The Rainbow. A World War One on Canada's West Coast Timeline

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by YYJ, Jun 14, 2019.

  1. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    They would have really messed up those submarines at point blank range though.
  2. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    I have not yet been able to find the actual Neutrality Act of 1914 imposed rules.

    Here is a memorandum from the US Secretary of State to, it looks like, Customs field officers in how to apply the finer points of the Neutrality Act regarding coaling belligerent warships, merchant ships as tenders, and neutral ports. What constitutes an "unneutral act." It seems the US is taking a pro-commerce position and is instructing its officers to act on hard evidence, not suspicion.

    Although this document is about interpretation of how to enforce the rules, not a list of the rules themselves, some of the rules are stated or strongly implied. 3 months comes up a number of times. It seems like a belligerent warship can apply to coal at a neutral port, and take on enough fuel to reach a friendly port once every 3 months. And that this 3 month rule extends to any merchant ship associated, so any merchant ship that tries to coal the belligerent warship within the 3 month grace period is acting in an "unneutral way."

    The website this comes from is amazing for research, if you want historic US government diplomatic cables.
    Tonrich likes this.
  3. Tonrich Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2016
    Near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. USA

    This is great! Thanks. Surprisingly there seems to be a lot of latitude in here for the port officials on enforcement. So in effect they could hold German ships suspected while allowing British ships free reign. (or visa-versa)

    While I realize this is an amendment I thought it would be much more specific.

    Anyways great context for your story.
  4. Threadmarks: Gyroscopes Primers Detonators

    YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    Aug 6, Seattle Construction and Dockyard Company shipyard.

    Captain Logan could not quite believe he and Brown were back in Seattle after their narrow escape two days ago, but as it was said, fortune favours the brave. Paterson was coy volunteering information about the torpedoes, but forthcoming when Logan asked him direct questions. It seemed like Paterson was gauging just how far Logan was willing to go. And it was becoming clear to Logan that there was almost no limit to how far Paterson was willing to go, if the price was right.

    “Last time we made it by forty–five minutes, give or take,” said Paterson.

    “Excuse me?” responded Logan.

    “Between the time the submarines crossed the international boundary, and the time the Neutrality Act was declared law. Forty-five minutes. If we had not made that the sale would be illegal and all proceeds forfeit.”

    Paterson led the Canadians past the brick shed where the torpedoes were stored. Logan counted two Pinkerton private detectives in the employ of the Chilean delegation standing guard on the shed, and another pair at each of the shipyard’s two main gates. It was clear that all carried revolvers beneath their jackets.

    While Brown kept watch, Paterson also brought Logan into a stoutly constructed storeroom, on the ground floor of his office. Here were a collection of packing crates labeled in English and Spanish: Gyroscopes. Primers. Detonators. All the equipment needed to convert the torpedoes from their current configuration as practice torpedoes into war shots. After allowing Logan to inspect these to his satisfaction, Paterson made a show of locking it all up again, and adjourned to his office. Prices were haggled. Brown contacted the junior member of the Chilean delegation, and determined the amount of bribe he would require to call the Pinkertons away on some pretext.

    As they were leaving Esquimalt, Logan had been handed a packet of half a dozen one-time pads by the Naval Intelligence cryptographer. With its match back at the dockyard, this allowed Logan to correspond with McBride in unbreakable code, without a chance of the American counter-intelligence services listening.

    “Don’t let the American customs guards catch you with those, or you will certainly be arrested as a spy” advised the cryptographer.

    After an hour’s more preparation, Logan transcribed his message into code and then telegraphed McBride.


    The men waited in Patterson’s office for a response. Presently, a clerk brought a telegram. Patterson received the sheet eagerly, then frowned when he read the text.

    “Damnation,” he said.


    “This was sent in clear? With no cipher?” Paterson asked the clerk.

    “That‘s right sir.”

    “Damnation” he repeated.

    Ten minutes later, two large military trucks pulled up at the shipyard gates. Several score marines with bayonetted rifles filed out and took sentry positions at the main gates and the torpedo stores. An officer and half a dozen marines tromped up the stairs to Paterson’s office. The officer slapped a copy of the Neutrality Act on the desk.

