Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XXXVI
(Morning and early afternoon, June 25, 1915)
---- Boston Globe
"Liner Cecilie Problems Continue"
"Repair Teams Work Around the Clock"
"Frequent showers of sparks frequently flicker through the open
hatches of The Kronprincessen Cecilie, casting long shadows from the German
engineers as they march up and down the gangways, retrieving replacement
parts or needed equipment, their faces set in frowns of concentration.
Within the freshly painted hull of the great liner, repair crews have
worked nearly non-stop for the last several days. In fact, the only pauses
in the pounding of hammers and the screeching of grinders appear to have
been during the lavish concerts, so widely attended by Bostonians since
the arrival of what some are calling 'The Great German Liner Fleet.' Meanwhile,
the repairs continue with no end in sight and one entire side of the pier
has been set aside for what has become almost a veritable mountain of
equipment and supplies for what must surely be a Herculean undertaking.
"Rumors run rampant as to the exact nature and extent of the great
liner's woes. One unconfirmed report has it that all the mountings on
the port side in one engineroom had catastrophically failed due to rust
from a previously undiscovered leak, requiring complete rebuild. Another
account has it that wide swaths of hull sheathing had been found to have
grossly deteriorated over the last year and that the required replacement
had to be from the inside, as there was no time for caissons to be fabricated
and emplaced for exterior access. Other stories purport to relate the
consternation of German engineers who, upon opening the casings of a wide
variety of propulsion pumps and other machines for inspection, discovered
to their utter dismay widespread corrosion and decay had set in throughout
the propulsion systems. Whatever the case, blasts of steam and clouds
of soot have been observed issuing forth at erratic intervals from the
great hull, hopefully giving evidence that some sort of progress is being
"... Throughout it all, HAPAG president Ballin has maintained the
Kronprincessen Cecile to be fully seaworthy, but that the ongoing work
was necessary to ensure that the liner could keep pace with the rest and,
in so doing, 'have a fair chance to outrun the warships of the British
blockade of the United States.' Ballin remained steadfastly optimistic
that Kronprincessen Cecile would not need to be left behind when the time
came to depart. Just when the time would be, he would not say."
---- Flag Bridge, USS North Dakota (BB-29), course 080, 8 knots
Admiral Higgins studied the map of the waters off Boston's outer harbor,
checking the locations of various elements of his command against the
chart. With some difficulty, Higgins controlled his impatience to head
out to sea, as he fully expected the German warship squadron to be on
station about 40 miles beyond the Three Mile Limit. He had a strong base
for that hunch, as the Germans had used precisely that deployment off
The Commander - Atlantic Fleet, however, had specified that he complete
a sweep of the coastal environs before heading out into International
Waters. It didn't take alchemy to deduce that Stennis' concern was that
the Germans might have anchored in the lee of an American island to try
to finish coaling. If that were found to be the case, then the Americans
would have documented the Germans violating The Hague treaty they had
been waving about so very publicly these last weeks. That such a discovery
would result in a strong and energetic reaction by the United States government,
Higgins had no doubt. Vice-Admiral Stennis had told him that the Secretary
of State, the Honorable William Jennings Bryan, himself, had declared
that he would remain in his office today until the German squadron had
Pursuant to the orders of Commander - Atlantic Fleet, Higgins had detached
two pairs of Destroyers and the trio of ships of the North Carolina (ACR-12)
force and sent them on ahead at speed to comb the network of small islets
and shoals. The admiral's core dreadnought force remained in a supporting
position, outbound in Presidential Roads as he awaited reports from the
three force commanders. Meanwhile, all he could do was consult the charts
to assure himself one more time that all the islands and islets were being
adequately examined. (NOTE 1)
---- Flag Bridge of Texas (BB-35), course 010, speed 18 knots
About 1000 yards off the starboard beam, the dreadnoughts New York (BB-34)
and Wyoming (BB-32) powered through the heavy Atlantic waves, remnants
of last night's storms, their bows casting aside great sheets of foam.
