England Expects that Every Man....

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by vpsoccer, May 19, 2019.

  1. Threadmarks: England Expects Ch 1 - 1

    vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    England Expects that Every Man....

    This is the beginning of a story I wrote a few months ago, and am re-editing. It will be a short confection, posted in tiny pieces as I have time to re-think the nuance and edit it. I have some ideas and I think it will be fun to roll them out.

    There will be minimal to no research, but I will try to keep it real. It starts in a highly recognizable moment of OTL and moves away when one person thinks about how the world works, and then starts putting the pieces together.

    All named characters are real, unless otherwise noted. There are some other roles where my limited research has not turned up names for the OTL persons, and so I may be making up a few names. I will also be inventing names and even complete posts to fill in roles which may or may not have been there, but that I think need filling.

    == == ==

    CHAPTER 1 Part 1: England Expects that Every Man....

    == == ==

    “Admiral, that's the signal. We make out only two hoists: ENGAGE THE REAR OF THE ENEMY and NE. Nothing else, and nothing by light or W.T. … Sir.”

    “Damn. That can't be all. Damn. Doesn't make sense. That would mean engage the enemy ship at the rear – the casualty falling behind and now bearing NE – and let the rest of them escape.”

    “Sir, the flagship's falling further behind and is out of effective view. So there might be more, but we can't see it. The enemy knows where we are – should I break W.T. silence and ask for clarification?”

    “Good thought, Captain. Please do that immediately.” The Captain turned away to issue the order while the admiral paused and stood with his binoculars down, gazing – staring actually – toward the distant smudge that was the German squadron. Escaping!

    His Flag Lieutenant spoke quietly: “Sir, the Fleet Commander must know something we don't, that's why he ordered the turn NE, and now this signal. It seems odd and it's letting the enemy run off home, but he must have a reason.”

    There was a moment of silence. The Admiral looked at his staff of two, and the Captain standing nearby. The Captain's face was clearly reflecting what was in his own mind. Over many long decades the Victorian RN had trained every officer to follow orders – to expect that his superior had a plan and that his own part was to follow orders and see that others followed theirs. Of course that had led to HMS Camperdown tearing the guts out of HMS Victoria and sending her down with over half her crew, along with Admiral Tryon who had given the orders. But the culture was clear. Your job was to do your part and not question your senior officer's plan just because he wasn't telling you what it was.

    “Yes. It doesn't make sense – but it has to. He must be expecting the High Seas Fleet to be right over the horizon.” The admiral hesitated, then looked to his Staff Commander: “Commander, go to the W.T. Room. Go yourself and see if they have picked up any other signals addressed to the flagship, or anything. They might tell us what the Admiral knows.”

    There was one thing he could do. He turned on his heel and spoke clearly: “Signal all ships ASSUMING COMMAND. RA2BCS. Repeat by light and W.T. and repeat to the Admiralty.” As senior officer in contact that was expected – and it gave him another minute to think.

    “Flags, I'll be.... Just give me a moment.” He stood looking out at the distant Germans.
  2. Threadmarks: England Expects Ch 1 - 2

    vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    CHAPTER 1 Part 2: England Expects that Every Man....


    Rear Admiral Archibald Gordon Moore turned and looked out across the sea – trying to think it through. He knew that somehow there was a key right there, if only he could see it. It was right there in his own mind. What was it? Time was wasting and the Germans were getting away. He had orders. The words in the signal book were clear as they were written, even if the resulting orders were puzzling – maybe even “wrong” if such were possible.

    The Germans were getting farther away every minute.

    What did Beatty mean?

    A career spent following orders. And a life spent living the history of the RN. What would Nelson do? Jervis? Duncan? Any of them? That was then – what about Jellicoe? What would he do? What did Beatty want? What should he himself do – right the bloody hell now?

    His racing mind thought of many discussions with peers, over drinks, and what they had said should be done – it was so clear when they were junior officers. But in the light of day they always followed orders. He was still the junior here, and had been given his orders.

