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Saturday, August 26th 2017, 11:36am

Operation Cravat

April 2
Lieutenant Peter Thorne lifted his cap and wiped his brow. Despite being a chilly day he was sweating a little, it had been a tense series of manoeuvres to come alongside the tanker Boxol given the strong swell. He looked around the barren landscape of Scapa Flow, across the basin were two Z Class destroyers getting up steam.
Commander Craddock came out of the hatch in his heavy coat, "Number One, get the deck party busy, I want to our tanks topped off and out of here within a hour."
"Yes, Sir." Peter replied, still unsure of why the skipper was so keen to get out of here so fast.
After the orders had been given and Boxol's men had lowered over the thick pipe to refill her diesel tanks to full capacity the Commander came onto the casing and stood behind Peter, beckoning him to join him.
"See those two destroyers heading out?"
"Yes, Sir."
"There have been recent reports of submarine activity off the main entrances to Scapa, so Zest and Zodiac will sweep a path for us. Also out there are a couple of S boats."
"Our fast attack submarines Sir?" Peter enquired, secretly he had always wanted to serve aboard one of the fast and sleek S's, modelled on the Great War R's but with more modern hydrophones and designed to attack other submarines.
"Yes Peter, if the destroyers find anything they are to drive it off and let the chaser subs deal with them. As soon as we're into deep enough waters we'll dive and making silent running until we're safely clear of the area, then we'll surface at dusk and recharge the batteries overnight."
Peter nodded, "Very good Skipper."
Craddock turned as he was about to leave, "Oh, number one, when we're safely clear gather all officers in my cabin, we'll open our sealed orders."


Monday, August 28th 2017, 10:51am

7 April
Peasants have led an uprising in the Iraqi village of Arbat. They have demanded wage increases, bread, shoes and democratic rights. Police were eventually summoned to break up the crowds, there were minor injuries on both sides in the ensuing scuffles.

12 April
In continuing attempts to break speed records John Derry achieved 605.23mph over a 100km course near Hatfield in the swept-wing DH.108 Swallow, serial TG281.


Thursday, August 31st 2017, 3:34pm

Everything Appears Normal at the Barley Row?

Michael Braithwaite had hurried back up country on a packed train. His remit to find out what was going on was fairly loose. At Risley the head of security there had the place pretty much tied up and there was no reason to suspect a leak from the scientists and engineers employed there. There wasn’t much he could do but advise putting on another couple of lectures on keeping secrets safe and a few more ‘loose lips’ posters around the corridors.

The next day he went to see Richard Harrison at the regional office in Liverpool for some manpower to shadow Ashton. He could hardly go in the Barley Row and risk Ashton recognising him, so at least two men needed to watch his movements at work on rotation while he could handle some of the shadowing outside of work and the more investigative aspects and interviews. He reckoned about four or five men would be ideal. Richard was happy to oblige but he could only spare two men, Tom Measure and Henry Golding. Michael wasn’t overly enthused but he felt he had the minimum to get the job done and he hoped it would only take a couple of weeks at most. Either Ashton was clean or he wasn’t.

Tom and Henry appeared in Warrington the next day, Michael had been able to requisition a safe house by pulling a few strings in London and they settled in, agreeing to go three-ways on the living costs. Michael wasn’t altogether convinced his section head would entertain high expense claims on his return to London.

The initial order of business was to find out if Ashton had a regular contact at the Barley Mow, either from inside the Risely plant or a middle-man passing on his reports. It seemed unlikely, but he had to discount the possibility of their being a foreign network on the doorstep. So Tom and Henry took it in turns to go and spend an evening in the Barely Mow, watching Ashton and who he spoke to during the course of the evening or any suspicious activities. On Tuesday Tom had a scare when Ashton disappeared out but when Tom decided to check outside, he found Ashton having a cheeky smoke out the back, casually asking him for a light.

By Saturday there was little to report and Tom and Henry were quite enjoying their cushy job which seemed to them to consist of little more than downing pints every other night. Ashton worked every evening and seldom seemed to interact with the customers other than the odd pleasantry (or rebuke if someone had one too many). He seemed diligent at his job, “Could he be picking up notes inside discarded fag packets on the floor?” Henry fantasied, but that seemed unlikely to Michael.

Meanwhile Michael had been keeping an eye on Ashton’s daylight activities. He lived as a lodger in Station Lane with a Mrs Thornton, a widow, not very far from the pub and within reasonable distance of Risley too. His routine was fairly predictable. Ashton would cycle home, arriving at Station Lane about 11:45pm. He would rise fairly late, he might leave the house around 11:00am go to the nearby newsagents, buy a copy of Racing Post or the Mirror, go to the bookies to put his bets on and then either accomplish an errand for Mrs Thornton and return home for lunch. In the afternoon’s he would either do some gardening for the landlady or if she had no tasks for this ideal hands he would settle down the bookies until he started work at around 4pm. On Saturday he went into the town centre for some shopping, presumably more errands for the landlady. He never seemed to have visitors but he seemed to have a group of friends in the bookies. Occasionally he might post some letters or talk a walk, but his daily routine seemed pretty mundane.

Michael pondered what to do next. Getting access to Ashton’s bank statements wouldn’t be easy, the legal red tape would delay matters and he wasn’t sure the bank would let go its customers confidentiality that easily. He could ask for a HOW (Home Office Warrant) to intercept and open Ashton’s mail, but again ever since the Labour government had come to power the courts had been rather reluctant to grant a HOW and at the moment he had no evidence or suspicions to give adequate grounds to ask for one. The only other alternative was to covertly gain access to the house, preferably when Ashton and Mrs Thornton were both out. All they could do for now was continue to watch and wait for an opportune moment.


