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Thursday, October 17th 2019, 4:08am

Unternehmen Mondscheinsonate

Light Cruiser Nürnberg, The North Atlantic, Saturday, 25 June 1949

Kapitän zur See Wilhelm Rollman checked the charts, which put them at 47° north, 45° west, some three hundred fifty nautical miles east of the destination, St. Johan in Vinland.

“Slow to ten knots. We do not wish to run into any fishing vessels. Signal the Leipzig to conform.”

The two German cruisers had reached the rich fishing grounds known as Flemish Cap – the outrider of the Grand Banks of Vinland. Here would be trawlers, seiners, drifters, and whalers from many nations – not only Nordmark but from America, Canada, Britain, Iberia, Atlantia, France, and even Germany. Rollman ordered the dradis watches to be maintained and posted extra lookouts, for experience showed that small fishing craft sometimes disappeared the horizon of electronic detection gear.

“Herr Kapitän, the latest weather report from Roter Löwe.” The yeoman handed off the message.

The inspection ship Roter Löwe was on station in these waters, monitoring the weather, providing general assistance to the array of fishing vessels in the area, and, most importantly, tracking the movements of icebergs.

At their current speed Rollman expected to reach their destination in about thirty-six hours; a message the previous day had advised the consulate in St. Johan of their needs and he hoped that the Etappendienst had made suitable arrangements.


Friday, October 18th 2019, 6:20pm

St. Johan, Vinland, Monday, 27 June 1949

The Nürnberg and Leipzig had made port late that morning, the last hours of their voyage made under the watchful eyes of maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force – something to be expected. Some fifty nautical miles east of Vinland they had been met by a guard-boat of the Royal Nordish Navy which escorted them into the harbour. Once anchored Rollman and Neuss paid the obligatory calls on the captain of the port and other Nordish officials and were officially welcomed. Having followed the custom of navies for generation, the cruisers could now be re-provisioned, taking on fresh water and food to top off their store-rooms – the supplies arranged through the Etappendienst and the local consulate. Refuelling would wait until the morrow.

The crew would have the opportunity for liberty ashore – though summer the regular rains and fogs of Vinland would limit what acceptable diversions would be available. Football, at least, would give the men a chance to pit themselves against the crews of the Nordish navy vessels assigned to St. Jan’s, or against their shipmates. Their mission left their stay in St. Johan to their discretion – though it was very unlikely that the Admiralstab would countenance a stay until the Royal Regatta scheduled for August.


Friday, October 18th 2019, 6:35pm

Was meaning to note earlier - I think the Nords actually call the town St. Johan, not St. Jan. That's always been the name I use, fwiw.


Friday, October 18th 2019, 8:26pm

Was meaning to note earlier - I think the Nords actually call the town St. Johan, not St. Jan. That's always been the name I use, fwiw.

The Big Ass Map is silent, so I will trust to your memory. I can fix this.


Saturday, October 26th 2019, 7:20pm

St. Johan, Vinland, Thursday, 30 June 1949

The Nürnberg and Leipzig departed St. Johan’s following an abbreviated stay – a signal from the Admiralstab ‘suggesting’ that the cruisers visit New York City in time for the celebrations there of American independence. Any disappointment was tempered with word that they would be joined at a future date by several other vessels, in anticipation of which Kapitän Rollmann, as the senior officer, would be frocked as Kommodore of the soon to be enlarged squadron. Rollmann’s elation was tempered by knowledge that the promotion was temporary, but when the cruisers stood out into the Atlantic a fresh broad pendant streamed proudly from Nürnberg’s masthead.


Saturday, November 2nd 2019, 9:30pm

Above the North Sea, Friday, 1 July 1949

The Fokker T.X-M of the Dutch Marine Luchtvaart Dienst jockeyed for position with its Belgian counterpart as the two aircraft sought to track the three German vessels as they crossed the Broad Fourteens on a west-southwesterly course.

The big fat tanker was unmistakable, its escorts less so. Eventually the Belgian aircraft took the bull by the horns and made a low-level pass to obtain a good oblique view that confirmed the smaller vessels as a pair of Amazone-class antisubmarine corvettes.