(NOTE 2) The position of the morning sun, south and
behind the outboard dreadnought duo, highlighted them superbly against
the horizon. The wind was brisk and out of the southwest, blowing the
towering black stack plumes slightly ahead and away from the ships and
providing impeccable viewing conditions. The scene just begged to be memorialized
on film, or so the USN photographer aboard had concluded. This worthy
gentleman was struggling mightily at his self-appointed task behind his
tripod and under the draped cloth as both his subject and his camera were
going up and down, port and starboard, and various semi-random combinations
of all of the above. On the bridge, well forward, higher, and completely
out of sight of the photographer, Admiral McDonald and Captain Moore both
had their binoculars trained on the horizon to the northeast. Cape Cod
was just beginning to recede astern and to port. McDonald's countenance
bore a grave expression as he considered just some of the ways the day
might unfold, especially if the Huns were discovered coaling in United
States Territorial Waters.
Aboard the New York, both Admiral Alton and Captain West also bore sober
expressions and had their binoculars similarly trained ahead and out to
sea. Lurking directly astern of New York, Captain Griff and his lookouts
had to cope with the great smoke plumes from all four dreadnoughts covering
almost completely their line of sight ahead and to seaward. Somber expressions
were also etched into the faces of Griff's First Lieutenant, his bosuns,
and most especially his deck hands. Overnight, the wind direction had
been far less benign. Coal soot, the bane of steamships since the stoking
of the very first boiler, had plated out everywhere - four dreadnoughts'
worth of coal soot. They surveyed its effects on canvas, brass, and paint,
and all recognized that a great many hours of work had been undone, necessitating
many more backbreaking hours of drudge work ahead. The combination of
high speed and multiple ships had made it much worse than usual. The more
discerning of them saw ahead to an unexpected and depressing fact. All
those big new dreadnoughts a-building with their huge coal-sucking boilers
and the large dreadnought formations sure to come guaranteed that the
deck force would spend the rest of their enlistments hunched over soot.
---- Bridge of Florida (BB-30), course 010, speed 18 knots
The visibility problems to the northeast were even worse for Captain
Dedmon, aboard Florida (BB-30) 500 yards in Texas' wake. Dedmon wanted
a model ship, but the last few days had proven to be a trial for the senior
naval captain from Norfolk, Virginia. First there had been the sudden,
unplanned sortie with Texas down from Newport. That actually had gone
well, though he'd had to strand 40 of his crew ashore on leave. Then,
in the space of an hour or so, his command had gone from dreadnought to
prisoner barge as he'd taken on over 600 former British POWs for immediate
transfer ashore. The resulting speed run in to New York and then back
out the next dawn had been exhausting, to say the least.
Tough as those challenges had been, Dedmon was largely satisfied that
his crew had performed ably and professionally. However, for the last
nearly an hour, he'd been having great difficulty meeting the model ship
standard on his very own bridge. In particular, the demeanor of all watchstanders
had become markedly different from those aboard the other three American
dreadnoughts, quite strained, in fact. The problem was not that they couldn't
see much ahead or outboard, though that was indeed the case. No, the problem
was that they had a wonderfully clear view of the aft half of Texas. Specifically,
their watchstations had all become what amounted to ring-side seats for
the photographer's antics just outboard of Texas' third turret.
Sudden, hard intakes of breath echoed about the bridge as the man went
down on the deck, hard, with one foot momentarily poking out under the
"He really almost went over that time, sir!" "Omigod!"
"Quiet on the bridge!" "Sorry, sir."
It was his third fall. His tripod had gone down only twice. It was just
not comportment that was suffering. Unbeknownst to the officers, the Navigator's
chief bosun's mate was running book at the back of the bridge. Betting
was brisk. The odds had been running even that the man would go over the
side, 2 - 1 that the camera would. At this latest slip, the odds shifted
some more. It was getting to be serious money in the pot.
Atop Florida's forward cagemast, the watch was flat-out in hysterics.
The smooth-faced junior officer in charge up there had no clue if he should
do something about it, as nothing he'd gotten at the Academy had prepared
him for a situation anything like this one. He was further distracted
by his very near drop of a pair of extremely expensive binoculars due
to one mate's explosive belly laugh. The internal phone system was abuzz
with reports, and fresh accounts of the latest slip threatened to overload
the circuits. Back atop the aft cagemast, all the men clustered to the
extreme starboard side in their efforts to get an uninterrupted line of
sight past the forward cagemast. Only later would the junior officer there
ask his petty officer if the designers had actually anticipated such a
situation and the resulting weight mis-distribution. They probably had
but the petty officer paled at the question, nonetheless.
