The Dreadnoughts' Red Glare

7:00 pm, bridge of King George V, course (changing), speed 20 knots

"Left full rudder!"

His intent was to haul out of the LOB for a moment and make the shooters ahead of the HSF LOB have to reset their target solution. He dared not keep the rudder over more than a few moments because KGV was the LOB leader.

Waterspouts rose thickly just off his starboard bow.

"Sir, damage control teams report severe flooding ...."

He listened as the litany continued.

"Right full rudder, come to course 090."

He'd stay on that course for now. The ships ahead of the HSF LOB had to be the German battlecruisers, in the HSF van. If he'd stayed on 120, he'd've driven right into them with both his bow turrets unable to fire.

He could feel his ship beginning to feel heavy and sluggish as she tried to get back to 090.

7:00 pm, bridge of Grosser Kurfurst, course 090, speed 18 knots

"Hit!" Captain Schnell exclaimed. "Another!"

He had shifted fire to what seemed to be the second ship in the GF LOB, but he was not sure. The second and third ships had blown up, but the one directly to their rear was in bright relief. The gap in the RN LOB left no one to shoot at him, at least not until they closed up and filled the hole. A target shoot, he thought; who could ever have expected it?

He resolved not to waste the opportunity.

Fire fountained up from her 4th turret, sending trails of sparks high to be blown by the wind.

It was better than the Kaiser's birthday party fireworks. Captain Schnell almost said as much to his XO, but remained silent.


This one, like the first one, seemed not to have any effect.

7:00 pm, bridge of Markgraf, course 090, speed 18 knots


"Damn!" Captain Siegfried exclaimed. The Britisher they were dueling directly on their beam had outhit them 5 to 3 in the last ten minutes; that one made it 6 to 3. It never occurred to him to shift fire.

"Hit!" That made it 6 to 4.

"Sir, that one was near the waterline amidships!"


"Sir, that wasn't ours! I think Grosser Kurfurst is also shooting at her!"

Captain Siegfried eagerly welcomed all the help he could get. He admired the fire that the other's hit had caused.


There was no apparent effect from their own hit.



---- 7:00 pm, Kronprinz Wilhelm, course 090, speed 18 knots

"Shift fire! Shift fire!" Captain Wilhelm redundantly shouted. He liked redundancy.

"Target is third ship from the lead. Third."

Visibility was poor, but the light conveniently provided by the RN was enough to pick out what appeared to be the third ship. He was correct; she was the Orion.

"Up 300!"

"We're being skipped!" Captain Wilhelm said to his XO, who then lowered his binoculars and looked questioningly at him. "We're being skipped!" Captain Wilhelm repeated.

"Was that a hit?"

If so, there was no visible effect. No one answered. He asked again.

---- 7:00 pm, bridge of Kaiser, course 090, speed 18 knots


Rear-Admiral Josef von Necki, aboard Kaiser, was proud of his flagship. Vice-Admiral Scheer was in the Kaiser-class Frederich der Grosse three ships astern. Kaiser, German for Caesar, just as Czar was Russian for Caesar, was a fitting name for a ship so impressively armored and well-constructed. His ship had hit brightly burning Centurion at least three times before she blew apart. Shifting fire to the ship on their beam, likely Orion, had been less successful, so far. The RN BB had been shooting them already and had gotten the range. The Kaiser's firing had been complicated by the fact that at least two other ships had started firing at her at almost the same second, making spotting the fall of shot even harder in the gloom. The range "alarm clocks" had helped, but accuracy had been degraded.


"Sir, fire in the casemate aft of the forward superstructure!"

Actually, that salvo had scored two hits, but the other had just cut away part of a railing on the aft superstructure. Two men had been knocked down, more by the wind of the shell's passage than the shock of the hit. Both were unhurt, but had a story to tell. The missing railing section had been between them.

New waterspouts appeared short of their target. They were out of tempo with the Kaiser's salvos.

Admiral Necki looked forward, but Markgraf was clearly locked up with the ship ahead of Orion. Kaiserin? No, she was engaged with the next in the RN LOB.

"Short, up 200." Kaiser's own shells were also short. Had their target turned?

Ah! A hit flashed on the Orion, but it was not theirs.

Columns bracketed Kaiser. Orion had straddled, again.

7:00 pm, bridge of Kaiserin, course 090, speed 18 knots

"Straddle! Rapid fire!"

Benefiting from the flames on the wreckage that had moments before been proud Conqueror, Kaiserin had found the range again, after losing it in the glare of the explosion.