Friday, September 1st 2017, 4:31pm

Operation Cravat: Entering the Baltic

April 5
It had taken three days to cautiously transit across the North Sea, taking care to avoid the main shipping lanes. Over the last day they had been within the routine aerial reconnaissance zone of the Nords and they had therefore kept submerged as long as possible in daylight and even at night. Now came the great challenge, to enter to Skagerrak and transit through the Kattegat and then past the Danish home islands to enter the Baltic proper. One wag in the mess had opined it might have been easier to sail through the Kiel Canal submerged! They had 370 nautical miles to go, that was three days submerged.

For the last three hours HMS Wolverine had been running on her ‘snort’ a pipe that fed air into the submarine and its diesel engines and importantly led the exhaust and foul air safely back outside. This had allowed a reasonably quick burst of speed and reduced the chances of being spotted. But this meant travelling at periscope depth and now they were heading into the heavy traffic areas it was safer to go under the merchant ships. The important Nordish port of Kristiansand was less than thirty miles to the north.

Commander Craddock had a final swing around the horizon, the afternoon sun low in the sky. Satisfied they were clear of any patrolling ships or merchants he clicked the periscope down, “Lower the snort, go onto electric power, dive to ninety feet.”
Lieutenant Peter Thorne repeated the orders and Wolverine’s crew slickly converted the orders into actions. Peter knew the deep Norwegian Trench afforded them plenty of depth for the first stage of the voyage but the strong currents were against them and progress would be slow. Craddock had placed them far south enough to miss the worst of the current and hoped not to lose too much time.
“I want constant reports from the hydro shack,” Craddock said as he studied the charts with the navigation officer.

For the next thirty minutes everything seemed calm and routine. Suddenly the hydrophone operator in the ASDIC room just ahead of the main control room waved his hand to attract attention. “Sir, contact bearing red six-four, sounds like a fast propeller, large boat.”
Craddock rubbed his bearded chin, “Hmm, could be a fast ferry,” he pointed to the chart, “but it could be a Nordish destroyer prowling around. Simon what do think it is?”
Simon, the hydrophone operator pressed the headset with both hands, “the pitch sounds like a destroyer or fast escort.”
“Range?” Craddock asked, moving closer to the cabin doorway.
“I’d say about seventeen thousand yards, speed about twenty-five knots.”
Craddock nodded and turned to Peter, “we’d better not take any chances. Rig for silent running, pass the word to all compartments I want no noise. Steer ten degrees to port.”

Within moments the boat was almost silent. Peter had noticed how since the muttering of the word ‘destroyer’ there seemed to be an electric buzz among the crew. It almost felt like they were being stalked. Of course he knew it was peacetime, nobody was in danger but the Commander’s briefing just after they left Scapa had impressed on them how secrecy was everything for the entire mission. Even so he reflected that in truth all submariners were at war, among all sailors they were the most exposed to death. A mistake or an accident could easily doom their fragile submarine and their lives. In a sense they always had to fight the fear of the crush depth or a slow lingering death as the oxygen ran out, they also wanted to be the best. Everyman aboard wanted to show a clean pair of heels to that destroyer. To slip past it like a ghost.
Soon they heard the thumping of the propellers as it closed, there was no Asdic ping, no sign it was altering course, and eventually it passed on its own way, doing whatever task it had been assigned to do.

Slowly they sailed on, mile by mile, past the main Nordmark-Denmark ferry routes to Kristiansand and slowly heading south-east, making sure they kept away from any territorial waters and the main shipping lanes. At least once it seemed unlikely a Nordish ship would find them, they were able to lift silent running and Craddock hoped that once safely away from everything else they could raise the ‘snort’ and run on diesels for a while. Meanwhile Simon had busy time reporting his contacts, the underwater world being surprisingly noisy even as the hands on the clock crept towards midnight.


Friday, September 1st 2017, 4:50pm

Whew, Wolverine's asdic operator must either be very confident (and lucky) or very good to guess the range so soon after gaining the destroyer contact - particularly if it came close enough overhead that they heard the screws. Figuring out range on a constant-bearing target like that, with sonar only, is very tricky!

Keep him away from Monte Carlo!


Friday, September 1st 2017, 5:00pm

Yes, quite harrowing.

(Points to Wachsame Entschlossenheit. Welcome to the Baltic.)


Saturday, September 2nd 2017, 3:41pm

Operation Cravat: Entering the Baltic Part Two

April 6
For the first three hours of the day HMS Wolverine had been running on her ‘snort’ to pick up some speed. In this early hour there was little danger of running into any fishing craft and they were well clear of the coasts on either side as they headed south into the Kattegat. At one point during Lieutenant Peter Thorne could easily make out the brightly lit Kobenhavn to Oslo ferry heading north on a roughly parallel track through the periscope. The submarine’s small RDF set on its little mast was also raised. However soon the waters would narrow and Command Craddock, ever mindful of giving away any electronic signals ordered it lowered just after three am.

They tiptoed past the Nordish naval base at Gothenburg. The two secretive boffins aboard were calmly operating their two electronic control panels and cathode-ray tube, they seemed satisfied as they tested their equipment out on live targets. Moments later Craddock had the submarine dive deeper, sixty feet, heading slowly under her electric motors. The island of Laeso passed to starboard, a course was plotted to head to the next waypoint off the island of Anholt. From that point on they would have to penetrate Danish waters and avoid their naval patrols.