Meanwhile, back on the bridge, Dedmon cleared his throat. "Officer
of the Deck," he began, "muster the boat crew."
Ready the small craft, show forethought.
"Aye, aye, sir."
The odds shifted some more in the face of the Old Man's concern. Even
before the order went out, off duty crewmen had begun to drift out onto
Florida's outside decks. Scandalized petty officers chased back many would-be
idlers and skylarkers, but the topsides body count began to increase regardless.
---- The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Jersey Devils In Oak Harbor!"
"Federal Government Blamed!"
"...chased both women half-way down the block. Doctors who treated
the women stated that their patients were suffering from severe attacks
of the vapors but that both were expected to make full recoveries. Tempers
are reported to be running hot in Oak Harbor. Reportedly, a union of concerned
scientists is being formed to investigate the sightings but their spokesman
has already announced the group's conclusions that the federal government
was to blame. 'Wherever there is green, peace should prevail,' shouted
picketers as they marched around the local post office, the only federal
building in Oak Harbor.
" ' You don't have to have a hole in your head to realize that everything
bad that happens MUST be the fault of the federal government,' the spokesman
declared, when asked how they had arrived at their conclusion. 'After
all, that's why we pay taxes. The federal government's responsible for
preventing this kind of thing from happening. So, it's up to government
inspectors to keep all those "Jersey Devils" in Jersey, where
"Other eye-witness reports that the creatures that chased the Oak
Harbor matrons were simply large dogs have been summarily dismissed by
the scientist union as 'obvious cover-up attempts by federal agents.'
"Federal officials stated that they had no authority to regulate
'Jersey Devils,' and that without any new, clear power, they were in the
dark on the matter."
---- Bridge of Arkansas (BB-33), course 030, speed 18 knots
Vice-Admiral Stennis, Commander - Atlantic Fleet, knew he should simply
endeavor to enjoy his current sortie. After all, he headed a substantial
force: Utah (BB-31) directly astern, Columbia (C-12) with two Destroyers
ahead on his seaward flank, and Montana (ACR-13) with two more Destroyers
near the horizon in his van. The problem was that he feared that he would
have TOO much force. The at-sea forces under his direct tactical command
would soon swell to include most of the modern units of the entire Atlantic
Fleet, including nine dreadnoughts. He would have, in what could theoretically
become a confrontation, more of his nation's naval combat power at the
beck of his flag hoist than perhaps had ever been the case in the history
of the United States.
This was no light responsibility! He realized now, as perhaps he never
had before, that it was one thing to see the long list of names of the
naval assets of his command on paper, even to see many of them lined up
at the piers of the naval base. It was quite a different matter to take
them all, or nearly all, to sea with the prospect of maybe actually having
to USE them. Santiago Bay, back when he was a junior officer on Oregon
(BB-3), may have been a little like this for Admiral Sampson. Now, the
broad pennant was HIS!
It was invigorating. It was also daunting, maybe even intimidating. Hell,
it was a complicated lot of things.
Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, things could get very interesting indeed.
---- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Jersey Devil Fever!"
"Zoo To Send Field Team"
"... of the Philadelphia Zoo, stated that a full field team had
been sent to New Jersey Pine Barrens to make a scientific study of the
reported sightings. When asked if attempts would be made to take or capture
any specimens, the official responded that it was premature to make any
conclusions of that sort.
"The newest sightings of the so-called 'Jersey Devil' have resulted
in inquiries from all over the country. Many citizens have armed themselves
in preparation for defending themselves and their loved ones. Despite
the many encounters documented to date, mounted hunts by sportsmen groups
have been so far been unsuccessful in running any of the mysterious creatures
to ground. More hunts are being organized by ....
"Far from disappearing, however, there have been reports of additional
sightings of creatures claimed to be "Jersey Devils' as far west
as Ohio. The Smithsonian Institution is reportedly also considering sending
"Leading the team for the Philadelphia Zoo will be Professor Lawrence
---- New Jersey, Roughly 6 miles SSW of Appollonio
"Well," said Professor Nevels, quietly, "I guess this
"Oh! The poor thing." His wife, Lourene, crouched beside the
"Eh?! Is it dead?" The voice came from within the weathered
and rotting board house. The only visible signs of those within were gun
barrels poking out between the dirty, fraying curtains hanging limply
in the still, humid air.