    The orders just didn't seem like they fit what he had learned across more than 30 years in the RN, which was to get at the enemy and bash him. Think – think fast they are getting away. And indeed all these thoughts flashed through his mind in tiny fragments of time.

    What would Collingwood have done had he known Nelson was wounded and dying? Who knew?

    Somehow he knew that he knew, but he couldn't see it. Nelson signaled: England expects every man to do his duty. Trite, a stirring platitude he had always thought.

    New thoughts came rushing together in what seemed an instant – riding the currents of a life at sea. Yes, and he would be successful or not, but he would end his career with a flourish. He had the tactical situation covered, and the tradition of the RN was clear. Gordon* Moore bowed his head, laid the front of his cap on the railing for a moment, and took a slow breath of air. One quick glance out at the sea to steady his nerves, and then he turned.

    Facing the officers on the compass platform he spoke out loud and clear: “Hoist GENERAL CHASE and ESE and IMMEDIATE and repeat those by light. Hang out Indomitable's number with NEGATIVE. Immediate means us too. Captain Halsey: don't wait for acknowledgments, make your turn right now – don't even wait for the signal. They'll turn ahead of us once they see us come around starboard to renew the chase.”

    *There is little information about him on line, but there may be some suggestion that Sir Archibald was known as Gordon to friends and family. I have chosen to do that here.
  3. Karelian Well-Known Member

    Sep 8, 2011
  4. Captain Seafort Well-Known Member

    Sep 6, 2015
    This looks promising - not a specific PoD I've seen before.

    Declare that he had a right to be blind sometimes.
  5. Peabody-Martini Well-Known Member

    Aug 23, 2010
    Portland, Oregon, Republic of Cascadia
    Dogger Bank?
  6. jammci Well-Known Member

    Apr 18, 2016
    *Heart of Oak intensifies*
    WaterproofPotatoes likes this.
  7. vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    It seems a few people are finding this interesting...that's nice. I hope you are not too sharply disappointed!

    It is, of course, a rerun of Dogger Bank where Adm Moore takes the initiative to go after the fleeing Germans. After that, we just have to see how it plays out.

    Yes, Moore has two eyes for his binoculars, vice Nelson and one for his telescope. Let's see how Moore does....
  8. Threadmarks: England Expects Ch 1 - 3

    vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    CHAPTER 1 Part 3: England Expects that Every Man....


    “Now gentlemen we do have instructions to finish off that cripple. Flags, send IMMEDIATE to Indomitable: ENGAGE ENEMY BEARING NE and JOIN LIGHT FORCES. That way we still carry out the original orders, and with sufficient force to get it done. Follow up with another signal for Indomitable to rejoin us in the pursuit at maximum speed once the enemy ship is sinking. You can take a moment to compose that bit and send by W.T.”

    As orders were being passed, he noted that Tiger was not yet turning – and Princess Royal was continuing in trail behind her. Conscious of time already wasted, and now imbued with a new sense of purpose himself, Moore spoke briskly: “Captain: if you please, by flag and light to those two, right now. EXECUTE ORDERS GIVEN. And GENERAL CHASE.” Captain Halsey nodded to the junior the junior lieutenant of the watch to pass those signals, even as Moore continued to vent his frustration. “Captain Pelly may be at the head of the column but he is not in command. He may have some other interpretation of Admiral Beatty's orders, but he is to follow my orders now. Not only can we not be sure what Admiral Beatty wanted us to do, we don't even know if the Fleet Commander would be able to exercise command if we did regain contact with Lion. After they acknowledge, hoist GENERAL CHASE and leave it there for a while, just to remind everyone what we are doing.” This frustration was showing through the calm that had otherwise been governing his thoughts, and he turned away to watch for the two ships to respond. You don't get to be an Admiral without having experience waiting for your orders to be sent and then executed.

    Captain Halsey was looking long and hard at the back of Admiral Moore's head. Not that he disagreed with the orders, quite the opposite in fact, but this was not the man who had sailed with him these past months.

    Halsey looked around the platform as the Commander returned from the W.T. Room shaking his head. “No other signals? Nothing from the Admiralty to Lion? Nothing from Lion?”

