Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XI
"Anger not the scholars, lest they leave their books and slay us
- Things My Great-Grandfather Really Said, by Lady Christine Letters
(page 83, Kaiser Imperial Press, Berlin, copyright 1969)
---- 8:30 AM, Strassburg, stopped (Roughly 40 miles East of Delaware
As LCDR Gommel gave Bornholdt his final instructions, the younger officer's
right hand checked the flap of his holster shut. The leather holding the
naval Pistolen-08 (Luger) was not pristine, but worn from use. (NOTE
1) The white grip of his sword also showed unmistakable signs that
it was no stranger to the LT's hand. (NOTE 2) Despite
the ungainliness of taking both along on a small-boat boarding party,
the officer clearly intended to do just that.
The tableau brought home to Gommel again that the XO did not know so
many assigned to his ship, including this man. Like many others, officers
and enlisted both, the LT had been added to Strassburg basically as supercargo
in hopes of just this situation. They also had many more bi-lingual crewmen
than might be expected. In fact, they were currently limited more by the
number of small boats than by the manning of prize crews, thanks to having
had to yield several boats to the others of Hanzik's force, who had had
many of their own rendered into kindling by British shells.
Yes, many aboard were still somewhat strangers to him. This man, though,
this LT Bornholdt, was more of an enigma to Strassburg's XO than any of
the others. It was not his size - which was average. He seemed to be a
loner, but many assigned to a ship for temporary duty never fully became
"family." He had been given charge of the two port mounts, and
had performed well enough, though what firing they'd done had been largely
with the forward and starboard guns. No, it was none of those things.
Instead, the problem was one of discordance, Gommel had decided. Bornholdt
had the look of a scholar, until one saw the thickness of his wrists and
the muscularity of his forearms. He had appeared awkward, until the XO
had realized that the LT never seemed to be off balance in the Atlantic
swells. Even his baggage had eccentricities, as his personal weapons were
of high quality, but the holster and scabbard both showed considerable
wear. He had only one dress uniform, but had two whetstones and his own
gun cleaning kit.
"Aye, aye, sir," the Enigma replied, and began to descend to
---- 8:30 AM, bridge of USS Aylwin, stopped (Roughly 40 miles SE of Coney
"Sir, the shot was from the cruiser to the northeast, er ..."
"Augsburg," Leverett supplied.
"Yessir. Lookouts report that the smoke is definitely dropping
off there, and it don't seem to be wind. Can't make out small boats at
this distance, but chances are they've stopped her and are boarding her
"Very well," Leverett replied. "What about the one to
"No change there, best we can tell, sir. Plume's steady. They must
be almost alongside each other now, but it looks like the inbound vessel
hasn't slowed or changed course."
So, the German cruisers had stopped one ship and were apparently letting
another one steam past them without delay.
"Odd," commented Leverett. "Most odd," he added,
unknowingly duplicating the exact words then being muttered by Captain
Barbour of the steamship Carolina with a cargo of sugar, as he stared
at the unexpected apparition off his starboard side. (NOTE
3) Many of Barbour's crew and every single one of his 220 passengers
were also staring at the waving Germans, and some were even waving back.
---- 8:35 AM, Lochard (Leeds United Shipping Co., Ltd.), stopped (~50
miles ESE Coney Island)
LT Kessock found himself the master of a vessel filled with men stunned
into incomprehensibility. Like LT von Larg to the south off Philadelphia,
Kessock could read English better than he could speak it. Unlike the belligerence
that von Larg had faced, however, the master of this vessel remained simply
unable to achieve coherence. For the first few minutes after he'd boarded,
the man had denounced the "delay" as a "bloody prank."
Unfortunately, "prank" was not in Kessock's somewhat-limited
spoken English vocabulary, so confusion had instantly set in on both sides.
"Preposterous, I say! Outrageous!"
The ruddy-faced man was somewhere between denial and apoplexy, Kessock
sighed to himself. He'd give him a few more minutes. In the meanwhile,
he just ignored him as he worked at deciphering the inked, long-hand script
of the entries in the manifest. Also different from the situation faced
that had been by von Larg, was that there was no need for haste. Augsburg
bobbed patiently a few hundred yards abeam, with no intention of going
Kessock looked up. "Yes, Britz?"
