Letterstime - Ein
Geleitzug - TIOWF, Part IV
St. Pierre & Miquelon
anchor, mainland-side of channel between St. Pierre
and I’ile aux Chiens
Hoban has reached the pier. No signals.”
flag officer had
waited for the “mission accomplished” signal from
the other side of the channel before heading
ashore. Kolberg remained further out,
just as Nottingham Star did on this side. The shallows created by the underwater shelf between the
divided the German forces just as effectively as any isthmus could have. As it was, Strassburg’s keel had only a
couple meters of water beneath it. Fortunately, it was quite apparent to the French fishermen
that their guns
could reach across from both sides. The
KM gunners had the pieces manned and the barrels were pointed at the
schooners. Nottingham Star remained back
down the channel in deeper waters, but her single 6-incher and even her
large bow would suffice against any of the sailboats or the one or two
vessels in the harbor.
Siegmund acknowledged, but he kept his attention on his small boats as
finished shepherding the last of the fishing schooners towards the quay. “Keep a glass on the pier.”
had been no
disasters, or so it seemed. As best they
could tell, no fishing boat had escaped. Neither had they needed to sink any or even shoot anyone. This was hardly surprising, as naval cannons
were quite intimidating to little unarmed sailing vessels. But, what had happened ashore? Had
the landing force really managed it? Siegmund
had frankly not expected them to
meet success, but it seemed that they had. So why were his guts still
in such a
flags going up
Rostock. She’s turning
away. ‘Proceeding as ordered,’ sir.”
very well. Signals Officer, acknowledge
and make the
same. Bosun, weigh anchor. Helm: Engineering, standby for bells on the
Pier, St. Pierre
Kommodore,” Kapitäleutnant Gommel intoned, as von Hoban climbed up
weathered wooden boards. “Commander
Bavaria is at the government offices. With your permission, I will lead you there.”
Gommel gestured towards the Place a few
blocks away and made as if to start. “The
cable?” Von Hoban did not shift so much as
shoe, but asked the question as his eyes swept the rows of
fishermen seated in rows on the masonry quay just off the piers. Sailors with Mausers watched stolidly,
several of them on horseback.
directly into Gommel’s eyes for a long and skeptical moment, but the
the gaze with confidence.
we’ve found so
far, sir. No antennae anywhere - all
building searches are negative so far.”
and only then,
did von Hoban nod to Gommel to lead the way.
Gommel, “carry on here.” The last of the
schooner crews were still being escorted off their boats to the shore.
Kapitäleutnant.” Supervising men
pointing guns at civilian youths and aged fishermen was hardly heroic,
Kessock’s bruises and chaffings had slaked his thirst for adventure for
moment. He would be quite content for a
while to be allowed to stand on his own two feet and in one place.
Siegfried was also
content to be doing what he was about: sightseeing on horseback. The
commanded a unit of 10 who were picking their way clockwise around the
Bavaria had ordered him to sweep the shoreline for small boats,
presumably in dread of a French Odysseus overnight.
Siegfried was beginning to think this was a
fantasy fear because they hadn’t found ....
Up here,” called Petty Officer Felsarzt.
until now they
hadn’t, he sighed ruefully. Siegfried
had to dismount to clamber up to the overlook get a decent angle down
draw. He was shocked to find his legs
shaking at the tiny ascent. He massaged
his thighs as he looked over the rim. There was no denying it: the object under the tarpaulin
rowboat. A large rowboat. There were even oars, he saw, as one of his
men peeled back the covers. For some
unknown reason, the French had dragged it well away from the water and
this crease in the landscape. The fact
that it had been covered suggested it was intact. (NOTE 1)
kneading muscles that threatened to spasm or cramp and thinking he’d
atop a horse for obviously too many months. He toyed with the thought of just taking the oars. Surely, the absence of oars would daunt even
a Grecian hero. No, he dared not. The Erzherzog would have his hide for sure
and he might even have the right of it, as there could well be a
oars scattered about on this desolate fishing island.
Nuts. He hated destroying boats.
After all, he’d started this day off by doing
just that on a much larger scale and ....
mistook his bearings, the wreck of the Sainte Julie might be just
limped back to his
horse, who had already found something to nibble on – the pig! Once he got back in the saddle, he guided the
gelding up the shoulder and - damn! - there she was. His breath caught in his throat. Damndamndamn!
