5:50 PM, bridge of Wiesbaden, 180, speed 26 knots
The splashes rose high in their wake and to starboard.
"They may have lost sight of us, captain."
"Perhaps," the CO replied. The last salvos had been further away than the previous several.
The RN dreadnoughts had let him approach without firing upon him. Once he turned
however, the orange flashes of the big guns had started. Perhaps the RN had been trying to lure him in further, but he thought that it was more likely that the RN hadn't been sure who he was until they saw his silhouette.
Left ten degrees rudder, come to 210."
No point in taking chances, however, so he chased the splashes a little longer by betting any correction would take the shells to starboard. The smoke screen started about 4000 yards away ahead and a bit to starboard. It offered some bit of refuge, but at the risk of harboring foes as well.
He looked back in the growing gloom. Visibility seemed to be under 15,000 yards. Once again he saw a few orange flashes, though he could not make out the ships. He marked their location, knowing them to be the column leaders of the eastern most divisions. The few splashes they spotted were far to starboard.
"Sir, torpedo boat, starboard bow!"
"Hold fire! It is one of ours!" In fact, it was one from their own half-flotilla. How it had gotten so turned around when the rally point had been set to the south, was a puzzle.
The torpedo boat's crew obviously recognized them, also. After, a moment of hard rudder away, almost in reflex upon seeing the CL, the small ship headed their way. A trace of smoke streamed off from the starboard side.
An RN torpedo boat, clearly in pursuit of the German craft, had burst out of the smoke, guns blazing. Presumably, the RN craft had gotten the better of it in a meeting encounter and chased the German ship north.
It took several seconds for the Wiesbaden to get off 5.9" rounds at the enemy
light ship. The target spun neatly and disappeared back into the smoke, with
shells splashing futilely behind it.
5:52 PM, bridge of Southampton, course 315, speed 27 knots
"Sir, contacts, bearing 080!"
"Sir, they're likely the German BC's."
All eyes went to the binoculars. Flashes at the bow of the lead ship confirmed that conclusion.
"Left full rudder! Come to course 270."
Shell splashes rose well away and astern.
"Sir, it looks like 15,000 yards, but they might be a bit closer."
"Signals, did the flagship acknowledge the report on the light ships to the south?"
"No, sir. Queen Mary is not responding to reports. She may be off the air, sir."
Commodore Nott hid his shock.
"Very well, make a full report to Iron Duke, then."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Make sure you get an acknowledgment. The German BC's are on course 270, speed
5:54 PM, bridge of Derfflinger, course 270, speed 26
"Sir, target is beyond visibility."
"Very well. Captain, slow to 20 knots."
Captain Theodore gave the order and they resumed watching for the returning light ships, and word of their attack.
"Sir, starboard beam!" It was a German torpedo boat. The nimble craft quickly shaped course to approach the BC group.
The baron relaxed just a bit when the first torpedo boat was quickly followed by several more. Some showed evidence of damage, but most were untouched. Whatever had
happened, some sort of attack had been made with possible success.
With Pilau was a lone torpedo boat trailing considerable smoke.
"Sir, contacts, port beam, range 14,000 yards."
The bridge crew swung their glasses to look over the newcomers.
"Sir, from Commodore von Hoban, requesting orders."
"Blucher!" Baron Letters exclaimed.
"Sir, the commodore reports that he has two CL's in company with their half-flotillas and
three DD's with Blucher."
"Signals, Commodore von Hoban, query location of main body."
He turned back to face the returning light craft. Where was Elbing?
"Captain, how many DD's are accounted for?"
"Sir, 18 began the attack. So far 12 have rejoined."
"Sir, another torpedo boat!"
That made thirteen back.
"Signals, Captain Wolverine, report attack results."
It was mandatory to report the discovery of the main body. The baron had decided
to delay his report to Scheer for the few minutes it would take to learn something
of the torpedo attack results. The reply from Commodore von Hoban would allow
him to place the main bodies with some precision.
5:55 PM, bridge of Elbing, course 210, speed 26
Splash! Splash-splash, whannng!
"Sir, another, three, sir, they're four ships!"
"Hard left rudder!"
Four? What were four RN CL's doing here, he wondered for a brief moment, as his ship heeled over into the turn.
5:56 PM, bridge of Wiesbaden, course 240, speed 26
"Right ten degrees rudder, come to course 270."
"Aye, aye, sir."
It was time to see if they could catch sight of the GF main body again. His earlier course change had not been enough to let them spot the GF. The dropping visibility would make this a bit more chancy, though the friendly torpedo boat now back in their company was a plus. Lookouts strained in all directions. The smoke seemed to be dissipating, and was mostly behind them on their port side.
"Sir! Starboard bow!"
They looked to be pretty big ships, but they were out of position for a GF column. They had to be! He elected to play this a bit more cautiously. Who were these guys?
"Left full rudder, bring us to 210."
"Aye, aye, sir."
The dim forms looked to be growing more quickly than expected. In fact, the range was dropping a lot faster than he'd first thought. These RN ships must be sweeping his way, if not actually attempting to intercept. He decided he wanted no part of this group.
"Left full rudder, come to course 160."
Bright flashes suddenly appeared on the lead RN ship.
Shells splashed the sea short, generally along his previous course.
Whatever they were shooting with, it was bigger than what he had.