    “Neither, sir. Nothing at all that seemed like it might be useful to us.”

    Moore turned, “thank you Commander. Another task for you, orders to send in my name. Look at who is where and detach the light cruiser and its flotilla nearest the enemy cripple to join with Indomitable and sink that ship, then stand by the flagship. Is there a destroyer attending the flagship? Detach one or even two more if needed for that. That will give them a cruiser and some destroyers. Indomitable will give them enough heavy gun support.”

    He looked around – there was one more thing to do before they settled down to chase. “Captain, may I borrow one of your officers for a moment?”

    “Certainly, sir.” Captain Halsey nodded again to a lieutenant.

    “Lieutenant, please ensure these three signals are sent to Tiger and Princess Royal by flag and light: CONFORM GENERALLY TO MY MOVEMENTS, MAXIMUM SPEED, and SET COURSE TO KEEP THE ENEMY UNDER FIRE. The enemy knows we are here so use W.T. if you think necessary. We can send additional instructions by W.T. if needed, but that is enough to tell both of them what they are to do. More than enough. They will see for themselves that they have to close the range.” His voice held an uncharacteristic urgency, and his face a depth of resolution previously unseen by his officers.
  9. Threadmarks: England Expects Ch 1 - 4

    vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    CHAPTER 1 Part 4: England Expects that Every Man....


    Captain Lionel Halsey and his navigating officer looked at Moore: this was all logical, it felt right, it just wasn't in the limited orders they had received – but Admiral Moore had given them theirs.

    “Bridge! Control Tower! Permission to open fire?” came suddenly from the gunnery control tower. Admiral and Captain were both startled, briefly; no one had noticed the range falling so rapidly.

    Admiral Moore recovered in an instant, and his command voice rang out: “Yes! If they are in range, of course open fire.” The last was drowned out in the roar of 'A; and 'P' turrets. His face was obscured by his binoculars as he spoke. “Gentlemen, we have been distracted by our own issues – but the gunnery officer has had the watch. Now: look at the appearance of the enemy squadron.”

    Indeed the enemy had swung around to a more southerly heading, almost on a reciprocal to their own former course. “My God! They've crossed our 'T'” exclaimed the navigator, whose mental picture of the relative positions was more detailed than the others.

    Princess Royal is well around in her turn, but Tiger is just starting to swing now,” the flag lieutenant chimed in. "So Tiger will be last in our uneven line on this course."

    “With their 'confusion' added to signaling delays that's not as bad as it might be,” Moore responded, tight lipped. “Damn. … Hell and damnation. ... Too much going on. … OK.” He paused again. “Captain fight your ship and choose your course as you will. We are at nearly maximum range but closing fast at the moment. I might suggest you be content with two turrets as we close the range a bit, then bring 'X' into it, but I leave it to you for the moment.”

    “Flags! Signal both cats, again: KEEP ENEMY UNDER FIRE and CLOSE THE RANGE. Let's not use that more famous signal right now.” He smiled thinly at that, thinking to himself: I'd like to think they know their jobs and don't need signals from me, but I feel I have to tell them anyway. Command is never what you expect. “They don't really have us capped, we can fire enough guns effectively at these angles. And the enemy will likely turn away again and then we'll want to be closer to him.”

    Moore looked around as he continued: “Where's the navigator? Ah! Lieutenant Commander, that was a good seaman's eye to recognize the dangers of the enemy's new course. Thank you. As we can see now, we are at enough of an angle that we can return fire fairly well. But at high speed and long range we have not much time to recognize and respond.

    “Captain, we'll keep our target assignments – engaging opposite numbers is potentially confusing with our formation changed, and range finding is confused enough as it is. We can settle down to the chase and New Zealand still has number three in the enemy column. We better send that to clarify what I want: to Tiger ENGAGE FIRST SHIP and to Princess Royal ENGAGE SECOND SHIP. With their reversal of course that seems useful to specify.”

    “Yes sir. The lieutenant will send those signals. Our target looks like a Moltke-class. So a solid match for us. But it's three versus three now, Admiral. Are you so sure they'll turn away?”