- but the sight of her
hurt. From this side, she looked
undamaged and merely resting on the rocky shore. Nonetheless,
it settled the matter for him.
a line on it and
drag it down to the water.” They had
rope and horses, so that was no problem. From there, it was a simple matter to tell off a pair to
row it the few
hundred yards around the point and into Savoyard Cove. It took a bit longer than normal, as he was
not the only one fighting off leg cramps.
Place de la
a crowd had
been assembled in the wide square, Von Hoban observed, as he walked
side. There were many family groups, but
he was not at all surprised that few included men of conscription age. Of the men present, nearly all were elderly
with several staring sullenly at the German flag now flying from the
flagpole. Hardly surprising, thought the
commodore; some of them might well have been prisoners before, back in
of the petty
officers approached the two officers. It
was obvious that the enlisted man wanted to bring something to Gommel’s
attention, and so he turned apologetically to von Hoban.
Korvettenkapitän Bavaria is
in that building, if you would excuse me?”
walked up the
small but wide staircase fronting the main government building, paused
and looked back. From even that small
height gain, he could see that the crowd was substantially fewer than
first thought. No more than a thousand
people were within the cordon of armed sailors.
Even adding the rows of fishermen he’d seen back on the
quay, a great
many remained unaccounted for and the day was more than half-gone. He opened the door and entered.
Bavaria was poring over a map when von Hoban found him and the two
senior officers exchanged greetings. The
commodore was congratulatory. All seemed
to have gone very well: a tribute to the Erzherzog’s planning and
leadership. Nonetheless, there were many
specifics that needed to be pursued.
cables?” Von Hoban had accepted the
earlier report but
wanted to hear the underlying bases for Gommel's confidence. If they had been compromised, the earlier he
discovered it, the better for them all.
incident, Herr Kommodore,” summarized
Bavaria. He then related the
sequence of events at Western Union,
successful transmission of the cover story.
gut,” said the
commodore. “That was inspired,
Commander. Good man, Bornholdt.”
I have him and
Leutnant Siegfried sweeping the shoreline.”
been dispatched counter-clockwise. Like
Siegfried, his men had so far come across a single rowboat drawn up
the shore. Unlike Siegfried, he had
ordered its bottom stove in to prevent its use.
Petty Officer Stumpfhühn did not, of course, question
decision. First, a lot of shoreline
remained to be covered and delaying matters for a single rowboat was
inappropriate. Second, military
discipline meant that one seldom questioned officers.
Third, Stumpfhühn had quickly decided that
“seldom” was probably too often with this leutnant.
found so far,
sir. I directed all officers to look for
antennae and none have been seen. Additionally, all the government buildings have been
searched at least
commander. Did all go so well?”
report. One gendarme wounded - not
serious - and another with what appears to be a broken leg.” At von Hoban’s expression, Bavaria shrugged. “According
to Kapitäleutnant Gommel, he fell down a staircase.”
Hoban just shook
his head. He’d have to hear the rest,
beached on schedule and we were able to get sufficient horses off in
both phases of the operation. I still
have a working party over there salvaging what is possible, especially
keeping the horses fed could become a problem, especially if their stay
continued with brief descriptions of the rest of the
actions to date, including securing the buildings on the Place and
Kessock at the quay to take the returning fishermen into custody.
there been any reports from the other detachments?”
from I’ile aux
Chiens. Black and green.”
“Excellent!” Black and green meant success with zero or
left LT Lionel
(at Grande Miquelon) and LT Diele at Langlade (or Petite Miquelon)
for, but those were thought to be sites of lesser risk. The populations there were much smaller and
there were few boats. As long as the men
got ashore before the fishermen cast off, there should have been no
problem. It had been a very narrow thing
at Grande Miquelon, but neither senior officer knew that. Nonetheless, Lionel (and Diele) had pushed
out small detachments to begin the sweep around the much larger island. There were a few tiny communities – oft just
a family or two – in the small coves around the island. Some were just farms with a way down to the
water, but a couple were expected to include fishermen. As long as the Germans kept the waters under
observation and seized the places before dusk, all was thought to be
safe. (NOTE 2)
schooners were taken, I detached Rostock
and Strassburg with orders to confirm success on Miquelon and land reinforcements.” The u-boats remained further offshore to catch any “leakers”, but von
Hoban was not going to vocalize that in an unfamiliar building.
