June 18, 1915 - Meeting Engagements
- Part III
(Was Decisions, Pt. 3)
---- 8:35 PM, Bermuda
" Moltke and von der Tann'?!" The admiral was glaring
at the transcript of the intercepted message. His tone was even, but there
was an undercurrent of shock. "And three more cruisers?!"
The admiral sat down and stared at the words, which included the names:
Rostock, Kolberg, and Augsberg. It also included the execrable revelation
of the fate of Nottingham Star and, by inference, the fate of his superior
officer, the Commander of Patrols, North America and West Indies. He wanted
to doubt the report, even deny it. Could it be a German ruse? He did not
think the Huns were up to such artifice and, even if they were, what possible
purpose could it serve? And, bitterly enough, there was corroboration
by the wireless earlier from LT Wardin, whose visibly shell-holed AMC
had been confirmed to be in New York harbor.
Half the bloody Hun navy ....
"No mention of Strassburg, sir," the commander offered, interrupting
his malaise. "Nor the two liners."
"Thank you, commander."
The commander sternly stifled any visible reaction to the other's tone.
After all, he could well appreciate the admiral's state. The senior officer
now had the unenviable responsibility to inform their Lordships that he
had lost his commanding officer and just about all of the Station's warships,
had lost a freshly recoaled cruiser and two liners into the wide-open
Atlantic, and had "gained" a German battle squadron that included
two battlecruisers and three light cruisers.
Actually, the admiral was regarding the message with fresh suspicion.
This had all begun with the advisory of a potential runner or raider.
It'd been an almost-exhilarating prospect; one that had revitalized what
had become a moribund Station! Hard to remember that, now.
The initial guess had been a re-armed AMC liner. What had appeared had
been a liner escorted by a new class of Hun light cruiser, and that had
briskly fetched Vice-Admiral Patey up from Jamaica. Two liners had left
New York and Wardin's wireless had raised the warship total to two cruisers
and had shockingly added a battlecruiser. His Majesty's Royal Navy had
nothing over here that could face a battlecruiser! Now, the Stennis intercept
revealed that the Germans had doubled again to four cruisers and two BCs!
They weren't fighting a navy; they were fighting a bloody amoeba!
---- 8:35 PM, Moltke
The officers were seated in what ENS Jones thought might be the wardroom.
He had been concentrating on translating the Germans' Deutsch as they
walked and had paid little attention to where he had been led. There was
a bit of breeze through the portholes, but it remained quite warm. Admiral
Hanzik generally made his job easier, because he spoke in English with
only an occasional German word or phrase. The unfamiliar accent of the
commodore made his task harder. Loud and persistent clamorings of nearby
machines and men interfered with his hearing, but worse was the German
lieutenant. That young man was translating for the other two Germans,
and his running commentary was complicating Jones' task terribly.
The ensign found that he had to begun to perspire heavily, much more
heavily than the temperature would justify.
Nor did it help when he saw the lieutenant smirking at him. Then he noticed
that the other's brow also was beaded with sweat, and Jones realized that
he had mistaken the other's expression. He grinned back and shrugged his
shoulders, and got a strained but smiling nod in return. Of course, Jones
realized, Hanzik's speaking in English was making the young German's job
"My intentions'?" Hanzik asked, possibly in surprise,
though Jones (for one) doubted it. "Well, they depend upon your own,
Admiral. Of course."
"Would you care to explain that, Admiral?" Stennis replied.
To Jones, the American admiral's tone also sounded false. It was as though
the two admirals sat at chess. The opening moves were obvious and well
understood, but still necessary. Complexity and surprise would come later.
"I would think it obvious," Hanzik responded. "We will
comply with The Hague. Commodore von Hoban told you that in your office,
did he not?" He looked to von Hoban and got a crisp nod of affirmation.
"The question is if you Americans will comply with it, too. Your
President Roosevelt signed that treaty and the Commodore has told me that
your navy, er, professes to follow it. But will you?"
"I don't understand your concern, sir," Stennis thrust, with
a rumble in his voice. "We let your Strassburg into my country's
biggest port, let her coal, and escorted her back out. I even mounted
a guard on her pier so she wouldn't be disturbed. Just what is your issue,
"Mounted," Lionel struggled with Stennis' phrases, just as
his brother had in New York. Had the soldiers been cavalry? Von Hoban
waved off any question that the lieutenant might raise, not wanting to
jiggle his admiral's conversational arm.
