AUGUST 11 - AUGUST 18, 1914
THE MASSACRE IN THE NORTH SEA
"SHIP IS SINKING. ESCAPE IMPROBABLE. THE BOYS FIGHT ON.”
- Admiral William Pakenham, last transmission, 1914 -
The sounds of the chains echoed through the gray and long hallways. Alice wondered if they feared that she would try to escape, or more ridiculous, attack them. What sort of men lock up a young lady like a Zoo animal?
“Do you know why I have called you in here today, Miss. Osborne?” The Warden asked. Hidden behind his large wooden desk filled with trinkets and stacks of paperwork.
“I’m afraid not, warden.” Alice replied, looking down at her chains.
“For goodness sakes, man, remove her shackles.” The warden ordered, visibly distraught at her condition.
“Miss. Osborne, I am to inform you that a truce with the protestors has been established. All WSPU prisoners are to be released immediately. In return your... colleagues… have promised that there will be no more protests.
There’s a war going on, Miss Osborne. Both sides agree this takes precedents.”
“.... I understand, warden...” Alice replied. Trying to understand the ramifications. She was free to go, the cause was in limbo. Now she would have to travel back to her hometown in Whitby. To her sister, to stay with her, while her husband is out at sea. In this terrible war.
“What’s Kitchener’s lap dog doing here?” Admiral Fisher asked, eyeballing Cecil.
“He’s here to tell us what the German army is carrying on, gentlemen.” Churchill declared. “Or would you rather read it in tomorrow’s newspaper? Filled with half-truths, and downright lies.”
Cecil put on his best face walking into the room filled with the Royal Navy’s elite leaders. He had been in important meetings before, shook hands with prominent figures. But never in such a solemn and perilous situation.
“Gentlemen.” He nodded and took a seat.
Admiral Fisher grunted in return.
“Continue, Admiral Hall.” Churchill said, looking across the table filled with rolled up maps, to a man standing in front of them, nervously rubbing his hands.
“Yes… Yes, sir.” He replied and signaled to another officer to hold up one of the maps.
THE BATTLE OF GERMAN BIGHT:
“The Grand Fleet operating to uphold the blockade made contact with the High Seas Fleet at 5:00, 12th August in the German Bight. Admiral Scheer sailed out to fight us straight on. Sir… They’re saying it’s the largest navy battle in the world’s history.”
“Good Lord.” Cecil whispered. Churchill shot him a quick look.
“And our boys did us proud.”
“Y, Yes.. Sir” Admiral Hall replied.
Cecil looked down on the table. Cold hard numbers stared back at him.
German casualties - 8 000
British casualties - 2 617
German ships sunk:
Kaiser class battleship - SMS Kaiserin - SUNK
Pre-dreadnought battleship - SMS Schwaben - SUNK
Light cruiser - SMS Thetis - SUNK
Light cruiser - SMS Strassburg - SUNK
Light cruiser - SMS Stralsund - SUNK
3 Destroyers - SUNK
“We reckon there were around 8 000 German casualties sir.” Admiral Hall announced.
“Not to mention the sinking of Kaiserin, and Schwaben. Terrible blows to the German Navy” Admiral Fisher added.
“Splendid.” Churchill replied. “Make sure the newspapers keep printing that, we will need those numbers to survive this bloody mess.”
SHIPS TO REPAIR:
Our own Grand Fleet took a severe beating.” Admiral Fisher said. “We lost no ships, but plenty of them are in dire need of repair. The HMS Liverpool for example is in tatters.”
Cecil picked up the report.
Ships docked for repair:
Pre-dreadnought battleship - HMS Queen
Pre-dreadnought battleship - HMS Venerable
Light cruiser - HMS Liverpool
Light cruiser - HMS lowestoft
Armoured cruiser - HMS Antrim
Armoured cruiser - HMS Roxburgh
Armoured cruiser - HMS Cressy
“And why was HMS Queen, and HMS Venerable apart of this operation?” Churchill asked.
“Those were the ships Admiral von Battenberg assigned to the grand fleet, sir.”
“They are still fine ships.” Admiral Von Battenberg’s voice finally arose from the corner. He was sharp and stylish, a dashing man of royal linage. “I leave it up to the discretion of the Fleet commander to assign them accordingly.”
“Well, they’re hardly fine ships any longer.” Churchill replied.
“We have underestimated the German Navy every step of the way.” Admiral Fisher said.
“There we agree, Jackie.” Churchill muttered. “Brief us on the Russian situation, Admiral Hall.”
“W, Will do, sir.”
THE SECOND BATTLE OF POMERANIAN BAY:
16:00 on the same day, the Russian fleet was attacked.” Hall pointed to a map of the Baltic sea.
“The bastards are mad.” Fisher declared. “They have split their fleet into three and attacked every side at once.”
