"Finishing His Sentence"

----7:53 pm, bridge of Iron Duke, course 000, speed 10 knots

"Boom-boom," the sounds of not one, but two RN BBs were distinct on the bridge. One, well aft and to port, was Temeraire, Captain Smith recognized. She had been firing at some target or targets far astern for several minutes. The new shooter was just astern of Iron Duke, though it was not Dreadnought who was coming up and was almost back in formation. However, the shooter was still much, much closer than Temeraire.

"Superb!" Captain Loureiro said.

Captain Smith was momentarily confused. What was so wonderful? The Royal Navy was suffering and even their own lives were in danger! Almost instantly, though, he realized that the Brazilian observer had been referring to HMS Superb who was somewhere astern of Dreadnought. But, he considered, thinking over the sounds of the cannons, Superb had to be fairly close, though he could not see her through the smoke from the funnels and smoldering fires on Iron Duke herself. With this visibility, though, her target could not be all that distant from where the USN observer himself stood.

Smith shifted his position again to try to catch a glimpse of whatever was happening to the south. However, RN personnel occupied all the better vantages and effectively blocked his attempts. With all their binoculars at their brows, Smith reflected, it looked like race day at the Derby. Slivers of glass and metal grated under his shoes as he moved.

All attention went to Admiral J[ellic]oe as he began to give orders.

---- 7:54 pm, bridge of Frauenlob, course 000, speed 18 knots

"Sir, Rostock has been ordered to Blucher, the Commodore is going to shift his flag to her."

"Very well," Captain Ehrhart acknowledged. He glanced astern to check position of his torpedo boats and distance to Konig. Good - 3,000 yards. Just then, tall water columns appeared some 400 yards short of Konig. The new shooter apparently also had better things to do than fire at distant light. Blucher was already some distance astern, but the orphan light were tightly in formation aft and to port. He turned back. Actually, the splashes had been from Temeraire, Superb's landed just as he turned around.

"Sir," the young officer was holding his excitement in check with great difficulty. "Two more contacts! Dreadnoughts: bearing 330, range 8,000 yards; and 340, range 9,000."

"Sir!" This voice was even more urgent. "Another, no, two, two more dreadnoughts! They're on about 320, sir, on the far side of the one that just opened fire; range just over 9,000 yards."

Ehrhart looked ahead to port. Perhaps it was the break in the smoke, perhaps it was just that there was a lot more information, but all was clear now. The relative positions of the ships sharpened in his mind as though someone had drawn him a map and posted it right in front of him. He became aware that he was sweating. He licked his upper lip, tasting the sudden salt. "The Van," he thought again, suppressing a grimace.

"They're in columns," Ehrhart stated flatly after a moment, studying the sudden multitude of dreadnoughts through his prized binoculars. "These aren't just a couple stragglers. That's the Grand Fleet main body, in columns on course due north, and the ones on 330 and 340 are in the east-most column. The way we're gaining on them, they can't be doing more than 10 knots!"

"Signals Officer!"

---- 7:54 pm, bridge of Iron Duke, course 000, speed 10 knots

Smith and all the others had hung on the GF CO's words for, it had seemed to the American, not merely a split second but for a full week.

"... 270," the RN admiral concluded.

There was a pause as men headed off to hoist the necessary flags, and down to the radio room to back up by orders with the wireless.

"Any further report from Commodore Hawksley?"

"No, admiral."

"Very well."

---- 7:54pm, bridge of Konig, course 000, speed 18 knots

"Short, 300 yards short."

Just as a set of spouts began to subside on their port side, others rose on either side of the ship, close aboard.

"Straddled! Sir, we've been straddled by a new shooter."

"Identify second shooter!"

There was no answer.

---- 7:54 pm, bridge of Grosser Kurfurst, course 000, speed 18 knots

"Long, all shells long, 300 yards long."
Captain Schnell was not too displeased with their first half-salvo. They were out of tempo with Konig's fire and would be able to easily correct the range. The RN dreadnought could only shoot at one of them, so Grosser Kurfurst was shooting without reply.

"Sir, Konig is under fire from a second dreadnought."

Well, that put a different face on things!

"Lookouts, can you spot the new shooter?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Any reports from Frauenlob?"

"No, sir."

Ehrhart's signals were just enroute and would not make it to the bridges of the HSF for several more minutes.

---- 7:55 pm, bridge of Kronprinz, course 000, speed 18 knots

"Sir, dreadnought contact. Bearing 315, range 9,000 yards. She's firing at Konig."

Captain Wilhelm confirmed the report with a brief glance.

"Guns, target enemy dreadnought, bearing 315, range 9,000 yards."

As Wilhelm watched, waterspouts straddled his target, but which of the ships ahead of him was the shooter, he could not tell.

Anxiously, he waited for his own guns to join in.

---- 7:55 pm, bridge of Queen Elizabeth, course 000, speed 10 knots

Captain Dave and the others on the bridge were all staring to the southeast. Temeraire and Superb were in plain view. Both ships were firing rapidly to the southeast, but at targets well beyond visibility. Splashes around Temeraire marked return fire, but the shooter was not in sight; not even muzzle flashes could be seen.

