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

Like a fiddle
Aug 20, 0345 hours. Naval Intelligence Office, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard.

The Senior Intelligence Officer could not sleep. He had been alternately staring at the ceiling and pacing his small room, until he gave up completely, dressed, and came to his office. He sipped his cup of tea.

A number of questions kept bouncing around in his head. Why have the Germans stopped jamming the distress calls of their quarry? Equipment failure? Why such a flurry of stray merchant shipping this far into the shipping stop, when the certainty of a German cruiser on this part of the coast has peaked? And not just sailing ships, but wireless equipped steamers? How are the CGS Falcon and Nürnberg criss-crossing the same waters and not meeting? Just passing in the night? Bad luck? Good luck? The Officer had been making inquiries through channels, but had received no responses to satisfy his angst.

He heard feet coming up the stairs. There was a quiet knock on his door. A rating entered, from the telegraph office. “Sir, this just arrived, I thought you would want to see it right away.”

DOMINION WIRELESS STATION DEAD TREE TO HMCD ESQUIMALT Y STATION URGENT DISTRESS MESSAGES FROM SHIPS SS DEMODOCUS YARROW AND CRAIGARD WERE SENT WITH THE SAME HAND STOP OPERATOR HAS VERY DISTINCT KEYING STYLE AM CERTAIN ALL MESSAGES WERE SENT BY SAME OPERATOR STOP

The Intelligence Officer felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. “Have the RNO woken,” he said to the rating. “I will meet him at his office.”

Trousdale showed up at his office looking rumpled and bleary eyed. “I was not sleeping anyway,” he said. “What do you have?” The Intelligence Officer told Trousdale. “I see,” he responded. “I was troubled by the very same things.”

A rating arrived at the door, with another telegraph message.

RNHQ SINGAPORE TO HMCD ESQUIMALT Y STATION DESK AS PER YOUR INQUIRY BLUE FUNNEL LINE OFFICE REPORTS SS DEMODOCUS IS IN SURABAYA HARBOUR AT THIS MOMENT STOP

“There you have it, sir,” said the Intelligence Officer. “The first distress call was in the name of a real ship, but one that is half way around the world.”

“We are being played,” said Trousdale. “like a fiddle. So what is going on here? Rainbow is being lured, that much is clear. But is she being lured towards an ambush? Or away from where she can be useful?”

“There is no way to know that sir,” said the Intelligence Officer.

“In any case though, the proper action is to recall the Rainbow,” said Trousdale. “If only to refuse playing their game.”

A rating appeared at the door, with another message.

RNHQ HONG KONG TO HMCD ESQUIMALT Y STATION DESK AS PER YOUR INQUIRY TRAMP STEAMER SS YARROW REPORTS POSITION 2 DAYS OUT OF HONG KONG BOUND FOR FUKUOKA STOP

“Wait a moment while I draft an outgoing message,” said Trousdale to the runner.

HMCD ESQUIMALT TO HMCS RAINBOW SERIES OF DISTRESS MESSAGES FROM DIXON ENTRANCE DETERMINED TO BE FAKES RETURN TO ESQUIMALT AT BEST SPEED STOP

 
Heck, in a tight spot, perhaps even build a trebuchet or catapult. If it's behind an outcropping, the Germans can't even see it, let alone shoot at it!
(Mostly in jest, but both John Brown and the British Home Guard had pikes.)
 
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Position?
Aug 20, 0400 hours, HMCS Rainbow, Hecate Strait.

The Officer of the Watch received the recall message, and sent for Commander Hose to be woken.

“Position?” asked Hose, when he arrived on the bridge.

The navigator recited the latitude and longitude, and added, “Off the northern tip of Banks Island, sir.”

“Only three and a half more hours to Prince Rupert, said Hose. “But we won’t be going there this trip. Helm, bring her about. Set course for Esquimalt via Juan de Fuca Strait. Fifteen knots.”

