Robert Massie

Castles of Steel

Notify me when the book’s added
To read this book, upload an EPUB or FB2 file to Bookmate. How do I upload a book?
Leo Y. K.has quoted5 years ago
to send the ship to Plymouth where she could be dry-docked and repaired rapidly. But the Admiralty, particularly Fisher, was anxious that the extent of her damage be kept secret and directed that the battle cruiser not be brought to one of the major naval dockyards in the south. Instead, Fisher sent her to Armstrong’s shipyard at Newcastle upon Tyne even though no dry dock was available there. “It was a bad decision,” said Chatfield. “We spent nearly four months in the Tyne with the ship permanently heeled over while the bottom was repaired by means of a vast wooden cofferdam.” Lying on her starboard side in the black mud while damaged armor plates were removed and new plates attached, the once “proud” and “noble” Lion appeared to Young “incredibly small and mean.”

The Dogger Bank was a British victory, even if it was not the total annihilation of the enemy that the British navy and public so eagerly desired. The Germans had run for home, Blücher had been sunk, Seydlitz was badly damaged, and more than 1,200 German seamen had been killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.* On the British side, Lion had been severely punished, but only one other battle cruiser, Tiger, had been struck by heavy shells. Princess Royal and New Zealand had not been touched, and Indomitable was hit once by an 8.2-inch shell from Blücher. The damaged destroyer Meteor was towed to safety in the Humber, and no other British destroyer or light cruiser had been hit. There was immense satisfaction in the outstanding engineering performance of the new battle cruisers, which had surpassed their design speeds without the faltering of a single turbine. Ironically, in view of what was to happen at Jutland, the British were also pleased by their ships’ seeming ability to withstand punishment.
The victory provided an enormous lift to British civilian morale, depressed over the long casualty lists from the Western Front. On the twenty-fifth, even as Lion was under tow, Beatty received a signal from the king: “I most heartily congratulate you, the officers and ships’ companies of squadrons on your splendid success of yesterday. George, R. I.” The British press trumpeted the German “rout” and the avenging of the previous month’s Scarborough and Hartlepool bombardments. “It will be some time before they go baby-killing again,” chortled The Globe. The victory also rebutted the German claim that the British navy was skulking in port, afraid to contest the
Leo Y. K.has quoted5 years ago
since Trafalgar. Jealous and infuriated, Fisher continued to characterize Sturdee’s tactics as “dilatory and theatrical.” After the battle, when Sturdee passed through London and reported to the Admiralty on his way to Scapa Flow, he was kept waiting for several hours before the First Sea Lord would see him. The interview lasted five minutes, during which, according to Sturdee, Fisher displayed no interest in the battle except to criticize his failure to sink Dresden.
Captain Herbert Richmond, a staff officer who disliked Sturdee, agreed wholeheartedly with Fisher. It was “an irony,” he said, “that Sturdee, the man who more than anyone else is responsible for the loss of Cradock’s squadron, should be … made a national hero…. The enemy … [ran] into his arms and [saved] him the trouble of searching for them. He puts to sea with his … greatly superior force and has only to steer after them and sink them which he not unnaturally does. If he didn’t he would indeed be a duffer. Yet for this simple piece of service, he is acclaimed as a marvelous strategist and tactician. So are reputations made!” Fisher, whose hates were inscribed on granite, never forgave. “No one in history was ever kicked on to a pedestal like Sturdee,” he wrote in 1919. “If he had been allowed to pack all the shirts he wanted to take, and if Edgerton … [the port admiral at] Plymouth had not been given that peremptory order, Sturdee would have been looking for von Spee still.”

Meanwhile, Dresden had disappeared. After the battle, she had rounded Cape Horn, passed through the Cockburn Channel, and anchored at Scholl Bay in the wildest region of Tierra del Fuego. On December 11, with her coal bunkers empty, she made her way sixty miles north to Punta Arenas, where she was allowed to coal and from where her presence was reported to Sturdee at Port Stanley. Captain Lüdecke’s next refuge was in lonely Hewett Bay, 130 miles down the Barbara Channel, which offered many avenues of escape into the Pacific Ocean. Thereafter, the fugitive ship spent weeks hiding in the maze of channels and bays that divided the desolate islands on the south coast of Tierra del Fuego.
The British began a methodical search. There were dozens of possible hiding places and Glasgow and Bristol looked into most of them, searching the Magellan Straits and the islands and channels around Cape Horn, ferreting through uninhabited bays, sounds, and
Leo Y. K.has quoted5 years ago
the navy. And Admiral miral Hugo von Pohl, the Chief of the Naval Staff, was unwilling “to encroach in any way on the freedom of action of the Count [von Spee].” Tirpitz could not overrule Pohl and the order to sail directly home was never sent. A message from Pohl, sent after Coronel, reached Valparaíso on November 16, and also was passed to Spee by Leipzig: “What are your intentions? How much ammunition do you have?” Spee replied that the two armored cruisers had about half their ammunition and the light cruisers rather more. As to his intentions, Spee replied: “The cruiser squadron intends to break through for home.”
Coal, as always, remained the determinant. Spee had promises, estimates, and advice, none of which he could burn in his furnaces. Besides, the promises were blurred: the Naval Staff had said that 40,000 tons of coal could be delivered from New York by neutral steamers already chartered; then, in the same message, he was told that these supplies could not be counted upon. Fourteen thousand tons awaited Spee in the Canary Islands—unless Portugal became a belligerent on the Allied side. Before going into Bahía San Quintín, Spee himself had sent messages to Montevideo and New York, asking that steamers—“German if possible”—meet him at Puerto Santa Elena on the South Atlantic coast of Argentina with 10,000 tons of coal. Meanwhile, in Bahía San Quintín, his ships, preparing to sail, were gorging themselves on coal, cramming their bunkers and then piling more on the decks.
Spee had also to consider the deployment of the British navy. He now knew that both Monmouth and Good Hope had been destroyed and that Glasgow had escaped. He had been told that the armored cruisers Defence, Cornwall, and Carnarvon were in the river Plate; the whereabouts of Canopus—the “Queen-class battleship”—were unknown. From a collier, joining him from Punta Arenas, he learned that on November 15 a British steamship had arrived in Punta Arenas from Port Stanley and reported that there were no British warships in the Falkland Islands; obviously, the steamer had departed Port Stanley before Canopus returned on November 12. Later, German agents at Rio learned that Canopus was present at Port Stanley. This information reached Montevideo on November 20, but by then both Montevideo and Valparaíso were out of wireless touch with the German squadron. Spee therefore believed that the Falklands were
Drag & drop your files (not more than 5 at once)