1Into The Great White Open – Main Story Line Part Three – The Final Breakthrough ?
A Letterstime side story
To help new readers and to 'deconfuse' some words of the author about the mentioned German Forces. What we have is:
1. Z-Force, commanded by acting Kommodore Ziethen. With AC Roon, small cruisers Berlin and Undine and the minecruisers Arcona and Albatross, currently south of the Norvegian City of Bergen, still in the North Sea.
2. Kuestenschutzdivision Ostsee with the PC's Victoria Louise and Vineta and the small cruiser Amazone, Kontreadmiral Mischkes flagship plus some Hochseetorpedoboote, they are in the Skaggerak, detached gunboat Panther in the Kattegat. Both belong to the North Sea.
3. Aufklaerungsgruppe Ostsee, commanded by Kontreadmiral Hopman with the AC's Prinz Adalbert, Prinz Heinrich, the PC Kaiserin Augusta, the small cruisers, Thetis, Niobe, Nymphe and Medusa, plus some Torpedobooten, currently near the Danish Baltic Island of Bornholm.
There are some more German Formations active in the North Sea at the same time, but they do not
belong to 'my' story. To be precise, five more:
* Korvettenkapitaen Borys with three Hochseetorpedobooten
* Korvettenkapitaen Conda with Bremen and three Hochseetorpedobooten
* Viceadmiral Letters with the HSF, multiple Dreadnoughts, Torpedoboote and two small cruisers
* Kontreadmiral Hanzig, coming Home, 2 BC's and 4 LC's and multiple SS's
* Kontreadmiral Necki with 2 BC's and 4 LC's plus ten Hochseetorpedoboote
July 7th 1915, SMS Roon, morning
Wilhelm Wudtke would never in his life forget the early morning of July 7th 1915. For years to come the pictures were always on his mind. Z-Force, or German Arctic Squadron, as historians would later call them, was in a battle for their first, but by far not their last time.
He was awakened to relieve the nightwatch and took his 'Gefechtsstation' at the port searchlight slightly abaft the bridge.
That he had done, but how! He had been so tired by those frequent changes of the watch that he had fallen back asleep again before he could leave his hammock. And he did not wake up despite all that commotion down below. Had it not been for his mate, Clemens Bock, who had shaken him awake finally, he might already have gone straight to Roon's brig.
That way he managed, barely in time, to dress and put on his shoes and off he dashed. But something was wrong, that he realized climbing up the first ladderways. Looking down he saw that he, big ox that he was, had put on the shoes the wrong way.
“How can I...“, he was nearly speechless. If that will be seen by other crewmembers, his reputation would be gone, for this voyage and probably for the whole war. He simply could not stop here to rechange - and he was late! - so he kept on going or, better said, kept on stumbling. He had never imagined how slippery ladder rungs could be, when you live on the wrong foot.
So it was more a tripping than a walking. Finally he arrived, quite late but his station chief did not appear to take much notice of it, the changing of the watch kept all busy. So he had been very lucky this time. His ears were burning. He had to pay attention. He swore to himself never to repeat that mistake again.
“I need a situation to rearrange those shoes, but nobody ought to see that. How can I..“. That way he was very distracted, deadly tired and confused when he finally relived his predecessor. To be honest, he had not understood one word of what that one had said.
Only a few minutes after arriving and still looking for his chance to change, he heard a lot of commotion from below. Many excited persons were running all over the bridge. Obviously more steam was brought up, for the Roon accelerated, as he could feel the growing vibrations of the engines. More smoke was pouring out of the stacks. Still he was a bit surprised about the stack-coloured canvas between them. He heard this being called 'Tarnung' (Note ). What use the appearance of a 'two-stacked' Panzerkreuzer should be for, he was not sure. Was there such a ship in the navy? Perhaps they ought to imitate a battleship?
Raising his binoculars, he could see one of their light cruisers, heavily smoking, on the port front quarter. The rest of the horizon was traceless.
Suddenly Roon was heeling to port. The after turret had swung around, barrels were raising, pointing in the direction of their own cruiser. “What was wrong? Did those try to defect or was there something else? The enemy perhaps? Or could this be a training exercise“? Obviously, he had not recognized the Alarm.
His Oberbootsmann then had commanded him to scan his assigned horizon arc intensively. His was the port quadrant.
