arrived from Lord Kitchener.
DEPARTURE OF ANZAC DIVISION DELAYED ENTIRE ALBANIAN MISSION BEING REEXAMINED DUE TO UTSIRE AVOID ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ENEMY BE READY TO EVACUATE QUICKLY IF SO ORDERED
"Utsire? Where and what in bloody blazes is Utsire?"
BRITISH NAVY KILL AMERICAN CITIZENS!
An unarmed German ocean liner was deliberately attacked and damaged by the British navy during the naval battle of Utsire Friday. Two American born passengers, Alice Frotscher and her baby daughter, Inga were killed when a British cruiser shelled the Kaiser Wilhelm II. Despite having a powerful force of German warships as legitimate targets nearby, this cruiser decided that a defenseless ocean liner was more to its liking. Americans are rightfully outraged at this act of barbarism and demand a swift accounting from His Majesty’s government.
As far as the battle itself the British government announced yesterday that it had lost 6 dreadnoughts, 3 battle cruisers, an armored cruiser and 9 destroyers during the Battle of Utsire. In an exclusive interview Grand Admiral von Ingenohl revealed to Jim Creelman that the Germans lost only 2 predreadnought battleships, 2 armored cruisers and 7 torpedo boats, demonstrating once again that the dashing German Admiral is the Nelson of our times.
-----NY Journal American Sunday February 21, 1915
-----Mount Lovcen 0915 hrs
Despite the setback with the Canadian 2nd Brigade, General Birdwood was continuing with the other elements of his attack. The rest of the 1st Canadian Division along with 1st Australian Division tried to make their way through the mountains assisted by Montenegrin guides. The Canadian field artillery along with the French artillery detachment made sporadic bombardments of the Austrian positions.
Now a wireless message had arrived from Lord Kitchener.
DEPARTURE OF ANZAC DIVISION HAS BEEN POSTPONED ENTIRE ALBANIAN MISSION BEING REEXAMINED DUE TO UTSIRE AVOID ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ENEMY BE READY TO EVACUATE QUICKLY IF SO ORDERED
"Utsire? Where and what in bloody blazes is Utsire?" thundered Birdwood.
------Wilhelmshaven 1035 hrs
Grand Admiral von Ingenohl and Grand Admiral von Tirpitz decided they would briefly meet with Harry Calahan. Kaiser Wilhelm had also expressed an interest in meeting the remarkable Fenian, but after debriefing Vaterland’s captain, Albert Ballin had passed on some serious misgivings about that idea.
Ingenohl did not speak English while Calahan’s knowledge of German remained too limited for a conversation. So an interpreter was required. Both of the admirals shook hands with the American.
"Holy shit! That’s some beard you have there, Big Admiral," Calahan remarked to Tirpitz. When translated Tirpitz scowled and replied only with a terse, "Danke."
"Mr. Harry Calahan, as the commanding officer of the High Seas Fleet, I want to thank you personally for the extremely brave action you led yesterday. The information you provided proved critical in our defeat of the British Navy. Germany is forever in your debt. Rest assured, we will take good care of you," said Ingenohl with conviction.
After translation Harry smiled and answered, "You are most certainly welcome, Big Admiral. T’ain’t nothin’ After all Germany and Ireland have a common foe—those fuckin’ English pricks if you know what I mean."
The interpreter had a little trouble with that one but managed to convey the overall message. "Yes, I think I do. Uh, very aptly put if I might say. Well then, Mr. Calahan, as a token of our gratitude, His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm has approved awarding you a prestigious medal, an Iron Cross 2nd class," replied Ingenohl.
"Too bad Kaiser Willy ain’t here himself. I would sure like to shake his hand. An Iron Cross, eh? Oh, I do like the sound of that. Very German sounding—in a good sort of way. To be frank, me darlings, I was little worried. One of the German Americans on board Vaterland told me he was sure you would award me some damn French medal. Why the hell would I want a stinking French medal? I told him Anton that he must be fuckin’ crazy but he kept on insisting that’s what I deserved. I was sure he was insulting me so I ended up beating the crap out of him."
The interpreter had some trouble again and when it was done it was not completely clear to neither Ingenohl nor Tirpitz. They looked at each and then with simultaneous understanding suddenly laughed as one
"Hey, what’s so damn funny, you Krauts?" asked a confused Harry Calahan with a touch of menace in his voice.