"Actually, I have several," Hanzik riposted, precisely as he
had discussed with von Hoban. "First, you enforced The Hague for
Strassburg, but will you enforce it also for the British?"
---- 8:40 PM, Chocorua Princess
Somehow, the dowager's meek husband had organized the three ladies into
the vehicle without further confrontation. It had helped that the focus
had been adroitly shifted from the time of day to faintness, filthiness,
rips, and stains. Nonetheless, it had been neatly done, and Lannon had
concluded that he might well have to re-evaluate the man.
He could not resist, though, waving as the car drove off. A flicker of
white showed that Claire had waved back, Auntie Terror or no. He smiled.
"Horrified!" Lannon could hear again. "Why, you could have
"Like I said, mister. The name's Burke, Freddie Burke, from the
Lannon traded one smile for another as he turned. The two of them were
now alone on the pontoon pier and the soaked, bedraggled little man still
presented quite a spectacle ten minutes after being fetched out of the
water. He was game though, he'd give him that.
"I'd offer you a towel, but the ones I've got left are all bloody."
"It's true, then? You rescued men out of the water during the battle?
Right from under the barrels of German guns?!"
Lannon's grin became a frown. How did this motley character know about
"It wasn't like that," he began. "Well, not really ...."
---- 8:40 PM, Moltke
"It is simple enough, I think, Admiral," Hanzik continued after
Stennis had affected not to understand. "We here are in International
Waters, are we not?"
When Stennis made no overt denial, he continued.
"Well, my squadron was engaged with a British squadron in battle,
out here in these International Waters, when some of the British warships
tried to run away. They fled west, toward your country's Territorial Waters.
Your dreadnoughts acted to protect them - Wie viel Uhr, Kommodore?"
"1027, Herr Admiral." Von Hoban had it ready.
"Danke, 1027 hours. Two of the British warships fled into your country's
Territorial Waters. By The Hague, their sanctuary must end at that time
tomorrow - if you enforce it. Well, unless it so happens there is no more
coal to be had in, er, your country's biggest port, or unless they convince
you that the holes in their ships were made by Nature's storms, and not
by German shells."
Hanzik decided from Stennis' frozen expression that the American just
might not have had time to consider all the implications of the earlier
action by his junior admiral.
"I can assure you," he added, throwing another log onto the
fire, "that no German merchant ships will attempt to sail before
that time tomorrow."
"Decisions of the sort you suggest, sir," Stennis said, after
a few moments, "will be made by the appropriate American authorities
at the appropriate time."
"Of course, sir, and I did not mean to suggest otherwise,"
Hanzik replied. "But you should know that my force will remain here
- just as the British did - until your nation meets its obligations under
The Hague, or renounces the treaty."
"You can do as you like, admiral," Stennis replied. "As
you said, this is International Waters. But what I will not do, sir, is
commit my nation to anything, let alone anything of the sort you seem
to be implying."
This was a tough construction, and there was a pause of sorts as the
two junior officers struggled with it. Hanzik waited them out, wanting
to be sure just precisely what the American vice-admiral had said. The
interval stretched, perhaps just as Stennis had intended.
"Admiral," said Hanzik, at last, and in a milder voice. "You
must understand my position. I can hardly port my ships with the British
ones already there. Your authorities' - the same ones you cannot
speak for - might decide to enforce the section of The Hague that requires
Belligerent warships to leave in the order they arrive, and then delay
---- 8:45 PM, Washington, DC, British Embassy
"Thank you very much," the naval attache heard himself say
evenly. "I won't forget this."
Indeed, he would not, he thought as he hung up the phone. He looked at
the notes he had taken, though he would certainly not need them.
His contact, associate, source, or whatever name one might use, had come
through with the news they had awaited all day. There was little difficulty
in obtaining intelligence here; the American capitol leaked like a bloody
sieve. It only remained to be ready to collect the drips, no, he corrected
himself, the cascades. This information, however, was hardly what they
had expected. Indeed, it was nothing like any of them had ever imagined,
except perhaps in some fevered nightmares. This was quite real, though,
unless the American admiral in command of the Atlantic Fleet was lying
to his superiors. Could it all be some bizarre plot? No, he shook his
head, enough of that.