Kaiserin had scored one hit earlier, along the waterline of Monarch. Monarch had scored two on Kaiserin while she'd been busy adding to the chorus of cannons at luckless Centurion, and well before the German knew where the shells were even coming from. Now, however, the Kaiserin had the better light and the tide of the duel shifted.

A reddish glow was now visible through the openings in the RN BB's casemates aft.


7:00 pm, bridge of Fredrich der Grosse, course 090, speed 18 knots

"Hit! Another!"


Captain Abdul Hadi of the proud navy of the Ottoman Empire picked himself back up from the deck. He had always hated the British Empire and its detestable nobility. Their holdings so close to the holy cities of Islam was an insult, as was their squatter-status on the Suez Canal. Their seizure of priceless ships paid for by the Sultan and built in Britain had been the final insult. He'd leaped at the opportunity to be an observer to the HSF.


Hadi hoped they sank them all. When Vice-Admiral Scheer fell ill, Hadi had thought that the battle was over. The HSF CO had tried to hold it off by sheer will but Hadi, without duties to distract him, had seen his weakness growing. Who this Admiral Letters was, Hadi had no idea other than he had won an earlier battle about four months ago. Hadi understood some German, and his knowledge was growing. Right now, though, he didn't need to know the language to realize they were reporting a fire. That last hit had been just aft and he could see a trace of flames himself. He really hated the RN ships.


In particular, he hated that big one to port.

7:00 pm, bridge of Iron Duke, course 120, speed 20 knots

Captain Smith, USN, was in the rear portion of the GF flagship's bridge. He must have reacted too visibly when Conqueror went up with no warning whatsoever. In any case, steely glares from the senior RN officers had encouraged him to seek less visible real estate, some distance from the starboard wingbridge.

"Can you make out what's happening in the van?" Captain Loureiro, the Brazilian military attache asked, quietly.

"Best I could tell," Smith replied in equally low tones, "is that one or maybe two more have already been heavily damaged, or even lost like Conqueror."

Loureiro expressed himself with energy and sincerity. Smith knew not one word of Portuguese, but agreed with the sentiment.

"I thought as much," the South American officer said after a moment, "but I had hoped I was mistaken. Certainly, the Admiral appears, er, unworried."

"Yeah, but, " Smith paused and changed what he was about to say, mindful of ears all around, "the Admiral knows this is just an early, er, hurdle and the Grand Fleet remains the superior force."

"Who are we engaged with?" Smith asked to change the subject.

"She appears to be Helgoland class. I think it is the lead ship of several of that division, if so, she is likely the Ostfriesland."

So far the two BB's had traded several salvos with only one hit apiece.

"Sir," Smith leaned forward to catch the report, "that hit jammed #3 turret. Casualties from splinters, sir, but Gunner expects he'll have it back in 5 minutes!"

"Very well," was the predictably imperturbable reply.

---- 7:00 pm, bridge of Dreadnought, course 120, speed 20 knots

"Hit! Two hits!"

The CO was jubilant. The Admiralty may be eager to send her to the Channel Fleet or to "Reserve," but the old girl would show them all! She would get revenge for their slights and show them the way, just as her design had, years ago. She would stand tall in the Line of Battle, tall as a royal oak.


Even as preliminary reports of moderate flooding came in, the Dreadnought straddled the Thuringen again.


The bright red spark had been near the waterline forward on the bigger German BB.

7:00 pm, bridge of Seydlitz, course 090, speed 18 knots

"Sir, they must have hauled out of the line!"

The KGV had gotten out of the glare cast by the wreckage of the Ajax and opened the range with rudder.

"Sir, I think we hit her at least once more."

Captain Nik stared through the glasses, but there was nothing to shoot at.

7:00 pm, bridge of Moltke, course 090, speed 18 knots

"Lookouts," shouted Captain Stang, "Can you see her?"

"No, sir. She's turned away."


---- 7:00 pm, bridge of von der Tann, course 090, speed 18 knots

Captain Dirk shook his head in growing frustration. The fires on Konig seemed to be ebbing, but he still could not see a target.

"Sir, Moltke and Seydlitz have ceased firing."

He could only wonder what they had been shooting at.

---- 7:03 pm, bridge of King George V, course 090, speed 18 knots (slowing)

"Sir, the forward bulkhead is showing signs of buckling. We need to slow further, or it's likely to give way."

"Very well. Slow to 15 knots."

"Aye, aye, sir. Sir, that may not be enough."

"Yes, well, give it a try. Tell them to keep an eye on it."

"Aye, aye, sir."