The Rainbow made a wide turn to port and reversed her course. She was now heading south east. The sky remained clear, the stars had already begun to dim. At 0445 hours the first glow of dawn backlit the profiles of the coast mountains. Rainbow’s course had her about five nautical miles from shore, and as the visibility increased, it became clear that as far as the eye could see, she had the whole ocean to herself.

At 0500 a message arrived in Naval Code.

SS PRINCE GEORGE TO HMCS RAINBOW SUB LIETENANT BROWN WILL MEET RAINBOW IF POSSIBLE AT LEMPRIERE BANK OFF LAREDO SOUND ON BOARD FISHERIES LAUNCH HAWK STOP WILL BEGIN FIRING ROCKETS AT 15 MINUTE INTERVALS BEGINNING AT 1045 STOP

“Smart lad,” said Hose. “He has figured out where to cross our present course, and has arranged the rendezvous so we need not break wireless silence. He’ll go far that one.”

As dawn moved into morning, Rainbow was joined by small fleets of fishboats, casting their nets along the coast. “That would be the fleet from Kitkatla,” said Hose, looking through his binoculars. The lookouts were on high alert, watching for the smoke of the lurking Nürberg and company. The coast of Banks Island offered no inlets suitable for a cruiser to navigate, but by 0730 the Rainbow had passed the end of the large island and the coast opened up into Nepean Sound, and then Caamano Sound, with a maze of smaller islands and deep, wide channels where anything could be hiding.

More fishboat fleets were working the sounds. “Those boats would be from Hartley Bay, or Butedale,” said Hose. “If only we had wireless sets small enough to be carried by every fish boat,” he lamented. “We would have a God’s eye view of this coast. Those fishermen are everywhere.”

At 0830 Hose called the ship to Action Stations when smoke was sighted in Caamano Sound. After a few tense moments, the ship was identified as the small Grand Trunk Pacific freighter Prince John, that Rainbow had encountered the morning before off Port Hardy. Hose had her boarded as a formality, and confirmed that she was still in Canadian hands. Prince John was returning from bringing supplies to a gold mining camp up Surf Inlet on Princess Royal Island. She had seen no evidence of German raiders in her travels.

By 1045, The Rainbow had rounded the dangerous reefs off Aristazabel Island, and brought her course closer to shore. Straight ahead, a green distress rocket rose into the sky. “There is Sub Lieutenant Brown, just like clock work,” said Hose. Another twenty minutes, and Rainbow was stopped off the entrance to Laredo Sound, with the Fisheries Launch Hawk alongside. As Brown climbed aboard, the remaining half-dozen militiamen gathered their Colt-Browning machineguns and supplies.

“We are as far north as we are going,” said Hose to the militiamen, “and in all likelihood will not be landing again until Esquimalt. We may as well load all three remaining machineguns and crews onto Hawk, and you men can deliver them to the Ka Yex and the Linnet when an opportunity presents itself. There may still be German raiders lurking anywhere in these waters.”
 
Pitch black
Aug 20, 0400 hours. Submarine HMCS CC-1, Off Jordan River, Straight of Juan de Fuca.

Sub Lieutenant Willie Maitland-Dougall stood on the tiny bridge atop the conning tower of the submarine known as Boat One. Two lookouts stood shoulder to shoulder with him, one on either side. It was pitch black. A moderate swell was coming off the open Pacific. Due east flashed the lighthouse at Sheringham Point, 5 miles astern, on Vancouver Island. To the south-east, the lights of the American mill town of Port Angeles, appeared whenever the boat topped a swell. When the sub fell into a trough, all was plunged back into blackness. The tiniest sliver of moon had set hours ago.

“Soon we should be able to see Cape Flattery Light,” said Lieutenant Commander Bertram Jones over the muffled roar of the diesel engine, “off our port bow.” Jones stood with his back against the periscope fairing. He was trying to supervise discretely and not lean over Maitland-Dougall’s shoulder, but it was hard in the confined space on the conning tower.