He stood up and gathered his totally superfluous papers. It was time
to inform the ambassador.
---- 8:45 PM, Moltke
The setting sun cast long, complex golden shadows through the portholes
and onto the east-side bulkheads. They undulated slightly like costumed,
be-ribboned dancers, as Moltke rocked gently in the waves. If any of the
men noticed them, they gave no sign of it.
"I see," commented Stennis, after a moment. "How is your
To Lionel, the tension in the compartment, that had seemed to be abating
just a minute before, surged anew.
"We have coal enough, sir," answered Hanzik, after a small
pause. "Thank you for concern, though."
The two admirals just regarded each other without visible expression.
"I do have one problem, though," Hanzik continued, when it
became clear that Stennis did not intend to speak further. "I ask
your, er ...," he turned to Lionel and spoke in German.
" Counsel,' " said Lionel.
"Danke. Yes, I ask your counsel, admiral."
"Go ahead, sir."
"Yes, thank you. I have aboard my ships a considerable number of
prisoners, many of them with serious wounds or injuries. I do not have
adequate medical persons and supplies for such a number."
"I see," Stennis commented, when the German admiral hesitated
for a few seconds.
Jones barely managed not to show any reaction. Were the Germans about
to try a bizarre barter: British wounded for American coal?
"Are you asking for medical assistance?" Jones heard Stennis
inquire, more neutrally than the young officer could have managed.
"Ja, I am. I wish to turn over, er, Kommodore?"
"Achtundvierzig," von Hoban responded.
"Forty-eight, of the most injured."
"Ah," temporized Stennis, thinking it must be an error in translation.
" Turn over.' Just take them? Just like that? What do you expect
me to do with them?"
"I am making no demands, sir," said Hanzik. "No, um, conditions.
How you and your officials interpret your duties and responsibilities
under The Hague is one thing, how I interpret mine own is another. I cannot
give them proper care, so I must turn them over to someone who can."
"Very well, sir," agreed Stennis suddenly. He nodded at his
senior staffer. "Mr. Trimm, see to it. Admiral, if you will have
Commander Trimm escorted back down to my gig, he'll get things started."
"Gut," Hanzik began, "before he goes, though, could you
accommodate another dozen or so? Added to the forty-eight?"
"I don't see why not," replied Stennis, with a quizzical expression.
"Would you be willing to transport some of my wounded, also? For
some, if I cannot get them to a hospital soon - and I do not know how
long your officials will make me wait - they will have no chance."
Stennis was clearly startled.
"I will be glad to send along one of my officers to be responsible
for them - one who speaks English. Lieutenant Lionel, here."
The American admiral was merely stunned; Lionel's reaction went far beyond
"That will be satisfactory," Stennis agreed, regarding Lionel
"Danke schon, danke vielen schon," said Hanzik. "Once
ashore, Mr. Lionel can notify the embassy, and they will assume full responsibility."
Hanzik cleared his throat and shifted into German. "Kommodore, if
you'll see the Commander to the quarterdeck. Captain Stang, please make
ready to transfer the wounded. Mr. Lionel, I suggest you go and put some
"Aye, aye, sir," they chorused.
---- 8:55 PM, Chocorua Princess
Nate stood up from the cushioned seat. It was one of the marina manager's
older kids. "Yeah, I'm here," he called back, grinning as he
remembered the last time someone had called out his name.
The reporter did not stand. He had been scribbling nonstop as he fired
question after question, and continued to do so now, oblivious to all
"Telephone call for you in the office. The operator says it's from
New York ...."
"I'll be right there. If you'll excuse me, that'll be Nik."
"He was with you - out there? And ..."
"Yes," said Lannon shortly, and jumped lightly over the gunwhale
and onto the pier.
The reporter stood then, and had to grab at the loose papers. His notebook
had gone in with him, so he'd had to beg paper. He went to follow the
yacht owner, but balked at the three foot gap to the pier and had to clamber
forward to the plank. By the time he caught up with the other in the office,
Lannon already had the phone in his ear.
"... that's great," Lannon was answering, "but how in
the hell did the Marines get involved?"
The reporter sat down and got out his pencil. Yes, he thought, "how"
---- 8:55 PM, Moltke
"... but mine was in 1898," Trimm heard Stennis saying, "Santiago
Both admirals turned as Trimm, von Hoban, and Jones came into the space.