The torrent of heavy shells had abated as the dusk took them out of sight of their foes. The topside fires had been brought under control, but the #2 turret was still smoking heavily and its path seemed directly through the bridge area.

He listened to more damage reports. The flooding aft was still not under control.

The ship already had an 8 degree list. His duty was to remain in the LOB, but both bow turrets were gone and the flooding getting worse. He shook his head. How he hated what he had to do!

"Signals," he called in a steady voice, "Iron Duke, heavy damage, lost both bow turrets, flooding. Request pass lead to Erin."

7:03 pm, bridge of Erin, course 070, speed 20 knots

"Sir, we're running up on King George V. She's slowed and listing badly."

The CO began to study the other BB carefully, but was interrupted.

"Sir, fourth turret is gone, completely gone, gutted, open to the sky. The only thing that saved us was that they got the magazine flooded before it took us all."

"Sir, we've got men down in engineering. Gas, sir."


"Yes, sir. Engineer thinks the barbette vented into the ship, sir, during the explosion."

There was more bad news. The starboard engine was running rough. Bearing temperatures were being reported to engineering watch chiefs as rising. The Engineer would soon report that damage in the bearings, turbine, or reduction gears was progressively getting worse.

Actually, the Erin had gotten lucky, very, very lucky. The venting of the barbette may have provided the margin to avert gross structural failure or even catastrophic failure. As it was, misalignments and minor fractures in the propulsion train internals were eating the bearing surfaces with every revolution of the starboard shaft.

Splash-splash! Their turn had thrown off their foes for a few salvos, but they were regaining the range. They were aided by the fire still in the pit that had been the 4th turret that still showed through the gloom.


---- 7:03 pm, bridge of Kaiser, course 090, speed 18 knots

After the one hit from, his lookouts thought likely, Kaiser Wilhelm, Orion was matching Kaiser salvo for salvo. That earlier hit, however, still showed a glow around deck level, betraying the fact that fires raged deeply within the hull, aft of the midships turret.




"Sir, we've lost the starboard wing turret!"

"Very well." Admiral Necki replied.

"Sir, their first turret is on fire!"

"Sir, heavy flooding. Engineer says the flooding may force evacuation and loss of the starboard shaft!"

"Very well."

---- 7:04 pm, bridge of Kaiserin, course 090, speed 18 knots

Whanng! Monarch had scored a third hit. The first had resulted in no damage, and the second had caused a small fire amidships.


"Sir, fire in the aft superstructure, damage teams on station, expect to be under control shortly."


The last turret on Monarch jetted smoke and a brief lick of red.

Actually, two different shells had hit the last turret and both had penetrated. The fire had not been great nor had it propagated, but the loss of life had been almost complete with the two hits.

7:04 pm, bridge of Thunderer, course 120, speed 20 knots

"Sir, the forward bulkhead is going, we need to slow immediately!"

"Left full rudder, slow to 10 knots!"

"Signals, advise Iron Duke."

Thunderer had taken not one or two, but five hits in the hull near the waterline. She would've already been lost, except that the fourth hit had pounded through into a space already flooding from the second hit.

The CO could already see a bit of list before the rudder went over and she was already lower in the bows.

In another few minutes, he'd get the report that the starboard engine was lost to the flooding, but the ship wasn't going to be able to take all the output of even one shaft anyway, without bodily driving her under.

As it was, the CO's quick reliance on his Engineer's report gave him some chance for damage teams to stabilize the ship.

---- 7:04 pm, bridge of Thuringen, course 090, speed 18 knots


Captain Kroon was furious. Best he could tell, he was faced off against the oldest dreadnought in the world. THE Dreadnought! And he was getting out-shot and out-hit!

So far, the damage had been not been great, but the fire amidst the secondary guns in the casemates amidships could only improve the other's accuracy.


Like the only other one they had scored, it had been in the hull, near the waterline.




Whang-whang-whang! A series of hits had impacted in the upperworks, chewing holes in funnels and stanchons.

That was from astern of their target! They were getting doubled up!

"XO! Report status of fire!"


7:04 pm, bridge of Emperor, course 120, speed 20 knots

"Hit! Multiple hits!"

They had scored in their second salvo.

"How do like that, Fritz!" The CO remarked half aloud to himself.


7:04 pm, bridge of Benbow, course 120, speed 20 knots


The glow off the starboard bow revealed the hull of a Helgoland BB.

Poor Thuringen had just gained still another shooter!

---- 7:05 pm, bridges of Helgoland and Oldenburg, course 090, speed 18 knots

"There! See the muzzle flashes?"

"Yes, sir!"


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