On 4th August 1914 Germany rejected the British ultimatum to withdraw from neutral Belgium, which had been invaded in the preceding days. From 2300 hrs that evening both countries were at war. Britain’s Royal Navy was already on a war footing and sweeps of the North Sea were already underway. The Imperial German Navy was not idle either and action was immediately undertaken to sow mines in British waters. The success of mining in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War had demonstrated the effectiveness of such measures.
One is however surprised that dedicated minelayers had not already
been constructed and commissioned by Germany. A hasty conversion was however undertaken
of the 2000 ton, 20-knot Königin Luise
of the Hamburg-Amerika company, an excursion vessel which had been in service
for just one year carrying tourists between Hamburg and the island of
Heligoland. Though plans were apparently in place to arm the Königin Luise with two 3.5-inch guns
there was no time for this as she was impressed for service on 3rd
August and rushed into service in her new role. By the time of declaration of
war on 4th August, she was rushing towards the Thames estuary with
180 mines on board.
|Königin Luise - she was to have a very brief life in naval service|
|Königin Luise in pre-war excursion service|
Unknown to the Königin Luise, her course was heading her towards a patrol of the Royal Navy’s newly created Harwich Force, entrusted with patrolling the Southern North Sea and protecting trade-routes between Britain and the Netherlands. The patrol consisted of four L-Class destroyers, led by the scout cruiser HMS Amphion. Commissioned in 1913, the 3340-ton Amphion was 405 feet long and her 18000 HP drove her at a maximum of 25 knots of four shafts. Designed primarily as a leader for destroyer flotillas, she carried negligible armour and her armament of ten singly-mounted 4-inch guns – supplemented by two submerged 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes – must have made fire control difficult in the extreme.
|A contemporary magazine's impression of the chase, as seen from the British destroyers|
|A German view of the sinking of HMS Amphion - with the Koenigin Luise escaping on the right.|
In actuality the latter had been sunk some eighteen hours previously.
By midday on August 6th 1914, some forty-eight hours of declaration of war, bodies and wreckage strewed the North Sea and both Britain and Germany had drawn first blood in the murderous conflict that was to follow.
Britannia’s Shark by Antoine Vanner
1881 and the power of the British Empire seems unchallengeable.
But now a group of revolutionaries threaten the economic basis of that power. Their weapon is the invention of a naïve genius, their sense of grievance is implacable and their leader is already proven in the crucible of war. Protected by powerful political and business interests, conventional British military or naval power cannot touch them. A daring act of piracy draws the ambitious British naval officer, Nicholas Dawlish, and his wife into this deadly maelstrom. Amid the wealth and squalor of America’s Gilded Age, and on a fever-ridden island ruled by savage tyranny success – and survival –will demand making some very strange alliances...
Britannia’s Shark brings historic naval fiction into the dawn of the Submarine Age.