"Hell and damnation," he muttered. "Um, sorry, Beloved."
"Strong language may have a place, Dear," she replied in a
low pitch. "And, well, if it does, this would be one of them."
"Is it dead? What are you two doing with it out there?" There
was a distinctly shrill whine in the voice emanating from behind those
guns. It was a dangerous sound, with harmonic undertones of anger and
manic panic. Lynch mobs probably started with speechifying in tones like
The two from Philadelphia sighed in almost perfect unison.
"Thank you," he said and, then, raising his voice, "Yes,
"The poor thing," Lourene repeated, sadly. "To come so
far and, then ...."
---- Bridge of Kearsarge (BB-5)
Rear-Admiral Martin could see the plumes on the horizon to the north-east
where Vice-Admiral Stennis had taken his force off on his speed run to
Boston. Left to Martin was the task of patrolling in force off New York,
the scene of so many dramatic confrontations these last two weeks. The
admiral strolled out onto the starboard wing-bridge and looked about at
his force. Astern rode Kentucky (BB-6), while ahead and out on the seaward
flank were trios of older torpedo boats, each led by an older cruiser.
Just a single dozen years ago, his command would have been reckoned a
thoroughly modern force of substantial combat power. Recent events had
proved it neither. Copious published photographs of the two mighty German
battlecruisers loitering just off shore had changed perspectives more
than the reports of great sea battles off Britain - battles that had pitted
dozens of dreadnoughts against their peers. The stories that went with
the battlecruiser pictures had included graphic accounts of how easily
they had disposed of Vice-Admiral Patey's cruiser squadron without loss.
The newspapers had all also included the fact that the German battlecruisers
here were the oldest and least powerful ones in their entire navy.
Yes, Admiral Martin would admit, if pressed, that his command was composed
of entirely second-rate ships, but he would staunchly maintain that his
men were second to none. The United States Navy was building many new
dreadnoughts; ones as powerful or more than those of Britain, France,
or Germany. In fact, three or four more were due to be commissioned within
the next twelve months (NOTE 3), with more soon to
be laid down. Heck, the admiral thought, with all this going on, Congress
might finally see the light and loosen the purse strings enough to build
a REAL deep water fighting fleet - one that even the British or German
Empires could not afford to cross.
For now, though, Martin thought, as he turned back to the northeastern
horizon, his duty here was to train up the men who would crew those dreadnoughts-to-be.
He saw that the plume marking Stennis' dreadnought-cored force was no
longer in sight.
"Commander," the admiral called to his chief of staff, "hoist
the first signal."
"Aye, aye, sir." His staff had the flags ready, of course.
Planning this exercise had been their task last night, long into the night.
Martin looked again at the plume-pristine horizon. "Execute."
---- Boston, pier
"Decision time, Max! What's it gonna' be?"
Blue Fox and Maxwell Browning stood at the bottom of the gangway up to
Imperator. All around them men shouted, horns barked, and engines growled
in a virtual whirlwind of activity. Trucks with last-minute deliveries
of fresh food barreled down the pier threatening to run over anyone in
their path. Across the way, the last of the equipment soared high into
the sky on heavy-duty pallets to be landed somewhere up on the decks of
the Kronprincessen Cecile.
"Do you think they really got her fixed?" Max shouted. "Or
do you think they'll still be working on her enroute?"
"I think they're done, all right, but they don't think it'll last.
Max shrugged, admitting as much. "So are you!" Max retorted,
drawing a wry shrug in return.
Ballin had appeared on the pier an hour earlier and declared that the
liners would cast off in 90 minutes. At that point, all hell had broken
loose. They had written it up and gotten it off, knowing that it would
be front page news. It would be their last, however. Their marquee stories
ended right here, at the foot of the gangway, unless they went aboard.
Max had only been in New York in the first place to visit his parents.
