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Wednesday, October 18th 2017, 8:54pm

The Jade Bight, Wednesday, 21 April 1948

The leading elements of Einzatzverband 58 began to enter the Jade on the morning tide. Tugs – both naval and hired commercial craft – guided the great ships to their anchorages. It would take several hours before all the ships were at rest. Similar actions were happening at Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, and a host of ports along the German North Sea Littoral.

At the nearby port of Emden news was received of the end of Unternehmen Donnerschlag with enthusiasm by the crews of the Second Submarine Flotilla of the French Marine Nationale. Their ‘vacation’ was over, and Charpentier made his boats ready for a return voyage to Dunkerque. The French sailors would leave behind a three-nil record in football matches with German naval personnel – proving themselves victorious in sport if not in the exercise itself.


Friday, October 27th 2017, 1:05am

Aftermath (1)

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Monday, 3 May 1948

The gathering of officers convened at the direction of, and under the gaze of Generaladmiral von Fischel, the Chief of Naval Operations, to consider the results and lessons learned from the recently-concluded exercise Donnerschlag. Having called the meeting to order von Fischel turned matters over to Kapitän zur See Heinrich Bramesfeld, Director of Plans.

“Gentlemen,” Bramesfeld began. “As you know, Donnerschlag had two primary objectives. First, to gain experience in the handling of large-scale carrier task forces at sea. Second, to test the reaction of the Royal Navy to the appearance of such a significant force in the North Sea.” In the next several minutes he outlined the subsidiary objectives and goals of the exercise, which included a map exercise which postulated a war scenario in which strikes by carrier-based air power would open the Atlantic to German naval forces. Bramesfeld then concluded, “The question before us is to what degree were the primary objectives achieved? And what lessons can we draw from the exercise?”

There followed presentations by the senior commanders engaged in the exercise – Lindemann, who addressed the overall actions of Einzatzverband 58; Langsdorff, who spoke to the challenges of screening dispersed carrier groups; Ruge, who outlined the problems encountered and overcome in maintaining air searches to guard against the unexpected appearance of British warships. Other officers reported on the activities of the anti-submarine forces that opened the exercise. Admiral Lindenau addressed himself to the shore-based command-and-control aspects of Donnerschlag.

Following a mid-morning break Generaladmiral von Fischel turned to Kapitän zur See Heinrich Gerlach, Director of Naval Intelligence, to address a question that was on the mind of all present, the apparent sluggishness of the British response to Donnerschlag.

“Our intelligence assessments are not yet complete in this regard,” Gerlach began, “but we have formed several working hypotheses, which may explain what was observed.”

He went on to speak to the magnitude of the exercise, involving more than one hundred fifty vessels, and how this might have surprised the British Admiralty given the dispersal of its naval strength in home waters. “Heretofore the British maintained a relatively small force in northern waters, basing the greater portion of its strength in the southwest or on the Clyde. Thus when confronted with Einzatzverband 58 in its front yard, rather than attempting to break out into the Atlantic, the British were faced by a situation for which they were not prepared. In this sense, Donnerschlag achieved an operational surprise.”

“A second possible explanation for the apparent unwillingness of the British to respond more forcefully lies in the sphere of politics.” Gerlach went on to reveal aspects of the Foreign Ministry’s assessments of the British political scene. Despite the rhetoric of Bevan, the British Foreign Secretary – his demarche regarding the presence of German U-boats off the British coast had triggered their premature re-deployment as part of Fischadler – it seemed that the whole of the British cabinet was more pacifically inclined. “It would not be wise to put too much stock in this,” Gerlach cautioned. “But if the British Admiralty has been shackled by its political masters it may grant us greater than anticipated freedom of action in the future.”

Gerlach then touched on the Royal Navy’s own plans and how these might have impinged on its response to Donnerschlag. On 13 April the British announced that they would hold their own fleet exercises commencing soon after the planned conclusion of the German exercise. “It is possible,” Gerlach opined, “that the British chose to not upset their own plans and timetables with what could be considered a hasty response. That the British chose not to follow Einzatzverband 58 as it retired at the close of the exercise supports such an interpretation.”

“For whatever reason,” he concluded, “the cautious British response denied us the ability to fully deduce what might have happened in a true war situation. We hope to gain further knowledge of this subject but the prognosis is unclear.”

Admiral Lindenau took the opportunity to ask, “Do we know anything regarding the British exercises at this point?”

Kapitän zur See Karl-Friedrich Merten, Director of Naval Operations, rose to answer. “Herr Admiral, we know little beyond the areas announced by notices to mariners. Several vessels have been sent to observe if possible, but with the British exercises being carried out in the mid-Atlantic our ability to monitor them will be limited.”

“We are hopeful,” Gerlach added, “that our allies might also have means in the area to expand our knowledge.” He nodded in the direction of Capitaine de vaisseau Cabanier and Capitaine de fregate des Moutis, “but they too are handicapped by the British decision to carry out their exercises out of sight and away from the normal shipping lanes.”

With the conclusion of Gerlach’s presentation, Generaladmiral von Fischel announced that lunch would be served in the Officers’ Mess, and that the review would resume in the afternoon.

(The conclusions and assessments presented herein should be considered out-of-game knowledge to non-participants)


Friday, October 27th 2017, 9:56am

That's a nice round up of events.
The exercise has certainly been fun!


Friday, October 27th 2017, 6:56pm

That's a nice round up of events.
The exercise has certainly been fun!

Yes, despite some confusion, it has been fun. And the assessment is not yet over.


Friday, October 27th 2017, 7:04pm

Aftermath (2)

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Monday, 3 May 1948

Mess stewards in white jackets served lunch in the Officers’ Mess; and as befitted the rank of the majority of the officers present, the food was of the finest quality. Seating was not by precedence, but the wiser of the junior officers present did not seek to join their seniors uninvited. It therefore came as no surprise that Gerlach, Merten, and Bramesfeld found themselves seated with the French guests, Cabanier and des Moutis. The latter took the opportunity to bring up the matter of the British submarine caught spying in the Baltic; having been focused on the Donnerschlag exercise in the North Sea they had had little opportunity to learn the details of the incident.

Merten laid these out as best the Kriegsmarine could work out.

“On or about 7 April the a British submarine, subsequently identified as the Wolverine, one of their new W-class boats, made a submerged transit of the Danish Great Belt; thereafter she began a programme of reconnaissance, presumably listening to wireless and other electronic transmissions, and perhaps observed the ships engaged in Wachsame Entschlossenheit, our joint training exercise. On 9 April several of our vessels operating in the vicinity of Rostock made probable contact with a submerged submarine, but were unable to localise it.”

Cabanier, the submariner, nodded. “Navigating the Danish straits submerged was the act of a cool-headed officer. The passage is difficult even when surfaced.”

“Violating the Danish straits in that manner was the act of a madman,” snorted des Moutis. “The British admiral who ordered it should pay the price; had this Wolverine been caught in such a transit I would not want to imagine the repercussions.”

“As it is,” Merten continued, “the repercussions were bad enough. We presume that between the ninth and the thirteenth of April that the Wolverine continued her scouting mission, probably running submerged and using her air mast. On 13 April she encountered several Russian destroyers in the Gulf of Danzig, who were able to bring the boat to the surface and obtain her identity. The Wolverine left the Gulf of Danzig under escort of several of our patrol craft, but then eluded them in a crash-dive. She was subsequently discovered that evening off Bornholm, making for the Danish straits.

“Why did your ships not bring the Wolverine to the surface,” Cabanier asked. “She undoubtedly escaped with valuable intelligence information.”

“The decision had been made,” Gerlach interjected, “to pursue diplomatic options.” Left unspoken was the potential for an even worse incident had German vessels fired on the British submarine. Both French officers had read the stories carried in the in international press – both the reports of German and Russian representations to the Danish Government regarding its obligations to secure the Danish straits as well as the somewhat lurid reports of the Wolverine’s discovery in Baltic waters and her subsequent hasty exit.

“It is clear that if they wish,” observed Cabanier, “the British can find their way through the Danish straits; of course, it is easy enough for the Danes to prevent this, or at least make it much more difficult. While booms and nets might only be used in time of war, installation of a fixed hydrophone array would make detection of a submerged submarine much easier.”

“Not to say,” added de Moutis, “that repeated violation of Danish waters would be looked upon unfavourably by all the Baltic powers, and by France.” The German officers murmured agreement – contingency plans were being contemplated should the British attempt to try their luck again.

“Frankly,” said Cabanier, “I find the entire mission a failure. The Wolverine was discovered, and forced to withdraw – whether she escaped with information sufficiently valuable to offset the damage done to British prestige and to British diplomatic influence is something only the Rosbifs can judge. But the primary purpose of a submarine is to be covert. Capitaine de corvette Charpentier in the Q193, an old submarine of Great War design managed to survive almost as long parked forty kilometres off the Frisian coast as did the Wolverine, Britain’s latest submersible, in the Baltic.” This assessment found no argument from Gerlach, Merten, or Bramesfeld.

A bell signalled the end of the scheduled luncheon break, and the formal conference would reconvene.


Saturday, October 28th 2017, 3:08am

Aftermath (3)

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Monday, 3 May 1948

The focus of the afternoon session was on the lessons learned from the exercise. Admiral Lindemann took his place at the podium and began to review the lessons learned regarding the air operations carried out by Einzatzverband 58. Handling nearly eight hundred aircraft within a relatively small area had proven a challenge to the deck crews, maintenance staff, and controllers, but these were overcome. Existing procedures were, generally speaking, adequate when followed. Some mishaps occurred when insufficiently-trained personnel failed to follow safety or maintenance protocols; however, the losses to aircraft, aircrew, and ships’ personnel were actually lower than average.

“Operating in mass,” Lindemann reported, “appeared to surprise the British, who have never before operated twelve aircraft carriers in a single task force. Their aircraft did not approach Einzatzverband 58 in any significant numbers, and kept their distance when confronted by our inner air patrols. The same might be said for their light surface units – they did not press home their shadowing activities. If the exercise were to be repeated it would be unwise to presume that they have not overcome their surprise.”

Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge then took up the theme. “In the latter stages of the exercise, when the British Home Fleet was operating in proximity to Einzatzverband 58, intercepted transmissions and surprising ease with which the British were able to intercept and ‘escort’ our search aircraft, it appeared that the British had developed some manner of airborne electronic surveillance post.”

“Herr Admiral,” Gerlach interrupted. “We have some confirmation of your surmise – having received agent reports of British experiments with a carrier-borne aircraft bearing an unusual amount of electronic equipment. The British seem to have developed equipment similar to our Funkgerät 244, the Bremen Equipment, which is now entering service on the Dornier 330E electronic reconnaissance aircraft.”

“Thank you Herr Kapitän,” replied Ruge with a slight bow. “In that case I would recommend the immediate development of a carrier-borne platform for that equipment. Not only would it benefit in the air defence of the task force but in controlling and coordinating strikes against an enemy formation.”

De Moutis smiled at Gerlach’s admission. He made a mental note to suggest that the Aeronavale investigate the acquisition of this new version of the Dornier.

Other aspects of the exercise were also reviewed. The employment of the large fleet submarines in the advance reconnaissance role was criticised; their size and relative lack of manoeuvrability made them a poor tool. The Fischadler submarine striking group, planned to counter an advance by the Royal Navy up the English Channel to the North Sea, was rendered moot by the British decision to send its main force through St. George’s Channel. A more active role might have been obtained had they been employed as long-range scouts ahead of Einzatzverband 58’s actual advance. On this point Capitaine Cabanier was somewhat insistent; it being, in his opinion, the primary role of the fleet submarine to be free and active, rather than tied to a patrol line.

The performance of the antisubmarine forces deployed was considered adequate – the elimination of the Red Force submarine screen was mentioned only in passing in deference to the French officers in attendance. The number of surface escorts however was thought by all concerned to be inadequate – only by leaving the fleet train and amphibious forces in port were the number of ships involved made good.

Bramesfeld addressed himself to this point. “The decision to leave the fleet train out of the exercise was not made lightly, and the lack of escort craft will be addressed as part of the long-term development of the fleet. Permit me to point out that no less than ten surface escorts – including two specialised antisubmarine vessels – will transfer from the Lehr Division to the fleet within the next sixty days, and two more by summer. A further twelve surface combatants will be completed by the shipyards by autumn.”

The murmur of surprise that rippled through the auditorium was stilled when Generaladmiral von Fischel rose to add his own announcement. “I have recommended to the Defence Minister that the building programme for the next fiscal year include sixteen new general purpose frigates and eight antisubmarine escorts, in addition to units already laid down. Gentlemen, given time, the deficiencies will be addressed.”

Admiral Giorgi Abashvili, the senior Russian observer for the Donnerschlag exercise, nodded at this news. On his recent visit to interview the officers of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla on their participation in Unternehmen Wachsame Entschlossenheit he had discussed with Khrenov, the naval attaché, the pace of German naval construction. From what he had been told, he was confident that the Kriegsmarine could make good on von Fischel’s promise.

And on that point the conference adjourned for the day. There would be opportunities for informal gatherings that evening, but the morrow would see presentations on recommendations for future actions.


Saturday, October 28th 2017, 9:57pm

Aftermath (4)

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Tuesday, 4 May 1948

The final session of the after-action review of exercise Donnerschlag began on Tuesday morning, and the formal presentations were left to the hands of Generaladmiral von Fischel’s staff. Kapitän Bramesfeld, the Director of Plans, took the podium and began.

“The need to expedite the deployment of the Do335 turbojet powered fighter aircraft is of paramount importance. Production of this type has only just commenced, and deliveries will not be significant before July; at this point in time, we anticipate the stand-up of the first operational unit in October.”

There was a small collective sigh; the new Dornier aircraft offered much promise by production difficulties had caused unexpected delays. Bramesfeld continued…

“As suggested Vizeadmiral Ruge, we recommend that immediate steps be taken to develop a carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft. As an immediate response, we recommend that the Fi168 airframe be considered for adaptation; for a longer-range solution, we recommend that a multi-seat development of the Fi220 be pursued.”

Ruge nodded his acknowledgement, and several other officers joined him. Whether the Haifisch could carry all the equipment required would have to be determined – and it would certainly take much time to adapt the airframe of the Fieseler Fi220.

Bramesfeld then surprised the assembly with a final recommendation related to aviation.

“Lastly, we recommend the development of requirements for a twin-engine multipurpose aircraft capable of operating from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This is seen as a long-term development project to address the future needs of antisubmarine warfare, electronic warfare, and logistics support.”

Konteradmiral Hans-Georg von Mühlendahl, the former commander of the Submarine Force, now a special staff officer under Generaladmiral von Fischel, spoke next.

“It is our intent to revise the doctrine and training of the submarine force in light of the shortcomings highlighted in Donnerschlag. I have been tasked with completion of this revision within the next ninety days.”

The previous evening von Mühlendahl had ensconced himself with Cabanier, picking the Frenchman’s mind for suggestions on how best to improve the Kriegsmarine’s fleet-oriented submarine doctrine.

Finally Kapitän zur See Alexander Freiherr von Friedeburg, the Director of Naval Construction, stood to reiterate the previous briefings regarding the number of surface combatants expected to join the fleet in the coming months.

“In addition to the light surface combatants referred to yesterday, it is worth noting that two air defence cruisers will become operational in June, two are scheduled to complete in September, and two further such vessels next year. In light of the Wolverine Incident, I recommend the design and construction of a new class of inshore escort, to carry the latest antisubmarine equipment. Further I recommend resumption of the construction of boom defence craft.”

Von Friedeburg went on, “As to the previous recommendation of the Studiengruppe für Hilfsschiffe, I support the inclusion of specialised hull and aviation repair ships in the 1949 Construction Programme, as well as the acquisition of additional amphibious shipping to enable the fleet to fulfil its treaty obligations in expeditionary warfare.”

The last recommendation elicited some surprise. The need for additional amphibious lift had been recognised for some time, and designs for mercantile conversions drawn up, but their actual acquisition had been deferred. It seemed that the conflicting demands of Konteradmiral Hans Hartmann, Commander of the former Supply and Service Force and Konteradmiral August Becker, Commander of the former Expeditionary Force, had been decided in favour of the latter.

Following brief discussion on the recommendations, Generaladmiral von Fischel delivered closing remarks and brought the conference to an end.


Sunday, October 29th 2017, 11:06am

Wow, that's quite a shopping list of goodies the brass are after. One hopes the German treasury can find all the cash they need.


Monday, October 30th 2017, 12:10am

Wow, that's quite a shopping list of goodies the brass are after. One hopes the German treasury can find all the cash they need.

That should not be a problem. Remember, I'm a logistician by profession. :D