"Captain," said Commander Moyer standing beside him, "she's under fire from at least two ships."

"Aye," Dave replied. "Is the fire out? You've been gone for quite a while, though you've not missed much on this side of the fleet. We've been walking away at 10 knots for what seems weeks. Report?"

"Yes, sir," answered the XO. "The fire is out. The casualties are all with the doctor. All in all, we got off pretty lightly, sir. Best I could tell, talking with the lookout sections, at least five and maybe more ships were shooting at us at one point."

"Aye, captain," added Commander Boy. "Me lads up top say the same. We shot at just one. We hit her fair, and may hae sunk her, too. But she hauled out and ran. Any word from Iron Duke?"

"Not yet."

They fell silent, the three of them, and raised their glasses, studying intently the ongoing gun battle that they so wished to be a part of. Tension grew in all of them.


They jumped and turned. Commander Gates, the Engineering Officer, looked at them sheepishly. Then he leaned over to pick up the wrench he'd dropped on the deck just behind them.

"Sorry," Gates offered contritely. "I was just ...."

"Man," expostulated Boy, "dinnae DO that!"

Boy went on some more, but his accent quickly grew so broad that he became completely unintelligible. Dave carefully hid his smile.

---- 7:55 pm, bridge of Erin, course 000, speed 13 knots

"Sir, they may not be ours."


"Sir, what I mean is that the lookouts think that light cruiser may be German, and those light ships with her."

"I see," the CO answered, but he didn't, not really. "But Temeraire and Superb haven't fired on them. They haven't even challenged them. And Hawksley, shouldn't Hawksley be coming into sight right about there, and right about now?"

"Yes, sir. That is, begging your pardon, sir, unless he went off east or west after making his attack. And the lookouts, sir ...."

"Yes, yes, of course. Very well, make them an interrogative and ...."

"Sir! Contact, enemy dreadnought, bearing 145, range 9,500 yards."

Konig's fires had enhanced her visibility.


It wouldn't occur to the captain for several minutes that Konig was not shooting at the light just a couple thousand yards on her bow.

---- 7:56 pm, bridge of Grosser Kurfurst, course 000, speed 18 knots

"Sir, Konig's been hit again!"

Captain Schnell could see a new, small fire on the port side, forward of the lead BB. Even as he watched, another hit high in her superstructure, but without any apparent effect. The first had been from Temeraire, and the second was Superb's first hit.


A flash showed on the glacis of Temeraire's midships turret. There was no other indication of damage, but the turret did not fire again. Hidden to his view were the 50 casualties that the hit had inflicted as the partial penetration had spalled splinters amongst the men inside. No charges had ignited, however, and work was soon begun to try to bring the turret back into action. Another hit in the next half-salvo went unnoticed by the Germans, though it inflicted another 50 casualties behind the casemate armor on the starboard side.

Captain Schnell's gunners had the range, and no one was shooting back at them. Only one thing could reduce their accuracy, and that thing was about to happen.

---- 7:56 pm, bridge of Markgraf, course 000, speed 18 knots

Captain Siegfried wanted to do what Captain Wilhelm was doing, that is, shooting at a British dreadnought. The vagaries of chance, here in the form of smoke from Stettin and burning light blocking the line of sight, had so far worked against him.

"Lookouts! Give us a target!"

"The smoke, sir. We won't clear it for another minute or two."


---- 7:56 pm, bridge of Kaiserin, course 000, speed 18 knots

Captain Skorpion's lookouts, however, had a fair line of sight to Temeraire.



On his first half-salvo, with only two turrets bearing on the target, Skorpion's guns blasted a hit right into the hull of Temeraire, letting in tons of water and threatening the starboard engineroom. Only alert and almost heroic actions by the black gang staunched the worst of the flooding, though they took 50 casualties in the hit and their desperate reactions. Reports of the damage would take several minutes to get to the bridge.

Ironically, Kaiserin would not score another hit on Temeraire in any of the next seven half-salvos, despite getting another turret into the firing.

---- 7:56 pm, bridge of Iron Duke, course 000, speed 10 knots

"Still no word from Hawksley?"

"No, admiral."

"Very well. Signals Officer, Admiral Burney: reinforce light screen south."

"Aye, aye, sir."

---- 7:57 pm, bridge of Grosser Kurfurst, course 000, speed 18 knots


The flash of a hit showed high in the superstructure , with a small fire. A second hit into the lower superstructure failed to explode.
Captain Schnell waited almost impatiently for the next shells to land.


---- 7:57 pm, bridge of Konig, course 000, speed 18 knots
"Sir, signal from Frauenlob. Contact report. The new contact must be the other shooter."

"Confirm, second shooter bears 335, range 8,500 yards."

The CO looked on the stated bearing. As he focused his glasses, muzzle flashes appeared on the new contact.


The CO decided to stay on the current target for another few half-salvos.

---- 7:57 pm, bridge of Prinz. Luitpold, course 000, speed 18 knots

"Fire!" Captain Heinz ordered, gritting his teeth that he had only two turrets that could bear on the target.