His Colleen was already a continent away, and now he was to add an ocean
to it? Blue had had nothing to tie him down. Nothing and no one. Until
Philadelphia, and Holly. The men looked at each other, unable to escape
the answer: their lives were their stories, and their stories were up
High aboard Imperator, hands clenching one polished rail, Hadi Pasha
also was undecided as to where to cast his fate. The chancellory official
had been gracious, but Hadi was sure that he had detected dishonesty in
the man. Well, insincerity was to be expected, of course, but there was
more. Even that, however, was "normal." More what, though? Duplicity?
Or had it been treachery? Several large men stood in total and absolute
stillness behind the Great One. When the Master was like this, woe to
one causing even a single flea's weight of distraction!
Hadi reflected on the attitudes of the other's servants, slicing each's
mien more finely than even his best daggerman, who even then was "whisk-whisk"-ing
his knife in its sheath as he guarded the vast stack of his baggage at
the top of the gangway two decks below. Had their exhibited level of deference
diminished during his stay in Boston? Truly it had, he decided at last.
He scowled, and those nearest shuddered at the sight. He hated it, but
the conclusion was inescapable: his life would never be long on any continent
where his name had been printed alongside the word "Sultan."
He glowered even more severely but remained still and aloof as the gangways
were drawn up, though not before the two young infidel reporters had clambered
---- New Jersey, Roughly 6 miles SSW of Appollonio
"Hamadryas," Professor Nevels repeated, as patiently as he
could. The man with the scraggly beard still clutched his gun with white-knuckled
emotion. "Papio hamadryas."
"And I'd been so looking forward to them," Mrs. Nevels murmured.
"What's a dry pappyass whatever-the-hell-you said?"
The man had moved nearer, close enough for the sour reek of his sweat
saturated clothes to be plain.
Professor Nevels looked up sharply at the vulgar language.
"Dear," his wife interrupted him before he could say anything.
After all, the man still had the gun and, behind him, a tired-looking
woman and several urchins had drifted out on the porch. The woman was
wringing her hands in her concern.
"Dear," she repeated, her hand touching his shoulder to ensure
his attention. "The others. There're two other trackways here. Where
are all the others?"
"You mean to tell me that there're two MORE of those dry hammy beasts
running loose around here?" The man looked around wildly, his eyes
as white as the very prominent canines on the teeth of the dead creature.
"Yes, more than two, actually. Many more," the professor added
matter-of-factly. "I think our shipping notes were - what? - twenty?"
"I think more. Twenty-four sounds right."
" 'course, Dear, we don't know for certain, but the ship WAS due
"Look, Perfesser. What ARE they? Those dry pappio monsters?"
"Papio hamadryas," he repeated, once again. "They were
coming over from Scotland. For the Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo."
Seeing the armed man's reaction, Mrs. Nevels stepped in. "Baboons,"
she said. "They're just baboons. Big monkeys." (NOTE
1) See: (note that the url links to a large - 2 meg
- pdf file map)
A smaller file image:
2) For an overhead picture taken of New York at 17
If that link does not work, go to:
Then go to "Battleships," then go to "Post Dreadnought
BBs", then to "New York (BB-34)". Then look at the 10th
3) The dreadnoughts were:
- Nevada (BB-36), commissioned March 11, 1916,
- Oklahoma (BB-37), commissioned May 2, 1916,
- Pennsylvania (BB-38), commissioned June 12, 1916, and
- Arizona (BB-39), commissioned October 17, 1916.
4) The premise that baboons were aboard a British-flagged
merchant off the US coast in 1915 bound for the Philadelphia Zoo is not
as preposterous as might be imagined! The oldest US zoos are the Philadelphia
Zoo and the Bronx Zoo, and appear to be the only large public zoos which
were well established before The Great War began. Another, the St. Louis
Zoo, was only in the process of formulation (and had no monkeys) and others,
like one out near Chicago, had had the funds provided but did not acquire
animals until after the war. Both the Philadelphia and Bronx Zoos were
adding new specimens and species during this period. According to the
Philadelphia Zoo Animals Records staff, their zoo has had baboons since
1874. In fact, at one time or another over the last 130 years, the Philadelphia
Zoo has had five species of baboons: Olive, Yellow, Guinea (the one currently
held), Chacma, and Hamadryas. The dates the Philadelphia Zoo obtained
the first specimens of those five species are as follow:
- Olive baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis) - 13 May 1879
- Yellow baboon (Papio hamadryas kindae) - 19 Oct. 1880
- Guinea baboon (Papio hamadryas papio) - 16 May 1874
- Chacma baboon (Papio hamadryas ursinus) - 1 July 1874
- Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) - 9 May 1883
(Source, private correspondence between Philadelphia Zoo staff and author.)