Peter reflected how they could have legally sailed through on the surface quite peacefully and easily, but of course her unusual sighting would soon be reported and the Dane’s might be tempted to pass on this titbit of information onto the Nords and Germans. While Peter was mulling over his thoughts and keeping a tight watch on their depth, Craddock was pawing over the charts again. Where the rumours of hydrophones strung across some of the more sensitive naval areas true? What if a Danish patrol boat happened to chance upon them? Where was the deepest hiding place? All these questions and more he analysed and planned his moves accordingly.
“Number One, take us down to eighty feet, alter course three degrees to port.”

Meanwhile the crew of the Wolverine kept to normal routine, the older hands took it as just another trip out but some of the younger crew were quite excited. The men didn’t know their final destination but by now all had guessed at their likely final waypoint. The Chief Petty Officer pasted up some recognition charts on the bulkheads and the crew silently absorbed their black silhouettes in case they got an unlikely chance to spot the great ships themselves. Everyone though made careful efforts to avoid unnecessary noise, moving slower and more deliberately and one poor rating who snored as he nodded off at the end of his watch got a sharp nudge with an elbow.

Peter was relieved by the torpedo officer on watch and he reluctantly crawled into his bunk. He lay there staring at the steel above his bunk, trying to switch off and get some sleep.
“I bet the skipper’s gonna pop open the hatch right in middle of bleedin’ Koningsberg harbour!” he heard one sailor whisper to another as they crept past his bunk.

He awoke a few hours later, snatching a quick sandwich from the cook he stepped back into the control room, he could sense the tension. Craddock gave him a quick look, “things are getting warmed up now,” he said.
Peter stepped over the chart.
“We picked up the sound of a Danish submarine about five minutes ago. He’s above us, about five thousand yards off the port beam heading south, about thirty miles to the southwest is Arhus. There’s little room to manoeuvre here, so we’re playing dumb and hoping the current might move us along while he goes about his business.” Craddock smiled.
“Any ASDIC Sir?” Peter asked. He noted the depth gauge was deep, a hundred feet.
“No. I don’t think he heard us, luckily we were on motors,” Craddock checked his watch. “I’m tempted to loiter here once he’s gone and charge the batteries before we have a crack at the Store Belt tomorrow. We’ll be through in about thirteen hours.”
“There might be more patrols Sir, should we risk staying here?”
Craddock rubbed his beard, “Probably a sub going home on routine patrol, of course…” Craddock broke off as Simon on the hydrophones whispered an update, “… the blighter could have been following us for some time.”
“Do you think so Sir?” Sub-Lieutenant Tony Maddocks, asked looking up from his chart.
Craddock raised an eyebrow, “Well if he is, then as the Yanks say, he’s a cool customer.”
The atmosphere of the control room was electric as every man waited for the next event, hoping nothing would happen yet wishing something would happen to break the tension.
“Sir, he’s blowing ballast. Yes, yes, he’s going up I think,” Simon’s voice trembled slightly, “he’s blown his tanks Sir. Probably heading topside.”
Craddock smiled and everyone waited.
“Sir, he’s still continuing on his former course, sound getting fainter. He’s moving well away from us now.” Everyone let out their breath at once at Simon’s report.
“Very well, we’ll wait twenty minutes then we’ll go to periscope depth have a look around and raise the snort,” Craddock checked his watch again, “good should be getting dark. I want everyone to get as much rest as they can, if you thought that was tense wait until we get into the Store Belt tomorrow.”
To Peter it looked like nothing less than trying the thread a needle with a rope.


Saturday, September 2nd 2017, 4:13pm

In through the Sound and then into the Great Belt? That does take quite a bit of daring. Good stuff!


Monday, September 4th 2017, 2:51pm

Operation Cravat: Entering the Baltic Part Three

April 7
As dawn broke HMS Wolverine continued on her way, by now heading southwest. Craddock ordered the ‘snort’ lowered again and the thrum of the diesels died away. Sub-Lieutenant Tony Maddocks began his plot to the next waypoint, just off the spit of land at Sjaellands Odde. They cruised at periscope depth, the hydrophone operators keeping a keen ear and Lieutenant Peter Thorne a keen eye on quick use of the periscope. A few vessels were heading north and south a safe enough distance away. Around ten o’clock a Hoenir Class cruiser steamed by heading towards Aarhus.

The hours ticked by and slowly the Wolverine continued on her way. Once or twice a change of depth or alteration in course was required to avoid a ship, but they seemed to be making good progress. Craddock was concerned about fishing nets as the skimmed along the coastline and they descended to ninety feet, just enough room to spare but only just. Peter admired his nerve as he risk possible sandbanks, he could only hope the charts were accurate enough. Tony was busy writing all over the chart, Craddock have instructed meticulous notes should be kept of the currents and seafloor conditions and any obstacles. No doubt when they got back to port the Admiralty chart-makers would be busy.

They came to Sejero. They rose to periscope depth and Peter swung the periscope round to check the bearings and whether there were any ships around. The weather had turned and the wind was now rising a little, making the surface quite choppy. The second time he raised the scope for a final check, he saw heading up the main shipping channel a Danish Shrub class sloop. Craddock ordered the motors stopped and the sub went into silent running. Everyone it seemed held their breath. The sloop was not using any ASDIC, why would she need to, but Craddock was wary that even an unsuspecting hydrophone operator aboard her might hear something and raise an alarm or at least request a closer look. They waited as the sloop sailed past along Wolverine’s starboard side. Now was the hardest part, the rest of the route was narrow and congested with ships. Craddock though seemed in no hurry to move after the sloop had moved far up channel. He just checked the charts again, pawing over them and thumbing through a small guidebook. He raised the periscope and looked around, dissatisfied he lowered it and calmly ordered up some tea for the control room crew.