He studied the bearing carefully. At the present rate of change, it'd be several more minutes before a third turret would bear on target.

"Short 100 yards!"

Splashes around Temeraire suddenly increased in number, making spotting much more uncertain.


There was no apparent damage, other than the brief spark in the superstructure.

"Hit! Not ours, sir. Could've been Konig's. Hard to tell."

It had been a good guess. This was the one that led Schnell not to shift targets. Konig had gone nine half-salvos between hits and he did not want to switch now that they had the range. The shell had impacted on the deck aft of the midships turret, starting a small fire and inflicting more casualties among the secondary gun crews there.

---- 7:58 pm, bridge of Friedrich der Grosse, course 000, speed 18 knots


Captain Hadi had watched the ripple of firing spread down the HSF LOB. He could not see the shells landing, but he wondered how any ship could survive being the target of seven or eight dreadnoughts at well under 10,000 yards.

Admiral Scheer's staff had grown increasingly anxious as the fleet had steamed north in pursuit.

Hadi had thought them a dour bunch, but they had begun to show some emotions after all. He could not make out just what they were muttering, though their low guttural noises reminded him of rooting pigs. Heathens, all of them! And they had shown him no gratitude whatsoever, even after his attempts to help their sickly admiral.

---- 7:58 pm, bridge of Ostfriesland, course 000, speed 18 knots


Admiral Rudburg was relieved to finally see for himself what so many of the main body had been shooting at. He reflected that the British dreadnought seemed to be living a charmed life. There were, with Ostfriesland joining in, eight ships shooting at her. Actually, no gunnery officer had any certainty which splashes were from their own shells. Over 25 shells were landing every 30 seconds near Temeraire. It had become a crap shoot. Meanwhile, Superb was getting the range on Konig undisturbed.

"Boom." Another half-salvo followed the first.

---- 7:58 pm, bridge of Derfflinger, course 060, speed 25 knots

The RN light had shown no indication that they planned to do anything but get ahead of their beam. There was a coast on this course in a few hours, thought the baron ruefully.

"Captain Theodor, gradually come right about 15 degrees. Bring us onto 075."

"Flags?" Theodor asked.

"No, I don't want to make this complicated. The others will conform, and I want "135 Immediate" up there just in case."

"Aye, aye, sir. Helm, 2 degrees right rudder, come to 075."

---- 7:59 pm, bridge of Iron Duke, course 000, speed 10 knots

There was still no response from Hawksley.

"Admiral, from Superb: opened fire on Konig class dreadnought. Sir, the report has the Konig on course due north."

"Sir, new report from Superb: enemy light force screen in van of Konig."

It did not look like there was going to be any report from Hawksley.

"Signals Officer, Commodore Le Mesurier: assume command of light forces, recall, establish screen south of main body."

---- 7:59 pm, bridge of Rostock, course 350, speed 22 knots

"Sir, small boat in the water, dead ahead."

"Yes, All Ahead 1/3."

Captain Westfeldt watched without enthusiasm as they neared the boat and his over-motivated commodore.

"All Stop," he said after a moment. "Standby to pick up personnel. XO, please go down there and welcome Commodore von Hoban and show him up here to the bridge."

"Aye, aye, sir."
Westfeldt really did not want a commodore on board. He most definitely did not want von Hoban.

He flinched as Ostfriesland fired her first half-salvo just 500 yards away from almost dead abeam. He was getting a headache, but that was hardly the cause of the bad feeling he was beginning to get as Commodore Fireeater von Hoban started up the side of his ship.

---- 7:59 pm, bridge of Konig, course 000, speed 18 knots


The bridge shook and the shock wave knocked all on the bridge onto the deck.

Superb had scored a hit flush in the lower superstructure forward. Another 50 casualties had been inflicted. More importantly, perhaps, was that a new medium fire was burning brightly in the forward part of the ship.

When the captain regained his feet, he belatedly ordered his gunnery officer to shift targets.

---- 7:59 pm, bridge of Queen Elizabeth, course 000, speed 10 knots

"Oh, damn them all!" Captain Dave exclaimed.

On the bridge, they had muttered curses as Temeraire had almost been buried in shell splashes during the last few minutes. Any doubt that they may have harbored that the entire main body of the High Seas Fleet was in close pursuit was gone from their minds, at least. Through it all, though, brave Temeraire had steamed on almost unscathed. Time and time again, she was lost to view amidst enormous pillars of seawater, only to appear out again, firing all the while. She had seemed to shrug off hits, though they had been seeing her unengaged side.

Now, however, two huge bright flashes, one under the bridge and the other at the midships turret, were followed by gushing pillars of flame. Two separate shells had landed in the same half-salvo, thrusting deep into the ship and detonating with secondary explosions. The midships hit had failed to set off the magazine, but it would make no difference.

Temeraire had been mortally wounded, perhaps twice.

It could have been any of the first eight ships of the HSF main body, but post-war analysis would eventually correctly conclude that it had been Kronprinz. Some historians would assert that it had been Captain Siegfried's Markgraf, but that made no difference, certainly not on May 31, 1915.

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