"Oh, it’s nothing, Mr. Calahan. Something in the translation struck us both as funny. That’s all. Rest assured we have no intention of awarding you a ‘French’ medal."
Harry glowered at Tirpitz who was still snickering. After a few seconds he reminded himself that Germans could be just plain weird at times. He shrugged then spoke in a softer voice, "Well then, Herr Big Admiral, just when are you planning to do it?"
"Uh, do what Mr. Calahan?"
"Why liberate Ireland from the damn English, of course!"
Ingenohl gaped upon hearing the translation. He shook his head and then he sputtered, "Uh, well I don’t know where you heard that—"
Tirpitz interrupted Ingenohl, "--plans are in the works."
The interpreter wasn’t sure what to do. He looked carefully at Tirpitz and from the look in his eyes decided to translate only his remarks, not Ingenohl’s. Calahan paused before replying, "Oh, nothing more specific than that? Listen, I know you officers value secrecy. I can appreciate that, but listen boys you know you can trust Harry here. I did after all save your fuckin’ asses the other day."
The interpreter found it difficult to translate that and not cause offense. He did the best he could.
"Uh, we have nothing further to say at this time," extemporized Ingenohl. After Calahan departed Tirpitz remarked to Ingenohl, "I can see now why Ballin did not want the All-Highest exposed to that man."
Ingenohl nodded, "Yes indeed that could have well have been disastrous. A most uncivilized person—even though I remain grateful for his intervention. Why, he even managed to intimidate you into pretending that there are plans to liberate Ireland."
There was a strange look in Tirpitz’s eyes as he replied "Ah, but I was not fabricating, Frederich.. It is only a preliminary study, but those plans do exist. It is something von Moltke ordered back in January. He tried in vain to keep me from finding out about it. He even gave it a name-- Operation Unicorn."
"Unbelievable! What a ridiculous waste of staff officers!"
Tirpitz hesitated before replying. He made a strange facial expression Ingenohl could not fathom. Finally Tirpitz shrugged and made his reply, "That was my initial reaction."
------HQ BEF First Amy 1655 hrs
News of the naval battle had reached General Haig late yesterday. In a very cold abstract way he took it as bad news but did linger on it. The casualties suffered by the brave sailors of Royal Navy never entered his mind. The general had ordered a fresh series of attacks. His staff thought he did it to keep the men from dwelling on the naval defeat and becoming disheartened. But that really wasn’t Haig’s motivation.. He had finally accumulated sufficient artillery shells for another attack. He had some intelligence that the infamous dreaded 6th Bavarian Division was sorely under strength. He let the 28th Division have another go at them. It was a simple as that.
It seemed like a good idea yesterday, but the reports which had filtered back so far today indicated that the Bavarians were still capable of putting up a stiff fight. Still Haig remained optimistic and had approved continuation of the attack during the night.
"General Haig, there is a telephone call from General French."
Haig took the call, "General Haig speaking, sir."
"This is General French. I have just received a cable from Lord Kitchener. He is instructing us to shut down the offensive."
"Oh, that is too bad sir. I still think the Germans were on the verge of breaking. Does this have anything to do with the recent unfortunate naval battle?"
"Field Marshal Kitchener did not say. The connection may be somewhat indirect, Douglas."
"I’m afraid I’m not following you, sir."
"Politics, Douglas—ever hear of it?"
"Why yes, of course, sir."
"Yes, I imagine you have.. Want to place any bets on who is going to be the next Prime Minister, eh?"
"I am sure we will find out in good time, sir."
Haig heard what sounded like a brief laugh on the other end of the line, "That’s one way to put it. As far as the naval situation I have received communication from the Admiralty cautioning that a major sortie by the Germans into the Channel is now much more likely. They suggest we not run down our stockpile of ammunition because the flow of supplies could experience another interruption. "
-----Mount Lovcen 1805 hrs
After receiving Kitchener’s message, General Birdwood had terminated CANZAC’s attack. Reports had come back that neither the Canadians nor Australians had been making much progress infiltrating through the mountains when they recalled.
