A Long, Long Time Ago in a
Galatea Far, Far Away

1:30 PM, May 31, 1915, somewhere in the North Sea

"Sir, lookout reports smoke, bearing 120!"

"Very well," agreed Commodore Alexander-Sinclair, the Galatea CO. "Flags, course 120, ahead flank."

"Aye, aye, sir."

The Galatea's three squadron mates acknowledged almost immediately.


The four CLs surged ahead even as they began to draw together into a tighter formation. Their wakes grew as they worked up to 25 knots. Glasses were at work on all the bridges.

"That's not a whole lot of smoke," remarked Captain Cameron on Phaeton.

"Could it be," wondered his XO, "a merchant who just got a load of bad coal?"

1:45 PM, bridge of Wiesbaden

"Sir, smoke bearing 300. Looks like more than one ship."

The Wiesbaden CO turned away from watching the small merchant ship they'd stopped and raised his binoculars.

"Yes, I make it three, maybe four ships. What do you think, XO?"

"I agree, sir. Certainly not merchants. They look to be coming hard. They're a good 25,000 yards off, maybe a bit more, hard to tell. No way to tell what they are yet."

The captain scanned the rest of the horizon. There were no other signs of ships that he could see, other than his five torpedo boats over by the merchant. It would take a few minutes for the small boats to get back onto the torpedo boat. He decided to hurry them. Wiesbaden was barely making steerage way as were the other four torpedo boats. The fifth torpedo boat whose away party was questioning the merchant crew was wallowing with his engines stopped.

"Signals, hoist course 160, speed 25. Helmsman, come to course 160."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"OOD inform the engineroom I'll be ordering All Ahead Flank in about," he gave the small boats another glance, "5 minutes."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Perspiration began to wet his armpits. He alternated between watching the torpedo boat away party's almost-frantic progress back to their ship and the oncoming delegation from the RN. If these guys are BCs, he thought, he was in big trouble.

"Officer of the Deck, double the lookouts. I want to know the instant any more smoke is sighted, especially on that bearing."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

There, the men were back aboard.


2:15 PM, bridge of the Derfflinger

"Admiral, Wiesbaden reports enemy in sight, 4 CLs, bearing 300 from them. Wiesbaden is retreating toward us and the RN CLs are in pursuit."

They looked at the plot chart. Wiesbaden bore about 020 from Derfflinger.

"Captain Theodore, signal all ahead flank, course Due North."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

"Maybe we can catch the CLs before they realize what's happening."

2:30 PM, bridge of the Queen Mary

"Admiral, Galatea reports 'Enemy in sight.' They're pursuing, sir."

"Outstanding! Alter course to SSE, maximum speed!"

It had to be just light ships, Sturdee had immediately realized, or else the commodore would not be in pursuit. Images of Helgoland Bight and the Falklands were hard to force aside. He knew that Dogger Bank had also begun just like this: an encounter between light ships.

"Aye, aye, sir!"

"Oh, and Captain, make sure Iron Duke acknowledged that transmission. There might be bigger game around."

2:35 PM, bridge of Iron Duke

Admiral J[ellic]oe had indeed received Galatea's "Enemy in sight" signal. The flags to alter course and come to 20 knots were already up on the yards.

"Sir, all divisions acknowledge."

"Very well, execute."

The admiral, Captain Dryer (CO Iron Duke), and others were huddled over the chart table. Low murmurs from the group were nearly impossible for the straining ears of the others at their stations.

"Sir, Vice-Admiral Sturdee reports that he is on course SSE, speed 26 knots."

"Very well."

2:40 PM, bridge of Friedrich der Grosse

"Sir, we're on course 010, answering 18 knots."

"Very well," replied Admiral Scheer, but he was not, not really. Whatever had sickened Vice-Admiral Schmidt had clearly gotten him after all. His face remained impassive, but he could feel perspiration beading his brow. Unlike his new second in command, the fire-eating Letters, he did not really want a decisive battle with the RN, not today. Bagging an RN CL squadron, however, was a prize worth the sortie. Stolidly, he kept the HSF main body on the northerly course in support of Letters, somewhere to the NNW.

2:45 PM, bridge of Blucher, 16,000 yards north of the lead HSF BB

"Sir, the main body has gone to 18 knots on 010."

"Very well," replied Commodore von Hoban. "Any more from the BCs?"

"No, sir. Last report was at 2:15. No sighting report yet."

The commodore acknowledged. Inside, he was wishing himself back with the BCs. He checked the positions of his squadrons yet again. Waiting, he hated the waiting.

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