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81

Monday, October 9th 2017, 5:09pm

OOC: shouldn't those last two posts be Saturday 17 April?

Admiralty Building, Whitehall, London, 17:50 GMT Saturday 17 April

Admiral Cunningham telephoned Admiral Borrough on the secure 'scrambled' line to the Dover 'citadel'. It was getting late but he hoped Burrough would still be there.
After a few rings the Burrough's flag secretary answered the call and within moments had brought the Admiral to the phone.
"Harold, the latest aerial sightings have confirmed that the bulk of the German fleet has turned south."
"I've seen it Andrew," Burrough picked up a sheaf of paper from his desk,"the Lancaster has confirmed the move too."
"What do you make of it? Do you think they are pulling out early?" Cunningham asked.
Burrough looked at the wall chart through the window of his office cubicle, "Possibly, but the situation is still confused."
"I agree. If the last sighting report is to be believed it seems as if their carriers are in the vanguard, I would have expected Lindemann to have had them at the rear to cover his withdrawal knowing the force we have within distance."
Burrough watched one of his WRNS officers move a counter on the chart in the main operations room, "Have you anything new on the submarine concentration near the Devil's Hole?"
Cunningham's voice changed more doubtfully, "nothing concrete, I saw one of Godfrey's men in the corridor earlier, they are still working through the mass of radio transmissions the Germans sent. Some may have been directed to the U-Boats. Could be hours before we know for sure."
Burrough knew that Cunningham was building up to ask the question whether the fleet should move in pursuit, but wanted to head off that question, "I could use the Barossa Force more gainfully now that their decoy role is over. Right now they're not sure who is shadowing who. They could cut north and rejoin the main shadowing force."
"So you don't think it wise to follow them with the main fleet?" Cunningham said impatiently.
"I'm not convinced that we have scared them off. They could be bluffing and the might yet double-back or they might redeploy their submarine screen."
"As you think best Harold, but I think we would do well to get in behind, even if only to put into Scapa for a while. Barossa could keep the Germans busy by drawing their forces away."
Burrough gripped his telephone harder, "What could we hope to accomplish even if we did follow? Our whole response has been one of measured response. I see no reason to throw that away now. By this time tomorrow they will be well on the way home."
The line went silent for a moment, then Cunningham finally spoke, "very well Harold, you're in command of the operation and if that's what you recommend then the Chief won't interfere."
"Very good, I'll draft the orders as soon I can. We can certainly review the situation tomorrow when we have more concrete information," he added to give some compromise and room to manouerve if things went better than he suspected.

82

Monday, October 9th 2017, 5:35pm

OOC:

You are correct; I've edited the dates of my last two posts; I think you will need to do so as well. It gets confusing at time.

83

Tuesday, October 10th 2017, 3:35pm

U-boat Seeteufel, 56 dgs 9 min North, 1 dgs 31 min East, Sunday, 18 April 1948

Kapitänleutnant Korth had but a key-hole view of the progress of Unternehmen Donnerschlag – and being pent up in a submerged submarine was not calculated to increase his view of what was going on in the wider world. But the orders he had received to depart his assigned rendezvous as part of Fischadler and join a patrol line in the western lobe of the North Sea suggested that something was up.

Dawn found the Seeteufel in her assigned ‘box’ in the patrol line, and Korth had the boat motoring submerged, using her air mast. For the moment they would rely on their FuMo-48 DT equipment and the ‘Korfu’ detector to alert them to any approaching targets.

84

Wednesday, October 11th 2017, 1:07pm

The Nore and Channel Command Headquarters, Dover, 11:00GMT, Sunday 18 April
Admiral Burrough would have much preferred to have had a Sunday roast at home and peaceful Sunday afternoon relaxing but events would not allow that. It had been a hectic week and the manoeuvres in the North Sea showed no signs of abating.

The Germans is seemed were going home but signals intelligence indicated increased radio ‘chatter’ to the U-Boats near the Devil’s Hole. The previous day Cunningham had been all for action but Burrough could see the exercise was winding down. He suspected with the carriers in the vanguard that the Admiralstab or Lindemann had requested the U-boats to secure their rear as they sailed home. Burrough saw no desire to blunder into them, nor any reason to make any hot pursuit.

He stared at the wall map a little longer and then called over two of his subordinate officers.
“Signal Syfret that he can put into Scapa for a rest, but send to make sure there is a patrol screen at sea just in case anything unexpected happens. However, Leviathan has been out on manoeuvres for two weeks now and needs time to refit before our May programme commences. Order her to return to Cromarty. Centaur and Albion can escort her along with an adequate destroyer screen and a couple of cruisers, whatever ships Admiral Syfret thinks are most able to accompany them and that he can spare.”
The officers concurred and jotted down some brief operational orders. Burrough then took a long look at the current availability status of the ships currently in harbour. “Of course that means Syfret won’t have any carrier support while Centaur and Albion are away. I suggest they rendezvous with the Ark at Cromarty and then head back to Scapa. It means juggling things round at bit for FOREMAST but I think we’ll manage ok.”
One of the officers looked up from his notes, “are there any new orders for the southern group of ships Sir?”
“No, they should continue shadowing. Make sure they let us know if any of the destroyers are getting low on fuel so we can send a tanker out if necessary in good time. All submarines will remain on station, tell Sealion to resume her west-east patrol starting here I think.” Burroughs jabbed his finger onto the chart not far off the Frisian Islands.