“Kabooom“, Wilhelm was shocked when the heavy guns erupted to life. The blast wave was very clearly felt. Smoke was cringing his nostrils. Ignoring his orders he had looked ahead, but could not see their target, only smoke. Minutes later Roon had turned further to port. With that course change he had lost track even of the smoke. The heavy and the medium guns of the starboard side were firing now, with a steady pace of about 20 seconds in between. “Were they being fired at? He saw no eruptions, no splashes.”
All these early morning events were not those parts of the memories heavy on his mind. Those came when Roon turned to starboard about 90 degrees, stopped to fire, then finally reversed the course, turning again.
Now the target of their efforts came into view. The picture revealed before his eyes was a nightmare. It must have been a passenger liner, once. Now, that floating hulk was riddled with holes all along. She was about a thousand meters away. The ship was down by the bow with a list to port. Fires were raging all along the hull and the upperworks. One big fire was visible in front of her bridge. Her front mast was shot away and had collapsed onto the forecastle. A big plume of smoke was raising high. What he could not see were any firefighters. The air was spoiled. He always remembered that stench.
The smoke plume must be visible for many miles. “Was that their end already“? Wilhelm wondered. Surely this enemy was not alone, or was it?
Wilhelm could see abandoned guns on the forecastle and behind the upperworks. On the higher lifted starboard side was one gun more than on the port. That was where the biggest fire raged. “Had it blown overboard“? Somehow relieved he was, they had not attacked an unarmed passenger liner.
The small cruiser, Wilhelm recognized SMS Berlin now, was about thousand meters directly ahead on Roon's new course. She seemed to have nearly stopped. No fires were visible on her, but her first stack was clearly holed. Obviously she must have received the brunt of their enemies counterfire.
Suddenly a path of bubbles was racing towards their former enemy. Below his position he could make out his Kapitaen. He had entered the port bridgewing, more officers were with him.
Those bubbles went straight towards their ever increasingly burning and smoking target. Only slowly she was falling deeper.
“Whummmpf“, the Torpedo had hit near the first stack. High and higher the fountain of water and debris was raising. After reaching the height of the after mast, it collapsed. Some seconds later the foam settled as well. That was clearly the 'coup de grace', for immediately later, their target increased its list to port slowly, growing faster by the minute. She fell deeper, especially with the bow.
Now Wilhelm could see crew-members on the wreck. Some were jumping overboard, but some were obviously restraining from jumping into the cold water. Altogether there were about 30 persons over there, best he could guess.
More and more water entered through the many holes in the hull. Not only blackened smoke was visible but white one as well. Fires were drained by inrushing water.
Never ever had Wilhelm thought possible that ships could cry when they were dying, but that was the truth. Groaning their former enemy fell deeper and deeper, listing more and more to port.
The port side of the forecastle deck reached the water, that raging fire there was soon extinguished by the seawater. The capstan disappeard. Wilhelm could see now into the opening of the front stack. Glancing behind he saw parts of the stern looking out of the water.
The bridge upperworks started to disappear as well. Now she was more or less on her beam ends. Groaning and grumbling their enemy was sliding below.
The whole front part of the ship was gone below the waterline, only parts of the after third were still visible.
Finally she slid down, the stern only some meters out of the water. Then there were only bubbles, lingering smoke and debris.
Survivors were visible, their heads bobbing out of the water, hands weaving, cries, some survivors clinging to debris.
“Don't we rescue them“? he burst out. No answers were given, Roon slowly turned away. Confused Wilhelm looked around. There!
Berlin was proceeding to the rescue, Roon was again accelerating, heading out in a northerly direction.
Wilhelm could see ropes and nets being brought out onboard Berlin. It appeared no boats were to be used.
“Save those poor wretches, save them,” he mumbled until his Oberbootsmann shouted: “Klappe halten, verdammt noch mal“ (Note ).
He was so shocked and his mind in turmoil that he only much later realized that his shoes still were not yet changed. Not minding a bit, he slipped first out of one shoe and then out of the other.
Hours later, Wilhelm was watching the cruiser with the cut down stern on the port side ahead. That was SMS Arcona with her distinctive feature. Berlin still has not caught up, her smoke plume was visible as a small dot on the horizon of their after port quarter.
The weather was mostly sunny, quite a warm summer day. “This surely will have helped all those survivors, wouldn't it“? Wilhelm was still shaken.
Three decks below, just abaft of the massive Turm Anna of the main battery was the fighting station of Wilhelms 'rescuer' Clemens Bock. His duty was to feed port number two eight-eight gun. Together with gun number one, both guns belong to the port front tertiary battery. Both guns could fire ahead, unless 'Anna' is wooding their field of fire. They could be trained to fire a bit abaft as well.
Clemens had hoped 'his battery' would see its first call to duty today. Unfortunately they had been on the 'off-side' of the fight, until their final turn. No command to open fire was given even then, Roon had not shot a single eight-eight shell at all. Clemens was disappointed. At least until he had a clear view of HMS Cedric. Then he was shocked as well.
Their third mate, Thomas Bornhold, had truly been in the fight. His fighting station was the starboard after 15 cm turret. He was a sightsetter for the gun. Thus, he had watched the battle nearly from its start. Later he was able to tell his friends his impressions of the battle.
Axel Strehl, who's profession was cook before the war broke out, had the duty of a firefighter in the port 15 cm casemates. Of course, no firefighting had been necessary. Axel was fortunate that he had not seen the battered wreck of HMS Cedric and her sinking. At least in his younger days he did not share that point of view, as he expressed frequently.
July 7th 1915, SMS Berlin, morning
Fregattenkapitaen Friedrich Freiherr von Buelow, Berlin's CO was satisfied and unsatisfied all in one. Berlin was the most modern and most potent cruiser of this task force. His crew had performed brilliantly during the recent gunfight. That he had expressed to his officers over and over. He even had walked along the deck and spoke to one or the other crewmember.
His crew had cheered him! That was before the rescue operation had begun.
Berlin had come along well out of it, hit four times. The first into a coal bunker amidships had caused no casualties. That was not the case with hit number two. That one had perforated the first stack, debris had wounded three of Berlin's crew. Hit number three was a dud in the hull but had nonetheless killed one member on station there. Most devastating was hit number four, which struck near port number four 10.5 cm mount. It had killed two and wounded five, three of them seriously, one of which died shortly after.
“The gun was not damaged, at least,” von Buelow thought frequently, as they had come out of this well, with speed, seakeeping and fighting ability all unimpaired.
This could not being said for their adversary, HMS Cedric. He had looked up the dates in Jane's. She had been built in 1903, with a displacement of 21,040 tons and a 16.5 knot maximum speed.
“I will claim the sinking, Ziethen and his Roon should not dare to claim her for themselves!“ he had nearly shouted to his XO, Korvettenkapitaen Walter Hildebrand. “It was us who fought them down and our torpedo would have proven decisive“!
Hildebrand hat simply turned away, pretending to look for survivors.
“Ah, the survivors,” von Buelow reminded himself.
To save time, questionable as it was, he had ordered not to lower boats. Slowly he steamed into the leftovers from Cedric.
True, it was summer, but the North Sea out there was still cold. Many of Cedric's survivors were wounded, be it from the raging fire or shell splinters. And here von Buelow was right, their constant fire from the 10.5 cm guns had mowed down many a crew and wounded others as well. The carnage had only been increased by Roon's heavier shells.
The command structure of Cedric had broken down long before Roon had ordered ceasefire. Berlin's torpedo hit was too far in the front be immediately deadly, so many crew members fought the inrushing water in the fore part of the ship, a deed not unsuccessful. Those had not seen the approaching Roon, nor the path of its torpedo bubbles. When that torpedo hit, Cedric was mortally stricken. To leave the quickly listing ship took a long time for those below. For some of them it simply took too long. Some escaped by the last minute - or better said the last second - only to be drawn below to their watery grave by their former home.
Still, many were in the cold water after Cedric's sudden disappearance. Without swung out boats and their use, the survivors had to swim in Berlin's direction. This proved too much a strain for many. Even so, nine survivours were rescued, but only two of them wounded. Those had the luck to be on a crate which drifted along. Both had severe burns. All of Cedric's crew remnants were suffering from hypothermia, though. Von Buelow had interrogated those able to speak. He had learned only then who his antagonist had been. He was too preoccupied by the ongoing battle to see the ships name on its bow.
His horrified crew had had to pick up all corpses in reach, which were about ten. Then, Roon was now only a dot on the northern horizon, and von Buelow had had enough.
“Stop all rescue operations“!
“Helm, bring her on course 345“!
“Engines, make turns for twenty knots“!
He added with a more hushed voice to newly showing up Hildebrand: “Our nice escort is leaving us, but that he has not done without consequences!”
“Korvettenkapitaen Hildebrand, I will make entries about Ziethen's behaviour into the war diary. When finished with that, I want your confirmation.”
“Lookouts, your reports, hurry up“!
The rescue mission had lasted more than 30 minutes, closer to 45 minutes. Roon had had to catch up to her left ahead cruiser group and was running at a relatively high speed. So it was a long stern chase for Berlin to reach them again. Hours would have to pass.
“Captain, smoke bearing 315“! one of his lookout shouted.
“Not again“, von Buelow cursed.
July 7th 1915, morning, Kiel, Admiralty Building
Here they were, arriving by car. Korvettenkapitaen Tietze, the new CO of SMS Woerth and Kapitaen zur See Freiherr von Mueffling, CO of SMS Brandenburg were ordered to report to their Admiralty to receive further orders. Both expected to be briefed by Admiral von Ingenohl who was commander of the Baltic-Station. Fifth Battlesquadron was under his responsibility since it was drawn back from the North Sea last winter.
The officer of the watch led both commanders into the office. They were totally surprised with what they saw. Standing before them was not Admiral von Ingenohl but the 'Oberbefehlshaber' of the Baltic Forces, Grossadmiral Prinz Heinrich von Preussen, the younger brother of their beloved Kaiser. What a confusing beginning!
After the official introducing and some social 'warming up', Prinz Heinrich offered them a seat. In the meantime another Kapitaen had entered, Kapitaen zur See Frey, the CO of SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.
“Meine Herren“, Prinz Heinrich began, “you may be surprised to see me briefing you. Well, there is a reason for this of course. Let me explain. The strategical situation in the Baltic is difficult. Our Russian Adversary is on the brink of commissioning four big Dreadnoughts of the Gangut-Class. We fear they are armed each with 12 quickfiring 30.5 cm guns in four triple-turrets. Two of them, the Gangut and the Petropavlovsk are probably already operational. This clearly offsets the balance of power. Our own big ships are heavily used in the North Sea.”
“And other places,“ he added soundlessly in his mind. “So those are not available for this theatre. At best only for short spells, but this is not the case now.”
“Fortunate for us, our forces took the Russian fortress of Libau May 8th. After lengthy and unnecessary discussions, we came to the decision to use Libau, which I visited recently, as our main Baltic Base. She is so nicely close to the mouth of the Gulf of Finland and especially the Gulf of Riga, where our 'friends' are hiding, most of the time,“ he added with a strange grin.
“However, this hiding might change, soon. I think they will be more active very soon, they simply have to be.” He made gesture toward the map on the table. “Back to Libau. Clearance of debris and sweeping of mines has been done and the port is ready to use, in fact is already in use, though the work is not yet finished,” he carried on.
“There are serious concerns about a possible attack on our important base. That's why we decided to back up our quite weak forces there,” he said, smiling satisfied. “Our Army will in all likelihood start offensive operations in Kurland during the next week, which might remove the threat from land. Our Offensive in the middle part of the eastern front appears to be having much greater success than expected. The Russians look to be on the retreat. It is possible that Russian Poland may be soon be ours. The land of our ally Oesterreich-Ungarn is already liberated. The threat for Budapest has been eliminated.” He hesitated. “The threat from the sea remains and is greater than ever, as I already have mentioned.”
“Seine Majestaet Linienschiffe Brandenburg and Woerth therefore will leave the responsibility of Fifth Battlesquadron immediately. They will come directly under my command. Tomorrow, the day after that at the latest, both will be transferred to Libau, to act as a strong coastal defence unit there. They will join SMS Beowulf, already on station. Your crew has been brought back from reduced crews to full strength in the last days, so for the transfer you are fully manned. After your arrival in Libau, crews will be reduced again but will be maintained sufficient to fit your role.”
After a pause he added, looking at von Mueffling and Tietze: “For both of you, meine Herren, it must be more than clear how important this dislocation of your ships is. You will be in the vanguard!”
Von Mueffling and Tietze were exchanging glances. Action was not unexpected for them. When the new crew members had shown up, they knew 'something' was brewing. Actually Tietze arrived only days ago to take over responsibility from Kapitaen zur See Bertram. They had been ordered on July 1st to bring their ships back to 'Gefechtsbereitschaft'. So Libau was their goal and destination.
“Unfortunately Kuestenschutzdivision Ostsee, commanded by Kontreadmiral Mischke, as you know, is on a special mission at the moment“. He was rubbing his hands, smiling. “I do not know whether they will return in time. Therefore I decided you will need a special escort for the transfer.“
Again glances, a lot more curious now.
“As you might know, the transfer of Fourth Battlesquadron to the Baltic is decided as well, just a few days ago. Konteradmiral Hopman, my good commander of our Baltic Scouting forces, has argued since weeks that this should long have been done. But until last week it was not. As long as the running actions and operations in the North Sea do not come to an end, however, the transfer remains deferred. They are being hold back in Wilhelmshaven. Perhaps they might there come in handy for Viceadmiral Letters. In any case, they are not available at the moment. But we have other possibilities.” Suddenly he was looking very weary.
“It was not easy and I had a lot of discussions with so called 'experts'. Bureaucrats is all they are,“ he nearly shouted.
He now had the full attention of his commanders.
“As you all know, due to so called 'pressing' other reasons, we were forced to reduce Fifth Battlesquadron to reserve in March this year. This was not without controversy, but we needed the crews for other ships and tasks. Still they were not decommissioned and remain in service, though mostly with reduced crews“.
“What is it really, what he wants to tell us?“ Korvettenkapitaen Rudolf Tietze of SMS Woerth wondered, “They are our ships! Of course, we know the history of our Battlesquadron. There must be meanings behind all this.“ Of course, he said nothing aloud.
“To be honest, I'd like to use the strong battleships of Second Battlesquadron to shift the balance in the Baltic again. SMS Pommern, SMS Schlesien and SMS Hannover, all Deutschland -Class as you know well, escaped 'Die Kaiserschlacht' undamaged. Unlucky SMS Schleswig-Holstein was sunk and SMS Deutschland was heavy damaged. She is under repair currently, but out of action until this autumn.
Of the Braunschweig-Class ships, SMS Lothringen and SMS Preussen have returned from their refit and are members of that Squadron again, which brings them to five in numbers until the Deutschland returns. SMS Hessen was sunk as well, fortunately with relatively few losses and both other surviving units are in Fourth Battlesquadron“, he explained.
Part of this was common knowledge to the Kapitaene.
“As I already said, I would gladly have used them, but there are other plans for them,“ he added ominously.
“This and the fact that Aufklaerungsgruppe Baltic was forced to give up all fast cruisers and the most modern of their Armored Cruisers is really not brightening my mood. Older cruisers are now with them but if the Russinas show up in strength“? His expressions had grown very earnest during those last sentences.
“Without Fourth and Second Battlesquadrons available right now, it is up to the sole remaining Fifth Battlesquadron. I have decided to use them. They will officially remain under the responsibility of Admiral von Ingenohl, though. But they have to be called up again, old or obsolete or not. Unfortunately the Kaiser Wilhelm II. and Kaiser Karl der Grosse are at Wilhelmshaven at the moment and not immediately available, to still complicate things“, Prinz Heinrich commented.
The last sentence was no news to them, either.
“Kaiser Barbarossa since April 11th is acting as targetship for the Torpedo-Inspektion and has a full crew. Kapitaen zur See Schlicht is on an exercise today but will be briefed later.“
“I have decided to cover your transfer with SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, that is the reason of course, why Herr Kapitaen zur See Frey is with us today.“
Not that a surprise for most of them either. Frey had to be here for a reason.
“Kapitaen zur See Frey, you will receive all in Kiel and surroundings available crewmembers, especially those from SMS Kaiser Friedrich III, which is luckily here with us as well. For the time being she ought to make it nearly without crews. Replacements are already being sought.“
“Today I ordered the transfer of Kaiser Karl der Grosse to Kiel.” He picked up a glass of apple juice and drank heartily. Then he continued: “I have plans with the Fifth Battlesquadron, as you can see. Slowly they are coming together again.“
“I do confess that I have problems to get the SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II. here as well, just to complete the Squadron. Let me see if I can convince my relative to release his “Bueroschiff (Note ).“ But anyway, with four Linienschiffen I can form an active division at least. That means, of course, if we can scratch together crews for them. But we have really serious problems to get experienced crews now. Too many have gone to the army for my taste,“ he added finally. He omitted the fact that many more ships were service reintroduced during those last weeks.
“Back to your mission, you will leave Kiel in the morning of the 8th or 9th, depending on certain situations I do not want to speak about. SMS Woerth will be the flagship of Kontreadmiral Begas, your well known Commander of the Fifth Battlesquadron. I mean former commander, of course. He will be the commander in Libau after the transfer,“ he finished.
Rudolf Tietze drew in the air loudly, he ought to be a flag captain soon. He was glad about that fact.
Prinz Heinrich, a bit irritated, continued: “Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and in all likeliness Kaiser Barbarossa as well will accompany your force. I will send with you what Torpedoboote I have available here in Kiel and all along the Baltic coast. Aufklaerungsgruppe Ostsee, commanded by already mentioned Kontreadmiral Hopman, will be somewhere out there as well. You will sail straight to Libau to arrive there in the morning of the 10th or 11th respectively. Your ships are to stay, meine Herren.“
One final hesitation and then finally: “Your escorts, both Kaiser Friedrich III. Class battleships,” he now clearly addressed Kapitaen zu See Frey, “are to sail to Danzig-Neufahrwasser to remain there. For the first time in history Battleships are to be stationed there. Our efforts these last months are ripening fruits. The Weichsel is finally made deep enough“.
“Maybe we can send them and the two now still inactive ones to Libau as well, later. But that depends on other developments, for instance on the final availability of Fourth Battlesquadon“.
“Maybe we can get von Ingenohl back to sea again, as Commander of a revitalized Fifth Battlesquadron,“ he added silently.
“Meine Herren, questions?“
July 7th 1915, morning, SMS Vineta, Skagerrak
Kapitaen zur See Adelung had had a very interesting and successful morning so far. Not only had they survived an attack by an enemy sub in a very dangerous part of the day, they in turn had even managed to damage that one. Fortunate still was the fact that no abovewater units of the Grand Fleet had shown up.
Their raiding mission was especially successful for with the help of V 152 had captured a Swedish prize, loaded with wood usable for mining, bound for Rosyth and sunk a British owned collier loaded with iron ore after removing the crews. That one was simply too slow to be used as a prize. Unfortunately, both were bound for Britain and not loaded with military goods for Russia.
G 134 was standing guard on their port side, just in case. Turning his head an walking over to the starboard bridgewing he could clearly make out his flagship. On this sunny morning they were still more or less northward bound.
“It might just be one of our 'Nordlandreisen' (Note ), if we only would live in peace“, Adelung spoke nearly silently.
July 7th 1915, morning, SMS Amazone, Skagerrak
Kontreadmiral Mischke was watching SMS Vineta in the distance. He very well knew that it was a gamble. But Grand Fleet would not show up in strength here, that far east, would they? His Kuestenschutzverband Ostsee had left Kiel in the night from the 5th to the 6th. They operated quite successful in the Kattegat yesterday. Now they had arrived in the Skaggerak hunting grounds.
with V 154 and G 136 they had controlled two ships, but
found nothing suspicious or contraband.
G 132 was still controlling an inbound freighter.
Further to the east SMS Victoria Louise and her companions G 133 and V 155 were visible. Should the need arise he would be able to bring his forces together in a short time.
He was more worried about this submarine incident than he wanted to admit. A torpedo hit would at least lead to serious damage, more likely to a loss of his old battlewaggons. Risks he had to bear and to take the responsibility. Somehow he was relived that the auxiliary warships would guard the three entrances of the Baltic in the absence of his forces.
And then there would be the SMS Panther and her sole escort S 122 which were still in the Kattegat.
July 7th morning, SMS Prinz Adalbert, near Bornholm
Kontreadmiral Hopman and his Aufklaerungsgruppe Ostsee had just decided to leave this backup position south of Bornholm. This Danish island lay in the middle of the Western Baltic not too far away from the now only lightly guarded entrances. Clearly no British forces were entering through the straits now. And surely enough the Danes had seen and reported them yesterday.
“Time to take care of Germany's North-Eastern maritime flank,” he said.