Jones considered this, and every patrol the boat undertook, to be a training exercise. But the CC-1 was loaded for war, with live torpedoes in her four bow and single stern tubes. The racks that held torpedo reloads sat empty, as every extra pound had been unloaded in an attempt make the submarines behave. And they were behaving for the most part. With a reduced torpedo load, only a day’s worth of fuel, and minimal stores, the submarine could dive and surface with some predictability.

Jones had one of the control room crew watching the gauges for the temperamental diesel engines and nothing else. The two gauges that read Temperatura de Anticongelante. Replacement engines had been ordered from Toronto, but they were two weeks away, at the earliest. If one of the boats should overheat and crack a cylinder head, it would end up in the graving dock for weeks. That simply would not do, what with the ocean being alive with the Hun.

“Sir, why are these lighthouses still lit, now that we are at war?” Maitland-Dougall yelled over the engine noise. “Aren’t they helping the Germans navigate the Strait, if they come this way?”

“That is a very good question,” Jones answered. “I suspect it has to do with keeping the Americans happy, just across the line. These waters are treacherous enough, even with lighthouses. Also, the Yanks will not be turning their lights off, so we would not really gain much by turning off ours. As well, there still is some traffic in the Strait, both coastal and trans-Pacific. A single shipwreck could do more damage than the Huns.” Jones paused to consider this claim. “Well, almost as much damage.”

“Ship!” called the port lookout. “Running lights on, mast tops just coming over the horizon.” The bridge crew watched the lights of the ship approach. “She’s keeping to the American side,” said the lookout.

“I expect that is a Yank, or a neutral, headed for Seattle,” said Jones. “Might as well take advantage of the opportunity. Sub Lieutenant Maitland-Dougall. Training exercise. See if you can maneuver so as to get a firing solution. Keep us on our side of the boundary. And stay out of the path of that ship, if she strays this way. We will be invisible in the dark.”

Maitland-Dougall set an intercept course, and kept CC-1 converging with the unidentified ship, issuing commands to the control room crew. Jones observed, and occasionally offered suggestions. The submarine approached on the surface, running on her diesel engines because she was faster that way. The boat rose and fell in the swells, losing sight of their target in every trough. The sound of the submarine’s engines would be masked to the ship’s crew by their own ship noise. Jones was very watchful of the distribution of the ship’s lights. If the pattern shortened, it would be the first indication of a course change towards the CC-1. The lights continued to grow, until they were very close. As the submarine turned south east to get in firing position, she rolled erratically in the following sea. Jones found he was coiled like a cat waiting to jump, waiting to suggest or just take over and order an emergency course correction to avoid collision, the lights of the ship came so close. But it was not necessary. The unknown ship kept a straight course, and Maitland-Dougall placed the CC-1 six ship lengths off her bow at 500 yards.

“I would fire a spread now, sir. If this was the real thing,” said Maitland-Dougall.

“Well done, sub Lieutenant,” responded Jones. “I would say, if the torpedoes run true, that you just sank that ship.” Not bad for two weeks of training, for an officer who had never seen a submarine before war was declared. The lights of the ship dominated their field of vision. She was a good sized liner, 5-6000 tons. The rhythmic sounds of her engines filled the night. Her lights reflected off the water, and seemed so bright that Jones feared they would be discovered, but the ship passed without giving any clues that this was so. As she drew away towards Seattle, he read Stomboli, Genoa, on her stern. Jones realized his entire body was tense. This had felt like real war.

“Sir, if that ship was blacked out,” said Maitland-Dougall, “we never would have seen her.”

“Yes,” replied Jones, “I am afraid I agree. Hmm. I am not certain we are still in Canadian waters, Sub Lieutenant. Please take us at least a mile north.” The Stromboli had diminished to a set of distant shrinking lights. They could smell her coal smoke. The outlines of the coastal mountains were now backlit by the glow of dawn. The huge cone of Mount Baker rose most prominently to the east. In an hour they would turn towards Esquimalt and be relieved by the CC-2 on day patrol.
 