nodded, understanding the unspoken addendum. Westfeldt
and Siegmund had been less than
thrilled with the orders, however expected they had been. All three light cruisers were already nearly
down to skeleton crews, having had many of their own crewmen on the
assault teams along with all their battlecruiser “guests.” Nonetheless, the coastlines needed to be
swept as well as possible before nightfall and it was already into the
burgermeister or whatever he is has been demanding to talk with the
can wait,” von
Hoban grunted. “What else?”
secure, including its armory.”
news. Doubtless there were some guns
spread about, but they had decided that the police armory would be the
repository for any remaining military-grade arms and ammunition once
the local reserve units had embarked for France.
have not ordered
troops up into the city.” That was per
the plan, which had given priority to the island perimeter. “Also, a considerable number of islanders
seem to have taken refuge in the church.
I’ve posted a squad, but left them alone.”
of my men saw
them all enter and I ordered them to stand clear, but to remain in
sight. A hundred? Two hundred? I think the
hold five. Maybe more.” (NOTE
will do for
now.” The plan had estimated about 3,000
on St. Pierre. If so, half
remained unaccounted for but, for now, that was acceptable. “Foreigners? Amerikaners?
There is a vessel at anchor that is no
fishing schooner; it has the look of a rich man’s sport fishing toy. There was an Amerikaner flag at the stern.”
were some at Western Union. There may be
others, of course, but perhaps it belongs to the Western Union manager.”
“Ah, Western Union,
did you find cable?”
“Yes! Miles of it, different gauges, all on
“Excellent. Still, all must be secure before we proceed.”
clock in the hall
began to toll the hour. Von Hoban
checked it against his pocket watch. He
had exactly three hours before he had to make his decision. He was going to need all of it.
on,” said von
Hoban. “I intend to get aboard that
vessel, Amerikaner or not.”
I’ile aux Chiens
Heinrich von Larg
had thought his troubles were over once he had captured the place
casualties and saw the warships show up. This had turned out to be, most definitely, NOT the case. Instead,
had birthed a series of unanticipated trials.
of the French had
eaten breakfast when he had invaded. Trivial, his superiors might have thought. Hah! What do you do when you are thirty, they
are three hundred, and all their kids are hungry?
one does is get
the kids fed, and that is what LT Larg had done. Even
that had been far from easy, since no
one or two houses could possibly feed them all. Finally, he had simply let the women go off to fetch food. He had been about to have them escorted, but
mutters and body language from the men – over a hundred of them! – had
that. In the end, he had simply let the
women go off by themselves in small, counted groups, posted a few
high, and posted another trio down where they could see the tied up
but posted them all where he and all the Frenchmen could see them. Partly, it was to keep their Mausers able to
bear on the fishermen, but mostly it was to keep them where the
see that their women remained safe.
none of this was
in any manual!
had finally gotten
all the civilians fed for the second time, when Kolberg drifted closer
in. Her guns were a welcome sight, though
looked menacing enough to the French, small murmurs indicated that
enough. After a few minutes, flags ran
up her hoists. Von Larg read them and
turned to the seated prisoners.
signals? My commander has just ordered
all to be transported immediately over to
St. Pierre. Aboard that
warship. Her launch can fit twenty.”
could actually fit
more, but he was allowing for guards.
have little time
and all of you have things you will wish to take with you – food,
jackets – you
know better than I. You should be gone
only a day or two, but it could be a week. You, where is your Maison? Good. I will let you take your family there – under
guard. You will have five minutes
inside. My men will remain outside of
your Maison as long as you come out when they order. I need others to make up the rest of the
first twenty. If there is cooperation,
all will get five minutes at their Maisons.
Place de la
Gommel and went down and over to meet him. The officer was speaking with a petty officer, though not
the one the
same one as before. The enlisted man
saluted and left as he approached.
non-natives caught in our net here? I am
particularly looking for Amerikaners.” “Jawohl,
Kommodore. Two men claiming to be
Amerikaners are over in that café, there. There are several others who may be visitors, but I think
they are all
from the French-speaking mainland.” The
two armed sailors
who stood outside the doorway saluted as he approached.
you were,” he
said, as he entered. A thin, bearded man
behind the counter scowled at his uniform, but said nothing. The only others within the front room were
half-sprawled back on the padded benches at the window table. They had to be Americans. They looked far too relaxed to be at war.
names?” Von Hoban said it in English.
just who might
gritted his teeth as he weighed the words for accent. A lot of nations spoke English. The
Admiral would be better at this than he.
myself, then. I am Kommodore von Hoban
of His Majesty’s Kaiserlicht Marine. I
am in command of the German forces here. And who might the two of you be?”
Dave Bender, and
this is my friend, Timothy Mixer. Americans, both of us. Out of
Boston. Can we go now? We’re
Neutrals and we got nothing to do with
this war of yours.”
see. First, I must make sure. Can you prove that you are Americans?”
course we can!”
don’t have them
with me. Tim?”
not. They’re back on the Sally, just
“Nuts. Sorry, Admiral. We
don’t have them on us. You’ll have to let
us go out to our boat if
you want to see them.”
your boat. Is it out in the harbor? I saw one with an American flag anchored out
green trim? Yes, she’s mine,” said
all,” added Mixer, suspiciously.
Bender’s eyes widened as he caught his friend’s drift.
appears to be a
fine craft,” the German officer observed.
Bender, his brow now creasing with concern. “But, as I said, we’re American and SHE’s American.”
to be proved but,” von Hoban held up a hand to forestall protest, “you
given the opportunity to prove it. That
I promise you. But, consider this
gentlemen, American or not, this is France. These waters are
French waters. That harbor your boat is
anchored in is a French harbor.
is not your United States. You’re in France,
and France is
at war with my country.” (NOTE 4)
1) In several places,
the topography of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon put a farmhouse or other residence quite a distance by road from what
for population centers, but still close to the shore.
In such cases, the "beach" would be
only just a few dozen yards over a lip and down a slope or ravine -
small boat. One of the period pix of
Langlade shows this quite clearly, and another of the Ollivier
similar. The premise here is that the
shoreline sweep squads might not see the residence over the lip of the
little “bluff” and several dozen yards away inland.
2) Two such tiny
communities are Ravenal and Philibert.
3) The church size is
historical and could probably have held more folk than stated by the
in the text. Author’s estimate is based
on period photographs.
4) The Hague 1907 and other treaties leave potentially gray areas, one
of which is demonstrated here. That is,
the status of a Neutral's person in a Belligerent's land versus the
that Neutral within a Belligerent's borders versus portable property
Belligerent's borders may have been well understood back then by those
day. However, unraveling such subtle
skeins has been impossible for me to achieve with any certitude. There are, however, certain demonstrated
principles and related positions from which one can draw
of all, a Neutral
in a declared war zone accepted all risks simply by being there. Belligerents accepted no burden for
inadvertent Neutral casualties in such areas, nor did any treaty ever
ascribe one to Belligerents. Next, any
Neutral within the borders of a Belligerent but within reach of another
Belligerent’s military might accepted a similar risk by being there. Any Neutral anywhere within a Belligerent’s
territory was considered to have made personal decisions and trade-offs. The primary exceptions were embassies and
chancellories, who were required to fly their flag, etc.
innocent Neutral person swept up in an operation with a Belligerent's
was subject to care-and-feeding sort of responsibilities of the
presuming the Neutral had competent identification. An American found serving in the French army
would have no rights here to be treated purely as a Neutral (rather, a
Mercenary). However, an American priest
in a rectory might be immune to incarceration. Further, that mercenary's gun, even if he owned it
personally, would not
be treated in any way differently than other seized weapons. The priest's bible in the example above would
always remain his. Even a priest or nun
of another Belligerent would get deferential treatment, though there
limits, as Ms. Edith Cavell would tragically demonstrate (in October
what about an
American's truck swept up in a German advance towards Paris? If the truck had
held munitions, no recourse would be imaginable, but what if it had
food? What if it had held bibles? I suspect that any such large objects would
not be immune to take-over unless they were so absolutely pristine as
truly rare. The American ambassador’s
personal auto would definitely qualify. An American Red Cross ambulance would likely qualify. A truck with American church markings holding
bibles might. A private car seized in a
town likely would NOT.
brings us back
to the boat in the story. It flies a US
flag, but it is within the borders of France. My guess is that
(ultimately) it would not be seized, as boats/ships seemed to have
special treatment in treaties of the day. The boat is at a port on the edge of International Waters,
vice a lake,
or even a river well inland. However,
the Yanks might not know that and lots of stalling would be possible
justified, just as long as the eventual outcome was not averse.