"Engineering secured, sir. No sign of sabotage or mischief of any
"Good. Cox'n, while you were below, Schmidt confirmed that they've
no wireless. The men are to continue the weapons search, but don't you
go far. I'll want to signal as soon as I've worked this out."
"Aye, aye, sir."
He didn't know what some of the smaller lots were, but the biggest entries
in terms of stowage looked pretty clear. The master also seemed to be
coming out of his fit.
"These items, here," Kessock pointed. "The ones called
'wool' and 'woolen cloth,' are they "Wolle' and 'Wollstoff'?"
" 'Vole stuff'?" The man's eyes threatened to glaze.
"What one obtains from, um, the barber of sheep," Kessock said.
"Yes, yes, that's it." Denying it would not help, the Britisher
realized, since the Germans would just bash open some crates and see for
themselves. They were probably down there doing that right now anyway.
Smashing anything that drew their eye. Barbarians, loose in his ship.
"Thank you," Kessock answered. The other item in some quantity
was a word that he knew and had recently re-familiarized himself with.
Yes, he thought, 150 tons of Zinn. Still, confirmation was good. "And
this 'tin' is metal in ingots, yes?"
The captain nodded glumly even as Kessock nodded in satisfaction. Yes,
wool and tin were both very good, if only they could get them back home.
He wrote down the basics on a sheet of paper. The lesser lots could wait.
"Britz," he called, "hoist the 'all is well' and send
the boat back. This," he added, handing over his notes, "is
to go to the captain or the XO. Let me know when you're ready to get this
tub back underway."
The cox'n smiled.
"Aye, aye, uh, Captain!"
Kessock could not help but smile in return. The Britisher just numbly
studied a coffee stain on what had been - just minutes before - his deck.
---- 8:35 AM, pier at the New York Naval Station
LT Lionel was not smiling, not at all. He had hoped to get ashore in
America, but not this way. His surroundings were not loud anarchy, but
bore many similarities to it. If he closed his eyes and ears to language,
it was eerily reminiscent of the pier at Wilhelmshaven when they had returned
with the Baron on the first of June, eighteen days and an ocean away.
Those of his charges who were conscious showed signs of distress, which
surprised him not one pfennig. After all, they did not know English, and
they were literally physically helpless. All about them were non-Germans
with guns, calling out in the language of the enemy.
"LT Lionel," shouted ENS Jones. "These two are for us."
The young American officer was pointing to a pair of medical vehicles
rolling to a stop just as the last of the stretchers came off the gangway.
The "us" made him relax a bit, since that made it clear that
they would retain their American guide. The German made a hand gesture
of acceptance and turned to those on the lined up stretchers.
"There are two medical wagons," Lionel half-shouted to his
men amidst the din. "I will be in the leader. They are going to take
us to their hospital and no where else. Their admiral has given his word
that it will be so, and his aide remains with us. I will communicate with
our embassy once we reach the hospital."
He hoped what he'd said was the case. This country was at peace, separated
from the battlefields of Europe by the vast reaches of the Atlantic. So,
why were so many soldiers and sailors publicly toting about firearms?
---- 8:40 AM, Justine (Aberdeen Shipping Co., Ltd.), stopped (1000 yards
The ship's master was not there to meet them, to formalize the surrender.
By "The Book," he should have been, and LT Bornholdt put great
store in "The Book" - great store, indeed. In fact, all he'd
ever really wanted was to be left to his books, to become a scholar, a
professor of history. The military had held no allure for him, but he'd
not been given any choice in the matter. Not really.
"Was?" Bornholdt barked at the sullen pair that were there
as they came over the gunnel. "Was ist das? What means this?! Das
His English was better than that, he knew, but the red rush of blood
that suffused his features was but a pale indication of what was going
on within. This was a blatant violation of the Rules and an insult! To
him! Personally! The tendons stood out starkly on the back of his left
hand, struggling to keep the lion whose head formed the sword's pommel
within its scabbard cage. The unarmed British sailors flinched at the
threat of his obvious fury.