85

Wednesday, October 11th 2017, 3:39pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 57 dgs 35 min North, 2 dgs 30 min East, Sunday, 18 April 1948

Dawn found Einzatzverband 58 again running its racetrack course in the midst of the North Sea. Long-range air patrols of the Marineflieger had noted the forward movement of the British Home Fleet eastward from its previous positions, with some units apparently entering Scapa Flow, presumably for bunkers. Lindemann kept his own air patrols active – with searches out to three hundred kilometres radius from the task force, inner anti-submarine patrols, and, of course, combat air patrols to intercept and ‘escort’ the occasional shadowing aircraft of Coastal Command. While a small force of British vessels was operating somewhat to the east of his present position, which both his air search and Einzatzgruppe 71.4 kept track of, he found the measured response of the British fleet to the challenge of his presence illuminating. All things considered, the balance of forces still favoured him; the arrival of a U-boat screen to the west only increased its strength. He anticipated remaining in his present operating area until the end of the exercise; the timing of which he wondered whether Lindenau would advance.

86

Wednesday, October 11th 2017, 6:12pm

Marinestützpunkt Emden, Sunday, 18 April 1948

Capitaine de vaisseau Cabanier had made a second trip to the port of Emden in response to inquiries he had received from Capitaine de corvette Charpentier, commander of the squadron of French submarines that had participated in the German fleet exercise, and now found themselves incommunicado. The novelty of a visit to a foreign port had lost something of its lustre – and while their hosts had made every effort to make Charpentier and his men welcome – it was not as good as being in their home port, close to their wives, girlfriends, and families.

“Sir,” Charpentier asked, “our role in the exercise is over… why must we remain?”

Cabanier paused a moment before replying, considering how much he might reveal and what he might not. “Our allies are still engaged in their fleet exercise,” he began, “and circumstances have emerged that required the extension of its scope.” By this he meant the activation of Regenbogen, and he certainly did not communicate the activities of British submarines in the Baltic.

“The anti-submarine exercise that marked the initial phase of operations is continuing. Our allies have asked that we keep the area clear of submarines…” With this Cabanier also hoped that the Dutch and Belgians would do likewise. The K.34 incident still rankled.

Charpentier nodded his understanding. “But if we kept to the surface, and…” he added… “if we were escorted by the Breslau…” he pointed to the cruiser which likewise sat immured in the harbour. “That should help keep us safely out of the Kriegsmarine’s sights.”

Cabanier could see the point; he understood Admiral Lindenau’s desire to find without further confusion any British submarines that sought to slip into the exercise area but he also felt the impatience of his crews. “That is a reasonable suggestion,” he agreed. “I will make the suggestion to the German commander; but the exercise is scheduled to last only two more days.”

87

Thursday, October 12th 2017, 9:16pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Sunday, 18 April 1948

The day had seen few developments. Einzatzverband 58 had moved to its new operational area further from the tip of Scotland, and the British fleet had followed in a circumspect manner. Lindenau was pleased that a strong patrol line of U-boats protected the flank of his aircraft carriers; the presence of a small number of British ships operating on the task force’s eastern flank annoyed him but there was little he could do to warn off the shadowers. He stood, contemplating the large plot map.

“The timidity of the British concerns you?” It was Abashvili, who had approached Lindenau unnoticed.

Lindenau turned and replied, “In some respects it does; in others, it does not – given the balance of forces, if the circumstances were real, a cautious strategy would make sense.”

The Russian cocked his head to one side. “The British often give an air of complacency. Our Northern Fleet has often exercised in the Atlantic with barely a single British destroyer to shadow our movements. Having been victorious for centuries can give one a sense of being victorious forever.”

“Perhaps,” Lindenau added. “But what does concern me is the British submarine force. Heretofore the British have not maintained any close coverage of our ports, expecting to monitor activity by other means.”

“This is why you asked the French to provide a suitable force to act in the opening of the exercise?” asked Abashvili.

“Yes. It provided good training to our antisubmarine force. But the activities of that British submarine, Wolverine, that penetrated the Baltic, leads me to think that the British will give up that tactic…” Lindenau concluded “at least in the short term.”

The fleet commander summoned a staff officer and dictated orders redeploying a portion of the Regenbogen screen to cover the area between Heligoland and the Jade; he also drafted a message to Konteradmiral Claassen, Befehlshaber der Sicherung der Nordsee, requesting that he redouble patrols in the immediate coastal area of the fleet’s home bases.

88

Friday, October 13th 2017, 6:24pm

Corvette Albatros, 57 dgs 19 min North, 3 dgs 38 min East, Monday, 19 April 1948

Dawn again found the Albatros shadowing the small British squadron that dogged the heels of Einzatzverband 58. Fregattenkapitän Perleberg checked the DT-plot which showed not only the four corvettes of his own Einzatzgruppe 71.4 but the British cruiser-destroyer group with which they had become so familiar.

“Air contact Herr Kapitän,” one of the operators reported. “Two aircraft, bearing 300 degrees, distance forty kilometres; FFE Papagei identifies them as friendly.”

Perleberg acknowledged the report, and reasoned that it was a patrol from the carriers of the task force; a surmise confirmed when the aircraft – a pair of Fieseler Fi168 ‘Haifisch’ – came into view. The Hammerheads circled the corvettes in a friendly manner, and then continued on in the general direction of the British flotilla.

These were not the last aircraft that Perleberg expected to see today; the British were likely to send some of their own long-range aircraft to take a peek, and the task force would no doubt keep the British aircraft ‘escorted’ while in the vicinity of the aircraft carriers. The opportunity for training his DT crews was well worth it.

89

Saturday, October 14th 2017, 5:30pm

Bridge HMS Barrosa, 14:30 GMT, Monday 19 April

The Chief Engineer appeared on the bridge in his working overalls, rubbing his hands with a stained cloth. Captain Charles Ross saw him and crossed the bridge to greet him.
"What's the latest situation down below Chief?"
"We've less than eighty tons of fuel now Sir. Seventy-four to be precise. I've taken on ballast accordingly."
Ross wasn't unduly worried, that was enough to get home on. But in the circumstances, even if the Germans began a full scale retreat home their Lordships would still want them to shadow the Germans home. And who knew if he might need to increase speed at some point. Mons was reporting low fuel too.
"Thanks Chief, everything else running ok down below?"
"One of the condensers is playing up but other than that we're doing fine Sir."

Ross beckoned the third officer, "take this down, make to C-in-C Nore and Channel, request tanker support to take on fuel. Stop. Please advise if ships requiring refueling should disengage to meet tanker. Stop. Situation remains stable, no change in German disposition or course. Stop."


BCAC Sea Fang FN.Mk.I, 807 Squadron, HMS Leviathan, 15:09 GMT, Monday 19 April

Flt. Lt. Baker was climbing with his formation of four Sea Fangs to relieve a portion of the CAP cover the three carriers were under during their voyage to Cromarty.
By now he was used to the Spearfish controller, an AWI (Airborne Warning and Interception) conversion, one of the very first. Yesterday the plane's kit had gone serviceable but today it was forty miles due west of the carrier force with its fighter protection and was having a grand view of the German aerial activity.

Baker switched from carrier control to that of the AWI, "Jackal Leader to Choir, Jackal Leader to Choir, I am climbing to angels fifteen, bearing zero-four-six, four fighters.
His earphones crackled as the Spearfish's controller answered, "This is Choir to Jackal Leader we read you. I have you on scope. Maintain course and begin standard pattern search at angels fifteen.
"Jackal Leader to Choir, do you have anything for me today?"
"Choir to Jackal, not yet, be patient and stick around."

Twenty minutes passed as his flight settled into a loose formation, eyes scanning all round with radio reports coming in from the carriers and the Spearfish.
Then his earphones came to life once again.

"Choir to Jackal Leader, Choir to Dingo Leader, we have business for you, four bogeys inbound on bearing zero-three-four, angels ten, range thirty miles, estimated speed two-hundred knots. Turn to heading zero-three-eight and intercept, make visual identification."
Baker radioed an acknowledgement and signalled his formation to alter course. With another course update from 'Choir' he soon found the four Fieseler 'Hammerheads' scooting low across the dark North Sea waters. He waggled his wings and dived, his flight following suit. As they passed ten thousand feet the rear German plane spotted them and the formation turned.
"Jackal leader to Choir, tally-ho, I have four Hammers in sight. Altering course to zero-two-six, turning starboard sharply."
Baker squeezed his gun camera button to take some pictures before he passed their portside and slightly above them.
"Choir to Jackal Leader, good work. Watch out for fighters, estimated four bogeys angels fifteen, speed two-seventy knots inbound, six miles from your position. Advise new course zero-thirty. You should see them in your two o'clock position."
Baker was glad he wouldn't get jumped and the four Sea Fangs pointed skyward and clawed at the air, climbing fast to get above the fighters. Soon enough four Focke Wulfs arrived in view.
"Jackal to Choir, I see them now. Four Fockes. You want me to stay on patrol?"
"Choir to Jackal, affirmative, watch our friends but don't get too close."
As the eight fighters turned and kept each other under observation as the 'Hammerheads' turned for home Baker heard 'Choir' vectoring in support. It would be a busy afternoon.

90

Saturday, October 14th 2017, 10:24pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Monday, 19 April 1948

The two clocks in the plotting room displayed the time – 0800 hours; 200 hours since commencement of the operation. Capitaine de fregate Jean des Moutis watched the movement of markers on the large plot map – not that there were many markers moving. To the French officer it seemed as if the duelling of the German and British task forces had reached a stalemate; given that neither was intent on actually inflicting damage on the other, this was to be expected. Still, he found the lessons learned to be quite illuminating, and inwardly he thanked his hosts for their hospitality in allowing him such an opportunity to observe.

He found interesting a surmise originating with those units of the German naval air force that were tasked with tracking the British fleet; the relative ease with which their patrols had been intercepted by British fighter aircraft suggested that the British had a form of airborne detection equipment in use. He had overheard a pair of German staff officers discussing the matter and noted their use of the term Bremen-anlage, which itself suggested that his hosts were working on a similar project.

He was more worried about the decision of the British Admiralty to not immediately send its heavy units from the Solent to the North Sea through the Channel – where they would be vulnerable to successive air attack by the Armee de l’Air, the Aeronavale, and the light forces of his own service. A wartime scenario which included France might see a pre-emptive attack by the British Home Fleet on ports from Brest to Dunkerque. France's strategic posture towards Britain had not changed significantly since the reversal of alliances which brought Germany into the FAR; and perhaps it was time that it did so.

As to the rest of the German exercise – it had forty hours yet to run – he questioned what might yet be learned. That Admiral Lindenau was holding close to his vest.

91

Sunday, October 15th 2017, 12:43am

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 41 min North, 3 dgs 13 min East, Monday, 19 April 1948

Lindemann was on the flag bridge when the message arrived from Bremerhaven earlier in the afternoon; he immediately ordered a course change that brought Einzatzverband 58 on a southerly course. Thus far the British Home Fleet, reinforced by those ships based in the ports of eastern Scotland, had shown little inclination to follow him into the North Sea. With the sun slipping below the horizon Donnerschlag was moving into its endgame; with one more day to see whether the British would show their hand or not.

For Lindemann it meant little if they did or did not; his crews had acquitted themselves well, including those fresh from the training squadron in the Baltic. The ships themselves had performed well in arduous sea conditions. Many lessons had been learnt across the spectrum of operational experience. These would take time to digest.

Yet one more day remained…

92

Sunday, October 15th 2017, 4:50pm

The Nore and Channel Command Headquarters, Dover, 18:00 GMT, Monday 19 April
Admiral Burrough was making a final check of the 'big map' before he went home. The latest dispositions were being updated. Half of the Barossa Force had withdrawn a safe distance and were taking on fuel before dark closed in but there was little else of note. There were five submarines between the Germans and their home bases, it seemed likely a few would be caught up in anti-submarine sweeps. In any case their duty at the present wasn't to probe or track the Germans but to simply have a presence in the area, remind the Germans who was there and perhaps make them waste some time into the bargain.
He still saw no reason to pursue with a heavier force and he directed Centaur, Albion and Ark Royal to return north to patrol off Scapa while Leviathan cruised back into her home port.

Overall he was satisfied how things had gone, he had made the best of his political directives. Fleet street didn't like it but he was unwilling to stage collisions and stand-offs just so they could sell newspapers. Command of the sea demanded persistence over brute strength, but he was still concerned how powerful the Kreigsmarine exercise had been. He wondered if it had been intended to weaken forces elsewhere. The problem was how to stop such a force, hopefully exercises FOREMAST and MAINMAST would help point the way.

93

Monday, October 16th 2017, 8:16pm

The North Sea, Tuesday, 20 April 1948

The Referate Fernmeldeaufklärung of the Marine-Nachrichtendienst had constantly monitored the signals traffic emanating from Britain’s principal naval stations, and though its analysts had not yet penetrated deeply into the ciphers employed to guard the Royal Navy’s communications its ability to plot the whereabouts of British ships through traffic analysis was very good. Thus it was no surprise when a series of intercepted signals suggested that the British had ordered several of their submarines to form a patrol line across the southern portion of the North Sea in anticipation of the return of Einzatzverband 58 from its present manoeuvres. It was a move anticipated by the commanders ashore and at sea; and the Marineflieger had already committed assets to increased air patrols in that area.

(Above the waves)

A pair of Dornier Do330 maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew at low altitude in the predawn hours; the pilots concentrated on keeping their aircraft on course at a safe height above the waves; the real work was being done by the operators of the DT-search equipment, and the Gaußmeter housed in the aircraft’s elongated tail.

Suddenly the DT-operator in the lead aircraft reported contact with a small surface target; both aircraft now circled, fixing their bearings on the target, which fit the profile of an air mast or periscope of a submerged submarine. Once a base course for the unknown was worked out from DT-bearings, the Dorniers flew successive passes perpendicular to the predicted base course, confirming from the Gaußmeter the profile of a submerged submarine on a course in the general direction of Bremerhaven, some hundred kilometres distant.

Contact reports were flashed to the air base at Nordholtz, which scrambled additional aircraft, to the Befehlshaber der Sicherung der Nordsee, and to Einzatzgruppe 71.2, the nearest group of anti-submarine vessels.

(Beneath the seas)

Pursuant to her orders HM Submarine Salmon had moved eastward, to put herself between the German battle groups returning from their exercise and the ports towards which they must inexorably move. The boat’s chronometers indicated the time as 0450 GMT, well before dawn, though her commander had ordered the boat to first-degree readiness.

The ASDIC operator pressed his headphones to his ears at the unexpected sound.

“Sir,” he said in some surprise. “Noise contact – sounds like several objects hitting the water.”

Fearing that the sounds heralded the explosion of depth charges – as unlikely as that might be – the operator prepared to quickly remove his headphones, but the noise, whatever it might be, brought no apparent follow-up.

(Above the waves)

The first batch of acoustic buoys dropped by the Dorniers were programmed to operate in passive mode – struggling against the ambient sea noise to pinpoint the submarine and – perhaps – from its sound profile confirm its identity. This brought small results, though the submarine’s location and course was narrowed. A further batch of buoys was dropped…

(Beneath the seas)

Salmon’s ASDIC operator again heard the sound of something being dropped into the water, but the sudden echo of sound waves transmitted through the submarine’s hull left no illusions of what had transpired.

94

Yesterday, 2:33pm

The Nore and Channel Command Headquarters, Dover, 13:50 GMT, Tuesday 20 April
Admiral Burrough noted the movements of aircraft and escorts as the Germans ran into parts of the scanty submarine patrol line. These reports came from Coastal Command aircraft in the area, mainly aging Wellingtons and a few Sunderlands. He knew re-equipment with Shackletons and Argus was coming soon and that they would offer better capabilities than the existing 'Wimpy' and the shorter-ranged Buccaneer now in use. It was clear that neither side possessed an edge in anti-submarine warfare, once you had radio direction finding and traffic analysis you could narrow the area of search, when you spotted the submarine is was easy enough to hold a target long enough for identification or destruction. There were still times when detection was difficult but although submarines were evolving their technology had not yet outstripped the electronic 'boxes' which were now vital. He also knew that at Portland there were new Asdics and weapons in development that would give future destroyers even greater capability.

Strike capability was another matter. It seemed unlikely that more than five carriers, only three of them big fleet carriers, could be amassed in Home waters before the new Colossus Class completed in the early fifties. While the new innovations of jet-power and the steam catapult offered some advantages it was not necessarily a game changer. The fleet was well equipped with aerial defence ships and more were coming. Light carriers were now fitted for fighter control as powerful escorts, they could carry the fighters and leave the bigger fleet carriers for strike aircraft. The battleship still seemed irrelevant, while it would be invaluable in finishing off whatever targets were left floating after aerial strikes, the idea that two battlelines would face each other seemed unlikely, especially in the waters around Britain. A new Trafalgar or a new Jutland would be a very different battle. Every element of the fleet had a part to play but now its was the task of fitting all the pieces together that was occupying his mind.


The Admiralty, Whitehall, London, 14:00 GMT, Tuesday 20 April
The First Lord and the First Sea Lord sat down with the Vice Chief of Staff. The meeting was to be the first of several. It was clear that several operational and strategical issues had arisen in the past week and now it was time to set some wheels in motion. Whether anything could be done about the political restrictions remained to be seen.

95

Yesterday, 4:40pm

The North Sea, 54 dgs 10 min North, 6 dgs 46 min East, Tuesday, 20 April 1948

It was dawn when the frigate Werden and the corvette Frettchen reached the vicinity in which the Marineflieger had reported contact with an unknown submarine. The still-circling Dorniers reported that their Gaußmeter equipment indicated that the submarine was still in the area, but the acoustic buoys no longer had definitive contact. Slowing their engines to reduce their own noise, the two German warships began a search – the Werden actively pinging, the Frettchen listening for any returns.

Salmon lay doggo on the sea floor, in little more than thirty fathoms of water. Her ASDIC operator had noticed the fading signal of the acoustic buoys dropped from aircraft that might still be overhead; then he also heard the faint sound of approaching surface vessels, which signals gradually grew stronger until they faded suddenly – to be replaced with the unmistakeable sound of an ASDIC transducer that echoed throughout the boat. For the last half hour Salmon had been rigged for absolute silence, and now, with warships actively searching for them, her crew moved slowly and as silently as possible – or even better, moved not at all, in order conserve oxygen in the boat.

Werden reported that she was on station and released the Dorniers to return to their search. Befehlshaber der Sicherung der Nordsee directed her to remain in the area for the time being. The submarine, whether British or Dutch, could not, of course, be attacked. They were ordered to track the target if they were able to locate it; they would play a waiting game.

96

Yesterday, 6:58pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Tuesday, 20 April 1948

“Herr Admiral, do you still see value in continuing the exercise?” It was von Bassewitz-Levetzow, the observer from the Admiralstab.

Lindenau pondered the question. The available intelligence suggested that the main elements of the British fleet had stood down, some ships putting into Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, while others returned to Scotland. A small group of British ships still lingered to the east of Einzatzverband 58’s position, and British submarines were unsuccessfully attempting to picket the approaches to his bases in the North Sea.

“We seem to have drawn as much information as might be expected,” he replied at length. Still, he gazed at the plot map. The exercise time clock still had twelve hours to run; might a premature withdrawal be taken by the British as a sign of weakness? Perhaps, but to set against that were the possibilities of accident or incident as crews stove to stay within the tightly drawn rules of engagement.

“I think that perhaps discretion might be the better part of valour; a swift break now, when the British have dropped their guard, might be best.”

“I shall advise Generaladmiral von Fischel,” von Bassewitz-Levetzow agreed.

Lindenau began the issuance of orders to wind down Donnerschlag ahead of schedule, though keeping certain elements of his forces in play.

97

Yesterday, 7:38pm

Sundry Locations, Tuesday, 20 April 1948

(Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 23 min North, 3 dgs 36 min East)

Lindemann received the order ending the exercise with a sense of relief. Many of his smaller ships were low on bunkers, and he released some of his destroyers to call at Heligoland for fuel. The task force now assumed a cruising formation on course 180; homeward bound.


(Corvette Albatros, 56 dgs 41 min North, 4 dgs 1 min East)

Perleberg read the recall order with a grim sense of satisfaction. Several kilometres distant he could see the British cruiser and her consorts that his ships had been shadowing for far too many hours. He turned to the officer of the deck, “Make to British Cruiser – so long, it has been good to know you!”

The big signal lamp blinked furiously for a few moments and then the message was passed. That accomplished, Perleberg ordered his ship and her flotilla mates to make for Cuxhaven at twelve knots, hoping to rendezvous with tankers being sent out to greet them.


(U-boat Seeteufel, 56 dgs 9 min North, 1 dgs 30 min East)

Korth received the notice of Donnerschlag’s conclusion with a shrug; his orders were to remain on station, in case the British chose to pounce on the homeward bound aircraft carriers. He doubted they would do this; but orders were orders.

98

Yesterday, 8:55pm

North Sea, 15:00GMT, Tuesday 20 April

Squadron Leader Geoffrey Tiles looked over the side of his cockpit of his Meteor. to witness the large formation below him. Not content to sit back the RAF had decided to make a show of force. If the Navy was too timid then the RAF would lead.

No. 2 Group of Bomber Command had managed to get up over eighty de Havilland Mosquitos airborne and no less than three Meteor fighter squadrons were providing top cover to around fifty miles off the British east coast while three fighter squadrons of Hawker Tempests accompanied the Mosquitos as closer protection. Cruising at 15,000 feet from the Norfolk coast they were to head east, sweep towards Jutland and come home. They wouldn't infringe any commercial air lanes or national air spaces but it would be a show of force. The force commander Wing Commander Wooldrige was under instruction not to tangle with German aircraft or fly directly over the German ships but the intent was clear. Even the Coastal Comamnd 'Wimpies' had been directed to stay low and out of the way.

99

Today, 1:14am

Sundry Locations, Tuesday, 20 April 1948

(Frigate Großpetersdorf, 53 dgs 13 min North, 2 dgs 21 min East)

The Großpetersdorf held the west-most position in the Regenbogen picket line. Deployed to guard against a possible movement of British forces through the Channel, the frigate was the closest to the British coast, operating some one hundred kilometres off the coast of Norfolk. It was in the late afternoon when the ship’s air-search DT equipment first picked up returns from a large number of aircraft approaching from the west. The course and speed of the approaching blip meant it could only be a large formation of British aircraft, warning of which the Großpetersdorf transmitted immediately. Observers could soon see the glint of sun of many high-flying aircraft, their contrails highlighted in the sun.


(DT Air Warning Station, Borkum)

Alerted by the report from the Großpetersdorf operators at the Borkum station soon picked up the British force, estimated at more than one hundred aircraft, as it headed eastward across the North Sea. The readiness status of all the stations in Luftvertidigungskommandos VI and X was increased while the British ‘Balbo’ was tracked. Interceptors were readied should it change course, but for the moment its movement was parallel to the coast.


(Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 9 min North, 3 dgs 49 min East)

Lindemann received the warning that large numbers of British aircraft were now operating over the North Sea with puzzlement. With the sun approaching the western horizon his ships would soon be cloaked in darkness, but he ordered night combat air patrols launched should the Royal Air Force – and with the information in his hands he felt that assumption was sound – try to do something foolish.


(Corvette Albatros, 56 dgs 6 min North, 4 dgs 40 min East)

It was dark by the time the Albatros picked up the British aircraft on its DT equipment. They were passing to the south of the ship, heading towards the Danish coast. Perleberg mused whether the British had declared war on Denmark – a thought he swiftly dismissed from his mind. He did order Einzatzgruppe 71.4 to darken ship however; no need to provide the British with a navigational point of reference on their way back.

100

Today, 7:58pm

Copenhagen, Denmark
Wednesday, April 21st, 1948

"A pity you're so soon to leave us," Kommandør Hans Mikkelsen offered, as he took a sip of his wine and settled back into his overstuffed armchair. "Do you know yet what ship you're going to get?"

"No idea," Capitaine de vaisseau Philippe Delcroix replied. He paused before offering his speculation. "But I'm supposed to report to La Rochelle within the next two weeks for new construction. That probably means one of the new Lafayette class cruisers."

"My congratulations," Mikkelsen replied. "From what I've seen, those will be impressive ships. Your French yards do know how to built beautiful warships."

"Thank you, Hans," Delcroix responded. "I've not seen photographs yet, but I saw a one-forty-eighth model the last time I was in Paris." As the French naval attache to Denmark, Delcroix was 'paying his dues', getting in some time at a shore station before returning to sea. It had been a good opportunity, and his wife Marie had become good friends with Mikkelsen's wife, Agnes. That, in turn, had opened up a friendship with Mikkelsen himself, who was aide-de-camp to the Royal Danish Navy's commanding admiral, A.H. Vedel.

"So tell me, Philippe," Mikkelsen said. "What do you think of Donnerschlag? These big German naval exercises, ja?"

Philippe smiled to himself. This was a carefully-cultivated relationship, both by the Danes on the one hand, and the French on the other: Mikkelsen delivering carefully-worded messages disguised as fireside chit-chat, and Delcroix responding in kind. It was a way for the two countries to communicate outside the more formal diplomatic channels. "Well," Delcroix replied, "I think it was rather provocative of the Germans."

"They certainly know how to prod the British lion into a nationalistic fit," Mikkelsen agreed. "Marinestabens Efterretningssektion has been quite busy watching it all, when they could spare the eyes."

"The Royal Navy is too self-controlled to entirely play the game," Delcroix said. "They knew it was an exercise, and they responded in a manner designed to mislead. I know my associates in the Admiralstab were surprised by the British movement through St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea, but I don't believe any of them actually suppose it's part of the British war doctrine. They would respond more aggressively in an actual war. But the British have entirely fixated upon their nightmare of a German threat." Delcroix talked for another ten minutes, sharing his thoughts - and by extension, the professional opinion of the entire Marine Nationnale, which Mikkelsen would in turn report to his boss.

"The analysis of our staff seems to imply the British would have been severely hurt, had Donnerschlag actually been a live operation," Mikkelsen said. "German losses would probably have been low, mostly down to aircraft and submarines."

"Indeed, aircraft and submarines," Delcroix said, smiling behind his wineglass.

"Ja," Mikkelsen said. "The RAF's show of force last night caused quite a bit of anxiety last night to my comrades in the Hærens Flyvertropper. And I wish you could have seen the ruffled feathers between the Ministry of Defense and Foreign Affairs this last week..."

"Oh yes?" Delcroix asked. He'd heard quiet rumors here and there, but nothing firm.

"The Russians asked us on the 13th about foreign submarines in the Baltic, but nobody in our office figured they'd seriously found one," Mikkelsen said. "Admiral Vedel ordered us to start an investigation when he finally heard about it on the 15th - the same day Wolverine sailed out the Oresund - and Rasmussen in Foreign Ministry was out most of that day and the 16th. Admiral Vedel wasn't able to brief him before the German ambassador came in to catch him flatfooted."

Delcroix nodded. "I know my German counterpart, Bartels, received word early on the 15th."

"Yes. Admiral Vedel and I were up in Aarhus until the afternoon, if you'll recall," Mikkelsen said. "Nielsen met us on our return with the Russian tip-off, and said he'd watched the Wolverine sail right past Copenhagen. It was sloppy staff work, Philippe - I say this as head of Vedel's staff! - and poor initiative, and poor communication. Everyone who knew refused to made a decision, and nobody pushed it up the chain of command urgently enough. It still might very well be my job, and Admiral Vedel's," he opined.

"The German press is ablaze," Delcroix said.

"Yes, we know. Gehlen's agents are stirring them up. Ekstra Bladet apparently has something particularly excoriating for tomorrow's print run," Mikkelsen said, clenching a fist and bouncing it twice off the arm of his chair. "It's really quite infuriating. The Germans didn't talk to us until it was too late for us to act, and then they rant and rave because we didn't do anything."

"If you could have...?"

"Of course," Mikkelsen said. "Admiral Vedel gave orders on the 15th to halt and detain British submarines - whether inbound to or outbound from the Baltic. One of our destroyers followed Wolverine through the Oresund, but the submarine was already past Helsingor when the Vedel's order arrived. The captain radioed for instructions, but by then it was too late. An hour, Philippe. One hour."

"It's probably for the best," Delcroix said. "If the submarine hadn't gotten out, then you would have had a real diplomatic crisis."

"Yes - the Germans probably demanding that we seize the boat, and the British trying to prevent it," Mikkelsen said. He took a deep breath. "You know Kommandør Arnesen?"

"Isn't he the commander of your coast defense squadron at Korsør?"

"Ja. He was sacked today. Somebody had to play the sacrificial lamb, and his command was the only one that might have caught the British submarine sneaking through the Great Belt." Mikkelsen sat back again in his chair. "The simple fact of the matter is that - as you know, and the Russians know, and the Germans and British know - we don't usually deploy any ships in the Great Belt intended to search for submarine infiltration."

"Probably ought to change," Delcroix said.

"Yes," Mikkelsen said. "We're not sure exactly how we'll do that yet, but MOD is quite keen to ensure we plug the gap as soon as possible. Foreign Affairs wasn't able to confront the British ambassador about the whole affair until after the Wolverine left. And without a submarine being held by one of our boarding parties, our leverage is gone. Randall gave Rasmussen all the expected excuses, and then had the nerve to asked for an agreement to make occasional infiltration missions in the future."

"Oh, really?" Delcroix said, as innocently as he could manage. This was a very interesting revelation indeed.

"They offered to share intelligence in exchange for us letting the occasional submarine sneak through," Mikkelsen said. "As if we weren't already better placed to spy on the Germans from shore stations, without the need for submarines. Ours, or British."

"How did your government respond?"

"Rasmussen gave a non-committal response, and we've yet to return with an answer. There's no chance we'll permit it, of course," Mikkelsen said. "It takes all of the risks off the British and puts it all on us, with the only reward being information we're already able to collect ourselves. More reliably, I might add - and without someone in London having the ability to selectively leave anything out."

"I'm surprised," Delcroix said carefully, "that Randall didn't offer to give you British electronics - or money - in exchange for a take from Marinestabens Efterretningssektion."

"We were surprised ourselves," Mikkelsen agreed. "After floating around MOD over the last few days, one of the ideas which has gained traction is that the British - perhaps rightly, or perhaps wrongly - believe Russian or German agents have penetrated the Marinestabens Efterretningssektion, or perhaps Generalstabens Efterretningssektion. Thus," Mikkelsen said, smiling broadly, "the British won't trust any information we develop ourselves."

"It's a thought, I suppose," Delcroix agreed, resolving to tip off the German and Russian 'cultural attaches' about the rumors. If they did have agents in place, then perhaps they could take steps to protect them. "So what do plan going forward?"

"Well," Mikkelsen said thoughtfully, a twinkle in his eye. "We expect that the Germans will aim to... remind us of their proximity, balanced against the distance of Britain. As the saying goes, 'pity those who have enemies close at hand and friends afar off.' As if we need the reminder. Hopefully, they will be restrained about it; with Folketing elections later this year, a heavy-handed response could turn the government to favor Britain despite it all."

"I'm sure that my government - and the Russians - will advise our allies to act in a circumspect and conciliatory manner," Delcroix said. "Have you talked with the Nordish, perhaps?"

"Not much," Mikkelsen said. "They have concerns, but defense is increasingly moving lower and lower on the list, given their upcoming elections; the Norwegian and Icelandic independence parties might build up enough of a minority to cause quite a lot of very interesting things to happen."

"Paris still isn't convinced," Delcroix admitted. "People have predicted the breakup of Nordmark, and the Swedish Empire before that, since the early 17th Century."

"Yes, we'll see," Mikkelsen said. "But in the meantime, Nordish eyes are firmly planted on their social and cultural issues, not defense. It might be worthwhile to discuss once again the topic of purchasing new electronics - radio-teledetection and sonar systems alike," Mikkelson added. "Of course, you've supplied us with good equipment in the past."

In other words, a subtle: 'what can you give me?' Delcroix had fortunately prepared for this. "Well, as you've noted, you have a gaping hole in your defense, in the Great Belt particularly. Back at the end of the Great War, the British built an underwater network to watch the entrances to Scapa Flow - a mix of hydrophones and magnetic tripwires. Amongst other things, we could help in that regard..."