You know, I am still a little hesitant about the subs being war worthy in time for use. The story has really only spanned a small amount of time so far.

That said, as they are in the story they create a huge unkn on an factor.
 
You know, I am still a little hesitant about the subs being war worthy in time for use. The story has really only spanned a small amount of time so far.

That said, as they are in the story they create a huge unkn on an factor.
From the sound of things, they aren't even seaworthy, let alone war worthy--but at least it beats using a spae torpedo and a steam launch, Lieutenant Cushing style...
 
You know, I am still a little hesitant about the subs being war worthy in time for use. The story has really only spanned a small amount of time so far.

That said, as they are in the story they create a huge unkn on an factor.
Within the story, I think readers are correct to be skeptical of how well these boats will fight, if it really comes down to that.

Outside of the story, if the question arises "Is the use of these submarines plausible at all, has the author had too many tots of rum?" I list again the actual timeline of the integration of these submarines into the Royal Canadian Navy.

OTL spool up of Canada's submarine service:

Aug 4. Declaration of War

Aug 5. Submarines acquired

Aug 9 or 10. Lt. Adrain Keyes Commander of the submarine flotilla appointed. He immediately selected crews with available men, some crew of surface ships, some who had no naval training at all. He and some others were retired Royal Navy submariners.

Aug 13 First sub seen to be at sea. Sometime before this they were diving at dockside

Aug 20. Provisioned and Armed

Aug 30. Number 2 boat declared “ready for sea.”

Sept 8 HMS Shearwater transferred to the Canadian navy as a submarine tender.

Third week of Sept. Number 1 boat declared “ready for sea.”

Shortly after they started training tasks like loading and firing torpedoes.

Their ethic was not about whether they should throw the safety rules in the trash. It was that a German cruiser might arrive any minute, we need to learn as much as we can before we make our banzai charge.

Apparently Keyes worked the men so hard at training that they staged a fake wedding at a local restaurant so they could get one night off.

So ITTL I have slightly accelerated the already breakneck pace of training etc., but not by much.
 
Within the story, I think readers are correct to be skeptical of how well these boats will fight, if it really comes down to that.

Outside of the story, if the question arises "Is the use of these submarines plausible at all, has the author had too many tots of rum?" I list again the actual timeline of the integration of these submarines into the Royal Canadian Navy.

OTL spool up of Canada's submarine service:

Aug 4. Declaration of War

Aug 5. Submarines acquired

Aug 9 or 10. Lt. Adrain Keyes Commander of the submarine flotilla appointed. He immediately selected crews with available men, some crew of surface ships, some who had no naval training at all. He and some others were retired Royal Navy submariners.

Aug 13 First sub seen to be at sea. Sometime before this they were diving at dockside

Aug 20. Provisioned and Armed

Aug 30. Number 2 boat declared “ready for sea.”

Sept 8 HMS Shearwater transferred to the Canadian navy as a submarine tender.

Third week of Sept. Number 1 boat declared “ready for sea.”

Shortly after they started training tasks like loading and firing torpedoes.

Their ethic was not about whether they should throw the safety rules in the trash. It was that a German cruiser might arrive any minute, we need to learn as much as we can before we make our banzai charge.

Apparently Keyes worked the men so hard at training that they staged a fake wedding at a local restaurant so they could get one night off.

So ITTL I have slightly accelerated the already breakneck pace of training etc., but not by much.
I think what you've laid out is reasonable from a standard (normal) operation. The real training (or lack there of) is when the shit hits the fan. Does the crew perform their duties in the face of kayos and turmoil. That will be the telling point.

I don't have any formal training in naval training so this is just my reasoned opinion but again I think what you laid out is very plausible; and a hell of a good story!
 
Oh where, oh where has the Nurnberg gone?
Oh where, Oh where can she be?
With her guns cleared for action
And her engines running strong
Oh where, Oh where can she be
 
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