    “Calculated guess, Captain.

    “Right now we have one more thing to do – Commander, if you please? A signal for the light forces. Make by light to 1LCS and then repeat to the flotillas: BEWARE AHEAD AND TO FLANKS FOR ENEMY BF. STOP. POSSIBLE BF OUT OF VISUAL RANGE. STOP. 1LCS SWEEP AHEAD AND EAST TO AVOID BEING FLANKED. STOP. REMAIN IN VISUAL RANGE. STOP. REPORT ANY SIGHTINGS. STOP. I'm not sure how far they might go but they will understand what to do. Wait, that last bit is redundant – scratch that, they know enough to report what they see. Is the rest clear, Commander? Review it before it is sent. This is why I wanted an experienced officer in addition to my flag lieutenant. Sometimes I need someone who can act on things or draft orders for me while I think about other matters. And we need to be on the lookout in case the Admiral knew something about the enemy battle fleet.”

    “It does seem clear, sir. I'll review it again before it's sent.”

    “Captain, that was an exciting few minutes. What is it – maybe 10 minutes since I assumed command? Now the column is dissolved, we are more-or-less on a line of bearing closing with the enemy, and if we did reform column the order would be reversed. But Princess and Tiger are two knots faster and will overtake us, when they do we might have to hold fire or maneuver while they pass us on the engaged side but it may also be a brief opportunity for you to turn more sharply toward the enemy.”
  10. StevoJH Well-Known Member

    Sep 3, 2008
    Newcastle, NSW
    I still think you need to continue the story VPSoccer, after the original epilogue. :)
  11. vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    Thanks Stevo for following the story in its revised state. I will be sneaking in a few corrections.
    There will be some minor (?) changes or additions in the later parts of the original story, but I don't know what they will be. It will be the responsibility of the characters to thrash it out and send me a report if they think it suitable for public release. :cool: That is a "June" project.
    As for extending the story, I have to say that I think there is more research than I am willing / able to undertake at this time. If I had a research assistant I know what I would chase her or him away to find for me-- but I don't think I can do what I see as necessary. I will not do a half-baked extension.
    StevoJH likes this.
  12. naraic Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2014
    Nice to read and I look forward to the rest.

    I admire your willingness to know what you can do and what you can't regarding a continuation. HMS Pinafore over on warships1 is similar and I never felt it took away from his work.
  13. Threadmarks: England Expects Ch 1 - 5

    vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    CHAPTER 1 Part 5: England Expects that Every Man....


    Shell splashes were rising all around the ships of both sides. It seemed a bit magical to see the tall columns of water rising up into the air then dropping slowly back into the sea, and gradually getting closer. Both sides were getting over the course changes and had spent several minutes exchanging salvos to find the range.

    New Zealand was firing with 'A' and 'P' turrets. A few voices rose above the excitement and tension, the din of battle, and penetrated the focus of those on the compass platform.

    “A hit! Princess Royal's got a hit on the second ship.”

    “Sir, gunnery reports 'X' could open fire when the bearing opens by less than a point. 'Q' continues to be wooded.”

    “Sir, I've been watching the leading ship and I think they've turned away a point. And Tiger's shells are falling all over the place. Nothing close to that ship that I have seen.” The ship's navigator was keeping his eye on his responsibilities, and providing extra information even if there was nothing they could do about it.

    “We've hit her! We hit the third ship.” And at that moment the ship shook slightly to a crash from somewhere aft.

    Tiger's been hit again, can't see her well enough to say any more. Princess Royal's been straddled and hit.”

    The range continued to close slowly and salvos were traded without much obvious result for a few minutes. Smoke was adding to the visibility challenges for both sides – ships coming briefly into the clear, and then fading into the murk.

    Moore had a moment with his thoughts. Conscious that he had wider responsibilities, Moore stepped to the back of the compass platform and looked behind them, raising his binoculars to look into the distance where Indomitable and attendant light forces closed on the German casualty: Blucher. At least we have that taken care of, he thought. Watching out to the rear he was standing a bit apart. He was not really seeing, he was thinking again. He should tell his officers and Captain Halsey what was going on in his thoughts, and why. They deserved that much. As soon as there was a lull in the action he would have that discussion. Their careers should not go down with his.