Everywhere else on the globe, zoos were cutting back and shutting down
as the World War I ground on. For example, see:
The zoos in the UK were in a similar state, but many had already been
under pressure long before the outset of war, though more due to the economics
of declines in paying traffic. The next question, though, was who had
held baboons? It turns out that Scotland had, and had held them for over
60 years. See the following excerpt from the "Glasgow Herald",
dated October 3, 1851:
"On Wednesday forenoon, as some young ladies belonging to this city
were walking in that beautiful portion of the Botanical Gardens situated
on the banks of the Kelvin, they were suddenly, to their great terror
and surprise, assailed by the large baboon, which forms so great an object
of attraction to the more youthful portion of the visitors at the Gardens.
The fierce brute, which, with some other smaller monkeys, we believe,
have been allowed to escape from their cage through the negligence of
the keepers, seized one of the young ladies and bit her severely, and
more serious consequences were only prevented by the appearance of some
other persons, at whose approach the brute made off. We are induced to
notice the above, as we understand the animals, which are still at large,
and defying all attempts at capture by taking refuge, when such are made,
on the tops of the neighbouring trees, are likely to prove a source of
annoyance, and, as the above incident will show, even of injury to the
frequenters of the Gardens."
The Bostocks (Mr. E. H. and, earlier, his father James) had long operated
private menageries in the Glasgow area. E. H. Bostock converted the menagerie
in 1897 to the "Scottish Zoo" but closed it down in 1909. At
that time, he offered the animals at a nominal price (and was reportedly
willing simply to donate them) to the town for a municipal collection,
but the offer was declined and he auctioned them off. Whoever bought the
animals could have maintained them locally, since the city continued to
consider Glasgow's Rouken Glen Park as a site for a zoo right up until
after World War I began. Once that project was completely abandoned, one
potential purchaser for any exotic specimens would have been the Philadelphia
Zoo, as it was untouched by wartime economies and was in the process of
expansion. Bostock's animals apparently included monkeys, as reported
in 1901, though Commander Boy's interpretive services would be very useful
to any who would wish to follow the text:
-- The birds having been duly admired and commented upon, Macgregor was
again discovered to be missing. This time he was found engaged in making
faces at a family of monkeys.
"Come awa' frae the nesty things! " cried Lizzie. " I canna
thole monkeys, John. --
Thus, the premise is that Bostock's baboons were among the ones that
the Philadelphia Zoo historically acquired. In fact, the Philadelphia
Zoo did acquire some baboons in 1909, and though the Animals Records staff
could not determine their precise origin, they agreed in private correspondence
with the author that they very may well have come from Bostock's. So,
the only adjustment made for the story is that those same baboons had
made their transatlantic journey just a little later than historical.
As a last historical postscript, just maybe not all the baboons left Scotland.
That baboons would likely react precisely as described in the story
(in contact with human settlements surrounded by a biosphere sanctuary)
is amply demonstrated by current news reports from South Africa. Here's
one excerpt from a news article dated June 14, 2004:
Baboons on rampage in South African town
CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Residents of a small South African coastal town are
threatening to declare all-out war on baboons who have terrorised pre-schoolers,
raided homes for food and urinated on clothes after pulling them out of
Diana Head, the chairwoman of the local taxpayers' association in Pringle
Bay, an hour's drive east of Cape Town, told AFP Monday that baboons broke
into the local nursery school -- located in a church -- three times, using
the same method.
"The baboons lifted a window latch and stormed a church hall where
the children were," she said. "They grabbed sandwiches and cold
drinks out of the children's hands.
"The kids were traumatised afterwards. One teacher was so upset
that she resigned."
Head said baboons were breaking into houses about 15 times a month on
"They have strong nails which they use to pull sliding doors off
the hinges. When they get inside the houses they ransack the cupboard
for food and have parties on the beds.
"On a few occasions they have pulled clothes out of the cupboards
and urinated on them."