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Friday, September 8th 2017, 11:22am

Submarine HNLMS K34, 53 dgs 46 min North, 5 dgs 40 min East, Monday, 12 April 1948
The submarine K34 has been on a routine training mission, aboard her were a fresh crew, destined to form the crew of the O23 which was currently still under construction.
Her hydrophone operators has heard lots of activity all day as they cruised submerged, ASDIC pings and small charge explosions and plenty of cavitation noises.
"Sir, what do you make of it?" One of the young Lieutenants asked the captain, de Jong, an experienced submariner in the Navy, the "Den Helder Schoolmaster, as he was commonly known.
"It sounds like a major exercise, there is nothing scheduled or in the Notice to Mariners, we'll surface and make a sighting report to headquarters." de Jong then gave the necessary orders.

The K34 had only been on the surface a few minutes before a dark shape appeared, a flying boat. The officer of the watch didn't dive, after all there was no reason too. Suddenly the plane descended and dropped smoke markers accurately around the submarine.
"Alarm! Dive the boat! What are those fools doing!" de Jong shouted.
No sooner had the K34 dived to periscope depth than a sonobuoy landed not far from their position, its pings audible to the crew. Nobody but de Jong had taken the care to look at the aircraft carefully before jumping down the hatch. A quick flick through the recognition guide confirmed de Jong's identification, "a Dornier, a German. What are those idiots doing!"
The K34 maneuvered to get as far from it as possible but within a quarter of an hour two or three vessels had appeared, their ASDIC pings lashing the submarine. One or two of the nervous ratings began to get rattled, "Sir are we at war or something!" one the radio operators shouted. Even the junior torpedo officer was rattled, "Sir, shouldn't we open fire, we're being attacked!"
de Jong, was a steadying rock, "Don't be stupid, we are not in danger, they aren't dropping real charges on us. Get a grip of yourself man." The young officer lowered his head, de Jong shrugged, "even if we wanted to attack we haven't any torpedoes aboard!" He laughed and the crew felt a little more cheerful.
As the pings continued and the sound of dummy charges banged overhead de Jong had enough, "Surface the boat! Let's find out who these damn fools are! Blow main ballast!"

The conning tower erupted from the sea, then the hull broached and even before the spray had subsided de Jong was up the ladder, out of the hatch and shaking his fist at the two ships nearby. A signaller was scrambling after him.
As he used his blinker to signal de Jong's message 'I am HNLMS K34, identify yourself and cease your foolish actions,' the Captain was shouting a more salty version while still shaking his fist. The young signaller wondered if his efforts were in vain as he felt sure the two German sloops would hear his Captain quite clearly.

Meanwhile below the radio operator was tapping out a clear message to the Home Fleet Command;


From HMLNS K34.
Have been harassed by several German aircraft and ships and forced to surface at position 53 dgs 46 min North, 5 dgs 40 min East.
No damage sustained but crew shaken.
Germans aims unclear.
Am attempting to get vessels to identify themselves. Request urgent support.

Within minutes three Fokker T.XM maritime patrol aircraft were scrambled from Naval Air Station Valkenburg, followed soon after by eight Bloch MB.1050D Milan Royal fighters from Bloch MB.1050D Milan Royal de Kooi. The only ship with steam up was the destroyer Z96 which was ordered to leave Den Helder immediately and the 7th Escort Flotilla was directed to get as many of its sloops to sea as soon as possible. Meanwhile the telephones from Naval HQ to the Ministry of the Defence and the Prime Minister's office were hot with activity. Within an hour the German Naval Attache would hear heated voices in his telephone earpeice.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 2:30pm

OOC: While I understand the Dutch would no doubt be alarmed by the scale of the German exercise, there was in fact a notice to mariners...

And even if there wasn't, it looks like the exercise has been underway for 36 hours, and the Dutch Navy just now noticed? Or perhaps they just didn't send an ALLSHIPS to their forces at sea... A good thing for the Dutch that this wasn't an actual balloon going up, because it looks like they're not only caught with their pants down... they're not even in the same room as their pants!

Sounds like the Dutch chief of operations needs to be relieved of duty, and a his replacement needs to spend a few months writing a new policies and procedures book...


Friday, September 8th 2017, 3:43pm

OOC: The Nords don't seem to have noticed either!
I'm not doubting negligence on the part of the crew of the K34. This is a sideshow really, something unexpected to make some butterfly effect ripples on other events elsewhere.
Also, note for the record for clarity, I've altered the position more westward as my errant coordinates had K34 in a German beach surfing contest! That's now corrected.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 3:52pm

The Cabinet Rooms, Whitehall, London, 20:00GMT, Monday 12 April
It was another late-night session, and an unexpected one but a meeting had been called at short notice due to the German naval activity over the past two days. The purpose of the meeting was to decide what the Germans were up to and what response should be made.

The First Lord of the, Admiralty A. V. Alexander, began with a briefing of the events so far and the Admiralty’s deployments made that day to shadow the German fleet and report what they were doing. The Secretary for Air, Lord Stansgate, also gave a brief overview of the RAF’s operations.

The large scale deployment was worrying to many in Whitehall that night. Already the press had got wind of the story and it had made the later editions of the couple of the papers. The morning editions would have it splashed on the front page and then the backbenchers would be clamouring for a statement and a response.

Alexander gave the Admiralty’s view, the exercise had no obvious Red Fleet opponent and no discernible movements of even light ships had been detected by the French and there was no indication of Russian ships moving from the Baltic and operations by the Northern Fleet at this time of year seemed impossible. Therefore their Lordships had concluded the exercise was a provocative action, designed to test Britain’s responses. No one had seriously entertained it was a surprise attack or prelude to war but it was a provocative action that could spark accidental incidents.

