The Baron Puts to Sea

The baron was glad to be at sea again. The morning mists still had visibility down to a few thousand yards, but they all knew these waters well. It might even help to keep the sortie a surprise, though the baron had his doubts after the Dogger Bank battle four months ago. He could just make out the trail torpedo boats behind Regensburg, keeping good station 3000 yards ahead of Derfflinger, the flagship of the Battlecruiser Force.

"Good weather for this," said Captain Theodore, the Derfflinger's CO and the baron's acting flagcaptain. "Wouldn't you agree, Vice-Admiral?"

Captain Theodore said that last part with a sly grin. The baron had been notified of that promotion three days ago, and it was obvious to all that he still liked the sound of it.

"Yes, my flagcaptain," the new vice-admiral agreed with a small smile. "I'd feared that Vice-Admiral Schmidt's illness would cause another departure delay."

"Yes, sir. I hope that, when we return, we'll find that he is recovering."

The BC Force, or First Scouting Group (1SG), was making 15 knots and the ship began to change its roll/pitch pattern a little as they emerged from the shallower waters into the lower portion of the North Sea. It was a tiny effect, but the sailors recognized it as though there were billboards marking the spot.

It was the BC Force's task to sweep ahead of the main body sortie, already in progress several miles astern. The CLs of the baron, similarly, were sweeping ahead of the BC Force. He'd hoped to have more of the light ships, the retreat from Dogger Bank sharp in his memory. Scheer, however, had only allowed him to bring his two flotillas back to strength. As at the January battle, the baron had each CL leading a half-flotilla of five torpedo boats. At the moment, one group was ahead to port, one dead ahead, and two off to starboard, the likeliest contact vector.

"Sir, report from von der Tann, intermittent sighting of Stettin astern, range about 4000 yards."

"Very well," acknowledged Captain Theodore. "Captain Dirk has his lookouts sharp this morning."

"Yes," agreed the baron. "He and his whole crew are keen. They still are hot over being in the yard for Dogger Bank."

The baron suppressed a bit of guilt over detaching Captain, now Acting-Commodore, von Hoban and Blucher to Scheer and the HSF main body forces. The new Commodore, initially dejected, had thrown himself energetically into re-shaping the organization of the scouting forces attached directly to Scheer. Von Hoban had adopted an approach similar to the baron's of assigning a torpedo Boat flotilla to each pair of CLs. In all, the new commodore had 6 CLs and 33 torpedo boats, with the extra 3 torpedo boats sailing in company with Blucher himself. Stettin was the one currently acting as sight liaison during the initial deployment.

The baron looked over Seydlitz, next astern, under command of Captain Nik, an explosive character. The massive damage scars were gone, and the new paint had just begun to weather a bit. He regretted that Lutzow had not been ready. Another set of 12" guns would have greatly strengthened the combat power of the BC Force. It had not, however, been a likely chance unless the battle was postponed another two months. Time was precious, the baron knew, and the HSF would get only worsening odds with time. In this respect, he benefitted from his status as not just an admiral, but kin to the Kaiser in coming to this strategic view. The 16 dreadnoughts were a mighty force, though just what help the six pre-dreadnoughts would be was anybody's guess.

In fact in a recent meeting with a German OKW general and nobleman had left an odd taste in his mouth. That doughty warrior had essentially asked the baron either to fight and win or not to fight at all. A junior aide to the baron, assigned normally to monitoring USA activities, had likened it to instructions to a batter with men on first and second base being told either to get a hit or strike out, but not to hit into a double play. Foolish instructions, thought the baron, for either game or battle.

20 miles northeast of Scapa Flow

The British C-in-C of the GF was concerned, but confident. Once again, the RN had managed to learn that some HSF forces had put to sea. This time, however, the GF would not sortie just the BCs or back them with just a couple battle squadrons. This time he would back them with the full main body. He had 24 BBs, the might of the GF, beginning the process of assembling into six columns of four, his preferred formation and one that could go to LOB and back in minutes.

The admiral had considered shifting his flag to the new QE, the most recent addition, but had kept it on the Iron Duke. He was enthusiastic with the QE design and was considering detaching them as a division when more of the class joined the fleet. Certainly, such ships would be better than those that would certainly result from the modifications being argued for the Royal Sovereign class to convert them to BC's. He'd argued for more QE's once the quality of the QE had been revealed in service these last two months. He'd also argued for more searchlights to be back-fitted. In fact, his seeming devotion to those newfangled devices had led Lord Fisher to entitle him Electric J[ellic]oe. As might be expected, he'd lost both arguments with the First Sea Lord.

10 miles south of the GF main body

Vice-Admiral Sturdee was elated to have a chance to avenge the disaster of Dogger Bank. Sir Frederick Charles Doveton Sturdee had begun the Great War as the RN Chief of Staff and had enjoyed great accolades after the Falklands triumph. It had gloriously validated the concepts of Lord Fisher, but Dogger Bank had thrown all into doubt. Foolishly, Sturdee knew, but just how Beatty had let himself get beaten remained a mystery.

The RN would need a victory, a great victory, to remove that taint. Sturdee considered himself just the man to do that. There was talk of making him a baronet for the Falklands victory; another could make him an earl. Sturdee had decided that he would very much like to be an earl, maybe even a duke.

He looked over his command as they steamed at 15 knots on the southerly heading. The crew of the Queen Mary, his flagship, were certain that, if they'd been there, Dogger Bank would have been a great British victory, not defeat. The Indefatigable and Australia were on the starboard beam as the formation steamed nearly abreast on its southerly heading. Further to starboard, were Invincible and Inflexible. A smart looking squadron, he knew, crisp and seamanlike in every respect.

He chafed at his orders, however. His superior officer, the so-called Electric Admiral, had made it quite clear that, despite Dogger Bank and public pressure, the RN did not NEED a victory, but only to maintain control of the sea. Well, he could understand that right enough, he was not an idiot, you know. His aides had learned to nod quite vigorously at that exclamation.

"Engage only with superior force," he muttered again from his orders. "Since when did the RN refuse a fight! Did Drake sail away from the Armada?! Hah! Orders! I am not an idiot!"


"Captain Prowse," ordered Sturdee, "signal come to course 160, increase speed to 18 knots. Let us see what the Kaiser has decided to send us today."

"Aye, aye, sir."

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