"Sir," Trimm began, "the gig is on her way back. We should
be able to get the small boats loaded before dark." If the Germans
can move smartly, he did not add.
"Herr Admiral," said von Hoban. "Die Kriegsgefangenen?"
"Ja, danke. Admiral, Kommodore von Hoban is reminding me of the
rest of our prisoners of war. Since you are the senior officer present
of a Neutral Power, I would be grateful if you would review what, er,
that we are maintaining them as well as we able are. Your, um, chief of
staff would suffice, I would expect. Captain Stang would be most pleased
to show off his command, though perhaps your translator could go with
them, as mine is off packing his kit."
Stennis agreed, and the two Americans followed the German captain back
out. Von Hoban left, also.
"I have instructed the Kommodore to signal our ships to send their
launches, also," explained Hanzik. "And I did not want any misunderstandings,
when so many of your craft came alongside. Ah, here is our tea."
A seaman came in and handed each admiral a mug. Stennis recognized it
at first taste. It was one of his favorites: gunpowder tea. (NOTE 3) He
stared into the softly-coppered fluid with obvious suspicion. The good,
peaceably-blunt admiral was sending him a signal, one damnably dissonant
with his demeanor.
"Now, where were we? Yes, my command was six ships very much like
your Oregon. It was growing dark, much as it is now, but a low mist was
on the water...."
Stennis nodded for Hanzik to continue. The green tea's light, smooth,
herbal tang seemed to burn on his tongue like acid.
---- 9:00 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
"Thank you, sir," Anton said, and hung up the phone. He walked
tiredly back out to the post. The ambulances had left a few minutes ago,
and he had called to inform the base duty officer of just who were inbound
to what hospital. He also reported that his men were overdue for relief.
As was he, for that matter, though he did not mention that.
Those he had spoken to on the phone had clearly been more interested,
however, in what he had learned from the American yachtsman who had come
in with Salamis.
"Sir, the grocer's back."
Late night supper? There was no telling, he decided.
"Sir, looks like eight trucks this time, sir. No, make that nine,
ten. Two more just made the turn off the shore road."
Ten trucks? That was twice as many as before. They must be for the new
"Very well. Major? Gunny?" The lieutenants were at the barricades.
The detachment he had sent in to "greet" Salamis had returned
shortly after the ambulances had. The Port Authority official that had
showed up a bit later had appeared quite uncomfortable when he spoke with
Anton. The man's eyes kept drifting to the Marine's bayonets, Anton recalled
wryly. In any case, no request had been made for the soldiers to remain,
though the Greek ship's officers had thanked them most graciously for
"The admiral has ordered that this position remain manned. A relief
unit is being dispatched, ETA 2200."
"Sir, any idea why they want this manned?" The last of the
crowd had gone, and even the reporters had mostly left.
"Nothing solid, Major, but I think they're expecting more German
"Gunny, I want a sharp watch, with glasses, on the gangway of that
ship. I want to know if anything comes off her, especially anything going
into that warehouse. Until that Port Authority official gives the word,
they shouldn't be offloading any cargo." Especially not long boxes,
he did not add.
"And Major, I think we've been patient enough." Fideles nodded
in agreement off to the side.
"Once the relief force shows up, I'm not sure just what excuse I'll
use - Gunny, give it some thought - but I intend to search that warehouse."
---- 9:00 PM, Moltke
"Good Lord, a Yank officer," exclaimed Captain Theargus.
Captain Dedmundee hitched up on one elbow and followed his gaze. "Two
of them," he corrected. He was finding that he could see better now,
as dusk neared, than he could when the sun cast its glare off the waves.
"Commander!" Theargus half-shouted, striving to get their attention.
"What brings you here? To what do we owe the honour of your visit?
I'd offer you a spot of tea ...."
The Americans were part of a party of about five men. Two might have
been German soldiers, or MPs, or something of that sort. The fifth man
was one Theargus recognized as the CO of the Molke, Captain Stang. The
Americans made some inquiry of Stang, who waved them on over to the RAN
"Good evening, sirs. I'm CDR Trimm and this is ENS Jones. We're
on the staff of Vice-Admiral Stennis, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, and the
Germans have asked us to inspect ...." Trimm swept his right hand
to encompass Moltke's topsides.
