August 7, HMS Pincher, Course 275, Speed 26 knots 2005 hours
15 Nautical miles NNW of Zeebrugge
After the bombardment concluded, the Pincher was ordered to “sit on” the submarine for a bit longer to cover the withdrawal of the Revenge. If only Captain White knew how slow UB-I boats were he would not have bothered. At any rate Marleigh-Davis circled around for a while and had disengaged with a burst of what speed the Pincher could work up and she ran west at a high bell to catch up.
About 1930, the two destroyers sent east passed Pincher, so now she was also the rear picket ship.
August 7, UB-12, Course 350, Speed 5 knots, Surfaced 2014 hours
33 kilometers NW of Zeebrugge, Belgium
Wilhelm Kiel must have offended someone upstairs. For the second time today he had been caught too far south. At least this time he was close enough to see the enemy force was a battleship, a cruiser, and some torpedo boats. They had gotten more than 10 kilometers away, so the UB-12 re-surfaced and futilely followed along.
August 7, UB-16, Course 045, Speed 4 knots, Surfaced 2018 hours
22 kilometers North by East of Calais
The wireless had been quiet. The last Hundius had heard was Zeebrugge ordering someone to relocate. After that…static.
But Hundius was accustomed to being a lone wolf. He knew one thing: the Englisch had gone out so they would probably be coming back before long. If they stayed too far east too long the High Seas Fleet would get them. The UB-16 had moved a bit north and east of her old patrol area off Calais. The enemy had eluded him by being farther north so he figured they’d try the same route back.
August 7, HMS Attentive Course 270 Speed 6 knots 2022 hours.
20 Nautical miles NW of Zeebrugge
Charlie Reeves was holding station about four cables back and starboard of Revenge. Attentive was hardly the fastest ship in His Majesty’s service, but she was having to weave a bit to keep from passing the Revenge while maintaining enough steam to act quickly.
“One point off the stern”
“It’s the Roscoe’s call sign”
“How far out?”
“I make it 14,000 yards but closing fast.”
At the speed of the Revenge, a dead whale would be closing fast. This would be the two picket destroyers rejoining as ordered.
“She reports another destroyer to her southeast”
That should be Pincher.
“Very well have them take station between us and Fairy. We’ll rearrange just before dark. Make signals to Revenge, advising him of approach of friendlies.”
August 7, UB-12, Course 350, Speed 5 knots, Surfaced 2023 hours
34 kilometers NW of Zeebrugge, Belgium
“Sir, the cruiser is signaling”
“Yes sir, Morse code but its just code letters.”
“He certainly isn’t signaling us. The only thing he’d signal us with is his gun battery. Look off to the east and northeast. See if somebody replies”
“Sir, there is a signal light replying.”
“Where just ahead of abeam starboard side. I can’t tell the range yet. He is too far down on the horizon.”
“Come right to 000 Full speed ahead”
August 7, Flandernflotille Base 2035 hours
Leutnant Arnold Metz had just figured out he was the senior officer left able to perform his duty. Metz was normally a commissary officer. Although he was quite young a bad left foot relegated him to prosaic duty at a base.
For a man who had been a reserve officer for five weeks, Metz did have enough presence of mind to send a runner to tell the medical staff to return and to send someone up to the railway switch cabin (it would have telegraph) and report to headquarters. As best he could tell he had about 65 unhurt men. He was short on petty officers. So far the only one he had found was Van Vield.
August 7, UB-12, Course 350, Speed 5 knots, Surfaced 2037 hours
34 kilometers NW of Zeebrugge, Belgium
“Sir, I make it two torpedo boats and they are making better than 25 knots.”
Kiel looked. The two ships appeared to be coming right for him but he knew that was just parallax. Judging by the notches cut in the coaming to ease direction finding they would cross close by. Time to submerge.
“Periscope depth Maintain all ahead full”
As the boat slipped beneath the surface, Kiel judged he could stay at full speed (6 knots) for a couple more minutes and then he’d have to slow down. It was not yet dark enough his “feather” would be missed by an alert warship crew.
“Set torpedoes for one meter, high speed”
“All ahead slow”
“Open outer doors”
There they were.
They were making at least thirty knots but they seemed to be slowing. Both ships stems were lowering and the “bone” was flattening out. Two targets, two torpedoes.
Let’s not get greedy, Willi. They are fast and alert. It will be all you can do to hit one…
“Speed twenty-four knots and slowing”
He had done this drill dozens of times. With no gyro, the first torpedo had to lead the target even at close range. The second he would fire right at her bow.
Kiel watched them come close. It would be a very short shot.
“Torpedo one los!”
Kiel appeared to shoot at the lead ship’s stern but that of course was the best way to miss her. The shot was a big lead on a fast ship.
“Torpedo two los!
This one was aimed right at the stem of the trail ship. If she turned any, it would still have a chance…
“Close outer doors”
The first torpedo missed. The torpedo boats were definitely slowing down, but that helped the second torpedo get the second one amidships.
The little ship broke instantly in two.
After the action Kiel would realize he had ‘target fixation’ (wildly anachronistic term) and had literally stared her down the whole twelve seconds the torpedo took to find its prey. As it was, his periscope was damaged by the shock wave and was permanently stuck in the extended position. At least it could swing forty-five degrees either way. But it mattered little. He was out of torpedoes and targets. Time to go deep in case her consort came looking.
“Make depth thirty-five meters.”
“Come right to 060 All ahead standard.”
Kiel need not have worried. The lead ship – the HMS Roscoe - opened her steam chest throttles and sped off to the west, leaving the men of the second ship to the sea. The lucky ones were already dead.
August 7, UB-10, Course 180, Speed 6 knots 2045 hours
42 kilometers NW of Zeebrugge
Steinbrinck wondered if Zeebrugge had forgotten about the UB-10 earlier. His position was actually north of the path taken by the Englisch (from what he could decipher for wireless traffic). He had heard the call to return to Wilhelmshaven but Steinbrinck was determine to get a pound of Englisch flesh before going back.
August 7, UB-17, Course 200, Speed 4 knots, Surfaced 2130 hours
17 kilometers NE of Zeebrugge
Rees had surfaced the boat to make repairs but there wasn’t much they could do. His periscope was blown completely off and a huge chunk of the conning tower – fortunately away from the pressure hull – was gone as well.
Also a deck plate forward had been ripped nearly off the boat. Again, no major damage. The crew was taking advantage of being surfaced to make further fitting repairs. Under pressure (more than thirty meters) many of the fittings leaked. Now the men were putting replacement packing in.
Rees had not gotten any instructions since he engaged the Englisch torpedo boat, so he was headed back towards Zeebrugge. It didn’t look good. Even at this distance, Zeebrugge was a fiery glow on the horizon.
August 7, Flandernflotille Base, 2240 hours
“Hey! We have a live one here! Bring a stretcher crew!”
The two searchers dug the collapsed bunker fill away.
“It’s the Kommandant!”
They put Bartenbach on a stretcher and took him off to the improvised aid station in one of the barracks. A medic looked him over and told the stretcher bearers to put him over to the left. He’d live and did not need immediate care. (See Note 1)
1.Triage was employed as far back as the Crimean war. Bartenbach was a class two patient – wounded and would need care but was in no immediate danger of dying.