6:20 pm, bridge of Wiesbaden, course 270, speed 26 knots
"Sir, many ships, multiple columns, bearing 330, range 14,000 yards."
"Get a course estimate," shouted the CO.
"Left full rudder, come to 180."
"Lookouts," he shouted again, "keep sharp, those armored cruisers are around here somewhere.."
"Lost the contact, sir."
"Very well," he answered. The GF main body had been on a pretty much southerly course.
"Signals, Derfflinger, Grand Fleet 14,000 yards NNW of current position. Estimate 20,000 yards NNE of Derfflinger. And, Signals, tell me when they acknowledge."
"Aye, aye, sir."
6:22 pm, bridge of Blucher, course 090, speed 20 knots
"Fire!" Commodore von Hoban had no hesitation.
A British CL squadron had emerged from the misty horizon off the port bow and opened fire on Frauenlob.
"Signals, Derfflinger, am engaging CL squadron."
Three turrets of 8.2" guns barked almost as one. The men in the aft turret
cursed the luck of the bearing, hoping anxiously to get in on the shooting.
6:23 pm, bridge of Phaeton, course 160, speed 26
"Sir, enemy battlecruiser!"
The lookouts spotted the red blinks of the big guns. The Commodore would have smiled at their report.
Ripping sounds went overhead, and splashes rose behind them, but alarmingly close.
"Hard left rudder!" Captain Cameron shouted. The three RN CL's pivoted with a few defiant salvos spread amongst their original CL target and in the direction of the big ship that was firing far too many shells too close to them.
"XO, get me a full report. What was sighted? Who was shooting at us?"
"Aye, aye, sir."
Captain Cameron was relieved to have escaped more damage. He wanted to get
a sighting report off before he tried to learn more. With Commodore Alexander-Sinclair
dead and Galatea limping back towards port, the squadron had fallen to him.
The German CL in the smoke had died hard.
6:25 pm, bridge of Seydlitz, course 090, speed 20
"Fire!" Captain Nik ordered.
The men on the RN CL that had emerged almost on the beam were startled as huge water columns erupted directly in front of it.
A moment later and Moltke added to the fire. The ship abruptly reversed course
and was lost to view.
6:26 pm, bridge of von der Tann, course 090, speed 20 knots
"Can you make out what they're firing at?" Captain Dirk shouted up to the lookouts.
"No, sir!" Several voices answered immediately.
"Very well, keep a sharp watch, all bearings. We're trail."
As they acknowledged, Captain Dirk commented to his XO, "What ever it was,
6:27 pm, bridge of Southampton, course 120, speed 26 knots
"Sir, multiple contacts, dead ahead."
"XO," asked Commodore Nott, "could they be those damn battlecruisers?"
"I sure don't see how, Commodore. We had a pretty good track on them before they must have made their turn and lost them. They shouldn't be there and on THAT course."
"Sir, contact, starboard bow!"
"That's some sort of light ship squadron, sir."
"A screen? For what!"
It was not really a question. Both officers knew quite well what ships would have screen units out this far. The High Seas Fleet was at sea! And very near the massed might of the Grand Fleet!
"Sir, the light ships have opened fire!"
"Left full rudder!" Then to his XO, "Well, they're certainly not ours!"
"Signals! Iron Duke, sighted dreadnoughts, in line ahead, course north, and
give their position."
6:28 pm, bridge of Derfflinger, course 090, speed 20 knots
"Sir, report from Captain Wolverine, sighted Third Battle Squadron, bearing 070, range 13,000 yards."
The baron looked at the plot.
"Admiral," said Flagcaptain Theodore, "That puts the lead Konig here. And, based on Wiesbaden's last report, the Grand Fleet should be somewhere about here."
Theodore made a circle just north and to the east of visibility range.
"Yes," agreed the baron, "but we need more from Wiesbaden. Still, it is time to begin turning the main body."
"Signals, Ostfriesland, Admiral Rudburg, main body come to course 030. Expect
to engage in next 15 minutes, Letters."