Three more times Craddock raised the ‘scope only to lower it again. Peter wondered what was wrong and finally raised the courage to ask.
“Peter, if you wanted to sail these waters and pass by unnoticed what ship would you choose?” Craddock answered.
Peter thought it an odd question, “Well Sir, probably a small coaster or fishing smack, something seen every day.”
“Good,” Craddock smiled, “Now, what if you were a submarine and worried about being spotted from the air?”
“I would dive and rest on the seabed by day and move by night, or take advantage of choppy weather and chance it by day. Weather like it is at the moment.” Peter replied, still curious as to the reasons for all these questions.
“Good Peter, I would do the same thing. Now what about hydrophones strung out or ASDIC from a passing sloop? How would you avoid those while not losing hours crawling along in silent running?”
Peter thought a moment, “I would try and screen my movements with the sound of larger ships passing nearby, a hydrophone would be unable to pick up the motor as a large ship passed by.” As he spoke indeed a large ship’s propeller could be heard thrashing the water off the starboard beam.
Craddock, swallowed the last of his tea. “Well done, you’ll make a Captain one day Peter. The answer to your question is simple. I’m waiting for suitably slow ship, then we can go under her and follow it through the Belt. There is no danger of running into other ships, a frequent user of the Sound knows the correct channels like the back of his hand and no-one will see or hear us.”
It sounded good but Peter quietly hoped that the depth on the charts were correct as the depth of their hull and conning tower plus the draught of the ship would be considerable. But he had faith that if anyone could pull off a stunt like this, then it was Craddock.

Not more than ten minutes later a suitable ship came into view, a Nordish timber carrier. Craddock was more than pleased, even checking the ship up in the merchant ship guide they had aboard. “Hmm, SS Vetlander, almost six thousand DWT, she draws nineteen and a half feet, speed ten knots, bet she’s not doing more than six at the moment.” Craddock’s mind was made up, “Number one bring us round to green four-six, revolutions for four knots.” Craddock’s eyes were glued to the periscope. Slowly he brought the Wolverine on an interception course to get underneath her. The sound of the old ship’s engine and propeller filled the boat. One last time Craddock raised the scope to check the bearing and then had the Wolverine dived to seventy-five feet. Carefully they had to trim the sub, Craddock choose a slightly stern-down trim. Moments later a hard turn to port brought them just under the Vetlander’s keel, slightly ahead of the ship to avoid any risk of fouling her rudder or propeller and slightly to port. Peter was impressed, and everyone on board was on tender hooks, the planesmen knew any delay on their response to an order could be disastrous.

The ploy worked and they followed the Vetlander, the constant thrumming vibrating through the Wolverine. The crew could scarcely believe their luck as they sailed on past the island of Samso, then the city of Nyborg. The hours ticked by, time of course was the important factor. The batteries couldn’t keep going forever and soon the air would start getting pretty thick. Craddock wanted to hold out until they were past Langeland, then it was a simple port turn and the German Baltic coast would be ahead of them and they could raise the ‘snort’.

Eventually Tony ran his pencil along the ruler and looked at the clock on the bulkhead and the second chronometer on his desk. We should be the end of the run. A quick check of the echo sounder showed the seabed was slowly falling away. If his calculations were correct the narrowest part of the Belt was now behind them. By now the batteries were getting low on power and the air was getting heavier. The waters were now broadening. Craddock ordered a change of course to port bring them out of the shadow of the Vetlander who went on, unaware of her companion. Half an hour later they rose to periscope depth, did a scan of the horizon and then raised the ‘snort’. The sound of the diesels was reassuring and soon the blowers were at full speed feeding fresh Baltic air into the submarine. Craddock though, as he scanned the horizon again, knew that the rest of their mission would be no less difficult or daring.


Saturday, September 9th 2017, 4:14pm

Operation Cravat: The Baltic

8 April
After a good sleep and some food the crew felt better and the excitement of the mission buzzed through the submarine. Over the horizon to the south lay Rostock. As they cruised at four knots beneath the Baltic waves Commander Craddock called his officers into his tiny cabin. Laid out on his desk was a chart.
“Gentlemen, we will start Phase Two of our operation today.” He jabbed his forefinger onto a red hatched section of the chart. “We have reason to believe this is one of the German’s exercise areas. Our first task is to get within ten miles of this area and start our listening of all radio communications. As you know, Taylor and Stewart were brought aboard as Special Operators. They will record and analyse as best they can on board radio transmissions from ship to shore, ship to air and RDF sets, anything they can hoover up. We’ll be at periscope depth, silent and with just the attack periscope raised. As some of you may have noticed we’ve sprouted an array of antennas on our periscope for the purpose. We’ll stay for two days and then we’ll move further east.”
“Are we not going to Rostock?” Peter asked.
Craddock shook his head, “Our main task is to stay in international waters. Our intelligence officers tell me that these days what we can hear on the radio is more important than what we see.” The officers let out a laugh.
“Seriously though,” Craddock continued, “we are in the heart of enemy territory here. Since the Skagerrak it’s been war rules and it stays that way. There will be enemy sloops, submarines, aircraft. If we’re spotted I’ll crash dive the boat and we’ll have to ride it out on the bottom. Whatever happens we won’t surface and blow the cover under any circumstances except one. Understood?”
The officers nodded. “Sir, may I ask, what is the other circumstance?” asked Paul.
“You may.”
Paul cleared his throat nervously as Craddock stayed silent, “Sir, what is the other circumstance?”
“We’ll surface when I give the order to.” Craddock said dryly.


Monday, September 11th 2017, 4:14pm

13 April
The Admiralty have issued a Notice to Mariner's of naval exercises scheduled to be held during 28th April to 10th May.
The broad area of the exercise zone will be a 250nm radius arc centered on cordinates 52° 10' 0" W 22° 0' 0.
Ships and aircraft are requested to keep clear of this area or exercise additional caution when transiting the area.

Some smaller exclusion zones where live-firing drills will take place will be posted to Mariners in due course.

[OOC: This will be Exercise FOREMAST]

The Admiralty have issued a Notice to Mariner's of naval exercises scheduled to be held during 9th May to 14th May.
The broad area of the exercise zone will be a 250nm radius arc centered on cordinates 44° 06' 0" W 30° 0' 0.
Ships and aircraft are requested to keep clear of this area or exercise additional caution when transiting the area.

Some smaller exclusion zones where live-firing drills will take place will be posted to Mariners in due course.

[OOC: This will be Exercise MAINMAST]


Wednesday, September 13th 2017, 3:07pm

Operation Cravat: All Quiet in the Baltic
10 April

The intended reconnaissance of the exercise zone had been quieter than expected. A couple of corvettes appeared and Craddock dived the boat deeper to avoid detection. The lack of activity seemed odd and Craddock seemed unsatisfied.
Taking care to avoid the aerial patrols the 'snort' was used judiciously but more patrols had been experienced that expected.
As he stood over the chart Peter could see Cradock brooding, almost as if he was trying to smell out where the Germans were. His pencil swept back westward, towards Kiel where some of the bigger ships were bound to be. Then his pencil swept across the paper towards the east, towards Konigisberg, then it came back to hover over Rostock and Rugen. All the time his mind was analysing the possibilities and the most likely solutions. He had to balance the desire to get good "gen" versus the risk of being detected.
Finally he made his mind up, "Number One, we'll go back to this point here," he jabbed the chart, "we we get no luck by fifteen-hundred hours then we'll move further east along the coast to the Rugen area. Intelligence before we left said there might be some quite juicy radio targets from experimental stations on the coast."


Thursday, September 14th 2017, 1:15pm

Operation Cravat: Dectection!

13 April

HMS Wolverine was still cruising along the Baltic coast heading east. Craddock had been hunting for the Germans. The two radio operators had been busy, picking up all kinds of radio signals from ships and shore installations around Rugen and further east. Craddock was convinced the Germans must be further east, possibly exercising around Konigsberg. Given the warmer relations between the Germany and Russia it was know their fleets co-operated much more these days. The Wolverine skirted Polish waters around Danzig, being cautious to avoid the couple of patrol boats busy watching the busy shipping lane. Craddock then homed in on reaching a position where they might spot German movements from Konigsberg.

Able Seaman Simon, back on duty in the ASDIC ‘shack’ was doing a routine sweep of the hydrophones when he picked up some noises. They were quite distant but seemed to be a collection of sounds. “Asdic to Con, unclassified hydro contact bearing red three-nine.”
Peter was on duty and stepped over to the doorway, “What have you picked up?”
Simon’s face was a picture of concentration, “A group of ships Sir.”
“A naval group?” Peter asked, hopefully.
“Too far to tell Sir, could be.”

Peter went forward and knocked on the wall of Craddock’s tiny cabin, the curtain over the doorway swept back as Craddock emerged.
“We have picked up a distant contact Sir. Possibly a naval group out of Konigsberg.”
Craddock smiled, “Good, I thought we wouldn’t have to wait long.”
They came back to the control room, Craddock electing to stay on diesels to close the range before going in silently. Not too close, but enough to get a visual identification. Peter raised the search periscope again and swept the sea and air for possible targets. Everything seemed quiet.
“Asdic to Con, hydro contact now bearing red two-six, estimate five ships,” reported.
“Any Asdic?” Craddock asked.
“Negative Sir.”

A few minutes later Craddock raised the search periscope, he swept around onto the bearing of the sound. Across the grey sea he could see ships, “There they are,” he muttered to himself, “at least four escorts, one of them is a big one, wait…, looks like a carrier.” His voice rose above a whisper as he spoke the last words. He lowered the periscope and raised the attack ‘scope with its antenna on top. The two boffins were busy tuning in their equipment when the Asdic ‘shack’ erupted.
“Asdic to Con, receiving Asdic pings, bearing red two-four.”
Craddock was still looking through the scope, “Must be an escort. Shut down the diesels, lower the ‘snort’, switch to motors, pass the word for silent routine.” The faint sound of the enemy ASDIC could be heard now.
Simon turned to his colleague beside him, “can you identify that ping? Doesn’t sound right to me.” Neither man could identify the set, every sound had its own fingerprint and the pitch of the soundwaves being transmitted sounded different to the German sets they had normally encountered. Soon more pings were incoming as other escorts switched on their sets.

Craddock didn’t need the next report from the ‘shack’ to know they had been spotted. He wasn’t about to give in so soon. “They must have heard our diesels, they couldn’t have picked up the ‘snort’ or scopes by RDF at that range,” he mused to Peter, “we’ll bluff it out, they probably expect us to be Polish or Nordish.”
“Possibly even Lithuanian or Latvian,” Peter helpfully added.
“Yes, but they don’t have ‘snorts’,” Craddock stated, “even so, if we assume these are Russians' and not Germans, then they won’t be expecting us to be here. So we’ll carry on as if we’re a local on a routine patrol.”
He ordered Wolverine turned fifty degrees away from the contact, bringing them on a more northerly course.
Peter wasn’t sure if bluffing it out would work. By turning away from the Russian destroyers Craddock was hoping they would accept their ‘mea culpa’ for blundering into them and leave them alone. Coolly, Craddock still had the periscope raised so they could receive radio signals for as long as possible. He knew within a few minutes they would know if the ruse had worked or not. The time it would take them to identify what submarines were operating in this area would buy him time to get clear. If aircraft turned up or the destroyers got too suspicious and moved in then they would dive deep and make some tight turns to put them off the sent. Even the experienced Craddock could only guess at how effective the Russians' (if it was Russians) ASDICs were.

The Moltke had taken the opportunity to launch four aircraft to make a search, if nothing else it was a perfect training exercise for her trainee aircrews. Craddock spotted one of these flying low after taking off. Craddock wasted no time, lowering the ‘scope’ and calmly issuing new orders, “dive to eighty feet, make revolutions for four knots, rudder hard-a-port”. There was nothing else for it, they would have to sit it out and hope in the silence that the Russian’s would lose them.


Friday, September 15th 2017, 2:50pm

Operation Cravat: Hound or Fox?

13 April

Commander Craddock ordered the boat levelled out at 80 feet. The destroyers were still on their trail, the pings audible against the hull plating. It seemed the Russians, if they were Russians, were well organised and were working as a pack.
“Port motor astern, turn hard-a-port,” he wasn’t about to give up yet.
The Wolverine turned tightly. “Should we release some ‘fizzers’ Sir?” Peter asked, standing by the control panel.
Craddock shook his head, “No. No sense in letting them know about them.”
“Rudder amidships, all motors stop.”
The destroyer passed them overhead, some of the crew looked up, almost expecting to see practice charges coming down. But nothing happened, except one of the other destroyers still had them caught in her soundwaves.

It was then that something strange happened. Broken Nordish could be heard through an underwater telephone but nobody was sure what the message was.
“Did you get that?” Craddock asked Simon, who had his hands over the earpieces pressing them hard to his head.
“Well Sir, my Nordish is pretty rusty but I think he’s a Russian alright and he mentioned something about Pripps and Carlsberg.” He wanted to say he thought the Russians were talking about beer, but he wasn’t going to stick his neck out in front of the Skipper.
Craddock smiled, “Herbie, you’re a drinking man are you not?”
Sub-Lieutenant Herbert Craven stepped away from the torpedo control panel, “Well I wouldn’t say that Sir.”
“What do Pripps or Carlsberg mean to you?”
“They’re beers Sir. Nordish ones. Can’t say I favour them myself Sir.”
Craddock smiled, “Indeed, well you can save us the beer appreciation talk until we get back to the tender. Meanwhile we have a conundrum here. He obviously thinks we’re Nordish. If we don’t surface he’ll know we’re not, and if we do he’ll soon find out we're not.”
“Couldn’t we bluff it out on the surface, pretend we’re Dutch or French?” Peter suggested.
Craddock folded his arms, “We might throw the Russians for a while but the Germans are probably whistling up aeroplanes and sloops and destroyers as we speak. Another hour and it’s going to be like Piccadilly Circus round here.”

But Craddock had a plan, Peter could see Craddock already had a contingency for this moment as he cracked another smile.
“Number One take us up to periscope depth, I want Leading Seaman Knowles to report to the control room.”
Craddock scribbled a message out on a message pad and handed it to the radio operator with instructions to send it immediately to headquarters when they surfaced. The message simply read “The east wind has blown”.
Craddock then clicked on the intercom to address the crew, “Gentlemen we’ve been found but the mission is still on. We’re going to surface and be the innocent tourists we’re pretending to be. And that means lots of lovely holiday snaps of Dorniers and sloops to take home to Uncle at the Admiralty. Meanwhile, we'll remain at action stations until things settle down.”

As they levelled off at periscope depth Craddock raised the scope and did a full sweep of the horizon and ordered a new course heading due east.
Leading Seaman Knowles appeared, “You wanted to see me Sir?”
“Yes, get your camera and plenty of film. When we get up top I want good photographs of those Russian destroyers, we don’t often get a chance to get up close to them.”
Satisfied all was clear the Wolverine broached the surface and a bundle of men followed Craddock onto the conning tower, the salty fresh air entering their eager lungs and their eyes screwed up against the daylight. Knowles picked out a good position as he began taking photographs of the Sokrushitelnyi nearby. Below the two boffins were once again tuning their equipment. A signaller crouched beside Craddock and began sending his message to the Russian destroyer. ‘We are Royal Navy submarine HMS Wolverine. Sorry we have no beer aboard. Will bring you some English Bitter next time.’ As the signaller flashed out the morse another rating unfurled the largest White Ensign he could find from the flag locker.


Saturday, September 16th 2017, 1:39am



As they levelled off at periscope depth Craddock raised the scope and did a full sweep of the horizon and ordered a new course heading due east.

If Craddock and Wolverine proceed due east from their present position (vicinity of 54-42N, 19-33E) they will run into the Frische Nehrung, the sandspit that separates the Danziger Bucht from the Baltic Sea just north of Pillau, after first entering German territorial waters. Methinks you mean due west, but before posting a response, I wanted to check.


Saturday, September 16th 2017, 9:58am

Don't worry, Craddock is facing east to show the Russian's that's where he intends to go, and at the moment he's stationary. Once his done his hospitality bit with them he'll come north and further out into the Baltic before heading back to the eastern end of the Baltic.


Saturday, September 16th 2017, 12:29pm

Operation Cravat: Boarders Ahoy!
Peter was looking through his binoculars at the destroyer Sokrushitelnyi when he noticed a group of sailors aboard the Russian ship lowering a whaleboat. “Sir, I think a welcoming committee is forming.”
The Russian sailors rowed across the choppy sea, in the distance the drone of an aircraft could be heard. “I think they mean to board us Sir,” Peter added as they got closer.
Knowles took their photograph as they approached. Craddock examined them through his binoculars, “The Royal Navy is always hospitable Peter, get the forward deck crew to give them a hand aboard,” he turned to Peter, “see what they want, be friendly but keep them on deck and play dumb, we’re just on routine training, and then get rid of them so we can get out of here before half the Hun fleet shows up.”

Peter went over the side of the conning tower and organised the deck crew, hoping the Russians had brought an interpreter as nobody aboard spoke Russian. As the whaler approached they threw a line across to the Russians and made them fast against the ship.
“Permission to come aboard Captain?” asked Mitschman Mikhailov.
Peter nearly sighed with relief they could speak English, “Permission to come aboard, welcome aboard the Wolverine.”
Then they helped the sailors get from the rolling boat, across the wet and slippery surface of the ballast tanks and onto the deck. Finally two crates were brought aboard.
The Russian officers saluted and Mikhailov introduced his party and explained he was the interpreter and Peter introduced his party and explained he was not the Captain but the second-in-command. Everyone smiled and Annikov pointed to the two crates, Mikhailov translated his words, “we bring you a little gift, some German beer. We’d be happy to trade them.”
“That’s very kind of you,” said Peter.
“Is it true you have no beer aboard?” asked Mikhailov.
Peter shook his head. Mikhailov looked shocked a moment, “no alcohol at all?”
Peter smiled, “we only have rum aboard for our grog ration.”
Mikhailov smiled, “Ah of course! I remember now the Royal Navy likes its grog. We have heard of this famous drink but never tasted it. Could we try some?”
Peter turned to the Able Seaman beside him, “Find the CPO and have him draw eight measures of grog and bring them topside.” He hoped the Skipper wouldn’t be too displeased, but it seemed wiser to be friendly than not.
One of the Russian sailors seemed interested in their deck gun but enterprising Seamen Thorpe leant on the breech mechanism, smiling innocently, “want a fag chum?” he asked. The Russian took it and smiled, and seeing Annikov not objecting, he began smoking it. One of the Russian’s offered one of their black cigarettes, one of the British sailors took one puff and coughed, “strewth!” Everyone laughed, the Russians probably enjoying the joke the more.

As they waited the conversation turned to recent events, Annikov apologising for their actions in forcing them to surface, but that they were only doing their job and that they hoped to gain some training with a live fish to play with.
Peter smiled, “think nothing of it, we thought the same thing. Anyway, why are you so far from home and escorting an old tub around for the Germans?”
Mikhailov turned to Annikov and translated his reply, “We are exercising with our German friends,” then he added a few thoughts of his own, “anyway you are a long way from home too, we did not know the English came so far East.”
“Oh, we’re just training that’s all. It’s nothing really,” Peter tried to be nonchalant but he could tell Annikov didn’t quite believe his reply.
Mikhailov smiled, “well you would be having a quieter time than your fellow sailors back home if it wasn’t for us.”
Peter was puzzled, “oh, why?”
“Haven’t you heard the Germans are exercising in the North Sea? A big one”
Of course, the Wolverine had been in radio silence for over a week and Peter had no idea if the Russian was bluffing him or not. Luckily the grog arrived at that moment and he could divert the topic, “Ah, the grog, I hope you enjoy it, that’s real Jamaican rum.”
Mikhailov passed out the grog and the Russian sailors swilled it down. They didn’t seem overly impressed, making a change from German beer but not really comparing with vodka and being too watered down for their tastes.
Peter remembered the two crates of beer still on the wet deck, “well I expect we can find something for you to take back,” he looked at the Russian sailor finishing his English cigarette, “how about some cigarettes? We have plenty aboard and not much time to smoke them.”
Mikhailov nodded and Peter ordered some be brought up. As he spoke a Dornier circled overhead at a discreet distance. Mikhailov then held up his Leica, “would you mind if I take some photographs, something to remember this moment?”
Peter looked up at Craddock impatiently drumming his fingers on the coaming of the conning tower, but he gave permission. Mikhailov’s fingers gripped the little camera and he ‘accidently’ clicked the button as the camera was roughly pointing toward the deck gun, “Ah, I am clumsy yes? It’s the cold.” He gave a toothy grin and Peter made a grimace, he got his men to line up forward so the conning tower was behind Mikhailov. The Russian sailors crammed in the shot too and Mikhailov took several exposures. Peter looked up again at Craddock still drumming his fingers on the coaming of the conning tower, thankfully the Russians seemed satisfied with their cigarettes and Annikov said they should return to their ship, they still had a busy day ahead. Everyone shook hands and it was smiles all round.
“Farewell, I hope someday we can repay your hospitality,” Mikhailov grinned as he gave Peter a strong handshake.
“Don’t worry, we’ll look you up the next time we’re in Khronstadt,” said Peter dryly.
Mikhailov let out a belly laugh as he scrambled down the side of the submarine, “Your English sense of humour.”

Peter watched them depart safely and ordered his party to clear up the lines and stow the beer below. Seamen Thorpe gave a final look at the whaleboat as he coiled up the rope in his hands, “they’re a queer lot ain’t they Sir? I didn’t expect to run into a load of Russkies.”
“Indeed,” Peter smiled and climbed the foot holds up the conning tower.


Sunday, September 17th 2017, 1:33pm

15 April
Children queued in sweet shops today to buy confectioner Rowntree's latest produce, Polo mints. These peppermint flavoured circular sweets have a hole in the middle.

Copenhagen, Asiatisk Plads, Friday 16 April

Sir Alec Randall, the British Ambassador to Denmark, had not been unexpecting a call from the Danish Foreign Ministry. Two days ago a coded message had been forwarded to him via the British Naval Attaché that a submarine had entered the Baltic covertly but that its cover had been blown by Russian units operating in the Gulf of Danzig. His task was to secure the safe passage of the Wolverine back home and smooth over any difficulties with Copenhagen. He had been ambassador for some time and knew Niels Rasmussen, the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, quite well.

As Sir Randall stepped into Rasmussen’s office he was greeted cordially and offered a seat and the two men exchanged pleasantries, asking after each other’s wives health and so on. He could tell his friend was rather strung up about something. Finally Rasmussen came to the point.
“Alec, this morning I had a visit from the German ambassador informing my government that a British submarine had penetrated Danish territorial waters without permission. Following that the Russian ambassador also made the same presentation to me. Perhaps you can offer an explanation?”

Rasmussen laid out four photographs on the table of the Wolverine and her crew but Randall didn’t need to see the confirmation.
“It is true that one of our submarines did enter the Baltic and make its passage to the Baltic unknown to your government for reasons of secrecy.”
Rasmussen sighed, “but why, you know we would not have refused access legally. Did you not trust us to tell the Germans?”
Alec was too ashamed to admit his government didn’t trust them entirely so he phrased it carefully, “there was the possibility you might have informed the Nordish Navy and through them the German government might have found out. One can’t be too careful in times like these.”
“You understand we must issue a formal protest, the illegal submerged transit is not only infringing our rights but also a possible danger to commercial shipping. It was a reckless move.” Rasmussen was unusually annoyed by what he saw as ungentlemanly behaviour from the British.

Randall made a counter argument, “you might wish to note the German activities of the past week in the North Sea, their whole fleet was sent on a deliberate attempt to provoke my government. And as for danger to shipping I need not remind you of the incident with the Dutch submarine. I won’t dwell on the German spying by submarines off our major naval harbours for months past. The Germans have little right to come telling tales of a legal British training operation in international waters.”
Rasmussen did not wish to get embroiled in national rivalries and wanted to stick to the facts of the case. “So you don’t deny the illegal trespass of our territorial waters?” he continued.
Randall nodded, “we hold our hands up and we wouldn’t try to deny it. It was hoped we could inform your government officially after the event. I have been assured that no intelligence gathering took place while the submarine was in Danish waters. My government apologises for the infringement and hopes you will accept our promise not to make unannounced transits again.”
Rasmussen seemed satisfied but again warned the matter could not be kept from public notice.

Randall accepted that. He now changed tact. “You may not have noticed that it was the Russians and not the Germans who found our submarine and forced it to surface.”
Prince zu Sayn-Wittgenstein had not mentioned that fact to Rasmussen, “I didn’t know that, neither Ambassador did, naturally I thought the Russians were protesting because they are as touchy on the subject of territorial waters as we are.”
“Your government may well wonder what they were doing in the Gulf of Danzig,” Randall idly flicked through the photographs on the table, he wanted to add it was because all the German ships were against his country but he didn’t want to press the point too harshly.
“As allied nations it’s not unusual for them to exercise together,” Rasmussen shrugged.
“Ever since the formation of the Grand Alliance Germany has felt more secure and has begun throwing her weight around. Germany provokes my country as the only power that can resist her. They use the Russians as bully boys, that’s why Gustav made sure the Russians came here to hammer home the point,” Randall waved his copy of “Holy Mother Russia” which he retrieved from his case.
Rasmussen sighed but Randall pressed his case, “have you ever thought what might happen if Denmark tried to maintain her neutrality with their navies sandwiched either side of you? I remember an old political cartoon of the last century, ‘the great bear hug’ I think it was called.”
Rasmussen waved his hand, “I will not be drawn into notional suppositions. I’m not interested in the rights and wrongs of the moral case and your great power politics. Even if we were to admit such worries it would not change the outcome of this case.”

Randall smiled, “I don’t deny that, but we have just reasons to keep an eye on the possible destabilisers of European peace. My government would be willing to come to an agreement whereby if you approved covert voyages by our submarines from time to time, with prior notification of course, then we might come to some arrangement whereby the fruits of our labours might be shared profitably.”
Rasmussen looked at Randall thoughtfully, “I cannot answer that at this time,” he smiled quizzically, well I mustn’t keep you any longer Alec, it’s getting late and I’m sure you’d rather be home in bed.”
Randall smiled, “of course, but it’s something to think on with your government,” he rose from his chair and the two men shook hands and Rasmussen showed him to the door, “I hope the next time we meet it will be in happier circumstances.”

Heathrow Airport, London, Saturday 17 April
A throng of reporters gathered around the BOAC Britannia, the flash bulbs going off the moment Bevin stepped out of the terminal to walk to the waiting plane.
They began shouting at him to grab his attention, “Foreign Secretary do you have a statement?”, “Is it true your flying to Berlin?”, “Can you tell us where you are going Mr Bevin?”
Bevin waved his hand and tried to look as happy as he could for the cameras but just said “No comment,” repeatedly until he and his gaggle of civil servants boarded the plane. Disappointed the reporters headed to the terminal to file copy and make up whatever plausible story they could concoct.
Soon the airliner’s engines were running up and the aircraft taxied to the runway.
After take-off, the pilots cleared Heathrow airspace and altered course south.


Monday, September 18th 2017, 4:46am

Speaking OOC...

One must wonder how the British ambassador came to have a copy of the demarche delivered to the Danish Government by the Government of the Russian Federation...


Monday, September 18th 2017, 5:44am

Darn you, Wikileaks! Now go to gulag!