There was some sporadic exchange of artillery fire throughout the day. The company of the 1st British Columbia Regiment trapped in the defile received some of that. They had some cover but the shells bursting on the rocks generated splinters, which resulted in wounds esp. to the face. Later in the day a few snipers harassed the trapped Canadians as well. Birdwood and Alderson expected the Austrians would wait until dark to overrun their men. At dusk they shelled the spots that looked to be jumping off points for this attack.
At last light Currie dispatched runners to make sure the trapped men knew to retire up the road. There was some moonlight for a while but the runners still managed to reach the defile only coming under fire towards the end. The expected AustroHungarian infantry assault did not materialize. When the Austrian searchlights came on there was concentrated shelling by the Canadian artillery. The lights soon went out and the Canadian company emerged from its haven and retired up the slithering road in small groups. Initially it went well but eventually a flare lit the sky and first one then a second Austrian Maxim commenced firing. Austrian artillery eventually joined in as well and a searchlight came on again—soon drawing renewed shelling. However enemy infantry declined to pursue and the men—some on improvised crutches and a few badly wounded men carried by their mates hobbled their way up the winding road. Machinegun fire and shrapnel forced several groups to leave the road and temporarily take cover but the fire moved on and the men struggled their way up the mountain.
Currie came down more than halfway with some medics to meet them. A small rock sliver churned up by the enemy wounded him in the right forearm. He yelled bloody hell for a few minutes but persisted in assisting his trapped men back to safety. It took a while but they made it. Only 11 men had died but 52 had been wounded including 5 men who lost an eye.
Wilhelmshaven 0900 hrs Monday Feb 22, 1915
The Admiralstab was meeting with Feldmarschal von Moltke as a distinguished guest. Admiral von Bachmann distributed carbon copies of the report Admiral von Tirpitz had demanded. He summarized the results:
"Despite the large number of shell hits damage to the battle squadrons appears surprisingly moderate. Konig and Kronprinz were the most heavily damaged of the dreadnoughts. Their repairs are expected to take about 10 weeks. Repairs on Kaiserin and Thuringen are expected to take 8 weeks. Markgraf, Kaiser, Friedrich der Grosse and Oldenburg are expected to take 6 weeks. *Grosser Kurfurst, Konig Albert, Helgoland and Posen only 4 weeks. Rheinland was very lightly damaged and can be repaired in at most 2 weeks. Lastly Nassau was not damaged at all."
"On the other hand the damage to 1st Scouting Group was more severe. Repairs on Seydlitz and Von der Tann are expected to take 12 weeks. Derfflinger 10 weeks. Moltke 8 weeks and Blucher 6 weeks."
"So this means a major sortie is out of the question until early May and then we would have a weak scouting element," remarked Tirpitz.
"Pardon me," spoke Ingenohl, "but why are you talking about another sortie? The war is won, Alfred. The British will sue for peace and the Russians and French would be fools to try to carry on without them. This is what Kaiser Wilhelm believes and I am in complete agreement!."
Tirpitz turned a withering look but it had little effect. Tirpitz realized that as a consequence of his two victories, Ingenohl was not as easily intimidated as before. "Unfortunately it is popes and not monarchs who are blessed with infallibility, Frederich. That the British could now choose to leave the war is a distinct possibility. But there are two other possible outcomes that I see as just as likely. One is that they will stubbornly persist in this war hoping their naval construction program and the expansion of their army will eventually bring them victory. The third is they enter into negotiations appearing to be eager to accommodate but are really just stalling hoping to mesmerize us into inactivity while they build and otherwise prepare."
"Caution is always good, but I still think you are being overly pessimistic in thinking so soon about a next sortie. The British surely must realize they are defeated," said Ingenohl.
"Are they? There is more to naval power than dreadnoughts. There are the predreadnoughts and cruisers to consider. They also have certain geographic advantages that are now becoming painfully obvious to us."
"But predreadnoughts are of such limited value—we just learned that the hard way with Hanover and Pommern!"
"Oh and then why did you turn away from the British predreadnoughts?"
"You have talked to Admiral von Scheer, I see. I am still not completely convinced that it was predreadnoughts crossing my ‘T’"
Bachmann wished to defuse the growing tension between Ingenohl and Tirpitz. "If the British mean to prevail through their shipbuilding program they are going to be most reluctant to offer battle. What will be the mission of our sortie? Surely you are not considering an invasion of England?"
Tirpitz turned to Moltke, "Hmm. I think our visitor can clarify that better than I. Feldmarschal would you care to elaborate on the latest study."