Fate had been cruel to the young German, taking from him those who should
have sheltered him, guided him, leaving him the responsibility but not
the means to safeguard who and what remained. His grandfather had gone
first, taking with him their modest claim to nobility, as the senior line
took the minor title and the lion's share - that is to say, all - of the
real assets. His father, estranged from those kin, weakened steadily those
next few years and the accident that crippled Bornholdt's promising older
brother broke what was left of what had been within their sire. The teenaged,
would-be-professor found that what he had inherited were an aging mother,
two unwed sisters, a crippled bother, and unpaid debts. He had sold everything,
even his books, and gone begging in the cold to his colder kin. They had
gloated, but had disgorged the charity necessary to avoid familial taint.
It was an angry young man who had then reported to the naval school at
Flensburg-Mürwik. (NOTE 4) Indeed, honor and
anger were all that he had left. Countless hours on the range and at "Die
Selohaar Fechtschule" (The Fencing School") in Hansa had failed
to quell it, and the blood shed in duels there had failed to slake it.
He had, however, gained a measure of control over it, but control was
"You!" Bornholdt's voice was brusque and hard. "Take five
men each. The engineroom, the holds, the crew quarters. Safeties off!
You five, with me. I'll be on the bridge."
He had pointed with his right hand, but had kept his left hard upon
his sword's hilt, as though the blade might leap forth if he released
---- 8:45 AM, pier, beside Imperator
It had been quite festive there on the pier this last half-hour. And
loud. All four of the liners had powerful steam whistles, and they had
been blasting in chorus. The two young reporters winced as they passed
Vaterland. Browning wondered if they had worked on her whistle to increase
its decibel level. The whistles were contesting for sonic space with the
brass and the drums of the band along part of the pier's length.
"That's odd," Fox said. The two had just reached the base of
"What?" Browning asked or, rather, half-shouted. "You
mean the band?"
"No, not that. How'd they get a band here without the Inquirer getting
wind of it?"
"Hey, look! No Inquirers."
The make-shift stand on the street corner just off the pier was deserted.
The youth or wizened pensioner gone. The spot that would normally have
contained a stack of morning papers, held down by a brick or stone, was
---- 8:45 AM, Moltke, stopped (Roughly 40 miles SE Coney Island)
The night had gotten almost chilly, and the air was still cool. The cloud
bank coming up from the southwest suggested that there might be shade,
and even rain, later. For the moment, though, the sun shone brightly above
the horizon, just south of east.
"Bob," said Theargus, "sit up. The waterboy's here."
"It's about bloody time," groused Dedmundee. "Between
my head and the racket the damn Huns were making, I don't think I got
a wink of sleep last night. Busy little bees, they were. Then the sun
comes up and THEN they stop. What are they, vampires or something?"
"No telling, mate," said Theargus, "no telling."
He scratched at his unshaven bristles. "You know, we've both been
on water rations before, but it's been years since I wasn't the one giving
And it was depressingly likely, he thought sourly, that he'd never be
in a position to give that - or much of any order - ever again. In the
bag or on the beach, either way his command days were surely done. The
Navy was full of men who had not managed to lose their ships.
The pair paused in their rancor and introspection to queue up for water.
---- 8:45 AM, Justine (Aberdeen Shipping Co., Ltd.), stopped (1000 yards
There was only one person on the bridge: a stripling perhaps not even
halfway through his teens. The ship's wheel was roped, the engine order
telegraph at "Stop."
"Vhere ist your captain?" Bornholdt shouted. He had drawn his
Luger on his way to the bridge. He did not point it at the youth, but
neither did he holster it.
The boy did not answer. Instead, he sat down on the deck and crossed
No answer, though he appeared to be trembling.
Anger, honor, and respect skirmished briefly within the German officer.
"Remain here," Bornholdt ordered one of his men. "The
rest of you, follow me."
He exited the back of the bridge, Luger at the ready, and went aft along
the short passageway. The door on the right was ajar; the one on the left
was not. A quick glance showed it empty. The one on the left was shut,
and it was marked as the wireless compartment. He put an ear to the side
of the bulkhead a foot to one side of the door. There were the sounds
of clicking, a scrape, and perhaps a muttered phrase.
He stepped back, staying out of line with the door. Sizing up the four
armed sailors, he pointed to the two largest.
"Put your rifles on the deck. There."
The men did not question the officer. The leading seaman, who had his
own Luger drawn, opened his mouth, but Bornholdt turned to him before
he had time to form a comment.
"You are to follow me in, quickly - but do not bump me! - hold your
fire on my order. "
"Jawohl, Herr Leutnant."
Bornholdt turned back to the two men now without their rifles.