“We’ll get there, Jackie.” Churchill interrupted. “Continue.”
“Sir, the Russians suffered terrible loses.”
German casualties - 150
Russian casualties - 1 358
Russian Ships sunk
Armored cruiser - Rossia - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Aurora - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Diana - SUNK
THE SACKING IN DANZIG BAY:
German casualties - 200
Russian casualties - 2 327
Russian Ships sunk
Pre-dreadnought battleship - Imperator Pavel I - SUNK
Pre-dreadnought battleship - Slava - SUNK
Pre-dreadnought battleship - Andrei Pervozvanny - SUNK
Armored cruiser - Bayan II - SUNK
Armored cruiser - Rurik - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Oleg - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Bogatyr - SUNK
“That’s half of the Russian Fleet.” Fisher noted.
Cecil jaw dropped. The list of ships destroyed, years of craftmanship, tons of steel and metal for the defense of the nation, lost forever, at the bottom of the sea.
“We could divert our submarines,” von Battenberg said. “The waters in the Baltic is suitable for them.”
Churchill poured himself a glass of whiskey. “Don’t mind me, gentlemen.
Admiral Hall, I now have to burden you with the task of messenger-of-terrible-news, as it seems fate has chosen you to deliver it.”
He took a swig of the glass.
“Let’s get on with it.”
THE MASSACRE AT VIKING BANK:
“Yes.. Yes, Sir.” Admiral Hall grabbed another map and rolled it out on the table.
“When the Grand Fleet engaged in combat in the German Bight, there…” He paused. “There was another fleet…”
“Hipper.” Fisher shuttered. “We let Admiral Hipper sneak past the Grand Fleet. While we greedily attacked Admiral Scheer.”
“Yesterday, sir, at dawn, off the coast of Bergen, this German fleet engaged with our patrol fleet.” Admiral Hall said. “They’re not supposed to be in any direct battle, sir… They don’t have the range, nor the armor. It was a shooting gallery out there.”
“Gather yourself, man” Fisher replied.
“Yes, sir.” Admiral Hall replied. “Admiral Hood was ordered to separate from the Grand Fleet and head straight for Viking Bank. But….. It was too late, sir.”
German casualties - 0
British casualties - 5 600
British Ships sunk
Protected cruiser - HMS Venus - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Minerva - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Isis - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Heseus - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Theseus - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Doris - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Diana - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Eclipse - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Hawke - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Talbot - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Juno - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Charybdis - SUNK
Cruiser - HMS Pelorus - SUNK
Cruiser - HMS Royal Arthur - SUNK
20 destroyers (4 Squadrons) - SUNK
“That’s the entire Patrol fleet…” Fisher said.
“And 8000 brave seamen in defense of His King’s Navy.” Churchill replied.
“Admiral Jellico has hastily put together a plan.” Churchill added. “One that you support, von Battenberg?”
“I think it might be rather hazardous.” von Battenberg replied.
“hazardous?!” Fisher barked. “You’ve incompetently lost 35 ships! You are responsible for the greatest maritime disaster since bloody Scilly!” Papers flew through the air. “Jellico is the only man out there able to save what’s left of our support fleet!”
“Ah, so I am to be the scapegoat, then.” von Battenberg replied.
WHO IS TO BLAME:
“Gentlemen” Churchill interrupted. “The battle is still being waged, and resolutely so. I am to hold a speech in the House of Commons tomorrow, concerning this… This catastrophe. And seeing as how it might play out, there is still a chance that we might salvage it. Hipper is now surrounded by a numeric superior. von Battenberg’s concerns for the operation has been duly noted. But today belongs to Admiral Jellicoe.”
Now, get on with it, Admiral.”
THE BATTLE OF GUINEA BASIN:
“We’ve also have had some… issues outside of the North sea, sir. Yesterday our squadron fleet from Freetown in Africa met a formidable German squadron in the gulf of Guinea”
“It’s our Achille’s heel.” Fisher complained. “The sheer size of our empire.”
“Yes, sir.” Hall nodded. “We took significant casualties, sir.”
German casualties - 700
British casualties - 1 001
German Ship sunk
1 Destroyer - SUNK
NEW SHIPS READY:
“This is no doubt macabre of me to say.” von Battenberg broke the silence. “But these ships... The Germans have only sunk aged and obsolete equipment… Aside from the terrible losses of our dear men.” He sank down into a shadow, contemplating his words. “But, these ships were old. We have 2 state-of-the-art light-cruisers ready today, and a long list of ships that will be finished in a few months. If the Germans wish to trade a Kaiser-class Battleship for a cruiser from the last century, are we to stop them making that mistake?