Moltke knew this was not the main reason Tirpitz had asked his attendance—which he suspected dealt mainly with the allocation of men and materials to repair the damaged warships. Still he was prepared to answer this question and did, "Yes, Grand Admiral I’d be happy to. With the capture of the Channel Ports possibilities were opened up for an invasion of England that did not exist previously. A group was told to look into this and has produced a plan called Operation Dante for an English invasion. It envisioned three phases. In the first phase 4 regular infantry divisions land at beaches in Kent. After establishing a beachhead they seize Folkestone, Dover and Ramsgate. In the next phase, 6 regular infantry and 2 cavalry divisions are to be landed at these ports along with 5 battalions of foot artillery. This army will then advance towards London. It is assumed that the British army has shipped all their mobile heavy artillery to France and the field artillery of the defending Territorial Force divisions are mostly obsolete pieces. In the 3rd phase 2 reserve divisions are landed along with siege artillery. London is to be captured with 4 weeks of the initial landing."
"Are the divisions specified in this plan currently available?"
"They most definitely are not."
"And even if they were do you feel this is a realistic plan? Leave aside the purely naval aspects."
"I do not. Suitable transport cannot be assembled on short notice for a force this large. Furthermore the army is extremely unprepared for amphibious warfare with the partial exception of the Naval Division, which has been getting some amphibious training in case we wanted to use it in the Baltic later this year. No other division is even remotely prepared to make an opposed landing. The casualties for the landing force are going to be severe. While they try to take the ports the British can easily cordon them off with a trench system. The previously mentioned assumptions about British artillery in England are highly dubious. Trying to breakout from the beachhead will be like feeding our troops into a sausage machine."
"Is there any reason to believe this undertaking would be any easier in May?"
"On the contrary, it would give us time to train and assemble transports but it would require even more divisions. This is because the first group of what the British call their ‘New Army"’ divisions should be fully equipped and trained by May. He can also expect them to enhance their fortification of the vulnerable coastal areas and will certainly have heavy artillery batteries available."
"So your conclusion is that an invasion of England is actually infeasible even if the High Seas Fleet controls the sea lanes?"
"Yes, it is."
Ingenohl breathed a sigh of relief. Invading England was almost as stupid as that liberation of Ireland nonsense Calahan had blathered about. Bachmann then spoke up, "None of this is in any way surprising. I assume you have more realistic plans for us to consider? Bombardment of coastal cities, perhaps?"
Tirpitz shook his head, "We should anticipate the British laying as many defensive mine fields as they can in the next 3 months. Combined with submarine patrols and increased coastal artillery the risks we face in such an operation will be greatly magnified. And even if we escape serious loss the damage we inflict will not be decisive."
"Well, what then? Raid their blockading squadron again?"
"That option certainly is tempting but it would require 1st Scouting Group to be completely repaired. It has some risks too as our flotillas lack the range to reach the patrol lines. The bottom line is that I do not know what our best course of action is going to be. I am open to considering novel plans. Feldmarschal, I confess that I am even willing to consider Unicorn. I therefore strongly recommend increase the staff studying that operation—you should reassign any working on Dante to Unicorn. Furthermore—"
Bachmann had never heard of Unicorn and merely looked confused. Ingenohl though remembered it from the prior day and his blood ran cold. He dared to interrupt Tirpitz, "--What! Unicorn! You cannot possibly be serious!"
------London 1510 hrs
David Lloyd-George was meeting with Andrew Bonar Law and Edward Carson. Bonar Law got straight to the point, "Can you deliver the votes, David?"
"Yes, I can make you the new Prime Minister, if we can come to a satisfactory agreement."
"Excellent! What is your first topic?"
The Welsh Wizard smiled, "It is something the three of us have discussed in the past. I want there to be a War Committee consisting of just the three of us. If we all agree on a course of action then it is decided. Only if we fail to reach a consensus or if there is a need to a wider range of opinion does it go before the Cabinet."
Law nodded and said, "Yes, we indeed have discussed this possibility. Something needs to be done to simplify decision making. Herbert’s so called War Council was way too unwieldy."
"I could not agree more," said Carson, "but nevertheless I foresee criticism that having only three people deciding policy is going to the opposite extreme."