Ah, scowled Theargus, Red Cross work, and propaganda. The Huns had sunk
him, killed many of his crew, and now they were displaying them like trophy
"Captain Stang says you're two of the most senior POWs. There's
just one other captain aboard."
"What?" Theargus demanded. "Who is he? Where is he? They've
given us no word of him."
Trimm looked at the junior American, who then spoke up.
"They don't know his name, sir," Jones tried to explain. "We
watched them sedate him."
"Where is he?" Dedmundee asked again, in a more temperate tone
than his fellow countryman had employed. "Why isn't he with us?"
"I'm not sure," Jones answered. "I think they have him
with his own crew. We saw him, sir. He looks okay, though he's banged
up a bit. He seemed delirious. He was thrashing about and kept yelling
his name was Nell' - but his crew said it wasn't."
The RAN captains looked at each other and shrugged.
"Do you know what their intentions are, Commander?" Theargus
asked, after a moment.
"No, sir. They have, though, asked us to take something like 50
of the most wounded off their hands. I don't know if you're one of them."
"Did they tell you how many of us are in the bag?" Dedmundee
"Not yet," said Trimm. At a gesture, Jones asked the German
CO, who answered with expressive gestures of his own, punctuating a torrent
of Deutsch. An exact prisoner count?! Ach du lieber Himmel! Between Moltke's
personnel, others' launch crews, casualties, Hanzik's staff, and shipyard
workers, Stang didn't even know how many GERMANS were aboard!
"He says he doesn't know," understated the Ensign. "That
the admiral might, but he doesn't."
Stang led the Americans away, still shaking his head.
"Ask him about his torpedo damage," Theargus called after them,
with characteristic chutzpah.
Turning at the Aussie's first words, Trimm raised his eyebrows, but made
---- 9:05 PM, Philadelphia Inquirer Newsroom
"Freddie's on the phone, chief. Says he's got a story, another one!"
The editor was reviewing galley proofs out in the pit.
" bout time!" He picked up the receiver. "Get me
a steno here," he shouted out into the hazy air.
"Alright, partner. Whatta' ya got?"
"I found the guy with the yacht, Chief.'
"Yeah, so what?"
"I got him to talk. Real first person stuff. And, get this, Chief!
He pulled seven British sailors out of the water. Seven! Wounded, some
of them. There's blood all over his boat. Saved them, Chief! I can see
the headline now ...."
"Did you interview any of these Brits?" The editor wasn't interested
in Freddie's headline. An interview with rescued RN sailors, though ....
"No, he'd transferred them offshore, to some Greek ship."
"I got the name here somewhere. Chief, the ship was met in New York
by US Marines."
"Yeah? So?" The editor remained interested - Freddie was building
up to something more.
"They met them with fixed bayonets."
"How in blue blazes do you know that!"
---- 9:10 PM, Moltke
A junior officer entered, made a brief report to Hanzik, and was dismissed.
"Boats from your two fine dreadnoughts are approaching," Hanzik
explained. "Others of your ships are putting theirs in the water.
Perhaps you'd ...."
"Yes," said Stennis, and he went to rise. "Thank you for
the tea. Fortnum's?" (NOTE 4)
"Ja, glad you liked it." Hanzik put down his own cup and cleared
his throat. "It is likely the last I will get for some time. Glad
I was to share it with someone who could appreciate it."
"You are low on tea?" Stennis asked, before he could help himself.
"Nein, überhaupt nicht. That is, no, not at all," the
German admiral answered. "Tea I have much of. It is water that becomes
low. We have gone on water, er - is limits' the right word?"
" Rations'? Water rations?"
"Yes, danke. It is very hot and we have perhaps one thousand extra
men aboard. We will share what we have, of course, but ...."
"I understand," the American admiral replied. Indeed, I do,
he thought, especially the "share" and "but" parts.
"I'll see what I can do, but I can make no promises."
"Ja, verstehe. Perhaps it will rain."
1) "Wie viel Uhr ist es?" = "What time is it?"
2) "Die Kriegsgefangenen" = "Prisoners of War"
3) Gunpowder tea derives its name from its tightly rolled green leaves
that are said to resemble the powder pellets used in cannons on 18th century
British men of war. It originates in China, with most produced in Pingshui
in Zheijian Province.
4) Fortnum & Mason - a very long-time British merchanter of tea and
similar products. See: www.flavourofbritain.com/fortnum.html