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

Another tropical port
  • July 30, 1914. Light Cruiser SMS Nürnberg, Honolulu


    Kapitaen zur See Karl Von Schönberg considered the decoded message. Not entirely a surprise, but then, a career of practicing for war is a different thing that actual war. Especially against the British Empire. Nürnberg had been lingering in Honolulu for several days, since Admiral von Spee ordered him to hold on his original orders to meet up with the East Asiatic Squadron heavy elements at Ponape, in the Caroline Island colony. Nürnberg had just been relieved two weeks ago by Leipzig after several months defending German interests off revolutionary Mexico, as part of an International squadron. So von Spee had different plans for him. Very well.

    Not a terrible place to linger he mused. Another tropical port. His crew had been appreciating the shore leave. Von Schönberg surveyed the green volcanic cone of Diamond Head, looming over the tangle of masts and funnels of the harbour. Sea birds wheeled overhead, excited at the return of the fishing fleet. Their cries mingled with steam whistles and engine noise of the harbour traffic. As a cruiser captain in His Majesty’s East Asiatic Squadron, Von Schönberg was no stranger to tropical ports.

    At present, still, Germany was in a state of peace with England and her allies, and with The United States of America. Come an actual Declaration of War, Germany and England would become Belligerents, and the United States a Neutral. In this case Neutrality laws would come into effect. Belligerent vessels would legally be allowed to enter a neutral port for 24 hours at most, and to take on only enough coal to reach a friendly port. This put Nürnberg’s supply situation into sharp question. The German south seas colonies were far away and very exposed to the Royal Navy. Von Schönberg looked down from the bridge wing at the filthy trimmers and navies just finishing Nürnberg’s coaling from an equally filthy barge.

    “Lieutenant, arrange for another 200 tons of coal to be purchased and stored as deck cargo.”

    “Aye, Sir! ” The young lieutenant snapped to attention, turned on his heels, descended the bridge ladder, and approached the foreman on the coal barge.

    The young Lieutenant in question was Otto von Spee, eldest son of Von Schönberg's Admiral, Graf Maximilian von Spee. Von Schönberg made sure to give the young officer no special treatment, but held him in high regard. His father’s title Graf meant that Otto would himself be a Count one day, should he survive this war. But then, nobility was as common as rain in the German officer class.

    Von Schönberg strolled to the chart room at the back of the enclosed bridge.

    “Obermatrose, bring out the charts for Western Canada.”

    “Sir!” replied the seaman, who consulted the index, and produced several rolled sheets from the tidy chart locker. Von Schönberg spread one out on the table.

    “Let’s see what awaits us in…” his finger ranged over the map “…British Columbia.”ürnberg_(1906)
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    Prepare for Active Service
  • Aug 1, 1914. Protected Cruiser HMCS Rainbow, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard, British Columbia, Canada.


    Commander Walter Hose had always been a fatalist at heart. This temperament suited him as captain of Canada’s only warship on the West Coast, and as senior ranking naval officer, responsibility for the defense of all of Western Canada. So when he received the official War Warning message on July 29th, his first response was to chuckle. The Royal Canadian Navy may have been only four years old, and so scorned by the politicians of the nation that it was perpetually starved for resources. But if called to put himself in harms way, By God, he would do and die in the best tradition of the Royal Navy of yore.

    Of the dying part he had no doubt. HMCS Rainbow, currently provisioning at quayside in the Esquimalt Naval Dockyard as he watched from the bridge wing, was his flagship and his only ship. She was launched in 1891. Her armament of two 6 inch, six 4.7 inch, four 12 pounder quick firing guns, two 14 inch torpedoes, and a top speed of over 19 knots looked sufficient, if you were reading it from Brassey’s Naval Annual.

    But he knew from personal experience that Rainbow’s weary triple expansion engines were good for no more than 15 knots. Her torpedoes were operational yes, but were such an old design that they lacked gyroscopes, and that they could not be counted to hit anything beyond 500 yards. Her guns were good enough, at close range, and he drilled his crew in firing practice ammunition as often as he could. But in the coming war Rainbow’s likely adversaries were much newer German light cruisers, probably Nürnberg or Leipzig, or both, each with ten 4.1 inch guns that ranged out to 12,000 yards, compared with his 8,800 yard reach. And top speeds of more than 23 knots. Enemies both faster and longer ranged could completely control the engagement, leaving Rainbow with little to do other than sound the alarm by wireless and go down fighting. It was conceivable, but unlikely, that the entire East Asiatic Squadron might show up with Admiral von Spee’s main units, the armoured cruisers Scharnhost and Gneisenau each three times Rainbow’s displacement with a main armament of eight 8.2 inch guns. At least in that case his demise would happen even more quickly.

    The worst part, or the best if you were partial to gallows humour, was that apart from the solid shot practice rounds he had his gun crews blast into local waters as often as budget allowed, the only shells for his guns in the Esquimalt Naval Stores were black powder filled common shells dating from before the Boer War. And close to useless. The Royal Canadian Navy did own some modern Lyditte filled high explosive shells. They were in Halifax, almost 4000 miles away by rail. A special munitions train was being dispatched. It was expected to arrive on August 6th. Tough luck for him if Nürnberg or Leipzig showed up before then.

    At least, Hose told himself, he was preparing for honourable duty. The only reason the Rainbow was ready to sortie, rather than being in semi-decommissioned state dockside, was that she had been preparing for a sealing protection cruise to the Bering Straight. That was a mission more suited to the Department of Marine and Fisheries, but he was willing to take whatever sea time he could get to train with his crews. Then in mid July Rainbow had been diverted and ordered to Vancouver harbor to bully… ahem… threaten… ahem… guard a ship carrying immigrants from Punjab, British subjects all and some war veterans. These men were refused entry to Canada on a variety of bureaucratic technicalities, but really, as far as Hose could tell, because the good citizens of Vancouver and their elected representatives considered them to be wogs.

    The resourceful immigrants had rioted and showered police and immigration agents with lumps of coal. That was when the authorities had called on the Rainbow. Rainbow’s guns were convincing. Hose had watched through binoculars as one of the immigrants, presumably a veteran, had stood on the ship’s bridge roof and signalled to Rainbow by semaphore OUR ONLY WEAPONS ARE COAL. The worst of it, Hose had been forced to board Komagata Maru and look the immigrants in the eye accompanying the intransigent Chief Immigration Inspector and the pompous Conservative MP who instigated the public panic, while holding his peace. And Hose had to break the news to the immigrant men that they were being returned to the Punjab. At gunpoint. His gunpoint. He still bristled at the recollection. After Rainbow had escorted the Komagata Maru back out to sea he had ended up back at this wharf, preparing for war. Well, it is a soldier’s lot. Perhaps the Imperial German Navy would help wash away his sins.
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    Desperate times, desperate times
  • Aug 1, 1914. Esquimalt Naval Dockyard

    Lieutenant Henry Pilcher, Royal Navy, was doing his best, really. Commander Hose was the ranking officer of the navy on the coast, and thus was in charge of all military preparation. But since Commander Hose was also preparing a warship to go to sea, and quite possibly to battle, he had landed 22 year old Pilcher from the Rainbow to the Dockyard headquarters, as Hose had said, “to take care of things.” Pilcher was aghast. Hose endevoured to rally Pilcher with “We all have to rise to the occasion boy. Desperate times, desperate times…” Pilcher could see Hose’s eyes drifting back to the Rainbow dockside, and with a “You’ll be fine. If you don’t know the answer to something, make one up. Ha!” the Commander turned and strode from the office.

    Pilcher soon found that taking care of things involved putting order to the mobilization of the navy, harbor defense fortifications, and local infantry units, which seemed to each consist of a dizzying array of both Royal Navy and Canadian regular forces, reserves, militia, and volunteers. Jurisdiction was very unclear. Lines of communication and chains of command had to be established. Supplies had to be released from storehouses or requisitioned from national stores in Eastern Canada. His telegrams to National Service Headquarters in Ottawa went mostly unreturned.

    At noon he received notice that the railroad was refusing to transport ammunition or explosives, so the special munitions train from Halifax was stranded on a siding in New Brunswick.

    At 12:20 he was approached by a delegation from the Civil Service Riflemen’s club, a group of bureaucrat hobbyist shooters asking to use the Menzies Street Armoury for drill on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

    At 1:00 four men entered his office, and introduced themselves as Premier of the Province of British Columbia Richard McBride, Federal Agriculture Minister Martin Burrell, Victoria Member of Parliament GH Barnard, and local Lloyds Insurance agent and Maritime Surveyor Captain WH Logan.

    Pilcher ushered the men into his office, his head spinning, and produced chairs.

    “Thank you for making the time to see us Lieutenant,” began Premier McBride, “I can see you are a busy man.” Pilcher surveyed the unruly piles of paper on the desk with some horror. “To get straight to the point, it has come to our attention that there are currently in Seattle, two submarines of the latest type, that were constructed for the navy of Chile, but which the Chileans have declined to accept.”

    “Apparently the Chileans are unhappy with the submarines’ radius of action, their range,” added Logan.

    “So the Government of Chile stopped making payments,” continued McBride. “The Seattle Construction and Drydock Company is prepared to sell these boats to the Canadian Navy. We came to solicit your professional opinion as a naval officer on whether these boats would be an asset to the defence of the region.”

    Pilcher knew nothing about submarines.

    “Please describe these submarines, he asked.

    Logan produced a folder from his brief case and consulted. “They are both around 300 tons, similar to the Royal Navy C-Class,” Logan flipped some pages “um, diesel electric, capable of 13 knots surfaced and 10 submerged. Although they are sisters they are not the same, devil knows why. The Iquique has 4 bow torpedo tubes and one stern tube, 18 inch. The Antofagasta has two bow tubes and one stern tube, also 18 inch.” More paper was rustled “ Crew of two officers and 16 men… Chile contracted to purchase both for… $818,000. That’s about the size of it.”

    All looked at Pilcher.

    Through the office window, Pilcher could see the Rainbow at dockside, raising steam. For the umpteenth time that day, he wished he could ask Commander Hose what to do. But the Commander might as well have been on the moon.

    Pilcher put on his most sage expression. “I believe submarines would be of benefit to the defences.”

    The men looked overjoyed.

    “ Very good then,” said McBride, appearing relieved and energized. “We will proceed with discussions. I expect to be able to report back to you soon.”
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    The model of international co-operation
  • Aug 3, 1914. Light Cruiser SMS Leipzig, Gulf of California, Mexico

    Friggattenkapitan Haun turned his binoculars again on the HMS Algerine. He was amused. He had received the Alert Message, Threatened State of War on the 30th of July. HMS Algerine, he knew, was not fitted with a wireless set, so her captain had not received his War Warning message. This created a funny situation.

    Both Algerine and Leipzig were here off the coast of Mexico as part of the international squadron protecting their countries respective interests and citizens. They had together recently overseen the evacuation of Mazatlan, as rebel forces had threatened to over-run the city. The sky was clear, the ocean almost flat. Visibility was to the horizon. Haun could easily see the Algerine, four kilometers away to the north. To the south another four kilometers was the Japanese armoured cruiser Izumo, a monster at 9,500 tons to Leipzig’s 3,800. Inshore another two kilometers were the American cruisers USS California and USS Albany. Together, they were the model of international co-operation.

    Officers of the international squadron often dined and drank together in their respective wardrooms and when they happened to be ashore. Haun knew the captain of the Algerine well, and liked him. They had somehow discovered that they were both afficianados of dry-fly fishing, and had promised once, while well into their cups, to host each other at their respective favourite secret spots back home. Likewise, he got along well with the captain of the HMS Shearwater, which he knew was currently further north up the coast at Ensenada.

    Here, in the beautiful, yes he said it, beautiful Mexican ocean it was almost possible to believe that there was no world outside of this community. No world that would send, probably in a day or so, a War Message that obliged Haun to consider these men his enemies and his duty to sink or capture their ships and kill or take them and their crews prisoner.

    HMS Algerine and Shearwater were screw sloops. Displacing a thousand odd tons and capable of a dozen knots or so under steam, although they also carried a full sailing rig. They were armed, yes, but this assignment was their highest, best use. Showing the flag in the tropics and caretaking civilians. Leipzig was built to scout for the High Seas Fleet, or lead a flotilla of torpedo boats, or engage in commerce warfare against an enemy’s merchant marine. He did not look forward to sinking these ships.

    Likewise, Japan had a naval treaty with England. If war is declared, the Empire of Japan will likely be drawn in sooner or later. And jolly Captain Moriyama Keizaboro, who could drink any of them under the table, will do his level best to take Izumo and sink Leipzig and kill Haun.

    Some motion caught Haun’s attention. A steam dispatch pinnace had left from the California. In a few minutes it became clear that it was headed for Algerine. Haun watched the boat’s casual progress. It approached the sloop, words were exchanged, Algerine raised steam, and departed to the north.

    “Fly away, little duck.” Haun said, under his breath. “If we meet again you will be the worse for it.”
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    Destruction Island
  • Aug 3, 1914. HMCS Rainbow, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard


    This cable from the Admiralty had been sitting on Commander Hose’s sea desk since the day before. Hose was certain that in the case of war being declared, all Royal Canadian Navy assets would be placed under direct command of the Royal Navy Admiralty. But since war had not yet been declared, it seemed a bit premature for the Admiralty to be issuing direct orders to him. Never mind that his crew was at half strength and half trained, and his ship not properly armed.

    Hose queried the National Service Headquarters, his de jure leadership in Ottawa at present, and proposed a more modest patrol off the entrance to the Straights of Juan de Fuca, considering.


    Well that was a sort of answer. Pacheena was the wireless station at Pacheena Lighthouse, the south-westernmost piece of Canada’s wireless communication network. And since Rainbow’s wireless set only had a transmitting range of 200 miles, Hose interpreted his orders to amount to his previous proposal, patrolling The entrance to the Straights of Juan de Fuca, from Cape Flattery as far south as Destruction Island, a small offshore island about half way down the coast of Washington State.

    Hose’s eyes lingered on the name of the island on his chart. Destruction Island.

    At 0400 August 3, as the very first glow of dawn arrived, Rainbow slipped out of Esquimalt Dockyard on patrol.
    Don’t Tread On Me
  • Aug 3, 1914. SMS Nürnberg, Open Pacific Ocean.


    Nürnberg was eastbound from Hawaii, at her best economical cruising speed. She had been at sea for three days and was not quite halfway to the West Coast of North America. Captain Von Schönberg had spent as much time as he could with his nose in books studying contingencies for commerce warfare should war be declared. San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego were the busiest ports on the coast, and shared a shipping lane to Asia. Vancouver and Seattle were also major ports, and the approaches to both passed through a confined body of water known as the Straights of Juan de Fuca. This straight was guarded by the Royal Navy base at Esquimalt, adjoining the city of Victoria.

    The Californian ports handled the highest volume of trade, and since bulk of the world’s trade was carried by the British Merchant Marine, that meant the most prizes. One had to be very sensitive though to threatening neutral ships, particularly American shipping. The German Diplomatic Corps wished to keep America neutral in this upcoming war, and that meant avoiding incidents with American vessels. Americans had a particular kind of entitlement against being told what to do. They even had a flag with the motto “Don’t Tread On Me”

    Vancouver was a major port for coal, timber, grain, fertilizer, and metals; all strategic war materials. Interrupting that flow would cause great mischief. And every prize he took would be an enemy ship that could not carry more cargos on repeat trips. There were also military resources on the west coast of Canada. Telegraph cable stations, wireless transmitters, possibly warships, and the naval base of Esquimalt itself.

    Von Schönberg had to balance the benefits of attacking military targets against the risk to his ship. Even a winning engagement that left his ship damaged stranded him half a world away from the nearest friendly drydock. He had to shepherd his resources, and make the most effective use of them. Coal certainly, but every single shell his guns fired was irreplaceable outside of a port in Germany. He only had 1500 shells. Actually, consulting his ledger, 1468 shells. If Nürnberg fired all its guns rapid fire it would use up that supply of shells in ten minutes.

    If he engaged in commerce warfare, his job was to be a ghost whose only presence was sensed when merchant ships failed to show up at their destination ports. And was simultaneously feared to be lurking in every fog bank in the wide ocean.

    If he was to tangle with the Royal Navy, his job was to come down like a hammer and then, God willing, vanish again.

    Von Schönberg drummed his fingers on his desk top. The smooth vibration of Nurnberg’s engines was reassuring. He looked up at his upper shelf, at the box that held his chess set. A game would be nice. But he knew his senior officers would only play him out of a sense of duty. They tired of losing to him.
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    This is no time to indulge in talk of that kind
  • Aug 3, 1500 hours. Esquimalt Naval Dockyard.

    True to their word, the group spearheading the purchase of the submarines did return to Lieutenant Pilcher’s office. This time the participants included Premier McBride, and the Maritime Surveyor Logan, but no representatives from the Government of Canada. In fact, no one in the room represented Canada, the ostensible submarine buyer. Pilcher himself was a British citizen and a Royal Navy officer. Were they a committee? Or a conspiracy? Pilcher was not accustomed to this free-flow entrepreneurial style of military procurement.

    “Did you notice that this morning the Daily Colonist published a picture of the Leipzig, next to an article on the relevant International Law regarding the bombardment of undefended ports?” said Premier McBride. “That should help soothe the nerves of the local population.”

    Logan used Pilcher’s telephone to contact the Seattle shipyard’s representative Paterson. Pilcher talked with McBride and his team, while Logan interjected with updates, phone earpiece crooked against his shoulder. Pilcher was making a point about how he needed actual authorization to take action, when Logan shouted “575 thousand dollars each!”

    Logan, open mouthed and incredulous, looked to McBride. McBride scowled and shook his head – No.

    Logan started to offer a counter proposal, then recoiled and pulled the phone away from his ear. Across the room, the men could hear the tinny voice from Seattle asserting “This is no time to indulge in talk of that kind and I will not listen to it! If you do not care to take the boats you do not need to take them!”

    Logan managed to placate Paterson enough to keep him on the line, while casting helpless glances over to McBride.

    McBride did the math out loud. “575 thousand dollars each, amounts to one million, one hundred fifty thousand dollars. Versus the 800 odd thousand dollars the Chileans were paying! I’ll say that is a tidy markup. Hmph. Mr. Paterson is certainly a man who know when he has someone over a barrel.” He waved to get Logan’s attention. “Tell him very well, let us settle on terms.”

    Paterson insisted on a government cheque, for the full $1.15 million. McBride insisted on the submarines being delivered to the Canadian maritime border off Victoria. Everyone understood this had to be accomplished before the Declaration of War, when the United States would invoke the Neutrality Act and embargo all military material to Belligerents. Everyone also understood that this Declaration could happen in days, if not hours.

    Pilcher drafted a cable to National Service Headquarters:


    After the delegation had left, Lieutenant Pilcher pondered his situation. Was he doing the right thing? Was he in fact doing anything, or was he merely a chip tossed on a mighty ocean. He could not tell. It all caused him great distress.
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    In a dream like state
  • Aug 3 Esquimalt Naval Dockyard. 1800 hours



    Lieutenant Pilcher was trying to make order out of the muddle that was the mobilization for the defense of the West Coast of Canada. He had been taught at Dartmouth that information helped one make sense of a situation. But the more information Pilcher received, the less he felt he had any control. Reported sightings of the German cruisers Leipzig and Nürnberg were presented to him frequently, sometimes hourly. Their reported positions were contradictory and in the whole impossible. What was true? Who knew?

    The state of the civil population in Victoria was also reported to him. These forty thousand souls were ultimately in his charge as well, although he had not seen the city, left the dockyard, or even slept since this crisis began. Some said the civilians were in a dream like state, oblivious to the war because Europe was so very far away. He did receive police reports that certain gangs of Victoria’s men considered it their patriotic duty to rough up their German neighbors and threaten German-Canadian owned businesses. Windows had already been broken.

    His cables to Ottawa seeking direction and authority regarding the submarine purchase went unanswered.

    Pilcher has started drafting a document on Navy involvement in the potential enactment of martial law, when a man entered into his office. He recognized the man as Ryan, one of Premier McBride’s staff. Ryan handed Pilcher a cheque for $1,150,000. Pilcher stared at the line of zeros. Ryan informed him that Logan was taking a ferry to Seattle first thing in the morning to arrange the purchase of the submarines, and that arrangements needed to be made to receive the boats at the maritime boundary. Then he left.

    Pilcher felt the weight of the world pressing him into his chair. After a moment he recalled something, leapt up, rifled the papers on his desk until he found what he was looking for, and bounded out the door. The key to proper command is to delegate!

    He trotted across the cobbled square, weaving around a line of marching men in civilian clothes with military hats and sam-brown belts. Pilcher found the man he was looking for, whose letter of introduction he clasped in his hand, across the brick quadrangle in the officer’s mess. Inside, a gaggle of men in assorted uniforms were finishing their evening meal.

    “Lieutenant Bertram Jones?” called out Pilcher over the hubub. “Here!,” replied a proper, older mustached man. Jones put aside his finished plate, rose to his feet and saluted. Here the impromptu command structure of the situation again made things awkward. Jones was of equal rank to Pilchard, and older, yet somehow Pilcher was in command.

    “Let’s step outside shall we?” said Pilcher. The two men strolled down beside the harbor, where across the water, rocky bluffs supported a forest of those odd gnarled Gary Oaks, some local cousin of the English variety more familiar to Pilchard. Now that the August sun was down the air was beginning to cool.

    “So Royal Navy?” Jones observed of Pilcher’s uniform.

    “Yes,” replied Pilcher. “I understand you were as well, not so long ago.”

    “True,” confessed Jones. “I retired and moved here to Victoria 2 years ago. Thought I had put it behind me. But what with this war business I thought it my duty to volunteer and see where I could make myself useful. Showed up here two days ago and they accepted me right away. I haven’t had time to be issued a proper summer uniform yet.” Jones gestured to his dark blue Canadian Navy jacket.

    “Yes, much is in short supply,” answered Pilcher, his body tensing and perhaps showing more emotion than he intended. Then he startled and snapped back to the moment. “So I understand you know something about submarines? I read your letter of introduction.”

    “Indeed!” said Jones. “ I commanded a C-Class submarine when I retired.

    “Funny that. We are looking at getting a brace of something like C-Class submarines of our own. Tomorrow.” Pilchard startled again. “ I was wondering if you could help us with that.”

    Jones was attentive. “Do tell…”

    Pilcher described the scheme.

    “Extraordinary!” exclaimed Jones. “ Yes, I could have give the boats a good looking over. Ideally I would have a proper naval engineer along.”

    Ten minutes later the two men were in the dockyard machine shop, standing in front of Chief Engineering Artificer WH Wood. Together they told him the tale.

    “Aye, I could help you give those boats a right inspection.” said Wood, clearly intrigued with the novelty of it all. “Can’t say as I’ve been on a submarine before, but I’m sure they are like any other ship, mostly. All valves and gauges and suchlike.”

    Wood thought for a moment. “ We will need a vessel to take us to the rendezvous. We could requisition the Salvor. She is a civilian tug, just about right for the job. I know her master.”

    Pilchard hurriedly drafted orders for them, and to the captain of the Salvor. He had them typed up and handed the orders and envelope containing the cheque to Jones.

    “Be careful with that,” he said.

    Now, just one more thing, Pilcher thought.

    On the way back to his office, he stopped a little ways back from the line of recruits drilling in the yard going about their paces. He needed a man. A resourceful man. A discreet man. A loyal man. How does one find this sort of person? Pilcher looked at the faces in the line. He stopped at a young face, a face not unlike his own, except that the man did not look at his wit’s end.

    “You,” he pointed “Come forward.” The petty officer presiding looked surprised at the interruption, but did not protest.

    “Name?” asked Pilcher.

    “Able Seaman Thomas Brown!” said the recruit, standing at attention. The petty officer watched from a distance and nodded approvingly. Only a couple of hours of training, but the lad seemed to have picked up snapping to attention.

    “PO!” Pilcher addressed the petty officer. “I am requisitioning this man.”

    “He’s all yours, sir.”

    “Well Brown, at ease. Come with me.” The petty officer waved them along. Pilcher walked Brown out of the square and into the alleys of the base. “You see, I need an agent.” As they strolled he described the submarine scheme in a rambling yarn, including small details, and forgetting large ones, then going back to the beginning. “Anyway, what I need you for is to watch over all this cloak and dagger and make sure that the navy’s interests are taken care of. These main actors on our side are politicians and business men, but I want someone who reports to me. And then, I expect, the Seattle shipyards are alive with German spies, and Communists, and there is the Chilean navy to worry about, and I suppose the American naval intelligence and police. There are so many ways this could go wrong. What if the transfer crews are talking about sabotaging the boats?” Pilcher came to a sudden halt. “So you will be a counter intelligence agent. Reporting to me. My eyes on the scene. Do you think you are up for it?”

    “I’ll give it my best sir.”

    “ Very good. Very good. I will have some orders written up just now. You will be meeting Mr. Logan at the Black Ball Ferry first thing in the morning. And wear civilian dress.”

    “That part should be easy sir. They haven’t issued me a uniform yet.”
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    Unless untoward incident occurs
  • Aug 4. 0800 Black Ball Ferry wharf, Inner Harbour, Victoria, Canada


    Thomas Brown was enjoying his time in the navy very much so far. He had signed up on a lark, as much as hearing the call of duty. In his first several hours of training he had already been promoted from seaman to spy. He used his spying powers to identify Captain Logan in the ferry passenger lineup, based on the description Lieutenant Pilcher had given him.

    Brown introduced himself. Logan was a bit suspicious, so Brown showed him the written orders that Pilchard had given him.

    “My God,” said Logan, “ You had better get rid of those. Before we go through the Immigration gate in Seattle.”

    Brown took a step towards a trash can, but Logan stopped him. “No, better throw them overboard once we get under way. Pilchard has a point sending you along. You never know who is watching.”

    “I made sure to dress so I could mingle with the transfer crews and yard workers.” Brown said, and made a shrewd expression.

    “You look like a Hobo.”

    By now the ticket line was moving, and the two men soon boarded.

    Logan bought a Victoria Daily Colonist paper and sat down inside. “French Troops Now Engaged with Germans in Frontier Fighting,” he read to Brown. “ British Policy Not Announced.”

    “So when does it all kick off then?” asked Brown.

    “Let’s see what it says here…” Replied Logan. “Britain Awaits German Action… Belgian Neutrality must be respected… The most important event in the last 24 hours was Germany’s demand upon Belgium in the form of a twelve hour ultimatum that German troops be permitted to cross Belgian territory to the French frontier…” Logan scanned ahead impatiently “… British Foreign secretary made a statement in the House, indicating that Great Britain’s interests and obligations could not allow her to submit to the crossing of Belgian territory…”

    “So I expect that is the thing there. Britain issues Germany an ultimatum, and when the clock runs out, the lights go out in Europe.” said Logan.

    “Those politicians sure can talk, can’t they?”

    “They certainly can. Oh, here is a good one. ‘The Hon. Martin Burrell, Agriculture Minister… In respect to the danger threatening the position of the British Empire, there is one thing to say. Canada is ready to do her duty to the last man and the last dollar…’”

    The two men burst out laughing and rocked forward in their seats in reverie. Brown remembered that he was supposed to be a spy, and looked around to see if he had drawn attention to their party. But the other passengers, holiday goers and businessmen, seemed to be likewise absorbed in their papers or conversations about the war.

    Brown though it would be more discreet for him to not spend all his time with Logan, so he wandered out onto the deck. The weather was fair, and he enjoyed the breeze and the view. He was very familiar with these waters, as a weekend sailor. The mountains of the Olympic Peninsula poked their snowy peaks above the clouds to starboard, in the United States. To port the southern end of Vancouver Island was all dark green trees, and a calico pattern of exposed grey rock and golden dry grass. Dead ahead was the impressive volcanic cone of Mount Baker, snow covered well down its slopes even at the height of summer. He crumpled his written orders from Pilcher into a ball and dropped it over the side.
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    Time is of the essence
  • Aug 4, Black Ball Ferry wharf, Seattle, Washington.

    The ferry arrived in Seattle at 1400 hours. Paterson was waiting at the arrivals gate. “Come. Time is of the essence,” he said.

    Logan grabbed a Seattle Post-Intelligencer from a newsboy. They took a taxi to The Seattle Construction and Drydock Company yard. On the way Logan read the paper. “An ultimatum has been issued by the government of Great Britain to Germany to remove their troops from Belgian soil… The ultimatum will expire at 3:00 Pacific Time… It is expected that the president will sign the American Neutrality Act the following day… that would be tomorrow.” Paterson kept staring straight ahead, but started tapping his finger rhythmically on the window sill.

    Once they arrived at the sprawling shipyard, Brown got into character. He pulled his hat brim down low and vanished as soon as the car came to a halt. Logan followed Paterson to the yard offices, but realized that he did not really have much to do. The evaluation of the boats would be done by other people at the time of exchange. All was waiting until darkness. However nervous, Logan was, Paterson seemed twice so. Paterson produced a bottle of bourbon from a desk drawer and poured them each a stiff shot.

    “We need to keep in mind that the Chilean Navy inspectors are right here in the shipyard.”said Paterson. “They are living in a hotel downtown, but have taken over an office here. You may see them. They have impressive moustaches. Ahhh, the back-and-forth on this contract has been going on for months. Of course they have lawyers. If they get any inkling of what is happening they will pounce with an injunction and an army of Pinkertons.” Paterson helped himself to another drink. Logan politely declined.

    After checking his messages and pacing around his office several times, he invited Logan out “to look at the these boats.”

    Paterson led Logan through the enormous shipyard, with its massive tin-roofed buildings labeled Pattern Shop, and Boiler Shop and Ship Shed A in sans serif letters a story tall. Cranes swung overhead through clouds of coal smoke. The din of riveting came from all directions. The air smelled like creosote and ozone. Logan was startled to see two submarines sitting on the ways, festooned with plank scaffolding and very obviously incomplete. He tugged on Paterson’s coat sleeve to get his attention. Paterson leaned close, to be heard over the racket. “Those are N–Class boats, for the US Navy. Yours are this way.”

    The men crossed a busy rail yard to a basin with all manner of ships, big and small, some complete, some still fitting out. Fully rigged sailing ships and a steam ferry in a floating drydock, fish boats and a pile driver barge. Anchored close by were more sailing ships, and what looked like an armoured cruiser. Paterson had to point out the two submarines, they were so small relatively.

    Paterson and Logan looked down on them from the dock above. The Antofagasta and Iquique were side-by-side, moored to a float at the bottom of a ramp. Their bows pointed out towards the ocean. They were each about 150 feet long, very slender on top, with the pressure hull bulging at the waterline A man lying crossways on their beam would have his hands and feet hanging over both sides. Each boat had a small conning tower a man’s height with 2 periscopes, and a mast bow and stern. The Antofagasta came to a finer point at the bow. They were both sporting a light grey paint job and looked fresh and new.

    Workers were loading the subs, and fussing with various parts. Logan was concerned that it could be seen that the boats looked like they were readying to depart, and that some authority would notice. But then, for as far as the eye could see, like a real life Bruegel Painting, were men working on ships.

    “Do you care to go onboard?” asked Paterson.

    Half an hour later, back at his office, Paterson telephoned Premier McBride. Arrangements were made for the Salvor to meet the two submarines five miles south of the Trial Islands, in international waters at 0500. Inspections would be made there, and if found satisfactory, the cheque would be exchanged for the submarines. Logan had spent some of the intervening time making what he hoped were discrete offers to American submarine crew enlist in the Canadian Navy. There were no takers.

    Around this time Brown reappeared. “I have not discovered any spies.” He whispered, close enough for Logan to smell the whiskey on his breath.

    “I have not discovered any future Canadian submariners.”

    “You heard that Britain declared war on Germany at 4:00?”

    “Yes,” said Logan, “I am aware.”

    Around 1700, Paterson let the trials crews know that he wished to take the boats out for special night trials, so they should eat supper and return at 2000 hours. And that they could expect double-time pay. Brown joined them to get a sense of their mood. Was this last request wildly suspicious? Would the word make its way back to the Chilean delegation? The trials crews seemed to take it all in stride. “Does anything the bosses say ever make sense?”
    War Message
  • Aug 4, 2007 hours. HMCS Rainbow, Pacific Ocean off Washington State


    “Shape course south,” ordered Commander Hose. Rainbow heeled over as she came about. The ship had just 20 minutes ago turned north from the southern leg of her patrol pattern off the Washington Coast. Now she was heading south again, towards peril, to protect shipping at the approaches to the harbor of San Francisco. It was starting to get dark, with the low sun filtered through clouds on the western horizon. Hose made sure to set a course that would keep them well clear of the treacherous reefs and islets offshore as they travelled through the night.

    Rainbow had spent much of the last two days conducting drills of coming to action stations, and firing the guns, and probably more useful in Hose’s estimation, fire-fighting and damage control drills. Without an accompanying ship to tow a target, there was not a real possibility to practice shooting at a moving adversary. Rainbow did make some firing runs at a floating canvas target, with mixed success. As a confrontation with a German cruiser seemed to be becoming more and more certain, Hose put his mind to ways the Rainbow could make her best showing.

    Right now visibility was good, but the whole day before Rainbow had been enveloped in the thick fog that often blanketed Cape Flattery and the approaches to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. These fog banks were a feature of this coast, at least as far south as San Francisco. If he could use the fog to pounce on the Leipzig or Nürnberg at close range, he could equalize the German’s twin advantages of longer range guns and crack gun crews. In a close range knife fight, rate of fire would tell more than accuracy. At close range the Rainbow’s secondary broadside of three 4.7 inchers and two 12 pounders would count for more than her main armament of two six inchers. And would deal out a heavier weight of fire than the Germans cruisers’ five 4.1 inch broadside. Rainbow might even have an opportunity for a torpedo shot, up close.

    There was an old mariner’s trick, one used by the steamboat captains navigating the long steep channels of British Columbia’s coast in fog. They would sound the fog horn, and count the seconds until the echo arrived back from the shore. Hose figured he could use this trick to zero in on a German cruiser, if they were circling each other blindfolded in a fog bank… It was a long shot, but then so was this whole enterprise.

    As the engines propelled Rainbow closer to her destiny with each revolution, Hose contemplated that what was needed now was an inspirational speech on his part. A Lord Nelson speech for the officers and men. Several attempted drafts were sitting on his sea desk. Many of these men were here as volunteers in an organization he himself had created. Hose had seen the need for a volunteer reserve of seamen, even when the government of Canada had not. These men would and perhaps already were following him into the gates of Hell. He only hoped, when the time came, that he would be worthy.
    The Future of Warfare
  • Aug 4, Seattle Construction and Drydock Company Shipyard.

    By 2100 the last of the dockyard crews left the submarine float. The boats were now, in fact, completely ready for sea. The yard shut down section by section, and by 2200 the last of the mercury vapour work lights was turned off and the yard was dark and silent. Several of Paterson’s managers joined him and Logan in the office. All looked like they had spent time at sea. Paterson looked at his pocket watch for the hundredth time. “Alright, lets go,” he said.

    They moved through the darkened yard like cats. In the lee of the blacksmith shop they heard quiet chuckling, and encountered Brown passing his flask around with some men from the trials crew. Paterson gestured to them and they fell in step. Brown made eye contact with Logan and flashed him the thumbs up. The rest of the trials crew waited by the submarine float, smoking.

    Brown sidled up next to Logan and spoke under his breath. “ You, know,” he said “that Pilcher had it wrong about having me as a spy. What we really are is pirates.”

    Lit only by the ambient light from the city, the crews very quietly and efficiently made their way onboard and disappeared into the submarines. Paterson and Logan went aboard the Antofagasta, to be the lead boat, and Brown aboard the Iquique, to follow. Brown took a position on top of the conning tower, out in the cool night air. The boats were cast off, the electric motors were engaged, and the boats nosed out into Elliot Bay. They showed no running lights.

    Running on their electric motors, the submarines cut through the water almost silently. The sound of their wakes and waves lapping against the hulls was the only tell of their passage. To port on the way out of the shipyard was a chain of log booms, material for the sailing ships under construction. Logan looked ahead at the line of anchored windjammers, silhouettes towering above them. And he looked back at Brown in the Iquique, staying within hailing distance behind, just in case. Over top of the Iquique, one light was lit in the shipyard at a wharfside office. Logan imagined he could see two mustachioed men, staring into the night.

    Brown looked forward from the conning tower of the Iquique, feeling like his decision to join the navy had definitely been the right one. He marvelled at how the boat cut through the harbour as quietly as a sailboat. The city was lit up, and he could hear the bark of a dog, then the bell of a streetcar, carrying clearly across the water. He also suddenly remembered that he was on a warship, and realized how deadly a warship she could be. Low in the water, silent and invisible, weaving a path through the slumbering fleet. And all this while running on the surface, never mind what she could do submerged. Iquique steered a path beneath the stern of a five-masted steel barque. This, Brown thought, was the future of warfare.
    Best Possible Terms
  • Aug 4, 2200 HMCS Rainbow, Pacific Ocean off Washington State


    For the third time in less than two hours the Rainbow reversed course.

    Commander Hose and the navigator were bent over the charts. If he timed things right, the Rainbow could arrive in Esquimalt during daylight and coal, and then proceed to Vancouver at first light and rendezvous with the ammunition train from Halifax.

    Hose walked several steps forward into the wheelhouse.

    “All ahead three quarters.”

    “All ahead three quarters!” repeated the rating at the brass engine telegraph. The telegraph bell rang twice, and rang twice again as answer from the engine room.

    Hose felt the vibration change under his feet. Things were looking up. Once Rainbow had loaded her magazines with modern Lyditte high explosive shells she could at least land some damaging blows on a German cruiser. If she managed to hit it. He was reconciled to sacrifice himself and his ship, if necessary, but he would rather do it on the best possible terms.
    Triangle of Fire
  • Aug 4, 2230. Submarines Antofagasta and Iquique, Seattle Harbour.

    The boats travelled on their electric motors through the harbour and up Puget Sound. A light fog rose from the water to cover their passage. The city light of Seattle was just a glow in their wake. When they were well past the narrows between Bainbridge Island and West Point, Paterson risked starting the diesels and bringing the boats up to their full speed of 13 knots. The clatter of the diesels starting was a shock, but it seemed to bring no response from shore. Brown found the travel by engine power to be not so otherworldly. Now he just felt like he was on any regular boat. But the breeze was still in his hair, and they were headed for Canada.

    At around 0200, Paterson ordered the boats to be switched back to electric drive. “The military types call this stretch of water the Triangle of Fire.” Paterson said to Logan. “Fort Wordon by Port Townsend, Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, and Fort Flagger on Marrowstone Island. There must be fifty guns covering us right now. And dozens of electric searchlights. I would put good money that the whole Royal Navy couldn’t force this straight.” Logan made no argument. The two submarines slunk past the darkened shores and their darkened forts.

    Once the boats were well past Point Partridge and Fort Ebey they switched back to the diesels and headed almost due West to the rendezvous point. There was open ocean between here and Victoria, and the submarines tossed and rolled in the swells. Around 0330 the first streaks of dawn started painting the sky. The sea turned from black to grey to green. The sky lightened to a pale blue with high wisps of cloud. It promised to be another hot day.

    Just after 0400 Brown spotted smoke coming from the west, and soon a passenger liner appeared headed for Seattle. They must have presented a curious sight, but Brown noticed no passengers at the rail at this early hour. The submarines steered on a parallel course to the international boundary inside American waters until the ship was out of sight. Then they turned north for the rendezvous.

    At 0445 they spotted the single funnel and tall derrick of the Salvor, and in short order were within hailing distance. An officer on the Salvor in a dark naval uniform called across and invited the two submarines to follow into Canadian waters. That accomplished, the submarines were quickly brought alongside the Salvor and lashed raft fashion.
    Will you please issue me a receipt
  • Aug 5, 0500. SS Salvor, 5 miles south of Trial Islands, Straight of Juan de Fuca,

    Royal Canadian Navy Lieutenant-Commander Bertram Jones was the first to swung down from the tug Salvor onto the deck of the Antofagasta, looking very much like he was used to submarines. Lieutenant WH Wood followed, looking less so. The American trials captain of the Iquique hopped over to the other boat, and led the team up the Antofagasta’s conning tower ladder and down below. Brown watched from the conning tower of the Iquique, and waited

    The inspection party seemed to stay below decks forever. The disk of the sun rose over the Cascade Mountains and lit the sea silver. Paterson emerged from the hatch several times and paced the long skinny deck. He was forced to make use of the railing lifeline as the subs bobbed in the swells. After a whole hour Jones and Wood emerged from the Antofagasta.

    “All is well. I am impressed,” said Jones.

    “As I expected,” said Paterson impatiently, “Now if you will…”

    “Mr., Paterson, as I have already told you, we have been instructed to evaluate these boats, and that is exactly what I intend to do. When we are done, and only then, will we make payment.”

    Jones grabbed the rail and jumped across the gap to Iquique, followed by Wood and the American Captain. Left behind, Paterson seemed to almost be hopping from one foot to the other with apprehension. After the inspection party went below on the Iquique, Brown followed them down, if only to relieve his boredom. Logan followed, and Brown heard him offering recruitment pitches to the American trials crewmen. There were no takers.

    The boat was cramped inside, almost every surface of every compartment covered with gauges or controls. Jones went from the forward torpedo room to the engine/machinery spaces, patiently looking at all the equipment and evaluating, while Wood occasionally commented and took notes. Jones even had the battery covers, which formed the floors of the two center compartments lifted so they could inspect the cells beneath.

    Brown recognized pieces like the periscopes and the diving plane control wheels, and the diesel engines, but most of the workings of the boats were a mystery to him. The one submarine part Brown expected to see but didn’t were torpedoes, but he did not see fit to mention this to Jones. Like Paterson, Brown was of a mind that they should get on with it, and get the boats into Esquimalt. Wasn’t there a war on? Wasn’t everyone south of the border about to collectively blow their tops about these submarines and come chasing after them?

    Brown was relieved when Jones seemed to have finally completed his checklist, and ushered the inspection party back topside. Once on deck, Jones approached Paterson, and produced a cheque from his jacket pocket.

    “All seems to be in order,” said Jones, and handed the cheque to Paterson. Brown noticed the Paterson’s shoulders lower as tension left his stance. “Will you please issue me a receipt.”

    “I should think these boats are receipt enough” replied Paterson. But when Jones remained insistent, Paterson said, “Oh, very well…” He patted himself down for a piece of paper, found an old envelope in his jacket pocket, and hand wrote a receipt using the side of the Antofagasta’s conning tower as a writing surface.

    Canadian sailors clambered down from the Salvor. The American trials crews exchanged places and all boarded the tug, much to Logan’s dismay. Paterson and the American trials captain stayed aboard Antofagasta. Lieutenant Wood, with a flourish, produced two small white Naval Ensigns and ran them up the after mast on each submarine. With Jones now captaining Antofagasta, and Wood captaining Iquique, the boats cast off and headed west towards Esquimalt. As Brown had anticipated, the sun was becoming hot, and waves of heat rose off the water in a haze.
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    How dire our situation
  • August 5, 0700 Duntze Head, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard

    Premier McBride and Lieutenant Pilcher stood side by side on a cobbled square overlooking the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, waiting for the arrival of their submarines. To their right was a brick Edwardian tower, built for an obsolete mechanical semaphore communication system, that almost everyone thought was a lighthouse. Across the harbor mouth was the slender white tower of Fisgard Light, an actual lighthouse, and behind it Fort Rodd Hill, with its anti-torpedo boat battery on the cliff top, and main battery of three 6 inch disappearing guns retracted inside their emplacements. Just below where the men stood, down a steep bank on the waterfront, the two 12 pounder guns of Duntze Head Battery looked over their concrete parapet at the harbor entrance, one of the three anti-torpedo boat batteries defending the harbor.

    McBride and Pilcher watched the gunners doing their drills on this first morning of the war. McBride had one hand tucked into the front of his coat, like Napoleon. Pilcher was almost beside himself with worry.

    “Why do you suppose the National Service Headquarters has not replied?” He pleaded to McBride. “Don’t they understand how dire our situation is? We could just as soon be greeting a German cruiser this morning as our submarines.”

    “As I have said before,” McBride replied in a soothing voice. “I am not accustomed to our Federal institutions acting with dexterity. The Canadian military leadership is too timorous to act on their own. I expect they had to ask the Admiralty. And the Admiralty has their own war on their hands. It doesn’t matter. We have acted decisively. They will see that we did the right thing when they get around to it. And thank us.”

    “I have no orders,” said Pilcher. “I have exceeded my authority.”

    “They will give you a medal.”

    “What they will give me is a court martial.”

    “Pity we could not have a band to play the boats into harbor,” said McBride, trying to change the subject. “But I must say, we did a splendid job of keeping this purchase under wraps. We must be two of a scant dozen men in Victoria that know what is happening here this morning.”

    McBride was distracted by the sound of a steam siren. It was nearby and shrill, but the odd thing was, the whistle did not stop, it just went on in one continuous note, getting louder. The men at the guns took notice and formed up at their stations. The siren got louder for several moments. Then the inspection vessel Malaspina came racing into the harbor at full speed, rounding the point, as someone described it later, like a rodeo horse going round a barrel. Pilcher noticed, with rising alarm, that the lanyard for the boat’s siren was lashed to the rail. A seaman stood on the bridge signaling towards shore in unreadable semaphore. The man looked like he was attempting to take flight, using the semaphore flags as wings.

    “What the devil is he up to? Can you make any sense of that?” McBride hollered at Pilcher.

    Pilcher stared at the flagger and tried to concentrate. “something boats… tor-pe-do boats. Torpedo Boats! My God!” Pilcher grabbed his hat with both hands. “We never warned the coastal defence batteries!”

    Now McBride looked considerably less smug.

    The pair of 12 pounder guns below traversed to cover the eastern approach to the harbor. The loaders rammed a shell into the breech of each gun.
    A cup of coffee
  • Aug 5, 0700, Black Rock Coastal Defence Battery, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard

    Lieutenant Maxwell Kirkpatrick-Crocket was strolling back from Duntze Head Battery towards his post at Black Rock, the examination battery for Fortress Esquimalt, when he heard the siren. He broke into a run. He had thought these few minutes of the morning would be a good quiet time to borrow a cup of coffee from the thermos of the Duntze Head Battery Commander. The first few sips were just what he needed, considering they had not been fed since mobilizing yesterday afternoon. Now he was losing the rest from his cup onto the path as he ran.

    He did not recognize the alarm from any of their drills, but whatever it meant, he figured, it could not be good. Kirkpatrick-Crocket was the Battery Commander for Black Rock. As examination battery they were tasked with firing warning shots across the bow of any ship attempting to enter the harbor without stopping for the examination vessel. And if hostile ships tried to force the harbor entrance, they would fire the first shots that would signal a general barrage.

    “Hurry up sir!” called his sergeant. “Two German torpedo boats are coming into the harbor!” Kirkpatrick-Crocket jogged into the battery command post, and set down his coffee cup. A gaggle of men had gathered around the vantage point of the guns to see what was going on.

    “Off Duty, clear the terreplain!” he ordered.

    Half the men wandered back down the concrete stairs toward the casemate shelter.

    “Private, get me the fortress command post.” The private worked the telephone exchange. Kirkpatrick-Crocket put his eye to the tripod-mounted telescope. Indeed there were two boats out there headed for the harbor. And they definitely had the silhouettes of submarines. The heat haze coming off the water blurred their details.

    “Load Guns! High Explosive!” called Kirkpatrick-Crocket.

    The gun captains shouted out the commands of the loading sequence, shells were produced from the ready ammunition lockers and rammed home in the guns.

    “Range 5500 yards!” announced the corporal at the rangefinder.

    “Naval Yard says to make sure of the identity of the craft and communicate with the yard commander as soon as identity is established, Sir!” called out the private at the telephone.

    Across the harbor at Fort Rodd Hill, the barrels of the 6 inch disappearing guns rose one after the other over their parapets like dipping birds.

    An artillery major came to stand beside Kirkpatrick-Crocket.

    “What do you make of them?”

    “Unclear, sir. Something does not add up to the German Navy though, unless I am much mistaken. The Germans don’t even have submarines in China. And nothing with a range to get here without a tender.”

    “Yeesss…” said the Major, drawing out the word as he pondered. “Somehow, they are not acting like this is an attack.”

    The submarines adjusted their headings by several points, presenting more of a profile.

    Kirkpatrick-Crocket studied these silhouettes in profile. He was, as it turned out, uniquely suited to this moment. In his younger days in England, he had looked at quite a few submarines, while assisting his father, who was an Admiralty photographer. He in fact had as much warship recognition trivia in his memory as the latest edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships.

    “Range 5000 yards!” The 12 pounder guns were well in range, the barrels traversed slowly, covering the approaching boats.

    “Looks to me like C-Class submarines. Royal Navy.” He said to the major. “Hold Fire!”

    “Where have they come from?” asked the major.

    “Perhaps from Hong Kong,” replied Kirkpatrick-Crocket keeping his eye to the telescope. Hong Kong reinforcements was one of the stream of rumours that had been bouncing through Victoria society. “Most certainly they are not German.”

    “Naval Yard says they’re British subs! Sir!” called the private at the telephone. “They’re flying the White Ensign.”

    “So they are,” said Kirkpatrick-Crocket, squinting to make things out in the haze. He kicked himself for not spotting the flags earlier. The higher vantage point of the dockyard signal station must give their lookout a better angle.

    “Friendly submarines! Stand Down! Private, relay message to other batteries.”

    Kirkpatrick-Crocket looked up and surveyed the situation. A rating on the platform of the signal station was challenging the submarines in semaphore. He put his eye back to the telescope. Men on the two conning towers waved back with their arms. The visibility had cleared slightly, and he recognized one of the faces as Lieutenant Wood, Chief Artificer from the naval yard.

    “Well I’ll be…”

    “Good call there Lieutenant,” said the Major.

    “Yes, well, other than myself, I don’t think there is another individual in the regiment who has even seen a submarine before.”