"I am hearing it already in my own party," answered Lloyd-George, "but there is such a grave sense of urgency as a result of the latest naval debacle that it can be discounted. The MP’s are scared witless and feel something drastic is necessary. I think opposition to the idea of a small War Committee will evaporate if we manage to turn things around."
"Oh, there is going to be some disappointment amongst the Cabinet members excluded from policy making is going to persist no matter what. Despite its decreased importance we need to work out the details of the new Cabinet. I have no problem with you remaining at the Exchequer as long as Edward here is the new First Lord and a Conservative replaces me as Home Secretary. Oh, and Smith will be the new Attorney General."
"That is all agreeable. There are however, a few items my fellow Liberals insist on."
"Kitchener and Grey must remain. Mind you, the former is definitely contrary to my own inclination."
"All three of us are amply aware both of Lord Kitchener’s many shortcomings and his blasted popularity with the populace," remarked Carson.
"I will hold my nose and agree to both," said Bonar Law, "Anything else?"
Lloyd-George hesitated briefly, made his best disarming smile then said, "I’m afraid that Birrell must remain as well"
Bonar Law gaped dumbfounded. He rose from his chair and thundered, "No, David, no! Birrell simply must go! He is totally unacceptable. How dare you---"
Carson stood up as well. Lloyd-George expected him to explode too. Instead Carson reached over and gripped Law’s arm and pleaded, "Andrew, please. Our country needs you at 10 Downing and myself at the Admiralty. Let David at least explain his position."
Lloyd-George exhaled deeply and nodded gratefully to Carson, "Thank you, First Lord. The long and short of it is that the one issue that has my fellow Liberals hesitating in coming to this arrangement is Ireland. They worry than you will try to wreck Home Rule. They see keeping Birrell as a sign that you accept the legal status of Home Rule."
Bonar Law at this moment very much wanted to admit, "But I do not accept Home Rule!" Instead he exchanged glances with Carson. Finally he muttered, "I do not like this at all."
"Neither do I, Andrew," commented Carson, "but I am forced to admit it does make some sense. While we both strongly disagree with Birrell over policy I will concede that the man is a capable administrator. Also I would point out that his wife is believed to be on death’s door. If we sack him at this time we will be portrayed in the press as callous."
"Yes, that is certainly a consideration," added Lloyd-George.
Bonar Law shook his head and stared at Carson, "I never thought I would hear you come to Birrell’s defense, Edward."
"Birrell may resign rather than serve under you, Andrew," remarked Carson.
Law thought that over and looked at Lloyd-George, "But I suppose your fellow Liberals will do their utmost to convince him to stay on."
"Yes, they will," answered Lloyd-George. What he failed to add was that he had gladly promised to lead the Liberal delegation that would call on Birrell. He also promised to call on Arthur Henderson and try to persuade him not to resign as it was feared that would cause the Labour Party to drift towards the antiwar faction of Ramsay McDonald.
"In that case, can we reach a compromise along the following lines?" suggested Carson, "Birrell remains as Chief Secretary, but the authority of the Viceroy is reemphasized and raised again to Cabinet status."
Eyeing Bonar Law warily Carson answered, "Yes, Edward. That is good thinking. We can proceed along those lines."
Lloyd-George detected a lack of enthusiasm accompanying Bonar Law’s lat comment. He feared that he still might change his mind and insist on Birrell’s removal. Lloyd-George thought it best to distract him. "I heard just this morning that Lord Kitchener has ordered the ANZAC Division to remain put at Alexandria."
"What!" yelled Carson, "are you certain of this, David?"
"It comes from a reliable source."
"This does not surprise me in the slightest, Edward," remarked Law, "Lord Kitchener never did like your plan. He sees the current crisis as an opportunity to terminate it."
"My guess is he will argue that the CANZAC’s should be withdrawn to England to guard against invasion," Lloyd –George speculated.
"Which is utter poppycock!" thundered Carson, "I am completely certain that the Germans suffered more losses than they are admitting and those warships which succeeded in limping their wretched way home will be out of action for at least 3 months. During that period it is imperative that we see things through in Albania. It still has a splendid chance to shift the dynamics of the war in our favor.. If however we pull out then it will proclaim to all the world that our Great Empire is in retreat. Starting with Bulgaria the neutrals will turn on us."
"As soon as I takeover I will see to it the ANZAC division is dispatched immediately."
