The Run to the South Begins

3:00 PM, bridge of Wiesbaden, course 160, speed 25

"Sir, lookouts report smoke, bearing 200, multiple ships. Sir, it looks like the 1st Scouting Group!"

"XO, what do you make the range to those RN CLs?"

"Sir, I'd guess 18,000 yards. They still seem to be doing a couple knots better than us."

"Yes, well, let's bait the hook a little more. Slow to 24 knots."

3:05 PM, bridge of Galatea, course 150, speed 27 knots

"Sir, range 15,500 yards. We should be in range in 15 minutes."

"Yes, signal Phaeton, the two of us will concentrate on the CL; Inconstant and Cordelia to engage the torpedo boats."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

3:10 PM, bridge of Derfflinger, course 000, speed 27.5 knots

"Sir, Wiesbaden reports range to the 4 CLs is 17,000 yards, bearing 335 from their position."

All on the bridge had their binoculars on the horizon. So far, the only smoke visible was from Wiesbaden and her torpedo boats bearing 025, range 25,000 yards.

"Baron," said Captain Theodore, "that puts the enemy about 40,000 yards dead ahead!"

"Admiral," offered the navigator, "I make our closing speed nearly 2000 yards per minute."

"Yes," said the baron, "they may just rush into our lap. We'll see how quick they are."

3:17 PM, bridge of Galatea

"Sir, lookouts report smoke, bearing 180!"

Commodore Alexander-Sinclair and all on the bridge looked over this new contact. There was only one plume.

"That looks too large for one ship," offered his XO.

"Yes," agreed the Commodore. "Whoever it is still well hull down and, unless it IS just one ship, they're coming right down our throat."

He looked over at the German CL, just out of range. This new contact might well be just another CL and torpedo boat group. If so, he could take them on one at a time. But only if he stayed the course. He was tempted. Oh, by George, he was tempted.

"No," muttered the commodore. "This has trap scent all over it." He took one more last longing look at Wiesbaden. Damn!

"Left standard rudder. Come to course 000."

3:18 PM, bridge of Derfflinger

"Sir, they're going about."

Damn! The baron gritted his teeth.

"Yes," he said as evenly as he could. "Good sailors, they are. Too bad, he might've gotten a bit greedy."

The range was still dropping as the CLs were slowed by the turn.

3:20 PM, bridge of Queen Mary

"Admiral, Galatea reports a second contact. They've broken off the pursuit. No identification yet, but the new group is about 26,000 yards due South of their position. Commodore Alexander-Sinclair is staying in their van on a northerly course."

The admiral and the other senior officers bent over the chart table.

"Excellent," said Sturdee. "Whoever they are, they'll be in sight in 15 minutes and we'll have them!"

3:25 PM, bridge of Derfflinger

"We're not going to catch them, admiral," said Captain Theodore.

"Yes, that is so. Slow to 18 knots."

They scanned the horizon.

"Sir, smoke, bearing 290! Four, maybe five plumes."

"Well," remarked the baron, "there's precious little doubt who THEY are. Captain, use right rudder and come to course 160."

"Aye, aye, sir. Shall I order All Ahead Flank."

"No, not just yet. Let's get a good look at them first. Recall the light ships. Bring them in on our port beam."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Captain Nik, on Seydlitz, was not surprised at the continued 18 knot bell. He knew the baron was going to give the RN a good chance to chase them just as Wiesbaden had done. The difference was that the baron might let themselves get caught.

"Gunnery Officer, make sure the hatch between the aft turrets is dogged shut!" He did not want a repeat of that catastrophic hit at Dogger Bank.

As they completed the turn, Captain Dirk on von der Tann got his first good look at the onrushing RN BCs.

"Mind your helm," he growled at the petty officer at the ship's wheel. He'd wanted action, but being last in the line was going to make the RN concentrate on him first.

3:30 PM, bridge of Queen Mary

"Sir, confirmed, the ships are battlecrusiers. Four ships only. Looks like one's Derfflinger class. The others are Seydlitz, Moltke, and von der Tann."

There was a bit of shock among the junior officers and the men. Seydlitz and Moltke had been reported sunk.

"Report that to the flagship," Vice-Admiral Sturdee ordered without any sound of emotion. Nor were any of the other senior officers unsurprised; they'd all seen the actual after-action reports from the Dogger Bank fiasco.

"That might be Lutzow," offered the CO.

"Yes," agreed Sturdee. "In any case, it's one 12" gunned ship and three with 11" against our 13.5" and the 12 inchers of four more BCs. I'd call that superior force. Yes?"

"Yes, sir." No one was going to argue against that kind of math. No one, at least, on THAT bridge.

"Signal the flagship. Am engaging the enemy!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

3:30 PM, bridge of Friedrich der Grosse

"Admiral, Vice-Admiral Letters reports five RN BCs approaching at high speed on his 290. Current range 25,000 yards and closing. The 1st Scouting Group is retiring upon the main body on course 160."

"Very well," answered the admiral. He took a deep breath. "Confirm Commodore von Hoban got that signal."

Mein Gott, but he felt sick. First four CLs and now the stakes had been raised to five BCs. Letters had enough force to engage them and maybe let them get pinned up against the Konigs. Maybe. Mein Gott, he felt sick!

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