    An odd pair of men burst up onto the firing platform of Black Rock Battery, wild eyed and out of breath. One wore the ceremonial coat of a provincial premier. The other was that excitable young Senior Naval Offier, in dress uniform.

    “Don’t worry,” the major consoled them. “They are British submarines.”

    “Actually” Lieutenant Pilcher panted, doubled over, “They are… British Columbian submarines.”

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    Drumhead inquiry
  • Aug 5, 1000 hours, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard.


    Premier McBride noticed, when he brought his attention up from the back-slapping and frivolity that followed the arrival of the submarines, that Lieutenant Pilcher at times seemed to descend into the blackest of moods.


    And then moments later, Pilcher seemed taken with the highest excitation.


    McBride was still at the Dockyard Headquarters at noon when a Major Ogilvie of the Military District Staff arrived in a high dander. Accompanied by a pair of stone faced provost officers, he commenced to hold an immediate drumhead inquiry in Lieutenant Pilcher’s office on the failure of the Premier and Ranking Naval Officer to notify the coastal defence artillery about the arrival of the submarines. McBride noted that Ogilvie held an actual swagger stick.

    “Extreme negligence and dereliction of duty is what is accused,” Ogilvie charged. “How could you allow that oversight to happen? Do you realize that the primary naval assets on this coast were seconds away from being destroyed?” As Ogilvie went on, McBride noticed that Pilcher was staring back blankly, then for a moment he seemed to doze off. Then as Ogilvie addressed the young lieutenant with another rhetorical question, Pilcher replied “We won’t do it again,” paused, burst out laughing, caught himself, then put on a serious face.

    Before Ogilvie was able to respond, McBride interjected “I’m sorry to interrupt Major, but if it was not for the initiative taken on our part, we would not have these primary naval assets. And as it turns out, everything is fine.”

    Ogilvie drew a breath to continue, but McBride did give him space. “Furthermore,” said the Premier, “Please explain to me your jurisdiction in this matter. You are an officer in the Canadian Army. Lieutenant Pilcher here is an officer in the Royal Navy. I am a civilian elected official. So unless you have declared martial law I put it to you that the jurisdiction you have is exactly none.”

    The two provost officers looked at each other, and then at the Major.

    The room got very quiet as Ogilvie stood stock still looking at McBride.

    “Oh, I see,” Ogilvie said, more slowly and quietly. “The bombastic nabob receives his comeuppance. Very good. Firstly, you are incorrect about my jurisdiction. More importantly, the hero of this incident is a very cool-headed inspection battery commander who disobeyed his standing orders on a hunch. We were very lucky.

    “Getting back to jurisdiction, Mr. Premier, I notice that you have become accustomed to giving direct orders to military personnel willy-nilly, as if you are a king from before the Magna-Carta. Still, history may well place you on the side of the angels in this matter. I believe we are safer today with those submarines here in the harbour. Now…” Ogilvie paused, “if you have plans to further expand the navy of British Columbia, will you please inform the coastal defence batteries..?”

    “Yes,” replied McBride, raising his hands in supplication. “As the Ranking Naval Officer said just now, we won’t do it again.”

    “Well then…” Ogilvie took a moment to think. “I suppose it can be said that further proceedings would serve no purpose. And you might consider getting some attention for the RNO. He doesn’t seem very well.”

    Ogilvie turned and left, followed by his officers.

    “I say, Pilcher,” said McBride after they had gone. “Perhaps you should take some time to rest.”

    “Rest,” repeated Pilcher as if it was the first time he had heard the word. “Yes, that sounds very nice.”

    McBride summoned one of the office staff to assist the Lieutenant to his quarters.
  • Aug 5, 1230, Black Rock Coastal Defence Battery, Esquimalt Naval Dockyard

    “Cruiser!” called the lookout, giving everyone a start.

    Lieutenant Kirkpatrick-Crocket called “Man the Guns!” and went to the battery command post telescope. Even without the telescope he could see a distant warship with four tall funnels.

    In the background, the telephone rang. “Sir, Fortress Commander asking to identify.”

    Kirkpatrick-Crocket surveyed the vessel through the telescope. “Four funnels, so she’s not Leipzig or Nürnberg, unless they have rigged a false one… She’s on the American side… moving at a slow cruise… and not a light cruiser, too big. I would guess she is a St. Louis Class cruiser. The USS Milwaukee is based at Bremerton. I bet that’s her. Yes, there’s her flag. Stars and Stripes”

    The telephone operator repeated Kirkpatrick-Crocket’s every word.

    “Neutral Vessel! Stand Down!” he ordered the battery. But he kept his eye to the telescope. Some curious officers gathered round.

    “This might be the start of the American’s neutrality patrols. Remind us that we are on notice.” He watched the big cruiser for a few more minutes. “Would be nice if we had a few of those on our side. Here. Right about now. Oh, she is coming about.” He watched as the ship’s silhouette shortened, and then lengthened again.

    “She is reversing course… Almost looks like she is running a search pattern… Say… You wouldn’t be looking for those submarines, would you? Too late boys, too late.”
    We are now wolves
  • Aug 5, 1600 hours. SMS Leipzig, Magdelena Bay, Baja Peninsula, Mexico.


    “Saturday Russia, Sunday France, Tuesday Britain,” said Friggattenkapitan Haun to his assembled officers. “That should keep us busy for a while. “

    The officers nodded. They stood in a group on the boat deck, in the shadow of the third funnel. On either side, the menagerie of ships boats hung on their davits, smelling strongly of fresh paint.

    “Now that we are stuck in this for real, we need to turn our minds from exercises to plans.

    “You need to revise your crew lists for boarding parties and for prize crews. Every crewman needs to know their place on every boat. The success of these endeavours depends very much on speed. We are now wolves, and we have to think and act like wolves. Boarding parties can practice entries on the after deckhouses. I want one boarding party in turn to act as the hostile crew.

    “Within days we will likely be boarding and taking civilian ships of our enemies. I want you to remember at all times that when we are dealing with civilians, we are acting as representatives of the Kaiser, and we are bound to treat all civilians with the courtesies that they deserve. We are at war, and we are just in our actions following the articles of war, but we are taking these sailors and their ships reluctantly. Our quarrel is not with them.

    Thusly, when we board a ship, we want to do it as quickly and deliberately as a thunderbolt.” Haun clapped his hands once. “You are ours. If we leave absolutely no doubt about the situation, it is safest for them, and for us.”

    “Coxswains, we will be fitting a 3.7 cm pom-pom in the picket boat and the pinnace. The yawls and the cutters will get a Spandau each. Armourer, I also want a Spandau fitted on either side of both the fore and aft searchlight platforms.

    “Rifle practice can take place off the fantail. Make sure to notify the bridge before live fire exercises. Officers, if you do not have a personal sidearm, requisition one from the armourer. Wear it at all times.

    “Tomorrow we will stop at mid-day and practice boarding exercises. I also want to practice night-time boarding soon. Prepare.

    “Those officers who are not engaged with boarding parties or prize crews, you will find your sections smaller. Make sure to allocate men so that you can do more than you are accustomed to. We could very well find ourselves with our crew depleted by a third as prize crews, and treating wounded, and effecting damage control, and fighting a battle all at the same time. Drill, drill, drill.

    “Any questions?”

    None of the officers spoke up.

    “Well then, to the Kaiser!”

    All voices rose in unison to cheer.
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