    “I have orders to present you with this. As a reminder. If you have any questions about this document you should address them to the State Department and the Department of the Navy. Sir!”

    The marines turned and left.

    Paterson excused himself and went to an adjoining office.

    “Well, that answers one question I had,” Logan said to Brown. “Clearly Ottawa knows nothing about this. So here’s to another clandestine mission for the Navy of British Columbia.”

    “Hear, hear!” said Brown.
  5. Threadmarks: Exotic engines of war

    YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    Aug 6, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard.

    Premier McBride was exasperated to learn that the arrival of the submarines, rather than calming the nerves of the citizens of British Columbia, seemed to have quite the opposite effect. He surmised that the image of these exotic engines of war had brought the reality home in a way that other evidence did not. Most of his day had been spent at the Legislature dealing with the war panic. A delegation from the north, led by the Mayor of Prince Rupert, was steaming south at this moment, to demand a defence contingent for every hamlet on the coast.

    Banks were shipping their gold east. Some families were evacuating for the Interior of the province. Insurers had started selling bombardment policies, and had picked up a brisk business. Attacks on the property and persons of German Canadian citizens were increasing. The residents of Vancouver were clamouring that they had not one piece of coastal artillery to defend them. Which was true. The citizens of Victoria had a wealth of coastal defence guns, so they complained about other things.

    The consensus of the civilian population seemed to be that all the militia regiments needed to be mobilized. What good a few thousand infantrymen and cavalry would do to defend against the German Navy, no one said. Or how two German light cruisers could bring a force of Huns sufficient to invade the coastal cities was also not expressed. But this was not a military problem. This was a political problem that needed a political solution. McBride might be forced to mobilize the damned militias, an expensive and useless ruse, just to ease the panic. His biggest resentment was that he was distracted from accomplishing anything actually useful to defend these ninnies.

    Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander Jones had spent much of the day working the torpedo problem from his end. He had discovered that Halifax Naval Dockyard had a quantity of 18 inch torpedoes from the cruiser HMCS Niobe. He had determined that these torpedoes could, with some simple modifications, be adapted to fire from a submarine. And he arranged to have a several dozens of these torpedoes loaded on a train to be shipped to Esquimalt forthwith.

    McBride entered the Dockyard Commanders office tired, in a foul mood, and clutching a freshly decoded message that a clerk had just thrust into his hand.


    McBride placed the telegram on Jones’ desk.

    “What a resourceful man,” said Jones.

    “I’m not sure if it is worth starting a war with the United States over though,” replied McBride. “The Germans are quite enough.”

    “We don’t need that gear anymore anyways.”

    “Maybe we could arrange for Logan to steal a Dreadnought battleship instead?” said McBride.
  6. weasel_airlift Well-Known Member

    May 5, 2016
    Those should be the same torpedo, early Whiteheads. Using them requires a suicide pact, since they motor along at 26 knots for all of 700 meters.
    YYJ likes this.
  7. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    The Canadian War Museum says it is a Mark IV, which is a just slightly evolved version, range looks like 1500 yards. This will come up later in the story. I'm not sure exactly what modifications were needed to make them work in the subs, but historically they did.
    Oldbill and Tonrich like this.
  8. Tonrich Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2016
    Near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. USA
    Crikies - that's not even half a mile. Better hold your ears and be wearing a mouthpiece when it detonates!
  9. weasel_airlift Well-Known Member

    May 5, 2016

    I'll accept that, though I note that the cold water performance is significantly less
  10. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    OK, I notice on the Dreadnought Project specs they talk about testing in 60 degree and 50-60 degree water. Cold water is denser? So more resistance?
  11. weasel_airlift Well-Known Member

    May 5, 2016
    Not only that, but these are compressed air engines. When you start releasing the air from the storage tank, it gets cold. Very cold. So cold that icing can be a problem. To combat this in a compressed air torpedo, you use seawater to warm the air before it goes into the engine. The warmer the ambient water, the more energy your air tank provides. In 80 degree water, it would be faster and farther yet. So, it's a mechanical limitation of the engine.
    G.Raymond, Tonrich and YYJ like this.
  12. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    Aha! Thank you.
  13. Aussie Aussie

    Dec 5, 2015
    Geelong, Victoria, Australia
    Doing a Holland America Line Vancouver / Alaska / Vancouver, along with aRocky Mountains train trip.