At this point Alexander raised a report from their naval attaché in Holland regarding the plight of a Dutch submarine, the K34, which had been caught earlier in the day inside the German’s anti-submarine sweep and had been forced to surface. The Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, felt this alone would compel the government to act. The Secretary for War, John Strachey felt the Dutch must have been negligent unless they were attempting to shadow the Germans. He also reminded everyone about the reports of U-Boats off the main Eastern harbours over the past couple of months. Some were credible contacts by naval patrols and aircraft, some were unverifiable sightings by Yorkshire fishermen and now the Police were getting regular sightings from members of the public regarding periscopes and surfaced submarines along the coast. Most were simply hysteria or rumours but it was clear something had to be done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Dalton, spoke for all when he mentioned the psychological impact of Britain’s arch-nemesis in the last war.

The Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, wanted concrete proposals on as he saw it three issues; first whether to play the German’s game and react, whether to raise diplomatic protests, whether failing these to apply pressure elsewhere and the best means of clearing the U-Boats from territorial waters.

Bevin was firmly in favour of reaction, sending a large fleet out and spoiling the German’s exercise and escorting them back to harbour or a powerful show of force along the “unprotected coast of the Fatherland” to “put the bloody wind up them.” Stachey concurred, offering that perhaps the Dutch would be minded to join such a show of force. Dalton and the Home Secretary Herbert Morrison were opposed. They figured doing nothing would be preferable, the Germans would have a case to answer to, to the Dutch and Britain could morally support the Dutch in applying strong pressure to Germany. Also, if German sailors were wasting time and effort waiting for the Royal Navy to come out to play then it was their oil fuel being consumed and more wear and tear on their ships for nothing. Alexander reminded them that the Admiralty was loath to reveal its war plans to a potential enemy by playing their game. Already they had learnt the German fleet was designed to operate en-masse, another High Seas Fleet designed to sweep up the North Sea and breakout into the Atlantic, using brute force and speed to breakthrough before the Royal Navy could place adequate barriers in their path. This latest operation only helped to confirm that. That alone was of sufficient importance to the Navy. It was still puzzling however why little had been said by Nordmark on the exercise, perhaps they were as perplexed about what the intent was.

Bevin still pressed for more decisive action. Dalton disagreed, better to wait until the Navy had all of the German fleet under surveillance so their intentions were clear, “in any case, if the reports are true and there are few ships left at Wilhelmshaven and the Hun is far up north, then it only strengthens our hand to wait. If things get sticky diplomatically then we can show our hand at our choosing and when they are unable to counter us quickly.”
“And the French? The Russians?” Morrison enquired, worried about their reactions.
Alexander chipped in, “The French have nothing bigger than a destroyer north of Dakar and the Russian’s can’t move into the Kattegat without our knowing beforehand. In any case given the Notice that the exercise zone only goes as far north as 61 degrees longitude it’s by no means certain they intend leaving the North Sea like previous exercises.”

The Commonwealth Relations Secretary Emanuel Shinwell had been so far silent but now proposed the Canadians should be asked to send a fleet to Scapa Flow to bolster their strength. Chuter Ede, the Home Secretary countered that would take weeks to organise. Lord Stansgate favoured a more aggressive shadowing of the German ships, getting in close or “eyeball to eyeball” as he put it. Attlee puffed thoughtfully on his pipe, perhaps going through his experiences on the Western Front and his knowledge of fighting the Germans. “Gentlemen, I agree with the Admiralty that it would be foolish to show our hand, that is what they want. We don’t need to rush into anything. We need to know what the Dutch and Nords might do first before we plan anything. I don’t doubt their Lordships are wise in readying the fleet at Portsmouth to sail but I think it’s too soon to order them to sail into the North Sea. I suggest by noon tomorrow we’ll know far more to make a sound decision.”

“Is that what you’ll tell the house tomorrow? That we’ll risk our sea lanes and prestige on waiting?” Bevin asked, incredulously.
Attlee puffed on his pipe, “No Ernie, I shall tell them the truth, the Germans are reckless and that we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of the main shipping routes and that we are tracking the German’s movements.”
Morrison nodded in agreement. Strachey pointed out the exercise was due to end on the 20th, that gave little time to waste if some kind of counter-action was intended.

Then someone mentioned the U-Boat issue. The Lord Chancellor Viscount Jowitt had the legal issues in hand and explained them. It was clear that anything within the three mile limit was an unwelcome guest. Alexander tried to press hard the Admiralty’s proposed measures to force the U-boats out into the sea. Ede pointed out being too harsh would risk the condemnation of the German’s actions. Shinwell felt there was no alternative. Bevin would have sunk the lot had he had his way. As ever Dalton came up with a compromise, “we already have a list of grievances to take up with the German ambassador. We are perfectly entitled to state we have proof of their trespass and demand an ultimatum that their U-boats pull out beyond three miles [“three, bloody ten more like!” Bevin interrupted], well say ten then, whatever limit we set, within forty-eight hours or we’ll take whatever measures are necessary to force them to go.”
Attlee agreed and slowly as consensus reigned once again Big Ben struck ten.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 4:26pm

OOC: The Nords don't seem to have noticed either!

Well, since they and the Danes are NPC, I don't actually make the presumption that they haven't noticed - only that we haven't posited them responding in a manner vigorous enough to merit commentary.

If we need someone to answer for them, I can put on my moderator hat and put down some sort of commentary; but I'm only going to do that if asked.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 4:58pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 57 dgs 32 min North, 1 dgs 47 min East, Monday, 12 April 1948

The bridge chronometer indicated 1800 hours. Einsatzverband 58 had made steady progress and had reached the vicinity of the Devil’s Hole. Thus far the number of British reconnaissance aircraft attempting to shadow them had been few and far between; and their activities had been carefully monitored by fighter aircraft on routine patrols.

As night fell across the North Sea Vizeadmiral Lindemann ordered the task force to hold its position, assuming a racetrack course that would hold them until dawn. The four task groups were now in a rough lozenge shape, with Langsdorff’s Einzatzgruppe 58.4 to the west and Ruge’s Einzatzgruppe 58.1 operating to the north of his own task group. Einzatzgruppe 58.3, with the aircraft carriers Tegetthoff and Zieten – which were still working up – trailed somewhat to the east.

Lindemann could only imagine the consternation in the Admiralty and in Whitehall, seat of England’s government at the thought of a German fleet hovering off the Scottish coast.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 6:13pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Monday, 12 April 1948

Despite the presence of distinguished guests Admiral Werner Lindenau did not interrupt his oversight of the progress of the fleet exercise, which had reached an important stage. The clock on the wall in the plotting room indicated 1900 hours as mess stewards wheeled dinner into the small conference annex where Lindenau and his visitors would partake of a meal while they awaited further developments.

Much like Lindenau, Admiral Abashvili was concerned about the hesitant response of the British to the German exercise. Insofar as could be told, the British Home Fleet was still in the Solent, and those heavy units in the north were still in port. He could not see that situation lasting much longer, but the delay left him wondering about the future.

Von Bassewitz-Levetzow seemed less concerned. To Capitaine Cabanier he joked, “I give the Second Submarine Flotilla credit for avoiding our antisubmarine screens. Only two of the boats have be ‘sunk’ and sent into Emden.”

Before Cabanier could counter, Capitaine Des Moutis noted. “Yes, but that unfortunate incident with the Dutch boat…”

That a Dutch submarine had strayed into the exercise area was unfortunate. No doubt the Wilhelmstraße would have to soothe the ruffled feathers of the Netherlands government, even if a case for miscalculation on the part of the Dutch commander could be made. Thus far the exercise had been comparatively free of such incidents; commercial traffic was keeping to safe lanes and not blundering about needlessly.

Abashvili turned to Lindenau, “you expected a greater reaction on the part of the English?”

“Yes, based upon the actions they have taken on prior occasions when we have held exercises,” he replied.

“Perhaps they are debating what steps to take. The Admiralty might find its hands tied by its political masters.” Abashvili chose his words carefully. Both men, like their counterparts in England, answered to civilians who were elected.

“That is true,” Lindenau answered.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 8:41pm

Submarine Q193, 54 dgs 0 min North, 7 dgs 45 min East, Monday, 12 April 1948

Charpentier peered through the submarine’s periscope into the gathering gloom of night. After dodging German antisubmarine vessels all day, principally by lying on the bottom, the Q193 had to come up for air. Thankfully there were no vessels in sight. He ordered the submarine to surface. Moments later the Q193 rose above the waves; her engines started, charging her batteries against another day’s careful husbanding. For Charpentier and his crew fresh air was perhaps the greatest pleasure, despite the increased danger of detection.

The submarine commander cursed the fact that he and his men were saddled with a boat devoid of modern detection equipment, with engines so loud he believed his grand-mère could hear them, and worst of all, without an air mast that so limited his ability to maneuver and forced him to risk detection on the surface – as they were now. But they had good fortune with them. Despite the constant ASDIC-pinging of the Germans they had not found his boat, though they had heard detonations of practice depth charges some distance off. Sea conditions – a thermocline perhaps – seem to have shielded them. After a few moments, Lemaire, the umpire, joined him – filling his lungs as he did so.

“And I am only here for the ride,” he said jokingly. “A man could get killed…”

“Is there any news?” Charpentier asked.

“Regarding the exercise? Lemaire replied. “Nothing, of course. But one would not expect much. Your signals officer has noted a lot of traffic but none on our frequencies and it is all in code – German, Dutch, British, Belgian – who knows?”

Charpentier turned his eyes skyward. He had no desire to be caught on the surface by a patrolling German aircraft, which he knew had eyes that could see despite the darkness. That was another thing his boat lacked – any sort of warning device for detecting the transmissions of enemy aircraft. “Why were we chosen for this mission anyway?” he asked rhetorically.

Lemaire said nothing, though he had an inkling of an answer. The naval staff, ever competing with the Jeune école and L'aviation for funding had shown themselves reluctant to scrap ‘perfectly good submarines’ despite their age and decrepit condition. Perhaps this was someone plan to point out weaknesses in France’s submarine arm.

Thankfully the Q193 and her crew enjoyed a relatively quiet night, charging their batteries to full before they submerged in the pre-dawn hours. “We live to ‘fight’ another day” Charpentier noted in his log.


Friday, September 8th 2017, 10:23pm

London, The German Embassy, Tuesday, 13 April 1948

When his personal valet woke him from a sound sleep Otto, Prince von Bismarck, German ambassador to the Court of St. James, was not surprised. A courier had brought dispatches from Berlin advising him of the planned fleet exercise, which had begun on Sunday. The summons to the British Foreign Office, even at the ungodly hour of two in the morning, was to be expected.

It was more than an hour and a half later that his limousine pulled up in King Charles Street, and despite the early hour a knot of newspapermen and their photographer cronies were there to try and get a story from him. Thankfully the police kept them at a respectful distance, and von Bismarck ignored them. He was ushered into a waiting room – deliberately to cool his heels he thought – until an aide escorted him to the office of the Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin.

Von Bismarck did his best to mask his dislike of the former trade unionist. He found members of the Atlee government short-sighted and doctrinaire, and his relations with Bevin had never been good. As he entered he could sense that anger burbled within the Foreign Secretary, and Bevin wasted little time in getting to the heart of the matter.

“What is the German Navy think it is doing in the North Sea?” Bevin opened without formalities. Unwilling to play a schoolboy answering to the head-master, von Bismarck took a seat, unbidden, before answering.

“The Kriegsmarine is conducting exercises in international waters, notice of which was given by the Ministry of Defence a week ago.”

Bevin seemed to sense the condescension in the German’s voice. “International waters? Your submarines have been operating in our territorial waters for the weeks, and His Majesty’s Government demands their immediate removal!”

Von Bismarck smiled. “U-boats operating in British territorial waters? You have proof of such?”

Bevin was aware of the thinness of his claim. The Navy had reported one submarine contact about fifteen miles off the Scottish coast the previous March – suspiciously close to the anchorage at Scapa Flow, but the identity of the unwanted visitor had never been properly established. As for the sightings of surfaced submarines and submarine periscopes by fishermen and casual observers ashore, he knew how weak those might prove. “His Majesty’s Government is satisfied,” he answered, “that your submarines have been operating off British harbours for some weeks now, and we demand that this cease forthwith.”

“Mister Bevin,” said von Bismarck carefully. “Germany respects the integrity of territorial waters as much as it does the freedom of the seas. If, as you say, our U-boats are active off your coasts, they are operating in international waters during time of peace, conducting training missions for their crews. In the absence of proof of any violation of territorial waters the German Government reserves its rights to conduct itself according to international law.”

The latter nettled Bevin no end. “Let me make it perfectly clear Mister Ambassador… we want those submarines recalled within forty-eight hours or action will be taken.”

Von Bismarck paused a moment before responding. “I shall convey your ‘request’ to Berlin.”


Friday, September 8th 2017, 11:10pm

...and there was no indication of Russian ships moving from the Baltic and operations by the Northern Fleet at this time of year seemed impossible.

I didn't mention this earlier when I was summarizing the forces my various countries have at sea, because the topic of the Russians hadn't come up - just the French.

Per my Q1 activity report, the Northern Fleet's OG Jove, centered on the carriers Gangut, Sinop, and Petropavlovsk, with a moderate cruiser and destroyer escort, are at sea, returning from a pilot training cruise (Operation Kassiopeya) in the mid-Atlantic. They went as far south as the Equator and the Gulf of Paria (between Trinidad and South America), and are returning in the month of April. At the time of this exercise, they're probably somewhere off the normal shipping lanes somewhere 'between Maine and Spain', as it were.

Operations by Northern Fleet may 'seem' impossible, but Russian flotillas routinely make short training cruises (often out-and-backs or five-day workweek cruises) even in the polar winter. And per my Q2/1947 movements report, the Russians threw a major exercise (Almaz-1) around this time last year, with a force probably equivalent to what the Germans have in play currently. Northern Fleet is quiescent for political considerations, not operational.

As for the Baltic Fleet, you'll almost never see them leave the Baltic itself. Baltic Fleet is primarily a coast-defense force, either to minelay or cover minelaying. As a helpful reminder, however, most of Baltic Fleet (indeed, most of the Russian destroyer fleet) can use Russia's vast internal network of canals to go either to the White Sea or to the Black Sea (and some shallow-draft ships can go into the Caspian), never once leaving Russia's internal waters. Of course, at this point in the year, it would require the use of riverine icebreakers.

So, even though the Northern Fleet is mostly sitting in port presently, their inactivity shouldn't be taken for granted by anyone who's watched their deployment history. As I said earlier, they remain in place for political rather than operational considerations.

Random Russian Northern Fleet sailor wanders on stage: "We don't mind sitting in Murmansk! If we'd started Rubin-2 as planned, we'd be chipping ice off all our upperworks! Instead we get to stay home a few extra days, and take pretty girls to the movie theatres!"


Friday, September 8th 2017, 11:19pm


Deschimag flogs Eisblume design in Russia's general direction.


Saturday, September 9th 2017, 1:53am


Deschimag flogs Eisblume design in Russia's general direction.

Ah, the design Germany and Russia jointly developed? ;)


Saturday, September 9th 2017, 2:07am


Deschimag flogs Eisblume design in Russia's general direction.

Ah, the design Germany and Russia jointly developed? ;)


Yeah, that one. None one ever said Deschimag was the three-eyed raven.


Saturday, September 9th 2017, 4:14pm

HMS Gravelines, 07:14GMT, 56 dg 30 min N, 03 dg 16 min E, Tuesday 13 April
The Officer of the Watch Lieutenant Stephen Dudley-Parker clapped his gloved hands together. Although it was approaching spring the mornings were still fresh and the breeze was stiff. He checked the compass and brought his binoculars to his eyes. The four German sloops were still there, some three miles away heading north. Stephen would have loved to have gotten closer but his Captain had felt the discretion required prevented a closer approach. The Boche knew they were there, that was all that mattered. Of course what they didn’t know was that the operators of the Type 293 Passive Radio Intercept and Type 297 Passive RDF Intercept sets were busy hoovering up every piece of electronic noise they could. Doubtless, Stephen reflected, their opponents were doing the same.
“They still there Sir?” asked Leading Seaman Barker as he brought round some mugs of morning tea.
Stephen checked his watch before grabbing one of the mugs of delicious sweet tea, “It’s been seven hours now, they are still going about their business, this will be a long day I think.”

Newspaper Headlines, Tuesday 13 April
Daily Mail: Massive German Fleet Spotted – Navy to Shadow
Daily Mirror: Kalamity! Dutch Sub Caught in Hun Exercise!
The Times: Large Scale German Naval Exercise in North Sea
Evening Standard: U-Boat Ultimatum Sent to Germany

The Nore and Channel Command Headquarters, Dover, 08:00GMT, Tuesday 13 April
The Assistant Chief Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, had motored down to get a personal impression of the activity from the Commander in Chief The Nore and Channel, Admiral Harold Burrough.
In one of the underground command rooms a large wall map of the North Sea adorned the wall. Two WRNS officers on step ladders were moving plot markers in line with the latest updates.
Admiral Brind stood a moment and took in the positions of the various ships. “Is this the latest situation?”
Admiral Burrough nodded, “we’re just getting the latest batch of RAF reports now, they sent up another twenty aircraft just after dawn. They radio back contact reports every half hour.”
Brind moved closer to the wall map, “this looks an extensive deployment.”
“Yes, we’ve spotted four main groups besides the anti-submarine sweepers ahead of the main body. Each group is a complete unit with carriers and heavy ships. We haven’t counted all the main ship yet but we believe the bulk of the German fleet is at sea.” Burroughs picked up a sighting report.
“Do you think all their carriers and capital ships are out?” Brind asked.
“It’s a possibility, we should know within a couple of hours. We’ve pretty much made contact with all the main formations now, first the Essex bumped into a group of minelayers not far off the Nordish coast.”
“Nordmark?” Brind interjected, “they must be carrying out a complete breakout plan, a heavy submarine screen to the West to block our possible moves and a minescreen to hamper any Nordish response.” Brind was interested in the political implications, Germany was obviously not trusting of the old non-aggression pacts that had at one time bound Nordmark and Britain. Germany obviously thought if war ever broke out that both would be against the continental Grand Alliance.
“Yes, that appears to be their plan. Pure bluster to force a breakout,” Burroughs concluded.
Brind passed a note to Burroughs, “it leaves them pretty thin at home so it’s a risky venture in wartime. We’d always assumed their U-Boats would do the bulk of the anti-commerce duties. Speaking of such this is a copy of the Foreign Office demand that the Germans withdraw their submarines from along the coast.”
Burroughs raised an eyebrow, “by then the exercise will be nearly over and their role completed anyway. And if they don’t pull out then what?”
Brind stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets, “The Board will decide that today, as they are in international waters not much. But the Cabinet feels the best response to this attempt to provoke us is to react diplomatically and spoil their fun by other means.”
Burroughs picked up and pointer and jabbed it at the map, “this is where the German’s main axis is, these four carrier groups. If we want to wreck their exercise then we have to break those up.”
“How do we do that? Even if we had all the Home Fleet at Scapa right now we could hardly stop them. If this were the real thing it would make Jutland look like a tea party.” Brind shook his head.
Burroughs though had a plan, “we could get our shadowing ships in closer, worry their carriers so they are too cautious to keep sailing into the wind, that would disrupt their air screens and would force their destroyers to hustle us off and make them waste time and effort.”
Brind shook his head again, “one collision and we’d have the Cabinet down on us like a ton of bricks. The Germans are expecting a response, they want one. The longer we deny it the more desperate they might become to provoke us. Then we’ll have them.”
Burroughs was unconvinced.
“Anyway,” Brind continued, “within 24 hours you might have five Admirals and two fleet carriers to play with to bolster your forces. If the Board can get the Cabinet to agree.”
“The Cabinet,” Burroughs sighed, “if only we had the freedom to act without a bunch of Whitehall armchair Admirals clogging up the works. The readers of the Daily Worker will read about it before we even receive the sailing orders.”

The Cabinet Rooms, Whitehall, London, 10:00GMT, Tuesday 13 April
The Cabinet reconvened, it was a busy agenda but the North Sea had pushed its way to the top of the list to be discussed.
“How did your interview with Prince von Bismarck go Ernie?” asked Attlee.
Bevin had been up most of the night was and tired and even more irritable than usual, “He seemed to think the term International Waters gives them the freedom to do as they bloody well like.”
“What of the U-Boats?” Dalton asked.
Bevin let out a loud huff, “he claimed they were conducting training missions. Training to spy on us more like.”
Attlee scribbled some notes on his pad, “and what did he say regarding our ultimatum?”
“Nothing, he just said he would inform Berlin,” Bevin scowled.
Dalton suppressed a smile, he knew von Bismarck would not divulge even his own personal opinion on any matter. He was much too canny for that.
“Well we’ll have to wait for their answer,” Attlee said, “in the meantime we should plan for the outcome. Alexander, have the Admiralty a policy if the Germans do not withdraw?”
The First Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander shook his head, “Not at present Prime Minister. They are debating the very subject at this moment. I’m expected at Admiralty house in half an hour. I think they would like the support of the Cabinet. Perhaps we could set some kind of guidelines?”
“Such as?” Bevin growled.
“The Germans are in international waters, we have no solid evidence and so we either take the risk and bluff it out or we make a show with the minimum of force.” Alexander stressed the latter in his tone.
Morrison favoured the continuation of shadowing. Dalton thought similar tactics to those accidently used against the K34 would be proportionate. Bevin felt experienced German sailors wouldn’t react so skittishly as the junior Dutch crew.
Finally with other pressing matters needing attention Attlee pressed the discussion to a decision, “Gentlemen, I think we ought to defer to the Admiralty. They have had far more experience than this Cabinet at naval tactics and no body in this nation has a keen awareness of our naval prestige as they possess. I think we ought to stand by whatever the decision the Board of the Admiralty makes.”
Alexander scurried to the nearby Admiralty, on the one hand pleased he had gained Cabinet support but on the other knowing the burden of the decision had been passed to the Admiralty. Would the support hold fast if they got it wrong? Only time would tell.


Sunday, September 10th 2017, 12:39pm

Den Helder Basin, 17:05GMT, Monday 12 April
The little submarine K34 docked alongside the K39 at the quayside. As the gangway was hoisted across from the K39’s deck Commandeur Kapitein ter Zee de Jong saw three officers heavily braided and a clutch of what looked like naval police behind them. He recognised one the officers as the commander of the 3rd Submarine (Training) Flotilla and the other as the commander of the 3rd Submarine Division. The third man he could not recognise. But as the officers stepped onto the K34’s deck and de Jong climbed down the side of the conning tower to meet them, the third and more senior officer did all the talking.
“You are Commandeur Kapitein ter Zee Adolphus de Jong?” he asked as de Jong saluted.
“Yes Sir,” de Jong replied.
“I am Vice-Admiraal Student from Naval Headquarters, I am directed to inform you that you and your officers are to be taken to MARID headquarters immediately for your debriefing.”
MARID was the Marine Inlichtingendienst, naval intelligence. de Jong did not like the Admiral’s tone, he guessed he may be hours away from being under military arrest, and yet he had done nothing wrong, it had been those stupid Huns who had attacked him.
“Yes Sir, I quite understand,” he replied.
“You have ten minutes to gather all your charts, logbooks and codebooks,” the Admiral checked his watch, “you will assemble all your officers on the deck at that time.”
“And what of my crew?” de Jong asked.
The Admiral dismissively raised a hand towards the Flotilla commander, “he will assume command of the K34 and the crew in ten minutes time.”

The Prime Minister’s Office, The Hague, 10:30am, Tuesday 13 April
Prime Minister Eduard Land had called a private meeting with the Minister of Defence Wim Schokking and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dirk Stikker to brief him before he made a statement to the Tweede Kamer regarding the situation of the K34 which had gripped the nation’s news headlines that morning.
As the two ministers sat down Land opened a small file on the table.
“Tell me Wim, what actually happened to the K34? Was she unlawfully attacked?”
The Defence Minister took out a sheaf of paper from his briefcase. Eight days ago Prime Minister, the German Defence Ministry issued a special Notice to Mariners outlining their intention to hold fleet exercises in the North Sea and outlining the general area of expected operations. Further details were received via their Naval Attaché the next day. The Staatssecretaris of the Navy assures me that the Navy sent orders to all ships of the Home Fleet to update their logs and charts accordingly that same day, that is the 6th.”
“You say all ships. Does that include those that were at sea on that day?” Land asked.
Schokking nodded, “Yes, all ships at sea were informed by radio communications to update their charts. The Navy also made sure all Dutch-flagged merchants received a copy of the same message.”
Land’s shoulders sagged, “So how did the K34 not know of this?”
Schokking’s eyes lowered, “It’s being looked into right now. The officers are being questioned by MARID,” the shifted in his seat, “since the K34 is a training vessel and has a largely untrained crew it’s not impossible a mistake was made.”
“Do they not have qualified officers aboard?” Stikker asked.
“Of course they do Dirk, I am only saying its possible. Right now we can only wait for the Navy to investigate the matter.”
Stikker wasn’t impressed, “so they were inside the German’s exercise zone when they were attacked.”
Schokking bristled at this, “they were not attacked, the crew were at worst harassed but the German’s were only conducting routine training procedures. It was a case of misidentification.”
“Surely the German’s can recognise their own submarines?” Land asked.
Schokking referred back to his piece of paper, “we have reason to believe a flotilla of French submarines were in the general area participating as the Red Fleet. Confidentially the British naval attaché told the Staatssecretaris of the Navy this morning that the German U-boats are concentrated along the British east coast. It seems their government has asked Germany to remove its submarines from its coastline.”
This was new news to Land. He looked to Stikker to confirm this but he had no direct news either, he promised to ask their ambassador in London to confirm.
“So what do we do about the K34? Land asked, “we sent up a strong force on the initial reports and I believe the Staatssecretaris bent the ears of the German naval attaché only an hour later. Before, I presume all the facts were known?”
Schokking again shifted uneasily in his seat, “It is true Prime Minister, our aircraft arrived overhead within twenty minutes. K34 was undamaged and a destroyer got to her a few hours later and escorted her home to port. There were no further incidents, the fighters did ‘buzz’ away a Dornier from getting too close.”
“And the telephone call?” Land pressed.
“Tempers were heated, I can assure you had the situation been reversed we would have received the same treatment,” Schokking paused, “and anyway we do not believe in conceding our rights. Out there in the North Sea is the largest concentration of Teutonic naval power since 1916. They have attempted to goad the English into reacting, the treatment K34 accidently received shows they are not out to play nicely. I agree the Staatssecretaris was hasty but my ministry does not believe in cowering away in port and letting the Germans do whatever they please.”
Land could see his point of view; the balance of power was altering and the Grand Alliance seemed to hold all the trump cards. The Dutch had their own position to maintain.
“So Dirk, what diplomatic moves should we make now?” he asked.
“The whole event was a misunderstanding, I say we send Berlin a thinly veiled apology but point out that the Germans disproportionate exercise is foolish and provocative.”
“Would the Tweede Kamer or the public support that?” Land asked.
Stikker shrugged, “We have no case for stronger action, in this case we should look innocent and condemn their militarism. If what Wim says is true and London have demanded withdrawal of submarines from its coast then it can only support our case. The left would back that.”
Schokking agreed and Land made some notes. He checked the clock on the wall as it struck eleven, “Many thanks for coming over and clearing up these matters, when I make my statement this afternoon I will certainly follow these lines as we’ve discussed. I am grateful to you.”

MARID Headquarters, The Hague, Tuesday 12 April
The interrogator kept asking the same questions, where was the communique RS/A-203N-64 in the radio logs? Where was the receipt of the order? Who was on duty at the time? The questions filled de Jong’s ears. Yet he knew nothing of the order.

Luitenant ter Zee der 2e klasse Schelk was the navigation officer, he was interrogated for five hours. The main heat of the interrogation fell on him. Where was the communique RS/A-203N-64 in the log? Why was it missing? Why weren’t the charts updated? You say they were but why is there no exercise zone marked? Why wasn’t the notice log up to date? He knew no answer as to why it wasn’t there.

Luitenant ter Zee 3de klasse Bocuhet was the radio officer. He was called in next, again the same questions. The most damming aspect was inconsistency in the radio logs. The shore station had received acknowledgements from K34 for two messages including RS/A-203N-64 on that day but neither was in the log. Why not? Was he not on duty at the time? No? Who was?
Then word came through that a copy of the message was found on the copy pad in the radio cabin when the MARID investigators went through the submarine’s papers. Why had it not left the radio cabin? Who was on duty when the message was received?

Seaman Prits was summoned from the barracks at Den Helder, all of K34’s crew being confined to quarters for the duration of the investigation.
On arrival the interrogators pounced on him. The shore station had received acknowledgements from K34 for two messages including RS/A-203N-64 on that day but neither was in the log. Why not? He was duty at the time so why had he failed to enter the log and pass the message on? They had the pad and showed it to him.
“Is this not the pad from the K34?”
“It looks like it Sir.”
“And the handwriting is yours?”
“It looks like mine Sir?”
“So you did receive and acknowledge the message but you didn’t pass it to the control room or the radio officer?”
“No Sir, I suppose I didn’t?”
“I don’t know Sir.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Let me think a moment,” Prits looked at the pad, “Sir, the time.”
“What of it.”
“Well that was just five minutes before my watch ended. I must have left it for my replacement to deal with.”
“Why didn’t you take it to the control room when you left?”
“Well I wasn’t on duty then Sir.”
“Who was your replacement?”
“Peter Taschen Sir, that is Seaman Taschen.”

Seaman Taschen was next in the hot seat.
“Seaman Prits tells us you relieved him when you came on watch. Why did you not process communique RS/A-203N-64?”
“I didn’t know about it Sir?”
“But it’s here and then it was in the radio cabin of the K34 on the desk.”
“I didn’t see it Sir. I remember there was nothing on the desk.”
“Didn’t Seaman Prits tell you about the message?”
“No Sir.”
“Did he not give you any information when you came on duty?”
“No, he just said everything was quiet and he glad to come off and he was starving and wanted to get some dinner, it was dumplings I think that evening.”
“But you must have seen the message on the desk?”
“No Sir, the little box for incoming messages was empty. I didn’t receive anything to take to the con until ten minutes later when the weather forecast came in. I gave it to Seaman Boule who took it straight to Luitenant Schelk. There was nothing else to go.”
“Could have been somewhere else?”
“The spike of old messages waiting to go into the log was empty, but there were a couple of piles of paper on the shelf, old stuff we hadn’t had time to file.”
“But this was filed, we found it among the papers in the cabin.”
“Then it must have been in the wrong pile Sir, I never saw it.”


Sunday, September 10th 2017, 2:52pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 56 min North, 2 dgs 27 min East, Tuesday, 13 April 1948

The sun had yet to rise when Lindemann came onto the flag bridge and scanned the deck of the aircraft carrier. He could see it filled with aircraft being prepared for launch, a scene he knew was being repeated throughout the task force. It had already turned into the wind to launch its standing fighter and antisubmarine patrols, a mission delegated to the smaller carriers such as Karl der Große and Friedrich Barbarossa. He checked the plot, noting that the Frankenthal and her consorts were still being shadowed by a British destroyer; that was Einsatzverband 44’s problem. He summoned a yeoman. “Signal the task force – execute Donnerkeil One”

Almost immediately Lindemann could sense the turbines of the Graf Zeppelin rise in pitch as the aircraft carrier increased speed. On the deck below pilots and crews swarmed into their aircraft, the leading of which saw their engines cough to life. The air portion of the fleet exercise was about to begin – a simulated airstrike using Langsdorff’s task force as a target – with 150 aircraft being launched in the first wave, all six fleet carriers contributing. He looked at the clock – 0600 hours, fifty-four hours into the exercise.


Sunday, September 10th 2017, 4:29pm

U-boat Seeteufel, 56 dgs 30 min North, 3 dgs 03 min West, Tuesday, 13 April 1948

The message from Commander, Einzatzverband 61, was addressed to all component units at sea. It read, “Herbstnebel complete. Execute Fischadler AN55.”

Kapitänleutnant Claus Korth scanned the message, noting the time of origin, 0800. He repaired to his cabin to check his orders with some relief, inside happy of being relieved of the nerve-wracking duty of playing cat-and-mouse with the British. He confirmed his understanding of the order – Fischadler called for a concentration of Einzatzverband 61 in the southern portion of the North Sea – the vicinity of the Silver Pit.

Korth returned to the control room and was about to issue orders for the course change when a supplementary message arrived, with a T-O-O of 0825. “Proceed at best surface speed”. This order confounded his understanding of the advantage of the submarine – stealth. By surfacing the British would quickly discover that the submarines of Einzatzverband 61 were moving away from their waters. The question in his mind was, however, above his pay grade.

“Surface!” he ordered. “Set course 090.”

It would take the Seeteufel several days to reach the designated rendezvous. Others, he knew, would arrive sooner, as their deployments were further south and east.


Monday, September 11th 2017, 12:12am

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Tuesday, 13 April 1948

In the plotting room of his headquarters Lindenau checked the situation again. The clock showed it to be noon, sixty hours into the exercise. Britain’s main force stayed immured in its Scottish bases, while only a few light units, including some from Harwich and Sheerness, had emerged to shadow the ships of Einzatzverband 58 is a rather tentative manner. He glowered at the plot, dissatisfied.

“The British still have not reacted?” It was Abashvili, who, like Lindenau, had left the plotting room for only the briefest respites.

“Not strongly enough,” he said. “Agent reports suggest that they are preparing units of the Home Fleet for movement, but that is all. It is like they are waiting for something to happen.”

“Perhaps,” replied the Russian, “the Admiralty is awaiting a decision from its political masters. Did the British not demand a withdrawal of your submarines?”

That struck a nerve with Lindenau, for there was some truth in it. Herbstnebel had been in action long before Donnerschlag began, intended as a monitoring and intelligence gathering mission. Lindenau had discretion to continue it if the Royal Navy had sailed in strength, the U-boats trailing and reporting on British movements. Their withdrawal and concentration at the outlet of the Channel, Fischadler, had been planned, but not so soon; the Wilhelmstraße had insisted that the British be thrown a bone, and he had ordered implementing Fischadler earlier than his wished as a concession. It was ordering his submarines to travel on the surface that the British might see their movement that galled him.

“Yes, they did. And given their decision to remain in harbour moving up the timetable does us no harm.” A submarine concentration in the North Sea would be an effective counter to any British force transiting the Pas de Calais to debouch into the North Sea.

“I see that the air exercises are proceeding,” continued Abashvili. “I trust it proves to be good training.”

Lindenau did not answer immediately. Elsewhere in the building a map exercise was gaming out what might have happened if Donnerschlag had been real, and not an exercise. Having achieved strategic surprise the Blue Force aircraft carriers launched a dawn strike on the Royal Air Force’s bases in Scotland – from Castletown in the north to Charterhall in the south, paving the way for air raids on the British fleet at Cromarty and Invergordon. Losses were ruled as heavy, but air superiority had been achieved and the Royal Navy grievously hurt.

“Yes, Lindemann and Langsdorff are having a good time attracting the attention of both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force,” he said with a wry smile. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Capitaine Cabanier approach, and turned. “Congratulations – your submarine Q193 is still at sea” he announced. The other three boats of the Second Submarine Flotilla had been ‘sunk’ and were at the moment enjoying the hospitality of Emden.

“Capitaine de Corvette Charpentier is a very good officer,” Cabanier acknowledged. “I believe he will give your screening forces a difficult time before they ‘sink’ him. He might even take one or two of your ships with him.”

The three officers stared at the plot, wondering what the British might do next.


Monday, September 11th 2017, 6:03am

Hotel Delfthalle, Emden, Tuesday, 13 April 1948
"Look who finally showed up!" Lieutenant de Vaisseau Jean Proust - submarine Q194 - said loudly. He'd nearly drained his third stein of German beer, while his companion, Lieutenant de Vaisseau Tristan Deshayes - submarine Q195 - was finishing his first Apfelwein. They made room at their table for the new arrival, Lieutenant de Vaisseau Lothaire Barre, the captain of submarine Q192.

Barre took the spare seat. "Here I thought I was just unlucky - and motor in to find your boats already tied up shoreside," he said. "Waiter, I'll have... what are you lot drinking? Beer...?"

"And Apfelwein," Deshayes added.

"Just give me a beer, waiter," Barre said. "Er, no sprechen sie Francaise? Sorry, I don't speak German..." He gestured dramatically to Proust's now-empty glass and handed the waiter a German note. "So what got you two?"

"Coastal escorts," Deshayes replied sourly. He'd been the first to end up in Emden.

"Airplanes," Proust added.

"For me, it was both," Barre replied gloomily. "A surface escort came sniffing about my spot all last night. Must've got a whiff of me, because he just kept so close that I wasn't able to surface to recharge the batteries until an hour before dawn. When I finally did surface, one of my damned diesels wouldn't start! By noontime I was dead flat. Even though it was daylight, I decided to chance surfacing again. Three minutes later, here comes this damned Dornier..."

Deshayes grinned. "We know. He's drinking at the other end of the bar."

Barre leaned forward, looked across the room, and mock-glared at the German naval aviator, who tossed a slightly impudent toast in the direction of the three French submarine skippers. The waiter returned, saying something in German. "He says the gentleman at the other end of the bar bought your first round, and sends respects," Deshayes translated. "I think."

"Oh, well then," Barre said, placated. "...Did any of you score?"

"As if," Deshayes replied.

"Non," Proust agreed. "You?"

"Well, I guess we're oh for three," Barre said. "Is the commandant still out?"


"Then let's drink," Barre said. "To Q193 and to the boss. May they score one for the team."

They drained their glasses, and Proust hiccuped loudly. "Speaking of scoring," Proust commented, "we're going to play a game of football with some of the German Marn... Marinefleer... navy pilots tomorrow. Barre, I'd love if you sent over that new kid you just picked up. He's a great striker, and we need one of those..."

"Ensign Bertrand? Sure," Barre agreed. "And I'll send Mathieu, too. Good backup goalkeeper. Can you send your mechanics over to help figure out what's wrong with my diesel?"

"What?" Proust said. "Extortion!"

"Well, otherwise I'll have to assign Enseigne de vaisseau de deuxième classe Bertrand to supervise my repair party."

"Lothaire, you brigand!" Proust said, shaking his fist. "Fine, I shall tolerate your blackmail."


Monday, September 11th 2017, 3:43pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 46 min North, 2 dgs 17 min East, Tuesday, 13 April 1948

The racetrack movement of Einzatzverband 58 had carried it someone south and west of its original position as the aircraft carriers exercised their air groups. Three full waves had been sent out against Langsdorff’s battleships and cruisers without serious incident. Longer range search aircraft from both the carriers and from land bases tracked the small number of shadowing British vessels, and occasionally fighter patrols had to intercept and escort away Royal Air Force snoopers who strayed too close. The sun was setting in the west and nightfall would bring a halt to full scale operations.