June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas -
---- 5:15 PM, Salamis, stopped
Lannon watched anxiously as the others examined the limp form on the
stretcher. The one who seemed in charge of those giving medical assistance
looked up and spoke to the men with Lannon. Unfortunately, Lannon could
not understand what was said, and turned to the one beside him for an
interpretation. The Greek captain apparently spoke next to no English
but, fortunately, his second in command was fluent in it.
"He says," began Vassillios Kokovinos, "that the, um,
collar bone is broken, and so is the arm. His side, there may be broken
ribs, also, but he is not sure. He sees no blood in his mouth, and so
thinks there is little or no damage inside the body. We will have him
ashore in a couple hours, and get him to doctors. The others, also."
"He is not a doctor? You don't have a doctor aboard?"
Lannon's voice betrayed his surprise. From the size of the ship, he'd
expected the crew to include a doctor. Perhaps, he admitted to himself,
foreign ships had fewer doctors than the American ones with which he was
"No, but he is not without experience in such things."
Lannon nodded, trying not to react to the other's hesitation, and watched
the aid-giver fashion a quite serviceable splint. The man used a pair
of flat boards and what appeared to be a pillow cover. Another joined
them and spoke to the two officers. Lannon noted that Nik, who'd accompanied
the newcomer, frowned slightly as he studied the splint.
"Ah, Mr. Lannon. Good news. The others look to have just superficial
cuts and scrapes. But they owe you their lives, I think. It takes not
long for shock and exposure to claim a man in the water out here."
"It was nothing," Lannon replied, with an embarrassed shrug.
"This ship - Salamis - it doesn't take a great brain to see
that she's supposed to be some sort of dreadnought battleship. But she
has no guns, anywhere. Greek, you say?"
The American made no effort to suppress his skepticism. He looked at
Nik, who nodded in agreement.
"Basil," that's what he'd been told to call him, "I've
never heard of her, and I thought I knew them all. Now, don't get me wrong,
but how do you I know you're telling me the truth? You see, the more I
look around, the more she looks German to me. And it looks to me like
you came over in company with Germans, in some sort of squadron, or something.
These men, these Britons, they've been my guests."
Lannon glanced eastward towards the tall cagemasts, a gesture not lost
"I see," he replied. "I've given you my word that they'll
be safe, but I'll not take insult, Mr. Lannon. There is some basis for
your concern, and which does you credit, by the way. Salamis looks
German because she was, in fact, built in Germany. But she is incomplete,
just as you said. Her cannons were to be American, ordered before the
war. My nation has accepted her, taken possession of her, in her current
condition because the cannons could not be delivered to Germany. Since
the cannons could not come to her, the Germans helped us bring her to
"She is to be completed here, in America?" Lannon was stunned,
even Nik's eyebrows raised at that announcement.
"Yes, for my country, Greece. Salamis is ours. Now, I will
be frank with you, Mr. Lannon. We do, in fact, have a few Germans aboard,
but they are civilians, not soldiers. Shipyard workers. Our employees.
Twenty of them. They will not bother your, er, guests. They are under
my command and I will keep them well clear. As I said before, you have
my word on it, but you can do as you see fit."
Lannon turned to the Brit who seemed to have become the spokesman of
those he'd rescued.
"Fitzgerald," he began, "sorry, I forgot your first name."
"That's right, sir," replied the man, whose short brown
curls still showed flecks of water, or salt. "John Dennis Fitzgerald,
though my friends call me JD."
"JD, I'm Nate, and I'd be pleased to call you friend. Are you alright
with this? With staying here? Your fellow will get to a doctor a lot faster
this way than with us. But I'll not leave you here, if that's what you
The British wanted to stay together, and with their mate on the stretcher.
They had blankets around their shoulders and their hands around hot mugs.
Lannon, though, still had some misgivings.
"Nik, what do you think?"
"It's probably fine, Nate, but let's not take any chances."
Germans, no doctor, pillow cases - there were just too many irregularities.
"You get the girls back; I'll stay here with them. That should keep
"Maggie will have your guts for drawerstrings!"
"Well, that's probably true," Nik admitted, ruefully.
---- 5:15 PM, Bermuda
The admiral had waited for confirmation as to the exact identities of
the two RN AMCs who had been seen being escorted into the American navy
base in New York. He had, he admitted to himself, hoped that the first
report had been a grievous mistake. Fifteen minutes ago, however, the
two ships had been confirmed to be Patuca and Manchester Star.
The footsteps of the commander, cable in hand, descending the staircase,
became only background noise.(NOTE 1) The late afternoon
storm had yet to blow itself out. Its pounding pyrotechnics, too, dwindled
in comparison with the crescendos in his soul.
The Germans had sent a powerful force into the West Atlantic - an unknown
force of such power that it had overwhelmed the RN forces on station.
Vice-Admiral Patey had not even gotten off a wireless, it seemed, and
must be assumed to have been lost. Hell, Patey might even now be a prisoner
on board some German battlecruiser! He had to assume, also, that Sydney,
Melbourne, Berwick, and Niobe were all gone, along
with whatever AMCs that had been there beyond the two now mooring in New
York. New York! What would the Yanks do with them?
He shook his head. He had no time for that, nor was there time for more
of the decanter that his right hand had just grasped. The old admiral
stood up and stepped to the window, to let the spray wet his face, to
let the booming echoes surround him.
For the moment, he was in command of the entire Station. A Station without
warships but facing many unknown ones. A Station to blockade a continent,
but whose shores had been stripped of nearly all patrollers. What should
he do with those he had left? Should they remain in place, perhaps to
catch any who would try their luck upon the news? His AMCs would be helpless,
should the unknown Germans scythe up and down the American coast. He did
not even have ships that could shadow the Germans. Bloody Germans! What
was their game? Could they be coming here?! Halifax?! Jamaica? To the
Pacific? It was a certainty that he had nothing to stop them, but did
the Germans know that?
----- 5:15 PM, Imperator, stopped
"Blue! Where are the other rolls?" Browning was emptying his
camera for the fourth time. He did not look up, so intent was he on tucking
the exposed film ever-so-carefully into his leather valise. All he knew
was that the crewmen who'd helped him set up and who'd handed him the
previous rolls were not there now.
"Behind the cart," Fox replied, bent over his own tripod.
The serving cart was away from the rail, secured to a stanchion and its
wheels locked. The small metal-bound trunk of photographic supplies was
tied off by loops of rope through its handles. Browning had missed the
departure of the stewards after they had completed those tasks.
For a tense moment, Browning could not get the container open - battle
images all around and the film locked away! It turned out to be just his
unfamiliarity with the hasp design, which yielded to his efforts a moment
later. Inside, there were perhaps a dozen rolls of film, each tucked into
a separate leather slot.
Browning reloaded his camera, then looked around. Not one, but two battlecruisers
lay off their starboard beam, with the larger clearly damaged! One roll
had been just of her, and he'd taken care to capture her admiral's pennant.
Four smaller warships, some of them also showing battle damage, clustered
about the bigger ships. He had taken several shots of each, and others
of the small boat traffic among them all. Salamis was gone, but
another passenger liner had been waiting out here, bringing the local
total to three. The latest roll had been divided between this other newcomer
and the smoking wreckage, especially the sky-thrust bow of some unnamed
The vessel he began to bring into focus for his fourth roll, however,
was none of those. This time, his viewfinder was on tenth ship of this
little fleet: Nottingham Star, flying the flag of Germany. Now,
THAT was a front page story all by itself!
The reporters were so enthralled that they missed the stately procession
passing behind them. Hadi had seen these ships before, and had declared
that it was time for the evening meal.
Just outside the bridge area, the Countess Marina was growing impatient.
Her eyes went to the man in the grey shirt as he came off the bridge.
"Gavilan! Did you find him? What did he say?"
"Herr Ballin asked me to give you his regrets, but that there has
been no signal," Gavilan replied.
"There is no cause for this, this foolishness, this delay!"
"You are right, of course, MiLady. But Ballin will do nothing without
permission - you know that."
Marina nodded, a few red strands flickering in the sea breeze. Anxiously,
she stared into the West.
---- 5:30 PM, flagbridge of New York, stopped
Admiral Alton had just finished his account.
"And they're still out of sight?"
Alton repressed an unseemly smile; Stennis seemed just as perplexed as
"Affirmative. The battlecrusier and the lights fished out some Brits
and then took their prize and headed back out, liners and all. We lost
sight of Imperator about, what, 1630?"
Left unsaid was that the British Vice-Admiral and his force had disappeared
sometime before that and still remained unaccounted for.
"Admiral, the Greek vessel has gotten back underway."
"Thank you," acknowledged Alton.
The two men with the golden epaulets stared at the odd-duck vessel as
she resumed her earlier WSW heading that would take her to the New York
"And this Salamis' showed up at about the same time and on
about the same bearing?"
"Yes, sir. Almost exactly, both."
The American Vice-Admiral shifted his attention to the columns of smoke
still on the horizon, marking plainly the site of whatever had happened
out there. Alton had reported that the Germans and their prize had left
at a low bell.
"Very well." Stennis took a deep breath. "Admiral, form
up and take us out. It's time we learned what the hell has been going
on off our own coast!"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
---- 5:30 PM, Augsberg, stopped
"Launch secure, sir."
"Very well, Britz. Your crew did well."
"Thank you, sir," the enlisted man replied. He turned to dismiss
the men, a small but proud smile on his face. Kessock also turned, and
headed for the bridge.
"Wolfgang," asked the XO, as the junior officer came onto the
bridge, "how are matters aboard Moltke?"
Kessock must have looked surprised. Captain Speck, who these last 10
days had seemed to live on the bridge, was nowhere in sight.
"The Captain didn't say much when he came back," the XO confessed,
with a tiny nod towards Speck's sea cabin. On a larger ship, or in less
stressed times, the XO would not have asked. Reaction from the battle
and his concern for the flagship freed his tongue. Also, a shell from
Sydney had left the young lieutenant third in command.
"It is like an ant nest, sir. So many men! There's not much list,
so maybe it's not too serious."
"How many prisoners did we get?"
"That I know not, but we ourselves took 34 out of the water. Total?
300, perhaps 400, would be my guess."
"Gut. Perhaps they will be useful."
---- 5:30 PM, Rostock, stopped
It was good to be back aboard, von Larg realized. He realized that he
had repressed his emotions at the sight of Rostock steaming away
from his launch. The light cruiser felt like home - his own personal piece
of Germany so far from the rest. He'd seen Captain Westfeldt go aboard
Moltke, and knew he was still there. The XO was not in sight, doubtless
he was on the bridge. He looked about this stark grey sliver of a hull,
.He returned the greeting of the other junior officer.
"Yah, what happened? That is, after you abandoned me in the middle
of the Atlantic?"
" Abandoned'? Hah!" But the other related the events
quickly, as they watched the boat being stowed.
"We sank one, captured one, and two got away?" That did not
seem a satisfactory result, prize or no prize.
"Yes, but von der Tann and Strassburg sank others.
They must have. I'm sure of it."
Von Larg remained skeptical as he waited for his men to finish their
"Boat stowed, sir."
"A good job, Cox'sn. You may dismiss the men."
"Well," said von Larg, turning to the other LT, "I'd better
make my report. XO on the bridge?"
"Yes. He hasn't budged a millimeter since the Captain left."
---- 5:30 PM, von der Tann, stopped
LT Wilhelm and his cousin, Siegfried, greeted each other in their traditional
"Well," began Wilhelm, "did you have a nice time on your
little jaunt? (NOTE 2) Bring me back any trinkets
from the natives?"
"Well enough," answered Siegfried, with a smile, "though
perhaps not so well as it might. And your deep sea fishing? How did that
go?" (NOTE 3)
"The catch was good, but they were running a lot better three weeks
---- 5:30 PM, Strassburg, stopped
The XO had his binoculars on the approaching launch. He saw Captain Siegmund
cross his forearms and raise them above his head. The four-striper kept
them up, despite the bobbing of the small boat in the Atlantic waves.
"Engineering, stand by to answer bells on the main engine,"
the XO ordered. "Expect Ahead Flank in," he paused, checking
the launch's position, "seven minutes."
"Engineering acknowledges, sir."
"Very well. Flags, hoist 20 knots."
If he had not needed to keep the glasses on the skipper, he would have
rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
---- 5:30 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
Colonel Anton watched as his men began once again to inspect the trucks
of Mittermann and Sons, here once again to feed the 200-plus potentially
armed men inside one of the HAPAG warehouses on the pier. He had hoped
to secure the post at 1800, but Vice-Admiral Stennis had bolted from his
office (per his yeoman) and left no instructions. If he got no word soon,
Anton would need to notify the barracks .... He broke off his consideration
as Mr. Mittermann himself approached.
"Good eve, Colonel," offered the man with the salt-and-pepper
mustache. He appeared more relaxed, the American officer thought, than
he had earlier.
"And good evening to you, sir," Anton replied. "Back for
"Yes, that is correct." Mittermann paused, and licked his lips.
The grocer had something on his mind, but what?
"How long, er, is this the last of the meals you will be bringing
to the men? "
"Herr Ballin was not clear, Colonel. Or, rather, he did not know
how many it would be. Er, Colonel, how long will you and your men be here?"
"Why the question, Mr. Mittermann?" Anton riposted quickly.
"Is there a problem?" The American's brows creased. Had they
been missing things? Had Mittermann's trucks ...?
"No, no, there is no problem!" The grocer no longer looked
at ease. "It's just that, well, no delays had I expected ..."
Anton shot a look at the approaching Fideles. The senior enlisted man
shook his head. They had found nothing of note. He trusted Fideles. He
did; he really did.
"... and we were to be set up at 5:30. I will have to explain to
Anton's face cleared. Could it be that the man was simply worried about
his contract obligations?
It was the young lieutenant. Anton turned away from watching the grocer
and his trucks proceed onto the pier. He realized the problem immediately.
Instantly, Mittermann's worries were replaced by his own.
The crowd noise had changed.
It was coming closer.
NOTE 1: The Admiralty House (now site of Admiralty
House Park) on Clarence Hill was set aside for the Commander-in-Chief
(in this period, the Admiral-of-Patrols, North America and West Indies)
in 1815. It would remain as such until 1956. The Bermuda-Halifax Cable
came ashore at the offices at 6 Front Street (a Branch Office opened at
the other end of the island at Town Hall, St. George's in 1891). The naval
dockyard/base, 6 Front Street, Town Hall (St. George's), and Admiralty
House were all in different places. Thus, sending a cable to Halifax,
for forwarding on to Britain, was far from instantaneous, especially for
one that one would decline to try to communicate by telephone to 6 Front
NOTE 2: LT Wilhelm used a form of the expression,
"macht einen kleinen Ausflug," which literally is "make
an excursion," or "outing," or even "go for a spin."
The rhyme added to the diminutive tone of the sally.
NOTE 3: LT Siegfried used the word "Hochseefischerei"
(deep sea fishing). He was making a pun on "High Seas Fleet"
(Hochseeflotte). Wilhelm, of course, went with it.