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21

Friday, May 12th 2017, 2:16am

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Sunday, 1 February 1948

Konteradmiral Siegfried Engel looked at the report detailing the ships presently attached to the Lehr Division and sighed. “So many ships,” he thought. “The Baltic is barely large enough to hold them in winter”. And there was truth to his thought. While the recently completed air defence destroyers Osnabruck and Dortmund would be replacing the departed Hamburg and Berlin, the imminent arrival of the air defence cruisers Lissa and Saida – to say nothing of the aircraft carriers Tegetthoff and Zieten would stretch his resources to the breaking point.

Thankfully the naval schools were keeping up with the demand for trained manpower – nucleus crews drawn from ships of the Flottenkommando Atlantik made the transition easier, as did the recently announced pay increases for petty officers and ratings – retention was up. Still, the burden of training weighed heavily upon his shoulders. Thankfully he still had the support of the Russian 13th Destroyer Flotilla, which gave the ships of his command experienced ‘opponents’ against which to pit their skills.

There were rumblings of a major fleet exercise to be held in the spring; how extensive this might be was anyone’s guess at this point. It had been less than a year since the last major exercise; normally the Kriegsmarine would schedule exercises two years apart. Engel wondered what this might mean…

22

Wednesday, May 31st 2017, 9:58pm

Artillery School Ship Bremse, København, Monday, 16 February 1948

The Bremse was moored in the lee of the old Trekronor sea fortress, with other visiting vessels ahead and astern. Copenhagen had seen the Bremse on many occasions, as the Danish capital was a frequent stop on her peregrinations of the Baltic. Given the expansion of the Kriegsmarine there were always new sailors, and new officers, to be trained, despite the rigors of the winter’s weather. She had arrived the previous Friday and would depart on Wednesday, giving her crew a respite and opportunity for many of them to see a foreign country for the first time.

A party of Danish naval officers were piped aboard, invited to visit the Bremse’s wardroom; it afforded the German, and Russian, officers aboard an opportunity to interact with their peers – an important lesson. Narrow particularism in the officer corps was a defect that Konteradmiral Engel strove to erase – a good officer must not only be brave, he must comprehend the world around him – be capable of understanding the thoughts of others, their viewpoints, and the motivations. Herein lay one of the virtues of Wachsame Entschlossenheit – not only did German and Russian officers learn to work together, but to trust one another to work together.

23

Thursday, June 15th 2017, 2:12am

Destroyer Pylkiy, 54 dgs 23 min North, 13 dgs 33 min East, Sunday, 29 February 1948

The ships of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla were not alone, nor even operating with a small number of their German counterparts; today they were exercising as part of a large carrier task force, at the centre of which were the new German aircraft carriers Tegetthoff and Zieten; ringing these vessels were the air defence cruisers Lissa and Saida, and the frigates Stockach, Gallingen, Chemnitz, and Mohlsdorf, as well as Captain Kozyukhin’s own ships.

The principal aim of their current evolutions was to train the crews of the new German vessels in operating in formation – a particular challenge in a Baltic winter. Neither Tegetthoff nor Zieten had yet taken aboard their air groups; the word was that might happen in a few weeks, when better weather prevailed; but the carriers would manoeuvre as if they were launching or recovering aircraft, demanding smart ship handling on the part of the escorts.

Kozyukhin was confident in the abilities of his own experienced crews, and thus far they had not let him down, and the frigates with whom they had been exercising for some weeks were proving nearly as adept. The cruisers, however, would occasionally require a reminder from the Zieten, the acting flagship, to keep better station. Kozyukhin noted in his journal that the Germans were driving their crews with a near wartime tempo; he was not certain why this should be so. Khrenov, the naval attaché, had advised him that the Kriegsmarine would be scheduling a major exercise in the North Sea for the early spring; perhaps, Kozyukhin thought, the Germans wished to have more of their ships available.

24

Tuesday, July 4th 2017, 5:52pm

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Monday, 15 March 1948

Konteradmiral Siegfried Engel, as well as his immediate superior, Konteradmiral Johannes Bachmann, were surprised by the message from the Admiralstab announcing that the aircraft carriers Tegetthoff and Zieten were to be withdrawn from their established training program and released to the Atlantic Fleet.

“They have barely half way through their training!” Engel said with a tone of rising anger. “What are the fools in Berlin planning?”

Bachman took a more complacent view. “The ships are not to be released until next month,” he replied. “Which will give you more time to concentrate on their readiness. They will have to train their air groups in the North Sea – which is easier than in the confined waters of the Baltic.”

Engel re-read the message flimsy. “At least they are not ordering the other ships to Wilhelmshaven; that is something. But why does the Admiralstab want the carriers?” He looked at Bachman for an answer but received none. Perhaps Bachman himself had no ideas – the message itself carried no explanation. Perhaps the rumoured spring exercises were the cause.

25

Friday, August 4th 2017, 6:40pm

Destroyer Pylkiy, Warnemünde Harbour, Tuesday, 30 March 1948

Captain Kozyukhin and his officers stood at rigid attention as the boatswains’ pipes twittered to announce the arrival of the visiting party. Konteradmiral Siegfried Engel, as senior officer, was the first to arrive on the destroyer’s deck, followed by Captain First Rank Konstantin Khrenov, the naval attaché from the embassy in Berlin. Salutes were exchanged and brief introductions made. Kozyukhin then led them to the destroyer’s wardroom, where they could open their discussions in greater comfort.

“Permit me to say Herr Kapitän,” said Engel, “that both Admiral Bachman and I truly appreciate the effort you and your crews have made towards the success of this operation. Our officers and men have learned much this winter, and I hope that you too have gained useful experiences.”

Kozyukhin nodded. “It has been an honour and a privilege,” he replied politely, “and I hope it will continue. The exchange of personnel between our two navies has been of inestimable value.”

“Yes…” Engel acknowledged. “However, I regret that some of the ships presently assigned to the training command here are being redeployed – on a temporary basis of course.” He then explained that the new aircraft carriers, the Tegetthoff and Zieten, would be departing in early April for Wilhelmshaven. This surprised Kozyukhin, who looked at Khrenov for some intimation of the reason.

Khrenov responded, “I understand that the Kriegsmarine plans a major fleet exercise”. Kozyukhin recognised that further explanation would need to wait.”

Engel sought to redirect the conversation. “Yes, the departure of the aircraft carriers will change the nature of our exercises in the short term, but Kapitän Khrenov has brought news that I believe you will find most interesting. Now it was the naval attaché’s turn to spring a surprise.

“The large rocket ship Admiral Kolchak will be attached to your flotilla as part of her operational training. She is due in these waters sometime next month, if her trials proceed smoothly.”

At this news Kozyukhin raised an eyebrow, attempting to suppress the surprise of such a move. Rumour had it that the Admiral Kolchak was equipped with a new air defence weapon, a long-range antiaircraft rocket developed in concert with the French Marine Nationale. Completed at Rostov in January, she would have to make the long voyage through the Mediterranean and the Atlantic before entering the Baltic.

“That is most interesting news…” Kozyukhin said with studied understatement.