His plan was to sail northeast into the direction of the Swedish Island Gotland. There his forces would form a searching line until they will reach the small island of Gotska Sandoe. Maybe they would sail on a bit more north, but the coal load on his accompanying Torpedobooten was fastly diminishing. Without them he felt a little bit naked. To give up SMS Roon had seriously impaired his fighting ability. SMS Kaiserin Augusta, directly ahead of his flagship, was not a full replacement for an AC. Nonetheless, he was quite glad to have her along.
Yesterday evening he was informed that U A, the formerly Norvegian newbuild, taken over when the war broke out, had left Libau in the direction of Dagerort on Dagoe-Island. Together with U 9 they ought to form an exploration line up to Bogskaer. That way they might have a look into the Gulf of Finland and possible upcoming Russian Forces.
'Once' he had fast light cruisers, but SMS Augsburg and SMS Luebeck had left his forces and SMS Magdeburg was lost long ago. Without real fast scouts and only two, though strong, Armored Cruisers, they were quite inferiour to the two Russian 'Kreuzerbridagden'.
His four old Gazelle-Class small cruisers were beginning to form screen, as well as his seven available Torpedoboote. Lead by G 135, the X. Torpedobootflottile, normally was 11 boats strong. But four of them and attached V 108 were in the yards at the moment. It was a favorite wink of fate that V 108 would leave Danzig this noon and will meet them in between. That way he would have quite a full flotilla for a short while. Anyway they were very short on escorts. So far the Russian submarines had shown little enthusiasm and the Brits only have two or three boats in the Baltc. But the war was moving in a very fast pace and what is sure today may be an uncertainty tomorrow, he reflected.
July 7th morning, SMS S 127, near Kiel
Oberleutnant zur See Ladisch has brought back his damaged boat. It had been a tight thing, that fight yesterday. The Stephenson had hit them hard. Most pressing, the 16 wounded from his boat and Panther as well, were brought to hospital in Sonderburg after their repassing of the 'Kleine Belt'. They had needed medical support urgently. He was still shocked about the quite heavy losses on his ship.
Steaming round the Schwedeneck with the Buelker Lighthouse straight into the Kieler Foerde (Note ) he saw a warship aproaching. That was not unusual in itself. The Kieler Foerde was always bustling with warships or auxiliaries.
This ship, now much better to view, was quite large. She was three funneled, obviously a cruiser and one of obsolete appearance, too. But that one was not SMS Kaiserin Augusta. That one had a different bridge.
“XO, any idea who that may be“? he asked his fellow officer.
“No sir, but look, she is still under yard colours“, taking down his binoculars he hesitated and raised them again. Now they were nearly alongside.
“Ahh, that one she is“, he added. “Do not look quite as before. They had modified her stern“.
“And look at her long guns on bow and stern“.
July 7th morning, HMS E 4, Skagerrak
Finally they had send their sighting report to the admiralty. It was acknowledged, finally.
The Tower was crowded again, the bow tube reloaded. E 4 was on the hunt again. Their prey ought to have been to the north of them.
“Full speed ahead and make sure these holes are sealed fastly. We are no shower-ship“!
The race was on.
July 7th 1915, morning, SMS Berlin, 20 knots
Footnote 1: “Tarnung“ - camouflage.
Footnote 2: “Klappe halten“, translated as “shut up“.
Footnote 3: SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II. was transfered to Wilhelmshaven March 5th 1915 and acted as “Stabsschiff des Kommandos der Hochseeflotte“, nicknamed “Stabsarche“ or “Arc of the Staff“ since April 26th. Historically she stayed 'active' until September 11th 1920.
Footnote 4: Nordlandreisen, traditionally High Seas Fleet had peacetime exercises and frequent voyages to Norway. The last one was in late July 1914.
Footnote 5: Kieler Förde – Kiel Fjord
Footnote 6: Koje – sailor german for bed
 „Tarnung“ - camouflage.
 „Klappe halten“, translated as „shut up“.
 SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II. was transferred to Wilhelmshaven March 5th 1915 and acted as „Stabsschiff des Kommandos der Hochseeflotte“, nicknamed „Stabsarche“ or „Arc of the Staff“ since April 26th. Historically she stayed 'active' until September 11th 1920.
 Nordlandreisen, traditionally High Seas Fleet had peacetime exercises and frequent voyages to Norway. The last one was in late July 1914.
 Kieler Förde – Kiel Fjord
 Koje – sailor german for bed