    It's all part of a larger trip including England, organised through AAPT, and a local agency, August / September.

    Don't have the cruise designation to hand, will find it later.
  14. Threadmarks: Sail!

    YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    Aug 6, SMS Nürnberg, Open Pacific Ocean,

    “Sail!” called the lookout on the foremast top.

    “If we see her, then she’s seen us.,” said Captain Von Schönberg. “Action stations! Adjust course to intercept!” he ordered. “Whoever this is, she’s quite north of the trade routes,” he said to his Executive Officer.

    “That storm of two days ago might have pushed her north.”

    Von Schönberg watched from the bridge wing as boarding parties assembled on the boat deck, and the handling crews swung out the cutter and the picket boat.

    Nürnberg dug in her stern, accelerated to 22 knots, and very quickly closed.

    Von Schönberg studied the ship through his binoculars. “She’s a four-masted barquentine. No wireless antenna. Approximately 1500 tons. She must have been at sea for at least a week, so they may not be aware we are even at war. Sea is force four, wind 20 knots. Helm, bring us to parallel course on the lee side, hold at 200 metres.”

    The cruiser passed behind the sailing ship, and Von Schönberg read Ballymena – Vancouver BC on her stern. Von Schönberg signalled for the sailing ship to stop, and the crew, who had been curiously watching Nürnberg, appeared to hear some orders and began furling sail. Ballymena lost way, Nürnberg matched her speed, and soon the two ships were coasting to a stop in the deep sea. Before the cruiser lost all momentum, her two boats were in the water and cast off. They were screw driven boats, and they steamed across the short distance and came alongside Ballymena in two minutes.

    Von Schönberg watched as young Lieutenant Otto Von Spee, the leading officer of the boarding party, clambered up the side of the sailing ship, carrying his broomhandle Mauser pistol above his head. The sailors who followed had to carry their rifles slung, but the boats covered the rail with their Spandaus. In ten minutes they had the 27 crew members assembled under guard on the quarterdeck and had searched the ship. The German officer read to the captive crew from the Articles, and ushered the men down to the boats. Within 20 minutes the boats were back alongside the Nürnberg, unloaded, and being prepared to be hoisted back on board.

    Three puffs of gray smoke rose from the barquentine’s deck. Followed a fraction of a second later by the boom of the explosions. The Canadian crew watched silently while their ship settled, until the deck was awash. Captain Von Schönberg walked aft to the boat deck, and greeted the Canadian captain using his university English.

    “I apologize for taking your ship, captain. There are forces bigger than any of us at work. I will ensure your men are treated well and fairly while you are onboard. I will also make sure that you and your crew are given passage to a friendly port or embarked on a neutral vessel as soon as it is safe to do so.” The Canadian captain nodded in resignation. The guards then politely but decisively herded the prisoners down below.

    As Von Schönberg walked back to his bridge he watched the Ballymena slowly draw astern, still with her decks awash.

    He climbed up to the bridge. And contemplated the scene. The low sun was lighting the Ballymena’s furled canvas pink. The sea was emerald. Small whitecaps broke over the rail and hatch covers.

    That went very well,” said Von Schönberg. “Fast, orderly, no injuries, no violence. Extend my commendations to the boarding party. Why has that ship not sunk?”

    “She is floating on her cargo sir. All her holds are full of timbers,” answered the XO.

    “Hmmm,” said Von Schönberg. “ That last part is not quite satisfying. Too anti-climactic.”ürnberg.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019 at 1:00 AM
  15. sloreck Grunt Bear

    Aug 4, 2008
    Tch, tch...wasting explosives when using the kerosene the ship had on board for lamps would do the job nicely...
  16. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    For those keeping score, on this day OTL, Nürnberg rendezvoused with von Spee's main force at the German colony of Ponape, Caroline Islands, and was many thousand of nautical miles away from the events of the last post in this time line.
  17. Threadmarks: A citizen of the whole world

    YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    Aug 7, HMCS Rainbow, Off San Francisco



    Commander Hose knew he was spending too much time thinking about the reported positions of the German cruisers. But what was he to do? He could not disregard any single report out of hand, but he knew that in toto, the reporting could not be correct. And were there one or two German cruisers off the Americas? He was not convinced there were two, despite some reliable, and even official reporting. Until he was looking at that three-funnelled profile coming over the horizon, anything was possible.