    “Oh My God! Look!” And all looked far away to port to see a ball of flame in front of the bridge of the second enemy ship – Derfflinger she had been identified as. Something had blown up – or was at least burning fiercely. It appeared to be her second turret from what they could see as the ship continued on.

    New Zealand was hit again, this time somewhere forward as two more shells missed close ahead. “They are getting their bite at us. Let's just hope we hit something vital before they do.”

    The next salvo they were hit again, farther aft. “Captain, perhaps open your angle for 'X' turret? What do you think?”

    “Sirs, we've hit her, Moltke, again.”

    “Yes sir, just what I was thinking.” He raised his voice a bit: “Change course: starboard one point. That will also help spoil the Hun's aim for a few minutes. They are shooting a bit too well.” <CLAA-AANNG-G-G>> “What was that? Get a report?” Captain Halsey's voice rang out as the ship shuddered heavily to a hit somewhere aft of them. Smoke was rising amidships. Their own guns roared out in reply.

    Just before the next salvo arrived, or their next was launched in reply, a big eruption of flame and smoke came spewing up from within and around 'Q' turret, out the embrasures and hatches, and from any holes or hatches in that area of the ship. The whole ball of fire flashed briefly half way up the funnels before it subsided into a cloud of dense smoke.

    “'Q' turret must be out. Flood the magazine. Get a damage report as soon as you can.”

    “Look! We've hit her again – Oooo!” And again on the third ship a tall narrow column of flame burst from a midships turret and rose, perhaps briefly above the funnels, then vanished as quickly as it had come. All of the Germans had had turrets flare up, as they had just experienced themselves.

    "Minor flooding reported aft. Pumps have it well under control."

    Tiger's got a hit! At last – and a funnel's over. That might just knock their speed down a bit.”

    Tiger's been hit again – no – maybe two hits this salvo! She's behind smoke from Princess Royal and we can't see much of her, Admiral. Princess Royal hit and straddled again, she has a smoky fire in the superstructure or bridge. She's been well hit.”

    “Captain..., and Admiral: control tower reports visibility is getting worse with smoke, but it looks like the enemy flotillas might be coming around their line and forming to attack.“

    Tiger's on fire amidships. Can't see how big.”
  14. vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    Thank you.
    I do try to make a complete story, even if there are somewhat obvious avenues of further exploration. As will become clear, it could be taken a long way. Then the issue is whether to just do a summary, or to work it all out in detail. The latter would be significant work. I have too many other things I do....
    My first preoccupation is a good and believable story - no comic book stuff (or at least very carefully crafted heroics!) - and a good read.
  15. tonygestaple Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2010
    I like these battle snippets... so look forward to the next one!
  16. Tjyorksgeezer Well-Known Member

    Aug 7, 2017
    Having already seen and read this over on Naval Fiction Board will there be any changes to what was posted there?
  17. vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    "Any" changes are being made as edits in the ongoing story, and yes there are a few new lines there. Mostly I am making little improvements here and there like any semi-compulsive writer. :)
    If you ask about substantive changes - no, but possibly some large revisions and even new sections. I am just getting back into the story by re-editing the first couple of chapters before I look at the rest of it, so I don't know.
    1. The ultimate result of actions taken here at the POD will of course be ... similar. ;)
    2. I do not see any chance of the kind of extensions that Stevo is asking about.
    3. So if you are just interested in where the general story goes in terms of "whangs" and the battle, and not the gradual development of the action, you may feel confident that you have seen it and mark it as read. :eek:
    My post #11 above:
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
    Cryhavoc101 likes this.
  18. Icedaemon Well-Known Member

    Jul 5, 2016
    Curious. If the British come off worse from this engagement, I can see Moore's career take a sharp turn downwards. Ultimately, the battle of Dogger Bank didn't really affect the outcome of the war, as far as I know.
  19. Threadmarks: England Expects Ch 1 - 6

    vpsoccer Homo economicus

    Sep 21, 2006
    CHAPTER 1 Part 6: England Expects that Every Man....