“I wonder where they are going?”

German vessels heading out into the Atlantic usually took the northern route, entering between Scotland, the Faeroe Islands, and Norway; but little more than a week before a pair of big light cruisers had taken this same course. News reports had indicated these vessels had crossed the ocean to Vinland.

“Our job is just to track them and not upset the Royal Air Force by straying into air space they consider their own.”

Below the aircraft the corvettes Thetis and Medusa shepherded the tanker Altmark as the trio plodded along at a steady fifteen knots. Aboard them lookouts practiced keeping watch on the aircraft, slightly amused by the ‘air show’ being put on for their benefit. Bets were being laid on when British aircraft might join, or, alternatively, which of the competing Fokkers would depart first. The weather was clear, the seas relatively calm, and all hands had been brief on their mission – supporting the Detachierte Division in North American waters.


Saturday, November 9th 2019, 6:29pm

Light Cruiser Nürnberg, The New York Bight, Sunday, 3 July 1949

The Nürnberg and Leipzig had cruised south from St. Johan at a safe and leisurely pace; the amount of coastal ship traffic demanded care and constant vigilance. A hundred miles east of Cape Cod the German vessels had been met by the United States Coast Guard cutter Duane, their appointed escort. Her presence was valuable, if only to maintain a semblance of control over the many sight-seeing aircraft that overflew the ships as they rounded Nantucket Island and the summer vacation resort of Martha’s Vineyard. Off Montauk Island the Duane had been relieved by the cutter Spencer, which expended considerable effort in chivvying the many pleasure boats whose passengers gawked at the European visitors.

As the cruisers with their escort approached the Outer Narrows they did so under the watchful camera eye of a Goodyear blimp, the newsreel footage of their arrival soon to be splashed over cinema screens across the United States. Kommodore Rollmann ordered the cruisers to heave to while awaiting a change of the tide and the arrival of pilots to guide the ships to their final anchorage; their pause concluded, they exchanged salutes with Fort Hamilton to starboard and with Fort Wadsworth to port as they entered Gravesend Bay, where they dropped anchor.

While Rollman and his officers prepared for the inevitable round of courtesy calls on both naval and civil authorities, their crews were looking forward to the delights of the great city.


Tuesday, November 12th 2019, 6:06pm

The Tanker Altmark, The North Atlantic, Tuesday, 5 July 1949

Four days ago the Altmark and her escorts had passed the Straits of Dover; the aerial circus provided by the Rosbifs and their French allies had continued the entire time they traversed the narrow seas, and as they had passed Land's End a British sloop had joined them, keeping a polite distance, until they had sailed well west of Ireland. For the moment though, the flotilla was alone, engaged in refueling.

They motored at a leisurely twelve knots, the Medusa off the Altmark’s starboard beam, the Thetis to port, lines stretching from the tanker to the corvettes while fuel was pumped to the small craft. For all it was good practice – even if the Atlantic swells kept the hands alert for the possibility of mishap. In a few days they would reach the American port of Norfolk, in Virginia, where they anticipated rendezvousing with the cruisers Nürnberg and Leipzig.


Friday, November 15th 2019, 6:46pm

Light Cruiser Nürnberg, The Narrows, Saturday, 9 July 1949

Kommodore Rollman reluctantly departed New York City to lead his cruisers towards their next destination. They had enjoyed the hospitality of the city, its large and vibrant German-American community, and added their own small contribution to the celebration of American independence. They had entertained a number of American naval and military officers, as well as civic dignitaries, aboard the Nürnberg and the Leipzig, and receiving from Mayor William O'Dwyer the ceremonial keys to the city.

Once clear of the main shipping channels that led into the busy port, Rollman ordered a course change to the south-southeast, standing out away from the coast. He had been ordered to rendezvous with the tanker Altmark and her consorts, which were to be attached to his command for the duration of their stay in the western hemisphere.

A day’s easy steaming brought the cruisers to the appointed area, approximately a hundred miles east of Cape May, where they met their compatriots – the tanker and her escorting corvettes Thetis and Medusa. Together they now sailed southwest back towards the American coast and their next port of call.