6:32 pm, bridge of Wiesbaden, course 010, speed 26 knots
"Sir, light ships, port bow, range 13,000 yards."
"Hold fire! Come to 040."
Maybe they could sneak past or just stay unfired on for a few more minutes. Seconds slipped by, a full minute ....
"Sir! Bearing 020! Many contacts, ships in columns, range 13,000 yards."
"Right full rudder! Come to 110."
"Sir! Contact is changing aspect!"
"Rudder amidships! Report!"
The Wiesbaden stopped turning and hung on course 060.
"Sir, they are turning to the east and south, and they appear to be changing formation."
"Signals, Derfflinger, report the British position and course change."
"Lookouts, get me a course estimate!"
Five seconds, ten, fifteen ....
Splashhhh! Splash! Tall columns of water jetted up from the waves. Large shapes loomed out of the gloom to the west. The armored cruisers! They'd found them again!
"Hard right rudder! Signals, get that off NOW!"
6:39 pm, bridge of Derfflinger, course 090, speed 20 knots
The Konigs had come into view off the starboard bow. The range was dropping quickly but the lead ships of the HSF main body were still about 8000 yards south of the 090 line the baron's force was drawing in the North Sea with their wake.
"Sir, from Wiesbaden, the Grand Fleet is 17,000 yards to the NNW, and has turned onto an easterly or southeasterly course. They appear to be making a formation change."
"Um, admiral, they were under fire, I think from armored cruisers, and their transmission just ended in mid-sentence."
"Damn." Captain Theodore muttered from behind the admiral.
"Signals, Admiral Rudburg, battle imminent, come to course 090, form line of battle."
"Captain, they must suspect the main body is here, or it's been sighted by
some scout we missed. It appears that the battle will be east of where I expected.
Bring us to 25 knots; we wouldn't want to miss it now, would we?"
6:40 pm. bridge of Blucher, course 090, speed 21 (accelerating)
"Sir, flames, bearing 030!"
"Left rudder! Come to 030! Ahead flank!"
"Sir, it's Wiesbaden!"
Shell splashes rose around it. There was the bright flash of a hit.
"There! Open fire!"
Again the men in the aft turret cursed their luck.
Splash! Splashsplashsplash! The Brits returned fire vigorously.
6:41 pm, bridge of Derfflinger, course 090 speed 25 knots
The British armored cruisers had stood their waves and traded shot for shot with Blucher. Their muzzle flashes, however, had marked them to the battlecruisers speeding into overwatch position.
Mountainous splashes began to rise around the persistent RN ships. Seydlitz and Moltke added to the firefight and, quickly, the British realized they were outgunned and turned away. As they began to heel over, even von der Tann joined the fray from the trail position.
"Yes!" A fireball burst high above the masts of the lead British ship. It seemed
to stagger and slow. The other British ships dodged past it and out of sight.
Another hit, and another.
6:42 pm, bridge of Blucher, course 030, speed 24 (accelerating)
"Sir, Wiesbaden is dead in the water."
The last few hits had apparently been too much.
The burning, badly listing British cruiser was poor recompense, in Commodore von Hoban's opinion, though maybe Wiesbaden could restore power. A couple more 8.2" hits scored on the deadened Brit. She was doomed. Even as he watched, a secondary explosion broke the hull into two pieces.
"Sir, Frauenlob reports multiple ships off the port beam. Dreadnoughts in line, they think, sir!"
"Cease fire! Signals, relay that to Derfflinger."
"Helm, right full rudder, get us back in Derfflinger's port van!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
6:43 pm, bridge of Derfflinger, course 090, speed 25 knots
"Flags, screen close aboard, starboard side. Leave it up."
"Captain," the baron added, "have we drawn even with the lead Konig yet?"
"Not yet, admiral. Any second."
"Sir, Blucher reports dreadnoughts in line, just ahead, almost on the port beam, on a east-southeasterly course."
Yes, thought the baron, any second.