    <CLU-U-NG-G> “Hit and stradd... <SHUDD-DDER> straddled, sir.”

    “Damn, they found our range again in a hurry. A one-point turn is not much.”

    “Report from aft: Tiger straddled, and her second or third funnel seems to be leaning to starboard. Even as much as they have caught up, our aft control position can't always see her with Princess Royal in between. There's funnel smoke and Princess' smoky superstructure fire. Both ships clearly on fire.”

    “We can't close in further, we're taking too many hits already.” Moore raised his voice a bit to be heard through the activity: “Signal the other two ships: MANEUVER FREELY. They should understand that under General Chase, but they need to know. Use flag and light. We've seen today that flag signals are not always reliable.

    “They are close behind and about to pass us. Their armour and their guns are heavier than ours so we should have them pass on our engaged side. Signal both: PASS ON OUR PORT SIDE.... Belay that. What's that report you have?”

    “Admiral! From Princess Royal: 'B' OUT OF ACTION; BRIDGE OUT OF ACTION AND ON FIRE; FIRE AMIDSHIPS. Nothing from Tiger. Our own fires are contained but still blazing in a few locations near the boiler rooms, and one well aft. We have lost a knot and are soon to be losing a knot or two more.”

    “Thank you. Query Tiger, please. And hold that signal a moment. My eyes tell me the others are not overtaking us still. Have they slowed? Check it – now! Pilot – would you do that, please?”

    “Aye-aye, sir.”

    “The enemy is still heading more or less south and not toward home. We were faster but may be losing that. On this course I'm not sure what good it will do us unless we want to just close in and hammer at them. They just hammer back and they are shooting too well. Commander, let's go down and look at the chart a moment and think this out. We don't want to take crippling damage this close to the Jade.”

    “Aye, sir. We might still hit one and slow it down, but equally they could hit us. We might expect Indomitable at some point, they are alone – we think – but could have the whole fleet coming up unseen,” the Staff Commander added as he turned to go down to the chart room.

    “We're straddled again. Tiger took at least one amidships – cloud of black smoke but no report yet, sir.”

    “SIR! Enemy flotillas have turned, and are coming toward us. Still out of torpedo range but it's clearly a torpedo attack.”

    Moore turned back from the ladder. “Signal the flotillas that are not with Lion or Indomitable by search light: PREPARE TO REPEL TORPEDO ATTACK. They should know what to do. Add: BCF TURNING STARBOARD COURSE NORTH so they know we are retiring. Copy 1LCS for information. Commodore Goodenough will know what he needs to do.”

    “Sirs, gunnery control reports we are losing sight of the enemy. Their silhouettes have changed and it looks like they are turning directly away from us. Also reporting enemy flotillas are making heavy smoke.”

    “That it then,” Moore stated flatly. “Very well. We'll turn away. Flags, by light to the battle cruisers: IMMEDIATE and SIMULTANEOUS TURN STARBOARD and COURSE NW and SPEED 20. That will take us away from the torpedo attack, and give us a moment to sort ourselves out. Captain, you maintain 24 knots if you can. That will let us get around and take the lead when we re-form column heading north and then north east after we open the range on those torpedo boats. That is where Indomitable and the flotilla should be finishing Blucher.”

    Moore and Halsey stood looking at each other. The reason for the southerly direction was now clear: the enemy could duel for a while and then turn away behind the torpedo attack, breaking directly for home. Moore felt that his chance was done – time to start thinking again – and a grim look came slowly over his face.

    Halsey spoke first: “Sir, we have taken a pounding and given one in return – we saw the flashes reach high above their ships. We don't know how our condition is relative to theirs. But we couldn't turn toward them and directly into their flotillas. A couple of torpedoes and we would be in a fine mess. They traded a few hits with us while they planned it, then took perfect advantage of their location and the visibility and made their break for home.”
  20. JoshConnorMoon Member

    Mar 9, 2019
    Pardon my French, but holy fuck is this good. Carry on.

    Sound off action!
    SwampTiger likes this.