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221

Monday, February 1st 2021, 1:08am

Insterburg, East Prussia, Thursday, 15 December 1949

The training of Schnelleinsetzbare Schwere Betriebsreparaturgeschwader 22 had not been interrupted by the arrival of winter, the programme merely shifted emphasis. Practice for keeping men and material warm and operation in the cold was now the order of the day. Thus it was surprising that Gallery and Savitsky found themselves invited to the squadron HQ hut where Oberstleutnant Rall broke the news to them.

“Gentlemen, we have been asked to attend a meeting in Berlin. Our train departs in three hours – I suggest that you pack quickly.” He saw the questions forming in their minds and continued, “We should be in Berlin for no more than two nights – prepare accordingly.”

Savitsky, who had not been to Berlin before, voiced his own concerns. “Who are we supposed to be meeting with?”

Rall pulled the message flimsy from his pocket and read “Report the office of the Director of Naval Construction to discuss requirements for Kachelotplate and Brauerplate. That is all. Beyond that your guess is as good as mine. But it does get us out of the forests of East Prussia.”

All three of them could agree on the value of that point.

222

Saturday, February 20th 2021, 1:17am

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Saturday, 17 December 1949

A car had met them upon their arrival at the railway station and whisked them to Admiralstab headquarters where they were quickly ushered into a conference room. They were greeted by a scholarly-looking kapitän zur see who stood next to a conference table covered in stacks of plans and piles of scale models.

“Reporting as ordered Herr Kapitän.” Rall took charge of introducing his companions.

“Welcome to Berlin. I am von Friedeburg, and as your instructions mentioned, I am the Kriegsmarine’s director of naval construction. I am faced with a challenge I require the input of you gentlemen to help me meet it.”

He moved to the conference table and spread out the plans of a ship. “Two new engineer landing ships will begin conversion next month, sister-ships of the Doggerbank – but it is necessary to assure that their internal fittings and other arrangements will be able to carry the equipment of an airfield construction unit; specifically, it is necessary to develop loading plans to maximize the amount of equipment, personnel, and supplies to be carried. However, calculating maximums oftentimes runs afoul of the optimal – and this is where my staff needs your assistance. They will need to know the priority in which your equipment should be unloaded so that the ships may be combat loaded.”

Savitsky and Gallery understood the concept by were struck by a tone of urgency in von Friedeburg’s voice. Rall was focused the plans spread before them.

“We are not naval architects Herr Kapitän…”

“But you know what it is likely to know what you need to do your work and in what order you need it. Have no concern – I have plenty of naval architects on my staff.”

223

Today, 12:14am

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Monday, 19 December 1949

The planning sessions with von Friedeburg and his staff had been intense, and Galley’s eyes still felt the strain of pouring over dozens of sheets of ship plans, lists of equipment, with their dimensions, weights, and special characteristics. They had had to work out compromises in order that the ships – the soon to be converted Kachelotplate and Brauerplate – would not risk taking on a list in heavy seas, and yet be able to off-load the equipment required to build a forward airfield rapidly. It gave him a new appreciation for Teutonic thoroughness, the desire to be prepared for all eventualities, in contrast to his own services’ too often application of système débrouille and muddling through in the face of adversity. But the conference was now over, and tonight the officers had an opportunity to relax before their departure in the morning.

“Yevgeny, have you seen Günther?”

“I think he is still changing for dinner. Uniforms might be out of place in the Weihnachtsmärkt.”

The Frenchman nodded and sat down in the hotel foyer to await their companion. The Christmas market at Lustgarten was famous across Germany, and he hoped that beside a diversion of the trials of their recent mission he might be able to acquire some suitable presents to send home to his family. Podpolkovnik Savitsky had much the same thoughts on his mind, as he thumbed a brochure thoughtfully provided by the hotel, one indicting what each of the various stalls had on offer.

At that moment the elevator opened and Rall emerged. “Sorry I am late.”


Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Tuesday, 20 December 1940

Major Walter Ohmsen arrived at the train station together with the men and equipment of the tank detachment he commanded. In a town dominated by the Kriegsmarine his Marinelandungsverband uniform marked him as a newcomer. It did not take long for the driver sent from naval headquarters to approach him, explaining his purpose. Ohmsen turned the task of detraining over to executive officer and got into the sedan provided for him.

Half an hour later he found himself in the office of Fregattenkapitän Heinrich Wulle, who offered him a chair.

“You have been travelling much in the last three days. Collect your thoughts Ohmsen. Would you care for coffee, or perhaps tea?”

“Thank you sir, coffee, if I may please.” Wulle summoned his yeoman who took care of Ohmsen’s request.

Wulle began to lay out the issue at hand. “Right now there are ten landing ships in the harbour, to learn the business of landing tanks and heavy equipment on a defended shore, but first they need to learn the art of taking vehicles aboard and seeing them to their destination. It will be your job – and that of your men – to help prepare their crews.”

Ohmsen smiled. “It will be interesting.”