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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

A Russian Raid

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Arnold expressed his entire agreement with this idea, and, as the event proved, it was entirely correct. Instead of steering nor'-nor'-west, as they would have done had they intended to go round the Shetland Islands, or north-west, had they chosen the course between the Orkneys and the Shetlands the Russian vessels kept a due westerly course during the rest of the day, and this course could only take them to the Scotch coast near Aberdeen.

The distance from where they were was a little under five hundred miles, and at their present rate of steaming they would reach Aberdeen about four o'clock on the following afternoon. The air-ships followed them at a height of four thousand feet during the rest of the day and until shortly before dawn on the following morning.

They then put on speed, took a wide sweep to the northward, and returned southward over Banffshire, and passing Aberdeen to the west, found a secluded resting-place on the northern spur of the Kincardineshire Hills, about five miles to the southward of the Granite City.

Here the repairs which were needed by the Ariel were at once taken in hand by her own crew and that of the Ithuriel, while the Orion was sent out to sea again to keep a sharp lookout for the Russian fleet, which she would sight long before she herself became visible, and then to watch the movements of the Russians from as great a distance as possible until it was time to make the counter-attack.

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As Aberdeen was then one of the coaling depots for the North Sea Squadron, it was defended by two battleships, the Ascalon and the Menelaus, three powerful coast-defence vessels, the Thunderer, the Cyclops, and the Pluto, six cruisers, and twelve torpedo-boats. The shore defences consisted of a fort on the north bank at the mouth of the Dee, mounting ten heavy guns, and the Girdleness fort, mounting twenty-four 9-inch twenty-five ton guns, in connection with which was a station for working navigable torpedoes of the Brennan type, which had been considerably improved during the last ten years.

Shortly after two o'clock on the afternoon of the 30th the Orion returned to her consorts with the news that the Russian fleet was forty miles off the land, heading straight for Aberdeen, and that there were no other warships in sight as far as could be seen to the southward. From this fact it was concluded that the Russians had escaped the notice of the North Sea Squadron, and so would only have the force defending Aberdeen to reckon with.

Even had they not possessed the air-ship, this force was so far inferior to their own that there would be little chance of successfully defending the town against them. They had eleven battleships, twenty-five cruisers, eight of which were very large and heavily armed, and forty torpedo-boats, to pit against the little British force and the two forts.

But given the assistance of the Lucifer, and the town practically lay at their mercy. They evidently feared no serious opposition in their raid, for, without even waiting for nightfall, they came on at full speed, darkening the sky with their smoke, the battleships in the centre, a dozen cruisers on either side of them, and one large cruiser about a mile ahead of their centre.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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