Thus far the Russian sweep had passed off without incident with nothing worthy of his attention. It would soon be time to turn the fleet around and Eberhardt was about to address his captain when a young and breathless sailor rushed on to the bridge, fairly bursting with emotion and clutching a flimsy signal report. After a hurried salute and in moments the signal was read and its contents exploded like a shell in their midst. The leading Russian cruiser – the Kagul – reported heavy smoke to the West and was awaiting further instructions.
The bridge fell silent, the only sound disturbing the quiet, almost church–like atmosphere being the steady thrum of the engines. All eyes went to the Admiral who stared out to sea and into the murky distance; his face impassive, his thoughts unreadable. The seconds ticked by, agonisingly slowly. Eberhardt pondered the enormity of his responsibility and weighed up the inevitable risks that a general action involved. This was the moment he had worked towards throughout his long career and he allowed himself a momentary savouring of the heady bouquet of commanding men and ships in time of war. He reached his decision. Suddenly, the Admiral blinked as if waking from a short nap. He turned to the Captain. “Signal the cruisers to maintain their surveillance but to avoid action unless unavoidable – the Captains will have full discretion in that respect,” he grinned wolfishly and continued.”Signal the Pantelejmon, she and the rest of the squadron will maintain current course and speed whilst we shall head due North to position ourselves so we can welcome our Turkish visitors!” The bridge crew grinned to a man and hurriedly set in motion the appropriate orders.
Captain Yuri Gregoravitch of the Evstafi was that rarest of Russian naval officers in that he was cautious and preferred to act when in possession of the fullest possible information concerning his opposition. He badly needed to be sure of exactly what they were sailing towards, the ships involved and their positions, basic and elementary facts that his superior seemed to be largely oblivious of. He had enormous respect for the admiral but often wondered exactly what he based any of his tactical decisions on – in this case a solitary and unconfirmed sighting report from a cruiser. “Admiral, with all due respect, what if the Yavuz Sultan Selim is present, should we not keep the squadron together as these are Germans and not Turks,” he enquired, as tactfully as he could. “Yuri, Yuri, Yuri,” began the Admiral, placing his hand on the Captain’s shoulder and shaking his head slowly in mock admonishment. “Turks or Germans is of little consequence; just because they have this one ship does not make them invincible, remember Yuri, you can give a dog a gold collar and feed it on fresh meat but it is still a dog!” The Captain visibly winced at his commander’s earthy observations – he was far too cultured to use such language – but inwardly agreed with the sentiment.