"I will count to three. On 'drei' you are to run into the door,
knock it down or open. Verstanden Sie?"
"Jawohl, Herr Leutnant."
"When the door is open, do not try to remain on your feet. Go down
on the deck instantly. Instantly! Verstanden!?"
They did, but the leading seaman found his voice at that.
"Sir, aren't you going to give them the chance to surrender?"
"They already did." Bornholdt shifted his Luger to his left
hand. The door's hinges were on the right side, he noted.
"No more questions." The metallic hiss of his sword coming
out of its scabbard emphasized the stark nature of his reply. "If
I go down, shoot them all. Verstanden?"
"Jawohl, Herr Leutnant!" Though the man swallowed convulsively
Bornholdt nodded at the two now-unarmed men who had stoically watched
the exchange. The men crouched at the ready, right shoulders hunched,
about 2 meters from the door.
"Eins-POW! -- zwei-POW! -- drei-POW!"
He punctuated each count with a shot from the Luger - the first through
the bulkhead about one meter to the left of the door edge, the second
through the door itself, the third one meter to the right - all sternum
The battering ram duo hit the door and took it down, scattering chairs
and whatever else had been placed there to prop it shut. Bornholdt was
right behind the men, who sprawled quite nicely, either through obedience
or momentum. Time slowed as adrenaline geysered within him. The air palpably
thickened and his sailors seemed to fall at quarter speed.
He was though the doorway. A man standing two meters to the left had
something small in his hand, so Bornholdt shot him even as he backhand-hacked
the exposed forearm of the man on the right, the one with the upraised
He bounded another step forward, retaining motion and the initiative,
clearing his men, and creating space. Motion behind an overturned table
to his left triggered a shot through it, then another. Mouths were opening,
the man on the right with a crowbar dropped it as Bornholdt's sword pointed
in his direction. Hands were going up, palms flat.
It was over.
"Down! On zee deck! Schnell!"
The leading seaman stared bug-eyed at the blood, winced at the laments.
"Tie them up," the blood-spattered Enigma ordered, as he wiped
his blade. "Then do what you can for them."
The sailor was in near shock.
"Ja-jawohl, Herr Leutnant."
The lieutenant took one last look around. As he did so, he ejected the
clip from his pistol, and replaced it with one from a uniform pocket.
The used clip went into another.
"I'll be on the bridge."
"Jawohl, Herr Leutnant," the leading seaman repeated, numbly,
and swallowed again.
NOTE 1: The "Luger" began as a 7.63 mm pistol
designed by Hugo Borchardt and manufactured by Ludwig Loewe , Berlin.
Georg Luger modified the design (including rechambering it to a 7.65 mm
Parabellum cartridge. It was redesigned again to reflect lessons learned
in offering it to the US Army and having it rejected due to reliability
concerns. The Kaiserlich Marine adopted one model of the Luger pistol
as a regulation side?arm in 1904. The model adopted was 9 mm, had a 150
mm barrel, and an adjustable two position rear sight. For a picture of
the naval model, see: http://users.skynet.be/HL?Editions/lugerpa/alumarine.HTM
(Ironically, Borchardt was a naturalized American citizen who began his
arms patents history in Connecticut. Though he returned to Germany to
live out his life, it appears that he never gave up his American citizenship!)
NOTE 2: The Imperial German Navy Sword was introduced
in 1890. It was the pattern dress sword for Germany's Naval Officers during
WW I and WW II and is still in use today. The design includes a beautifully
ribbed white grip with a full faced lion's head back strap that gives
the sword a Napoleonic look. Its smooth high carbon steel blade was particularly
well crafted and the scabbard was a two ringed brass and leather design.
Several examples can be seen at the Johnson Reference Books site (www.johnsonreferencebook.com)
- go to "Our Catalogue" then "Edged Weapons" then
"Imperial German edged weapons" then "Imperial Navy Swords."
The complete url:
NOTE 3: The Carolina and her captain are historical.
She was formerly the "City of Savannah" and the "La Grande
Duchesse." See: http://www.bluewaterdivers.com/Sites/carolina.htm
NOTE 4: The German naval training complex at Flensburg?Mürwik
celebrated its centennial in 2002. In 2003, the plan was to move the operations
in the last of the complex to an even older location in Bremerhaven. See: