Letterstime - Ein
Geleitzug - TIOWF, Part V
Securing St. Pierre & Miquelon
- late afternoon
Kapitäleutnant Gommel was debriefing to
Hoban. He had just given a brief summary
of his approach down into the town and his order to dismount one block
“Once I saw the door shut by an armed
Gommel, “I gave the order for two volleys to cover the attack,
Von Hoban nodded, suppressing a snort at the
scattered all over the face of the building.
The men had all had rifles and the range had been no more
meters. Australian Light Horse his sailors were not.
“ ... then Petty Officers Schmidt and Felder
squads through those windows.” (NOTE 2)
On a whim, von Hoban ignored the open door
instead through the gaping hole on the right where the window there had
been. Once inside, the trail of glass
and dirt was easy enough to follow. He
passed through the long room, its furniture flung towards the side
into the long central corridor. If the
sentry there was surprised by the sudden appearance of the commodore,
not show it.
“Carry on,” said von Hoban, eyeing a small
field dressing on
the side of the man’s neck. There had
been no report of wounds.
“Herr Kommodore,” began Gommel, as he joined
“this is Seaman Schneider. He is one of
the ones who exchanged fire with the gendarmes.”
Von Hoban wanted to hear it, and said so. The enlisted man was visibly uncomfortable,
and not from the bandage.
<>“Not much to tell, sir,” Schneider said. “The
one with the pistol was looking the
other way, maybe at noise from Schmidt’s - um, Petty Officer Schmidt’s
down the hall there. Well, when he
turned and went to raise his gun, we fired.
He went down and we kept going.”
Schneider’s face screwed up as he tried to
tell it. It had all happened so fast. Their legs had almost failed to bear their
weight when they had finally been allowed to get down off those
horses. Only the Kapitäleutnant’s
brilliant decision to let them walk it off for a full block before
attack had let them manage it. The
Frenchmen had been shouting as they ran down the staircase. The pistol muzzle had stared right at him
like a skull’s eye socket.
<>“Are you wounded?"
“Nichts, Herr Kommodore.
Just splinters. His shot hit
door jamb beside me.”>
“And the gendarme?”
“His wound was slight, sir.”
This part was embarrassing.
Schneider did not know where his bullet had gone. How the Frenchman had gotten his foot wound
was another mystery, but it had ended the gunfight and that was all
mattered to Schneider. (NOTE
Thankfully, the Kommodore did not press the matter.
Schneider did his best to relate the events. One gendarme had been prostrate, screaming,
at the foot of the stairs. Later, it was
determined that, in his haste to run down the steps, he had slipped,
and broken his leg. All the others but
one had not reached the main floor and would eventually surrender
it became clear that the Germans held the building.
The last Frenchman had had his hands on the
gun rack when Schneider had pointed his rifle at him and ordered him
the floor. The words had been in
Deutsch, but clear enough, nonetheless.
The most remarkable part was what had
happened next, but the
Kommodore did not ask about that. The
wounded gendarme was gasping on the floor, his nose bleeding and his
knocked out from falling on his face.
The German sailors were shouting as they went through the
rooms on the
main floor, Mauser muzzles rounded frantically at any real or perceived
movement, and there was one or two inadvertent discharges.
“Garçon,” the gendarme said, waving
one hand at Schneider,
who was guarding him.
floor was secure. The Petty Officer
Schmidt was calling out the “all clear” to the Kapitäleutnant.
“Garçon,” he repeated, then screwed
up his face in
concentration. “Kinden, Junge,
Jungen. Oui, Jungen. Sex,
er, sechts Jahre Jungen.” The Frenchman
pointed at the down
staircase. What could he be trying to
“Ah, versteh! Petty
Officer! Petty Officer Felder! There may be children hiding down in the
And so they’d stayed out of the basement
Gommel had let the gendarme coax them out.
Von Hoban had been greatly relieved to find
were well in hand at the cable offices.
A full squad watched over the equipment.
The staff remained under separate guard within the fenced
enclosure. As he stepped back outside,
he noted that the women were seated on chairs, presumably brought out
“Sir! Are you
officer in charge?”
It was the American manager.
had mentioned him as he’d related the earlier sequence of events here. He had been quite protective of both his
facilities and his people. Bavaria
had used that to advantage.
Hoban, at your service, sir.”
The man identified himself and launched into
a series of
complaints and entreaties. He wanted the
Germans out of his building and his folk back in.
“You must be reasonable, sir.
I can in no way allow cable traffic while we
“Well, then, at least you can let my people
return to their
homes. They’re no threat to you or your
“Perhaps later.” The
American’s request was so nonsensical that von Hoban suspected
duplicity. At this moment, the Germans had
in one clear
and guarded place all - or nearly all - the personnel who were trained
experienced in sending cables. Let them
disperse to the very winds?!
“All I can promise you is this.
As long as there is no trouble, I will not
order this French building destroyed and no one will be harmed.”
“This is an American building!
It’s Western Union!”
“You are mistaken, sir.
This is not America. This is France,
declared war on Germany
last year and our nations have been at war ever since.”
With that, von Hoban swung back up into the
headed back out the gate. It was so much
easier dealing with Americans when he was not on their soil and under
guns. Still, he added to himself, with a
glance out the harbor’s mouth, there were a lot of American
there. Somewhere. These
next few days would be very tense. He
clucked at his horse and proceeded out the
gate. Let’s see, he thought, the church
was supposed to be up ... ah, there it is.
slammed into the wall beside him. For a
half-instant, he was confused, until he realized that there’d been the
a shot, a demi-instant afterwards.
The commodore dug his heels hard into his
wishing for spurs as he did so. The
horse nearly bolted in startlement.
Apparently not everyone had surrendered, but he didn’t
stop to consider
the matter further until he’d gotten a Maison between him and the
of the bullet.
---- Place de la Roncière
It was thirty minutes later before von Hoban
front of the government offices. At this
point, he was one enraged commodore. No
one had EVER shot at him before. Well,
at least not personally, he amended to himself.
“I understand that you’ve got the
burgermeister somewhere in
there and that he wants to meet with me.”
“Yes, sir. He’s
“Fine, well, tell him that his wish has been
granted. Then take him aside, a couple
others, too, if
he wants. Then search him.”
“Um, yes, sir.”
Kessock was puzzled. The man
only, well, how many Maschinengewehr could he have in those shirt
pockets? “ ‘Search him,’ sir?”
“Yes, leutnant.” Von
Hoban’s voice was stony and flat.
“Search him well.
Vigorously. He and anyone he
he wants to bring along.”
Vigorously. I understand,
“Tell him you’re bringing him to me, but
then take your time
about it. Search him twice, in
fact. They are to be escorted by two,
no, three sailors. I want Mausers at
their backs. Is that understood?”
“Very well, then.
---- Office of the “Burgermeister” (NOTE 5)
“SHOT at you?!” Bavaria
was aghast, and for more than one reason.
If von Hoban were killed or incapacitated, it’d be he, Bavaria,
that’d have to make all this work.
“Yes, any signals?
Status?” Von Hoban opened his
case and extracted a book.
“None, sir. Status,
yes. LT von Larg reported I’ile aux
Chiens provisionally clear and should be conducting his final sweep
now. The boats have been running out to
the Nottingham Star for over an hour now and Kolberg’s has just dropped
anchor. (NOTE 6) Once LT Dahm’s offloaded, he should be able
to take the rest of them out to her in one trip.”
Von Hoban apparently found what he was
looking for and ran
his right index finger along the lines of print.
There was a knock at the door.
“That’ll be the Burgermeister, I expect,”
said von Hoban,
looking up and closing the book.
“Enter,” he called. “Oh,
shocked, Commander, shocked, but more willing to be temperate in
puzzled over that remark as the three somewhat rumpled Frenchmen were
in. Their expressions bore such a
mixture of anger, worry, and sheer surprise that Bavaria,
in other circumstances, might well have laughed aloud.
The lead one glanced at the Mausers and back
at von Hoban.
“Is that really necessary?”
“That’s my decision, isn’t it?”
Von Hoban retorted, coldly.
The Frenchman shrugged.
No one can shrug like a Frenchman, thought Bavaria.
“One or more of your people have already
shot at me this
afternoon. I do not intend to take any
This was news to the Frenchmen.
They were both surprised and pleased at the
idea that at least one of theirs was in armed resistance.
After a moment, though, the “Burgermeister” realized
there might be negative implications from this.
“You invaded us; what do you expect? We, on the other hand, are your
prisoners. And what are you doing with
our fishermen you have on the pier? And
what about the women and children? They
are your responsibility now, under the Articles of War.
All three thousand of them.”
“Ah, yes, ‘ The Hague.’ Thank you for reminding me, sir, of my
duties. We’ve gone to a great deal of
trouble to make this bloodless. I could
have simply arrived at dawn and shelled your towns flat, but I didn’t. The only ones who’ve been injured today
either fired at Germans or fell down stairs.
And that brings me to my next point.
“Gentlemen, we’ve determined the block of
houses where this
sniper, or snipers, is forted up. I am
NOT going to risk a single German life by assaulting it.
I’ve had it surrounded. I
think all the buildings nearby are
empty. That may or may not be the case,
but I have made an effort despite the fact that you’ve got at least one
running around out there.”
“Sir, I must protest!”
The man’s face flushed bright red at the characterization
of a man
resisting the Boche.
“Oh, I’m just getting started,” interrupted
von Hoban. “As I said, I am not going to
assault. What I AM going to order is for
that ship,” he pointed out the window at Kolberg, where Dahm was even
watching dispirited fishermen being herded aboard, “to destroy that
“Mon Dieu!” All
Frenchmen went white and gobbled at him.
“I’m sure he’ll do his best, but ....”
“This is an outrage!
War, monsieurs. I have removed all
non-combatants, to the best of my knowledge, and there is armed
resistance. The Hague
1907 is absolutely clear on this: Section IX,
Chapter 1, Articles 2 and 3. (NOTE
7) I have a copy here.
Do any of you read Deutsch?”
They did not, but Bavaria
realized that a look from von Hoban was his cue.
“Kommodore,” began Bavaria,
trying to make his voice sound one of reason, “if I remember correctly,
first deliver a summons to the authorities.”
“Yes, yes, and here they are.
That’s you, monsieurs. Consider
yourselves notified. I intend to bombard St.
Eyes wide, faces white, the Frenchmen looked
“And the ‘reasonable time of waiting’, the
“Why should I wait?
Why would any delay be ‘reasonable’?
There’s a madman in there shooting at us even though we
have a thousand
soldiers and four warships and the rest of the island prisoner.”
“Perhaps he would surrender?”
“Very well,” said von Hoban, controlling
himself with what Bavaria
thought was a tad too much theatre.
“Very well, he has not hurt anyone yet.
Monsieurs, I’ll have you escorted to the area. I’ll give you an hour.
“After that ....” The
commodore shrugged, very much like a Frenchman, realized Bavaria.
1) The Australian Light
Horse were mounted infantry, able to
ride and maneuver, then dismount and act as elite light infantry. They had already been deployed in the Boer
War in 1900. See the “Light Horse” entry
Despite the above, their most famous
achievement was when
they acted as cavalry at Beersheba
on October 31, 1917. See:
It should be noted that one of the changes
in Letterstime -
the early abandonment of the Gallipoli Campaign - means that the
losses suffered there by the Australian Light Horse (especially in
will not happen. Of course, the Ottomans
they killed also remain.
2) The ground floor
windows on the front of the Gendarmerie
were full length, per period photographs.
3) Schneider never would
learn where his bullet went. Over the
years, re-enactors would conclude
that it must have passed between the gendarme’s right arm and his side,
that later replastering had concealed its entry. Two
others behind Schneider had also
fired. It was one of those bullets that
had hit the policeman’s shoe buckle and taken his left leg out from
under him, leaving
him with a minor fracture and a graze furrow on the outside of his
facial injuries were from his fall. The
bullet that was likely Schneider’s was found by Professor Gerald
Pocius, Memorial University,
in 1988, with a metal
detector during one of his field studies.
The third bullet remains undiscovered as of this writing.
4) The Maschinengewehr
08 was a German variant of Hiram S.
Maxim’s 1884 machine gun. It weighed
about 100 lb. and took two or three men to transport on a cart or
5) At various times
between 1854 and 1954, the islands were
under a Governor, then an Administrator, then a Council President. As far as the Germans are concerned,
“Burgermeister” will do.
6) The waters around the
piers at St. Pierre were
too shallow to allow even a CL to tie up
there. Thus, Kolberg is dropping anchor
in preparation to shuttle in her “passengers” via launch.
1907 addresses bombardment of towns quite specifically.
Von Hoban is citing the following (excerpt):
Military works, military or naval
establishments, depots of
arms or war materiel, workshops or plant which could be utilized for
of the hostile fleet or army, and the ships of war in the harbour, are
however, included in this prohibition. The commander of a naval force
destroy them with artillery, after a summons followed by a reasonable
waiting, if all other means are impossible, and when the local
not themselves destroyed them within the time fixed.
He incurs no responsibility for any
unavoidable damage which
may be caused by a bombardment under such circumstances.
If for military reasons immediate action is
no delay can be allowed the enemy, it is understood that the
bombard the undefended town holds good, as in the case given in
and that the commander shall take all due measures in order that the
suffer as little harm as possible.
After due notice has been given, the
undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings may be
the local authorities, after a formal summons has been made to them,
comply with requisitions for provisions or supplies necessary for the
use of the naval force before the place in question.
The entire Section can be found here: