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Monday, September 11th 2017, 3:53pm

202 Squadron Short Sunderland MR.Mk.V LN751, 56 dgs 30 min North, 3 dgs 05 min West, 10:18am, Tuesday 13 April
It had been a routine patrol so far, they had spotted a few small fishing vessels but no German ships or submarines. Then on the ASV scope a large blip appeared. The operator clicked his throat microphone, “radio to flightdeck, I’ve picked up a contact on the surface, bearing green six-four, range about eleven miles.”
“What is it? A ship?” asked the pilot.
“Its too small for a ship, might be a small boat or possibly a surfaced submarine.”
The pilot looked sceptically at his co-pilot, but they had a job to do and if it was a surfaced submarine they would soon find out. He checked the compass and began turning the flying boat onto the contact bearing.
Four minutes later the nose-gunner spotted the grey shape in the waves below, “Nose gunner to pilot, I’ve spotted the sub, about ten degrees to starboard.”
The co-pilot spotted it too and they swung round to circle it. “What do you make of it Bill?” he asked.
Bill the pilot gave a quizzical look, “they might have had engine problems or something. Certainly looks like a Jerry U-boat.”
“He’s heading east. Maybe they’re packing it up and going home?” the co-pilot asked hopefully.
“Perhaps. Sparks, you’d better send a sighting report back to base and our position.”

Board of Admiralty Meeting Room, Whitehall, London, 11:00GMT, Tuesday 13 April

The Board of Admiralty was reconvened at short notice following the Cabinet decision and the operational orders that had to be decided. Among those in attendance were the First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Bruce Fraser, who was the chair, the Second Sea Lord Admiral Sir William Jock Whitworth, the Fifth Sea Lord Admiral Sir Denis William Boyd, Vice Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Andrew Cunningham and his deputy the Assistant Chief Naval Staff Admiral Sir Patrick Brind and the First Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander.

Alexander hurried in from the Cabinet meeting he had just left and began recounting their decisions.
“So they have abdicated all responsibility to us?” Fraser asked.
Alexander nodded, “with their full backing.”
Fraser couldn’t help but feel sceptical that support would hold if things got out of hand.

The VCNS gave a brief precis of the latest intelligence reports and the situation as it was then understood. The 6th Destroyer Flotilla was in contact with the German’s left flank and some of the screening units. From Rosyth the 20th Light Cruiser Squadron supported by the 12th Destroyer Flotilla had endeavoured to set up the planned patrol line westward but in fact the Germans had moved faster than anticipated and then ran more or less straight into the bulk of the two westward German groups. The heavy cruiser HMS Essex had been the first to make contact, spotting a small group of German minelayers and she was still following them. So far the Germans had taken no action to shake off their pursuers and there had been no arguments over right of way or attempts to crowd them off course. It was decided reinforcements were not required and the shadowing should continue. The two submarines in the North Sea [HMS Sealion and HMS Walrus] were still on patrol and had provided some useful reports and had even managed to dodge the German screens. Now however it was decided they should head west and cover the Skagerrak in case further German ships came through from the Baltic. The 2nd and 5th Submarine Flotillas (ten submarines in all) had already left Portsmouth the previous evening and they were endeavouring to reach the German coast undetected.

The ACNS now raised the topic of whether to move the bulk of the heavy fleet from Portsmouth. Most of the large ships had raised steam around dawn and were more or less fully manned and ready to go. It had been a frantic 24 hours but a fleet was ready. Alexander raised an objection, “does the Board fully appreciate how much it would cost to move five Admirals and three carriers down the Channel?”
Fraser thought his political master was getting cold feet already. The Third Sea (Controller), Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay wasn’t convinced, “readiness cannot be brought cheaply. In any case we have more than enough oil fuel, we’ve stocked up for FOREMAST due to start at the end of the month. The ships are ready, the men are ready. I say we go. Go.”
At the mention of FOREMAST, the Second Sea Lord Admiral Sir William Jock Whitworth pointed out the dislocation of the exercise that would follow. “As I see it, a counter-measure wouldn’t achieve much. The Germans would gain the satisfaction of having brought us out but then we would play into their hands. We would not learn enough to make it worthwhile and we are not set up to conduct an exercise, we would need to draw up orders and notices and there isn’t time to do that unless we wait another couple of days. I say it’s much better we go ahead with FOREMAST as planned and conduct our exercises out of range of German observation.”
“Also, we must thing of the potential for accidents if we keep piling ships into the North Sea. It might undermine all our political efforts so far,” Alexander added.
It was too late to put any brakes on the Germans heading north. They were marking time and conducting carrier exercises in some strength and within a day or so would probably be turning round back to the south or holding somewhere north of the Orkneys. In any case the Atlantic units on the Clyde would be better placed to respond. Postponing another day seemed foolish. If the Germans got too cocky or desperate enough to encroach closer to British waters then something would need to be done.
Fraser glanced at a chart on the large oak table. “There is little point steaming up the Channel, too much time wasted and the French would be bound to spot it, let alone the German U-Boat screen. We’ll move the Portsmouth ships this way,” his braided sleeve swept in an arc along the British coast, “then if we need to reinforce North Atlantic Command they are ready and if they are not they can come round here and back. The other factor is that the German’s can’t see this movement.”
“No movement is ever secret, especially in peacetime,” Brind interjected.
“There is always risk, but this approach should satisfy the Cabinet. At least we will be prepared.”

The next topic was the U-Boats. The Admiralty now had to wait until the Germans responded to the government’s ultimatum. One Sunderland had reported a U-boat on the surface heading east, time would tell if this was an isolated case, mechanical failure perhaps, or part of the larger withdrawal. Apart from local units at Rosyth, Hull, Harwich, Sheerness and Scapa Flow making anti-submarine patrols the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla and the 9th and 13th Sloop Flotillas would continue their sweep from Harwich to Lowestoft and past the Wash and along the Lincolnshire coast. At Hull they would turn south and sweep again. Hopefully by this afternoon they would have a better picture of the German’s intentions.


Monday, September 11th 2017, 4:06pm


NB. The Seeteufel should be on an easterly course. Going west from her last reported position would (a) bring her into British territorial waters and (b) involve beaching her on the Scottish coast.


Monday, September 11th 2017, 4:23pm

OOC: fixed!
Many thanks got my east and west mixed up (damn coordinates!)


Monday, September 11th 2017, 7:31pm

Submarine Q193, 54 dgs 8 min North, 7 dgs 37 min East, Tuesday, 12 April 1948

The operator had picked up the sound of distant screws some minutes ago; he said it was deeper in pitch than the antisubmarine ships they had thus far avoided. Charpentier decided that he would remain at periscope depth and ascertain what was above him on the surface; at least for the time being whatever ships they were, their echo-location equipment was silent. Charpentier put his eye to the periscope the moment it broke the surface, scanning the horizon in the fading light. His jaw tightened.

He could see that he was in the midst of a German squadron – he had counted two light cruisers and at least half-a-dozen escorts. He ordered the crew to action stations and began tracking the movements of the cruiser closest to his position. His boat had only four practice torpedoes, and he was determined to make them count.

Einzatzgruppe 71.2, normally assigned to shepherd troop transports and other auxiliaries, had been released to augment the antisubmarine sweeps that were a part of Donnerschlag. By all accounts they and their fellows had been successful in this, with three ‘Red Force’ submarines ‘sunk’. They had therefore grown complacent, and were proceeding on a non-evasive course to the west, relying on their passive listening equipment.

The corvette Ozelot was the first to raise an alarm. Her sound operator heard something on his apparatus and requested clearance from the bridge to go active; a request agreed to with alacrity. Sound waves began to echo through the waters around her, while signal lamps flashed out a warning to the remaining ships of the squadron.

“That tears it,” muttered Charpentier, “they’ll find us in no time.” Calmly he continued tracking the cruiser he had chosen for a target, they were little more than eight hundred metres distant when he ordered a full spread fired. “Take her down,” he ordered, knowing that by diving deep and keeping silent was his only option to escape the wrath to come.

The commander and crew of the cruiser Breslau were still rushing to their battle stations when the successive ‘thunk’ of practice torpedoes hit the cruiser’s hull. On her bridge the umpire assigned listened carefully to the reports of the ‘damage’ done. He had not been impressed by the dilatory manner in which the Breslau’s captain had comported himself and allowed his ship to be ambushed, and he might have allowed that distaste to colour his ruling. “One torpedo hit in the forepeak,” he noted. “One before and one abaft the bridge. One torpedo hit aft.” Damage control parties were sent to deal with the ‘damage’, but the umpire ruled the failure of the ship’s engines and with the loss of power her pumps. “Breslau is disabled,” he inform her captain.

All this was unknown to Charpentier, whose boat was now the victim of repeated ‘depth charge’ attacks. The small noisemakers that dropped close aboard were bad enough, but this boat shook when the practice warhead of something larger detonated. Capitaine Lemaire, his boat’s umpire, drew in a breath, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I believe we have been sunk”.

Charpentier ordered the Q193 to surface, and found himself with one cruiser stationary off his starboard quarter and several smaller ships milling about in a somewhat menacing manner. Signals were exchanged and tempers allowed to cool; no one enjoys being ‘sunk’, even in an exercise. To Charpentier it appeared that his target, the light cruiser Breslau, had been disabled and its crew valiantly attempting ‘save’ it from destruction. As the surfaced Q193 motored southwest into the gathering night he signalled “Bon Chance” and set course for the appointed rendezvous of Emden.


Monday, September 11th 2017, 7:39pm



Monday, September 11th 2017, 10:59pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Tuesday, 13 April 1948

It had been a long day for Admiral Lindenau; the strain and lack of rest was beginning to tell – but exercises are to test not only the men at sea but those on shore who command them. Lindenau had promised his staff that he would rest that evening, after dining with again with his guests.

Einzatzverband 58 had been operational off the Scottish coast for more than twenty-four hours, and he still was surprised at the mildness of the Royal Navy’s response. He made a mental note to ask Berlin if there was any intelligence regarding British preparations for their own exercise – he recalled that after the Kriegsmarine’s 1946 Fleet Exercise the Royal Navy had flexed its muscles in response, and in the spring of 1947 had carried out its own exercise intended to stem a ‘breakout’ by the Kriegsmarine. The desire not to upset operational plans by a hasty response could explain the quiescent attitude of the Home Fleet. And, as Admiral Abashvili mentioned earlier in the day, the hands of the admirals might have been tied by the politicians in Whitehall.

Von Bassewitz-Levetzow and Capitaine Jean des Moutis entered, the former bearing a message flimsy, the latter attempting to suppress a grin. “A report from Einzatzgruppe 71.2” announced von Bassewitz-Levetzow “the cruiser Breslau has been ‘sunk’ by torpedoes from a Red Force submarine. The submarine, the Q193, was sunk in turn.”

Capitaine Cabanier smiled in a somewhat self-deprecating manner. “I said that Charpentier was a good officer.”

Lindenau nodded. “Considering the manner in which the deck had been stacked against them, the Second Submarine Flotilla has done better than I would have expected. The Breslau? Under normal circumstances a military tribunal would be called for to lose a ship in such a manner.”

“At least the loss is merely notional,” Abashvili interjected.

“True,” Lindenau remarked. “One cannot win every throw of the dice – and her crew will merely have the opportunity to return to port prematurely.” Briefly his brow clouded. “And that might be a heavier burden to bear than an actual sinking.”

“Admiral,” said von Bassewitz-Levetzow, “it is nearly midnight. You promised…”

“Yes,” he acknowledged. “I suspect we all could use some decent sleep.” He turned to his guests, “Good evening then. Until morning…”


Wednesday, September 13th 2017, 10:56am

Portsmouth Harbour, 17:00GMT, Tuesday 13 April
In the afternoon sunshine the air of the main harbour was filled with the oily smoke of marine boilers and the waters churned as the large propellers began turning.
The smaller ships, the destroyers left first and then the carriers were eased out with the help of tugs and finally the five giant battleships moved. A large crowd had gathered by this time, "the Navy's on the move!" some waved as the ships headed out into the Channel. The news spread around the city that the fleet was finally out. Eventually news filtered back from telephone boxes as the few national reporters sent down the day before to find out when and if the Navy would move finally sent back their copy.
Of course, although the crowd assumed they were sailing to intercept the German fleet, nobody knew where the ships were bound or what they might do. Everyone just had to wait.


Wednesday, September 13th 2017, 9:40pm

Cherbourg, April 13th, 1948.
17:20 Hours
"Hmm," the chief watch technician said, studying his board. For the last few minutes, the radio-intercept equipment at the coastal defense station outside Cherbourg detected a sharp increase in coded radio traffic, originating from the direction of Portsmouth. Now, the station was starting to pick up distant whiffs from Type 970 radars, amongst others.

The technician picked up his phone.

Aéroport de Cherbourg-Maupertus
17:25 Hours
A pair of Breguet-Nord Br.932 Longue-Vues, wearing the dark blue paint and anchor-covered roundel of the Aeronavale, had spent the last few days sitting idle on the apron, fully fueled and ready to fly - but with no orders to go anywhere. The three-man crews spent the time productively, playing cards, challenging their ground crew to a futball skirmish, and in the case of Aircraft #2's radar operator, building a kite from spare pieces lying around in the hanger.

The telephone rang; the field commander picked up. "Cherbourg-Maupertus. Yes. Very well." He hung up and immediately signalled the pilots. "Start up!"

While the Longue-Vue crews ran to their aircraft and started the engines, two ground crewmen jumped in white-painted field cars and raced over to the civilian side of Cherbourg-Maupertus airport. One headed to the small control tower, while another flagged down a civilian pilot who was just preparing for takeoff. "You wait!" the crewman shouted. The civilian pilot, a local who knew the airport's rules quite well, turned around on the civilian apron and set his engine to idle.

Two minutes later, the first Br.932 roared down the runway.

The Manche
17:45 Hours
The pilot of Aircraft #1 was technically a naval reservist. He'd learned to fly in 1917, too late to see combat in the Great War. After a number of years flying for the Marine Nationale - ten in seaplanes, ten in carrier torpedo bombers, and the rest in antisubmarine work - he'd retired to try his hand at teaching flying lessons. That wasn't going quite so well, more due to pay than anything else, leading him to return to a more active reserve of the Marine Nationale. He got to fly once or twice a week - or even more - assisting the Maritime Gendarmerie by flying coast surveillance missions.

And this was technically a coastal surveillance mission, wasn't it?

"Got something," the radar operator reported, calling out the bearing given from his Molsheim set. The pilot adjusted course, and found one of the trans-Manche ferries, steaming from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. But behind them...

"Well, that's what we're looking for," the pilot announced. Again, he adjusted course in order to take the Longue-Vue on a broad loop away from the English coast. It just wouldn't do to overfly the British fleet and cause an unpleasant incident.

The pilot picked up the radio, broadcasting in the clear. "Flight Michael-George-Four-One-Two, supporting Maritime Gendarmerie. Significant British naval force forming up outside Portsmouth. At least one aircraft carrier currently spotted in the mix."

There was an immediate response from the Maritime Prefect up the coast in Dunkerque. "Michael-George-Four-One-Two, maintain current position and report general fleet movement. Maintain, if possible, three kilometers distance between any fleet elements."

"Affirmative," the pilot agreed.

"You think the Rosbifs are going to be irritated?" the copilot asked.

"Don't see why," the pilot answered. "It's not like they own the Manche any more than we do. They sent aircraft to photograph Calais only two days ago, and we didn't even send fighters to shake them up. They can't complain if we get a few kilometers closer to Wight than we normally do."

Amiraute Francaise
17:55 Hours
The telephone rang; an officer answered it, spent a few moments talking, and then hung up. "The duty officer at Dunkerque reports that our coastal teledetector station in Cherbourg detected a major ship moment underway from Portsmouth. They sent a coastal patrol aircraft to investigate. At least some of the big boys are coming out to play."

"Very well," the chief of operations said. He glanced at his map of the Manche, then picked up his own telephone. "Allo, Werner? You asked to be notified if... yes, looks sizeable, at least one flight deck spotted. Within the last hour. No, I've got a single aircraft south of the Isle of Wight and another on standby to replace them in three hours. Yes. Our coastal teledetector stations and our coastal gun battery crews will tell me when they reach the Pas de Calais. And I have Pégase in the Celtic Sea on a training exercise. If anything comes from the west to join up with them, or if they instead go west- well, it's possible, isn't it? No, I don't intend to do anything more than that, unless they start getting particularly frisky."


Wednesday, September 13th 2017, 10:40pm

Frigate Frankenthal, 56 dgs 19 min North, 2 dgs 45 min East, Wednesday, 14 April 1948

For the last twenty-four hours the Frankenthal and her consorts, the frigate Rottweil, the corvette Jaguar, and the corvette Wolf, had been carrying out their assignment of anti-submarine screen for Einzaztverband 58 under the watchful gaze of a shadowing British destroyer. They had led the British on a merry chase, gradually drawing them to the northwest; now it was time to turn the tables. The order was passed by signal lamp for total electronic silence; wireless transmissions, emissions from Seetakt and other navigation aids, even the anti-submarine echo-location equipment aboard the German ships were shut down. In the darkness of night it was as if the Frankenthal and Einzatzgruppe 44.2.1 had disappeared.

Aboard the Gravelines the abrupt end of electronic transmissions from the German ships signalled that something was up. The operators of the Type 293 Passive Radio Intercept and Type 297 Passive RDF Intercept sets immediately notified their watch officers, who in turn notified the Gravelines’ captain. That worthy faced a dilemma – shut down his own RDF, go blind, and risk the possibility of losing track of the German sloops, or use his RDF to keep track of the Germans and give them more opportunity to analyse his own transmissions. And collision was always a danger.

“Number One,” he ordered. “Shut down our RDF, double the lookouts, and slow to twelve knots. Be prepared for rapid course changes if the Huns try to double back on us.”


Thursday, September 14th 2017, 1:29am

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 29 min North, 2 dgs 37 min East, Wednesday, 14 April 1948

Morning found Einzatzverband 58 continuing its manoeuvres in the North Sea; while keeping station relative to one another the four task groups had moved somewhat further south and east. Admiral Lindemann was called to the flag bridge shortly after the task force had completed launching its dawn anti-submarine patrol.

“Herr Admiral,” advised his chief of staff, “our patrols spotted a single British destroyer to the east of us.”

Lindemann scanned the plotting board. “Are they attempting to close on us?”

“Not yet Herr Admiral – they have yet to spot us.”

“That,” Lindemann concluded, “will not last long. They should encounter the outer escort soon enough. Bring the task force into the wind.”

The decks of each of the large carriers were filled with aircraft, which now bounded into the air and formed up above the task force. They would soon head westward to carry out another day’s simulated attack on Admiral Langsdorff’s accompanying battleships. The smaller carriers would continue to provide combat air patrols in the event of British aircraft disturbing the now routine coat trailing. Lindemann looked eastward, where the rising sun was turning the horizon a bright orange, recalling the words of an old poem.

“On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin'-fishes play, An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!”


Thursday, September 14th 2017, 3:10pm

Destroyer Gravelines, 56 dgs 26 min North, 2 dgs 39 min East, Wednesday, 14 April 1948, Dawn

Fog had settled over the North Sea, adding to the problems faced by the Gravelines. The German sloops she had shadowed the previous day had eluded her during the night; her captain cursed his decision to shut down his RDF apparatus when the Huns had done so themselves. That decision he would fix immediately, and ordered them back to life.

Nearly immediately the ship’s PPI scope was filled with pips. The operators of the Type 293 and Type 297 gear found themselves nearly swamped with traffic. Lookouts reported several ships on the horizon, heading in their general direction.

(Destroyer Minden, 56 dgs 26 min North, 2 dgs 39 min East)

Einzatzgruppe 58.3 held an easterly trailing position in the task force’s formation, and the Minden, with her flotilla mates, formed the outer screen. Her captain had been alerted that the electronic signals of a warship had appeared from nowhere, and now their own Seetakt equipment had located a destroyer-size contact some eleven kilometres distant. A warning was flashed to the flagship Zeiten, which was busily engaged in air operations.

(Destroyer Gravelines)

The RDF returns and signals traffic suggested that Gravelines had stumbled headlong into an oncoming German battle group, with several aircraft carriers and escorting heavy warships. Not wishing to cause an unfortunate incident, her captain altered course to starboard and increased speed to twenty knots, praying that he could get out of the path of the oncoming formation. He would check the data captured by the RDF operators later.


Thursday, September 14th 2017, 8:35pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Wednesday, 14 April 1948

When Lindenau arrived in the operations room the clock on the wall stood at 0630; a decent night’s sleep had put him in a far better state of mind. So too was an indication that the British force in the Solent had begun moving – but not in the manner he expected.

Intelligence was sketchy, but the indications were that both the aircraft carriers and battleships of the Home Fleet were out – the movement had apparently begun late the previous afternoon and somewhat cautiously. Of course, one does not ‘scramble’ a fleet as one does fighter aircraft, but Lindenau had expected a faster movement.

While his staff reported on the movements of Einzatzverband 58 and other elements at sea Lindenau greeted his guests, who had arrived escorted by von Bassewitz-Levetzow. Abashvili’s attention was drawn to the plotting table.

“A new contact?” he asked.

Lindenau turned his attention to the plot and inquired.

“Herr Admiral,” said a staff officer, “Einzatzgruppe 58.3 has encountered a British destroyer, which had been following Einzatzgruppe 44.2.1. The British vessel has moved eastward and taken up a shadowing position several kilometres distant.”

“That is to be expected,” Lindenau sighed. “Still the British are merely being annoying.”

Lindenau took the opportunity to request that the Marineflieger expand their air searches over the Broad Fourteens in anticipation of the arrival of the British force from Portsmouth – a transit of the Channel would take hours rather than days. It might even anticipate the concentration of submarines provided for by Fischadler. When he returned he found that Capitaine Des Moutis had brought the latest information regarding British movements.

“The Home Fleet,” he announced with some puzzlement in his voice, “is heading west.”


Friday, September 15th 2017, 3:39pm

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, 02:00GMT, Wednesday 14 April
The room was thick with cigar smoke and although the hour was late their host was still in fine fettle. He slouched back in the large leather chair in his romper suit, grasping a cigar in one hand and a glass of brandy in the other.
“I can’t understand these Socialists, they are so weak. The Hun romps up and down the North Sea as though it was his personal yachting lake and the government does nothing.”
“That’s hardly fair Winston, word is the fleet moved late yesterday by now they are probably entering the Irish Sea,” one of his guests who had connections in the Admiralty replied.
Winston Churchill let out a loud “harrumph” and took a swig of his brandy. “They are heading the wrong way, no use tip-toeing round the farmyard once the horses have bolted. They should have headed east and sailed up the Frisian coast and faced them off as the Huns slunked back into harbour,” he let out another sigh, “of course had I been First Lord at this precise moment this would never of happened. I wouldn’t have been caught with my trousers down!”
A few of his guests nodded, remembering how he, as First Lord of the Admiralty, in July 1914 had forestalled the Germans and mobilised the fleet and moved it Scapa Flow before war had broken out, indeed even without the authority of the divided Liberal cabinet, distracted by Irish Home Rule and desiring to avoid being entangled in a continental war.
Max Beaverbrook stirred from his chair, “well I’m sure the Navy will do what it can, if anyone comes out of this badly it will be the Labour Party. It’s another failure on their part and who knows, next year might be an election year.” Beaverbrook, the Baron of Fleet Street, already had his papers on the offensive whipping up public opinion against Germany and against the Labour Party.
Winston’s eyes lit up at the thought of an election campaign.
“Well they did issue an ultimatum to the Germans and they seem to have withdrawn their U-boats,” Frederick Lindemann, another government insider stated.
“That was expediency, the Germans knew they could agree and not lose face. Those U-boats are still in the North Sea, it doesn’t matter whether they are ten, twenty or even a hundred miles from our shores, they are still a threat to the lifeblood of this nation.” Winston puffed on his cigar.

The Nore and Channel Command Headquarters, Dover, 08:00GMT, Wednesday 14 April
The Commander in Chief The Nore and Channel, Admiral Harold Burrough, was standing in the operations room looking at the wall map where the overnight activity and on the telephone to the Assistant Chief Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, who was at the Admiralty.
“From the sighting reports we’ve received the German U-boats are definitely pulling back, we’ve managed to decipher some of the intercepted some radio messages and they confirm the withdrawal. From the plotting information we have they seem to be heading for the vicinity of the Silver Pit.”
“Do you think they mean to set up a new defensive screen to cover their routes home?” Brind asked.
“Possibly, it would give warning of any reinforcements we sent north.”
Brind was relieved, “I’m glad we didn’t send the fleet up the Channel after all. Had this been the real thing we may have walked into a trap.”
Burrough agreed.
Brind had a burning question he wanted to satisfy, “are there any indications that they know our ships have left Portsmouth? We picked up a French patrol plane shortly after they entered the Channel and its likely they have informed the Germans.”
“Not so far. Though given the headlines in the papers this morning it won’t be long before they find out anyway.”
Brind then asked Burrough if anything else notable had happened overnight, “the Gravelines almost stumbled right into one of the main German carrier groups.”
Brind was surprised how that could happen, “how could that happen?”
“It seems the escort force they were shadowing turned off all the electronic equipment and altered course to lose her. The Captain not wanting to give his position away did likewise. When dawn broke he found they were gone and switched on his own set only to find the Germans bearing down on him. Luckily he had time to avoid them.”
Brind wasn’t happy, “he was very lucky I’d say. A collision could have earned him a bowler hat.”
Burrough was more forgiving, “in the same situation I might have done the same thing. Anyway it shows that they are getting tired of being followed around. I just hope they don’t do anything rash today.”


Saturday, September 16th 2017, 10:28pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Wednesday, 14 April 1948

By 1000 hours the movement of the British Home Fleet from Portsmouth had been confirmed – it was heading down the Channel; the units based at Plymouth were expected to join it. Press reports from London speculated that it would proceed north, picking up additional strength based on the Clyde; the passivity surprised Lindenau. It also surprised Abashvili.

“How might the English have reacted to a movement by the Northern Fleet?” The thought niggled at his brain.

Reports from Einzatzverband 58 indicated that the small number of British vessels shadowing its movements were, for the moment, keeping a respectful distance. A British destroyer had a close call with Einzatzgruppe 58.3 just after dawn, but collision had been avoided by adroit ship handling on the part of the British captain. Again, the carriers launched successive practice strikes on the escorting battleships of Admiral Langsdorff. The pilots and flight crews were certainly getting practice under simulated combat conditions.

Elsewhere, the plot also indicated the growing submarine concentration in the vicinity of the Silver Pit – Fischadler – a precaution now unnecessary it would seem. The antisubmarine forces of Einzatzverband 71 – less the ‘sunken’ cruiser Breslau – and other elements had taken up a screen between the East Anglian coast and Frisian coasts – roughly the Norfolk Banks to the exit of the Broad Fourteens – where, if the exercise had been real – British submarines from Harwich or Sheerness might be intercepted.

On a minor note, that morning the cruiser Breslau had reached the port of Emden, the designated rendezvous for ships ‘sunk’. There she joined several French submarines, the first ‘casualties’ of Donnerschlag.


Tuesday, September 19th 2017, 3:11pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 12 min North, 2 dgs 22 min East, Wednesday, 14 April 1948

Mid-day found Einzatzverband 58 south and west of its dawn position. The occasional British vessel kept a watchful eye on its activities – Lindemann expected this – and a potential contretemps with his easternmost task group had been avoided by good judgment and ship handling on the part of the captain of a shadowing British destroyer. Air operations were proceeding according to plan.

“Herr Admiral,” his staff captain said as he approached. “A signal from Flottenkommando Atlantik.”

Lindemann took the proffered message flimsy and read:


SOLENT sailed PM Tuesday 13 April on heading west-southwest. Last known position 50-5N 4-9W. Available intelligence suggests intention is to enter the Irish Sea preparatory to movement north. REGENBOGEN and FISCHADLER activated. Act accordingly.

He hastened to the flag plot and marked the reported position of the British Home Fleet – south of Plymouth – and heading westward? Certainly the Home Fleet would rendezvous with those units of the disbanded Western Approaches command before taking any response to Donnerschlag – but enter the Irish Sea? Lindemann shook his head, mystified.

Regenbogen, Lindemann paused. That indicated that Lindenau had set up a precautionary antisubmarine screen off the British and Frisian coasts, while Fischadler was the planned submarine concentration to counter any British advance into the North Sea from the Channel. Did Lindenau think that the main British force might double back?

Had Donnerschlag not been an exercise he was confident that those units of the British fleet stationed in Scottish ports would have been put out of action by his own aircraft. But the cost to his air groups? No doubt the Royal Air Force would have thrown everything available against him, but then too it would be trying to defend its own territory form the Luftwaffe and, perhaps, the Armee de l’Air. The Marineflieger’s own strike force would be expected to cooperate with Regenbogen’s screen to slow any British advance while Fischadler would cut down the British strength. A precipitate advance by the British would be countered by successive attacks until crushed by his own task force.

“No,” he thought. “The British proceed cautiously, though it galls them. It does not tip their hand too much, and,” he paused to step off the distances with dividers, “the exercise might be over before they near John O’Groats’ house.”


Wednesday, September 20th 2017, 3:25pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Wednesday, 14 April 1948

As evening approached Lindenau’s mood appeared to improve; the movement of the British Home Fleet to the west had been confirmed, and it was expected that it would venture to the west of Ireland before turning north, though the possibility of a voyage through the St. George’s Channel between England and Ireland was not impossible. A polite request had been addressed to the French inquiring if they had definitive information on the subject; in either case, it would take several days for the British force to near the area in which Einzatzverband 58 was operating.

If there was a fly in the ointment there was a report from Befehlshaber der Sicherung der Ostsee that a British submarine was loose in the Baltic – a confirmed sighting of a British ‘W’-class boat – undoubtedly on an intelligence gathering mission. Its presence was of no direct concern of Lindenau’s, and he wasted no time in speculating how the boat came to be there; he would leave that for the Foreign Ministry. That several Marineflieger Dornier patrol planes had been relieved from Donnerschlag and sent to help hunt the British boat was his concern, but the diversion of four Dorniers was acceptable at this point in time. The relative quiescence of the British response could be adequately covered.

He wondered if the objectives for Donnerschlag had been met. The map exercise taking place elsewhere in the building had shown a major victory for the Kriegsmarine; but maps were maps, and Lindenau put little faith in mere map exercises.


Friday, September 22nd 2017, 1:10pm

Berlin, Wednesday 14 April
Captain Alfred Burcough had an unenviable task as Britain’s Naval Attaché to Germany. At the weekend he had been stirred into action in London in response to the Kreigsmarine’s exercise. He had begun to feel like he was pestering and badgering anyone in the German foreign and military ministries that would listen to him. Everyone had fobbed him off with bland excuses that it was simply an exercise of no great importance. When he had guessed the full scale on Sunday he had wired London immediately but since that time his hands had been full with the Danzig Bay incident. Nobody in London had told him of the submarine operating off the Pommerian coast and so could convincingly deny any knowledge but he could tell few of his German contacts believed him. His only response was to throw back the same bland excuses to the Germans, “it’s a navigational exercise.” His German friends ribbed him about the situation he found himself in and he had the additional task of working out just what the Germans were hoping for. He’d picked up some sense of disappointment that not everything had gone to plan and at least one contact had confessed some unease of the government’s decision to annoy Britain. He hoped tonight to enjoy the theatre and put all these strains to one side.

The Admiralty, Whitehall, London, Wednesday 14 April
The day was getting late but their Lordships were still hard at work. The overall situation hadn’t changed and with the Home Fleet forces heading north there was time to devote to the Flag Exercise that had been running elsewhere in the bowels of the building. This was where the Navy’s response to the German dispositions were being mapped out, not the real rather careful reaction, but a more rigorous wartime response. The results so far had been illustrative and the input of valuable intelligence data, fragmentary though it had been, from Operation Cravat had also been invaluable.

The main conclusion from the fleet exercise was that Kreigsmarine’s exercise was not a traditional breakout into the North Atlantic. It was instead a mass fleet action designed to force the Royal Navy out into combat in an attempt to destroy it. Commander George Bennett was leading the flag exercise effort and summarised the main German aim, “In a war involving the Grand Alliance the Germans would have the advantage of the French fleet being able to tie our forces down in the South-West and Channel areas and possibly the threat from the Russian Northern Fleet from the north. That’s not even including the operations elsewhere in the world from French territories to pin down our other fleets. The German’s aim is to draw out the bulk of the Home Fleet and destroy it in a series of carrier-aircraft strikes. The Germans have been practicing this all week. It’s not improbable they would also support Lutftwaffe and Armée de l'air bombing operations against our major airfields and harbours.”

The Lords gathered viewed this ominously. RAF cutbacks had been more keenly felt in the North and the spreading of the Home Fleet made it hard to concentrate enough power for a decisive battle. In this exercise they would be facing the entire German battlefleet. Operation Cravat had broadly confirmed no major units were left in the Baltic and as HMS Wolverine had found out, the Germans were entrusting Baltic security to the Russians. It seemed likely that the Germans might take the threat to their ‘rear’ more seriously now they knew that British submarines could penetrate the Belts. Also Bennett argued that in a real war scenario it would be likely that some capital units would be unavailable due to refits etc.

Even so the main lesson so far was that the Navy had to be better prepared to react to large movements of enemy battlegroups. This meant much better warning systems in the North Sea. Current submarine deployments had been hit by training requirements and other operations like Cravat. There would definitely be more submarines patrolling the south North Sea. Whether they would operate a close watch like the Germans were off the eastern coast was open for debate. It was also desirable to back these up with more surface ships, the sloop force had grown massively over the last few years and now there were ample ships for stepping up safety, fishing and economic patrols. The Cabinet were certain to put a clampdown on operations like Cravat in the future and as a regular deployment it made less sense.

The other lesson was that the Navy had to shift its thinking. Already “Jutland Mark 2” was concept in many a wardroom across the fleet but that Great War battle had been less than decisive and the stakes for a new generation battle were no less. A tendency to see a victory as blocking German access to the Atlantic and inflicting some casualties had crept in. A more offensive mentality was required, the aim would have to be destruction of the German fleet. The next task would be to game methods of how to slow the Germans and get a large fleet in place and grind it down from the moment it left harbour (or even before) all the way north. Bennett also postulated that in a real-world scenario the pressures on the German admirals at sea might prove a limiting factor. If this exercise had been the real thing German was gambling on its entire fleet, if it lost one task group it would be a severe blow, if it lost half its force or more then the effect would be devastating. That fear of defeat had tempered Jellicoe and Hipper thirty years earlier, it might still do so today.


Sunday, September 24th 2017, 4:02pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Thursday, 15 April 1948

The morning plot greeted Lindenau with a surprise. Orders from the Admiralstab had relieved Einzatzgruppe 71.4 from his operational control and placed it at the disposal of the Befehlshaber der Sicherung der Nordsee. The transfer of four corvettes from the Regenbogen screen would not seriously impact its efficacy – indeed, British submarine activities were at an apparent minimum. The plot showed the ships on a north-westerly course, and there was a marker for another part of Einzatzgruppe 71.4 – its minesweepers – heading north parallel to the Danish coast.

Von Bassewitz-Levetzow, Admiral von Fischel’s representative, explained. “The British have a submarine poking around inside the Baltic – and no, we have no evidence how it got there. The Wilhelmstraße requested the Admiralstab to take precautionary measures, and the Admiralstab in turn ordered the BSN to organise an antisubmarine screen off the Skagerrak.”

Lindenau’s visage clouded. “I hope that the Admiralstab will not filch any more of my ships.”

“The 2. Minenlegerflotille has been returned to the BSN’s operational control, having finished their part in Donnerschlag. With the ships of Einzatzgruppe 71.4 that gives him four corvettes, eight minesweepers, and eight fast minelayers to do the job. That should be more than enough without overly annoying the Nords.”

“And the Danes?” Lindenau asked.

“The Foreign Ministry is tending to that. Herr von Hapsburg is not amused.”


Monday, September 25th 2017, 7:55pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 50 min North, 2 dgs 13 min East, Thursday, 15 April 1948

Dawn found Einzatzverband 58 on a generally northerly course; Lindemann had brought the task force north in reaction to the latest intelligence reports regarding the movement of the British Home Fleet. While it would take several days for them to sail around the western coasts of Britain or Ireland it took but a few hours sailing to position his aircraft carriers to where their long-range search aircraft could spot British ships attempting to enter from the Atlantic; he doubted that the British would go as far north as the Norwegian Sea and pass east of the Faroe Islands. The change would be good for his air groups – their round of simulated attacks on the battleships and cruisers of Admiral Langsdorff’s task group had become almost routine.


Thursday, September 28th 2017, 2:08pm

Light Minelayer Spica, 57 dgs 20 min North, 5 dgs 38 min East, Thursday, 15 April 1948

For Oberleutnant zur See Radermacher the Spica’s current mission was not unlike those she had undertaken since the start of exercise Donnerschlag – the laying and tending of simulated mine barrages to close the exits of the Baltic. However he had noted a subtle change – in addition to the ships of his own minelayer unit a minesweeper/patrol flotilla had been deployed, and, rumour had it, several anti-submarine corvettes had been diverted from Donnerschlag to provide support. Support for what had not been explained in his orders thus far, though it was obvious that it had something to do with submarines – why else reassign first-line ASW ships to an exercise side-show.