    More importantly for his mission were the locations of the HMS Algerine and Shearwater. Of them, he had no reports at all. Could they both have already been bagged by a cruiser? That was a possibility. If they did still float, neither was equipped with a wireless, so to find them he would have to stumble across them. Hose had a hunch that the sloops might be in San Francisco harbour, and he would find that out soon enough.

    Just before dawn they had sighted the Farallon Island lighthouse on his port, marking the southern end of the treacherous offshore rocks and shoals between Point Reyes and the Golden Gate. Rainbow rounded Southeastern Farallon Island and turned towards San Francisco harbour as the eastern sky began to light up red. Hose let the crew indulge in tourism, and gawk at the big city seaport as they steamed into a harbour busier than most of them had ever seen. And Hose let himself have a moment, here with ships from all corners of the globe to remember that to be a sailor is to be a citizen of the whole world. And he felt his heart soar. For just a moment.

    Then Rainbow steamed by a clutch of a dozen or so ships at anchor, both steam and sailing ships, with registration cities painted on their sterns like Hamburg and Bremen and Kiel. They kept themselves apart from the anchored ships of other nations. Hose noticed glinting from several pairs of binoculars as Rainbow passed.

    Algerine and Shearwater were not to be found. Hose also learned, when he attempted to coal, that contrary to what he had been lead to expect, Americans were very closely observing their Neutrality Act, and Rainbow was refused the opportunity to take on any coal. The Act only allowed a belligerent to take enough coal to reach a friendly port. Since Rainbow was still in range of Esquimalt, she was denied. It was only with the protestations of the British Counsel General, when Hose argued that he had insufficient reserve, that he was allowed to load 50 tons.

    An hour after Rainbow entered the harbour, the Hamburg–Amerika Line freighter Alexandria entered port. “That ship had been requisitioned by the Leipzig as an auxiliary,” the Counsel General told Hose. We have received authentic news also that a steam schooner has been chartered and laden with lubricating oil and other stores for the German cruisers, and these stores are to be trans-shipped at sea. That schooner will leave tomorrow morning.”

    “So, it sounds like the cruisers could very likely be congregating right here,” said Hose.

    “I deem that either one or both cruisers are not far off the entrance to San Francisco Bay,” replied the Counsel General.

    Hose imagined the appearance of a German cruiser in the San Francisco Bay while Rainbow was still inside. It would be bad form and an affront to their Neutral host’s hospitality for Rainbow and the German navy to have an epic sea battle in the middle of a major American city. Both warships would have to leave the harbour, and if they did so in contact, considering the nature of the ships involved, such a scenario would give all the advantage to the German cruisers. The only sensible action in that case would be for Rainbow to be interred. Honour would not permit this. Not to mention that doing so would leave the Pacific coast of Canada wide open to the German raiders.

    Hose decided that Rainbow needed to find room to maneuver, and leave the port immediately.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  18. weasel_airlift Well-Known Member

    May 5, 2016
    Isn't he required to wait for 24 hours before leaving after the departure of enemy merchants?
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  19. Oldbill Well-Known Member

    Jan 2, 2015

    Yes. There were quite specific rules on all that. Cant recall all of them off the top of my head. Best bet is to ask over on the NavWeaps forum.
    YYJ likes this.
  20. YYJ Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2019
    You are correct. I thought about this, and I may change it. My sense is, that if Germany in this case was gaming this part of the neutrality rules, the German Counsel would go to the American authorities and announce that one of their ships had left port. And watch while the Americans followed the procedure.

    If they were gaming the rules, Germany could keep the Rainbow bottled up in San Francisco harbour by sending a merchant ship out every 24 hours until they ran out of ships. Or until Leipzig was perfectly in place for an ambush, if that was the game.

    Maybe they could have German merchant ships go back into harbour and out again and keep Rainbow bottled up for the whole war. And the way I wrote that line leads a knowledgeable reader to expect that I am foreshadowing something like this.

    However, I am still writing about OTL events, and this did not happen.

    OK, I am going to change the movements of Alexandria.