"The sooner the better!" exclaimed Carson, "I still find it insufferable that Kitchener would stoop to such antics! If anything we should be looking to further reinforce the expedition--perhaps an Indian brigade. And we should make another attempt to interest the French."
------Berlin 1910 hrs
At the offices of the Associated Press, Jim Creelman worked feverishly, turning out stories for the Hearst newspapers. He had worked nonstop since they had arrived at Rostock. He had felt increasingly ill as he worked. Not a few people had inquired if he was sick. Creelman deflected their concerns—sometimes politely and sometimes brusquely. .
Creelman discarded a half consumed cigar and quickly lit up another. He had in recent years given up smoking cigars on the advice of more than one doctor. But now in his excitement the old habit returned. Vaterland had brought back a splendid treasure of the finest cigars from Tampa and Cuba. The Germans had been willing to let Creelman have his pick. Despite the tremor in his hand and his shortness of breath he managed to enjoy the cigar through sheer will power.
He put a new sheet of paper in his typewriter. He hit a single keystroke and then collapsed unconscious. He was rushed to a nearby German hospital.
------Sofia 2105 hrs
Tsar Ferdinand asked Premier Vasol Radoslavov to meet with him and Crown Prince Boris in private. The Premier took a guess as to what was behind the summons. "Has Your Majesty reached a decision as to the proposed alliance with the Central Powers?" he asked.
Tsar Ferdinand tapped his lips pensively, "There remains some issues to resolve but it is now clear the direction I will go. As you know very well, Vasol the daring British expedition to Albania was causing us considerable concern. But now there comes news of another humiliating defeat suffered by the British Navy—what are they calling it?"
"Uh, I believe it is called the Battle of Ustire, Your Majesty. I do hope I am pronouncing that correctly. Is your intuition then that this event it will compel the British to negotiate their way out of the war?"
"I think it might even though the Entente representatives vigorously deny that and maintain the Germans are not admitting the full extent of their losses. Now I am far from certain that Britain will leave but even if they do not, they are clearly shaken. Not since the Dutch Wars have they been more open to invasion. They dare not abandon the French but the Albanian operation will quickly be seen as nonessential. They will be leaving soon. Perhaps they will march around the area for a few days hoping to encourage the Serbs and the rebels in Transylvania. When they are done with their demonstration ships will come to take them to England."
"Then Your Majesty is prepared to form an alliance? You did mention some issues before. Is there something that requires further negotiation."
The monarch took a sip of water then raised a cautionary forefinger, "I trust the Germans but I still do not completely trust the Germans. Falkenhayn would have no qualms about having us do the lion’s share of the fighting in Serbia. We are willing to join in a joint effort but our allies must pull their weight as well. For that reason, I am drafting a cable to be transmitted tonight to our negotiators. It stipulates certain conditions for our alliance. One is that our allies commit a minimum of 15 infantry divisions to the attack on Serbia. At least a third of those must be German—to put my mind at ease about German intentions and Austrian competence. The Germans and Austrians must launch their attack at least a week before our own."
"Assuming the Germans and AutroHungarians quickly agree to these terms, how soon do you expect our army to be entering into Serbia, Your Majesty?"
"A good question. Middle of April sounds about right."
Prince Boris asked the premier, "How big a problem are the opposition parties going to be?"
Radoslavov rolled his eyes and shrugged, "A problem, oh yes, I suppose so. The Democratic Party favors the Entente as they believe the destinies of Russia and Bulgaria are inseparably linked. When the Entente enjoys even a small measure of success they immediately champion joining them, otherwise they fall back on advocating neutrality. The Agrarian Party as well as the Radical Democrats are more consistent—they oppose entering the war under any circumstances. All three parties will complain. In the short run that is all they can do."
"That implies they can do more if the war is lengthy?" asked the prince.
The premier looked a bit awkward, but eventually nodded warily, "Well, obviously there is considerable persistent ill feeling lingering from our last war. Now if our involvement in this war proves to be short and fruitful that painful memory will be erased but if it does not it will fester and haunt us."
The prince looked now at his father who after some somber reflection merely shrugged, "Bah, nothing I can do will ever make the Radical Democrats happy! The others will come to their senses when our rightful claims to Macedonia are finally realized. I will send the cable within the hour. If our demands are met we must prepare our country for war."