OUR NAVY BLOCKADE:
Not to mention.” He stood up and walked over to the table. “The blockade still stands, and it is proving mighty effective. The Germans cannot supply anything through the north. Their attack has been a clear sign of their distress. Germany wants those ports open, and even in light of this battle, they remain locked.”
“He is correct.” Churchill noted. “As far as the public is concerned, this has been one large battle. One that we have won.”
“If Jellicoe finishes the job.” Admiral Fisher corrected.
“Indeed, Jackie. Indeed.”
INVESTIGATING SINKING OF CONVOYS:
“Sir,” Hall spoke in a low questioning tone.
“Speak up, young man.” Churchill replied.
“Last, on our report, sir. The merchant fleet has reported the disappearance of 2 ships in the Atlantic.”
“We have dispatched part of the patrol fleet to that location,” Fisher added. “If the Germans are up to anything we will catch them.”
“Right,” Churchill mumbled. “Well, it’s your turn, General Cecil. Give these men a quick briefing on how the army is buggering it up on land.”
“I do not believe we can do much worse than the Russians, sir.” Cecil declared and bounced up. “Right-o, chaps, move out the way.” He marched up towards the end of the table with his own stack of maps and papers.
“Chaps, we’re proper buggered.
THE EASTERN FRONT:
If the Russian army’s movement seem chaotic, it is so primely due to them being in a state of utter panic, some are even being routed into the arms of the enemy. They have lost 25 000 soldiers as we speak.” Silence in the room.
“They have lost 25 000 soldiers, gentlemen.” Cecil continued. “Heavy fighting across the entire border. One division is even about to be encircled near Breslau.”
“My God.” Admiral Hall said.
“The soldiers are putting up quite the fight.” Cecil replied. “But they require orders, and the leadership is sorely lacking. There is hope however. A counter-attack in Austria seems promising. 22 Russian divisions are currently raining down on Tarnopol. If they can punch a hole in the enemy’s lines, Germany will be surely forced to send reinforcements there.”
“And our own men?” Fisher asked. “The BEF?”
THE WESTERN FRONT:
“Ah!” Cecil let out. “The Expeditionary Force! It has arrived, admiral, and it’s digging in.”
“Outside of Belgium.” von Battenberg pointed out.
“Ah, well. We’re being cautious.” Cecil replied. “We’ve barely reached Lille, and the Germans have broken through at Liege. They’re invading Brussels as of now.”
“So it is true, you have given up Belgium then? Just as you gave up Luxembourg.” von Battenberg said with an ice cold tone.
“Well, we haven’t thrown our men foolishly into the unknown. seeing as their equipment is neither aged nor obsolete.” Cecil replied callously.
von Battenberg sneered.
THE BATTLE OF LONGWY
“The French have little help to offer them as well. Great battles are now raging in Longwy. 47 divisions are now involved in the fighting. Over 350 000 German soldiers are marching in. The French, in response, have begun transporting in reinforcements to ease the pressure, but we must do our part.”
“To sit idly by?”
“To cover our side of the flank, von Battenberg! The time will soon come for our men, don’t you worry.”
THE BALKAN FRONT:
“Thankfully, the Balkans look a bit better.” Hall added, looking down at the maps.
“Ah! yes, admiral Hall,” Cecil replied. “And with Montenegro joining our side there is now even the possibility of reinforcing that front. Perhaps send forces through the Balkans to Russia, or punch our way into Austria-Hungary, with our colonial troops.”
“First things first.” Fisher interrupted. “How are the Serbians holding out?”
“Surprisingly well.” Cecil replied “The Serbians are winning a battle in Petrovgrad. They’re actually advancing on an invading enemy.”
“Hard people.” Churchill noted.
“Indeed.” Cecil replied. “We expect them to lose—especially if Bulgaria joins the conflict—however, every week they hold out is a gift to us. Fighting a war on three fronts is suicide for the Prussian alliance.”
“And do you share Kitchener’s belief that this will be a long and grueling war?” Churchill asked.
“I don’t know, sir.” Cecil answered. “But I know we have not seen the worst of it. Not by a long shot.”
Paul Mueller had murdered two men this morning. The first he had fired at from 130 feet away. His battalion had met resistance in the forest during their great push into Czestochowa. He had planted a bullet through the man’s chest and quickly moved on. For such is the nature of war.
The second man had not gone down so quickly, however. This man had snuck up on Paul while he was busy reloading and kicked him hard in the face.
It had been a tough fight after that. In the mud, where swift movements slow to a crawl. Paul had—after a long, torturous struggle—ended the Russian man’s life by stabbing him rapidly in the side of the neck. The Russian had then crawled up into fetal position like a pathetic dog.
Now he lay dead in front of him.
Paul sat on a rock, looking out at the aftermath of the battle. He wondered what his fellow soldiers would say if they knew how many more he had murdered in the past.