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101

Tuesday, October 30th 2018, 12:17am

Marinestützpunkt Kiel, Wednesday, 1 December 1948

Captain First Rank Konstantin Konstantinovich Khrenov, naval attaché of the Russian Federation, arrived from Berlin on the early morning train. His hosts had invited him to observe planned amphibious exercises off the island of Rugen. Casting an eye over the inner harbour Khrenov noted a number of vessels he had not noted in previous visits – a squadron of fleet destroyers of the Z250-class – ships as far as he was aware ought to be with the Kriegsmarine’s Atlantikflotte in the North Sea. Moreover, as the launch that was ferrying him out the amphibious ship Wittelsbach passed that section of the shipyard reserved for ships “in ordinary” he saw much activity – including a tug towing one of the older destroyers that were in reserve across the harbour towards a shipyard wharf.

“Interesting… and very unexpected.” Even in his thoughts Khrenov was a master of understatement.

The launch came alongside Wittelsbach and he was piped aboard. He was then conducted to the cabin of Vizeadmiral Becker, who welcomed him.

“Herr Kapitän, please make yourself comfortable. Your gear will be sent to your cabin.” Khrenov had been warned that the exercise would take several days to conclude.

“Thank you Admiral.”

Becker went on to explain that the exercise was rather routine in concept – a reinforced battalion would make a practice landing on beaches on Rügen.

“Admiral, I trust that the weather will be propitious.”

“We expect the weather will be marginal… as an engineer might say, we are ‘pushing bounds of the envelope’. Our goal is to learn what can be anticipated in marginal weather and how to cope with it.”

102

Monday, November 5th 2018, 4:36pm

The Prorer Wiek, Sunday, 5 December 1948

Captain Khrenov stood on the bridge of the Wittelsbach and watched with interest the transport Frundsberg as she began to lower her landing craft. He could see the landing troops congregating on deck preparatory to clambering down the cargo nets that stretched from the deck to the spots designated by bold numbers on the Frundsberg’s side, to which the boats in the water made their way slowly. As predicted, the weather made matters difficult – a strong chop in the water, moderate winds, which hampered the landing boats that strove to take their place.

“Admiral, I suspect you may take casualties. Clambering down those nets fully loaded cannot be easy.”

Becker nodded. “In previous exercises we have lost men who lost their footing and fell into the water, and drowned before they could be recovered; others by being crushed between their boat and their ship. I hope that the training of our boat crews will keep this to a minimum.”

Khrenov was about to comment further when the sound of gunfire distracted him. Looking towards the shore he way several destroyers had taken station to landward and were beginning a preliminary bombardment of the shore.

*****
“Herr Kapitän, we are in position.”

Von Bülow nodded. “Signal the squadron to open fire according to plan.”

The Z250 shuddered as a broadside was loosed from her main guns and arced toward the shore, throwing up fountains of sand from their impact.

His crews were accustomed to firing at moving targets while their own ship moved at speed. Firing at fixed targets, with their ship barely under way, was a new experience. And it was necessary that their bombardment be precise – too short and their shells would land among the landing barges; too long and shells might fall in areas still occupied by civilians.

He looked toward the flagship Wittelsbach and saw her hoist the signal for the landing barges to start their run for the beach. He watched the barges crawl toward the rim of white sand, struggling against the current that tried to sweep them southward from their objective.

“Shift fire. Execute fire plan Dora”

In response the destroyers shifted their fire slightly inland – in the event a barge was swept too far south its landing point would be out of the immediate bombardment zone.

*****

Khrenov noted that the first wave of barges had reached the shore and disgorged their cargo of troops, wheeling smartly to return to the Frundsberg. As they did so he saw larger lighters making their way towards the beach, where they would deliver tanks and other heavy equipment to support the first assault detachments.

“Methodical…”

103

Wednesday, November 14th 2018, 8:44pm

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Monday, 13 December 1948

It had been some months since Mladshy Leytenant Gennady Alexandrov had seen the sights of Warnemünde, and he was still surprised at the receipt of orders that had detached him from his duties with the Baltic Fleet and instructed him to report to Captain First Rank Kozyukhin aboard the destroyer Pylkiy. Once he had come on board the destroyer he was conducted to Captain Kozyukhin’s cabin, where, to his continuing surprise, he found several of the other Russian exchange officers he had served with on the training ship Brummer. Kozyukhin wasted little time before explaining.

“Gentlemen, our cooperation with the Kriegsmarine will be entering a new phase in the next months, and the skills you have developed will be particularly useful. Soon a number of Kriegsmarine reservists will arrive for orientation in current operational procedures and will be embarking on an accelerated training program. Your first assignments will be to familiarise these reservists with the terminology in use at the moment, which, as you know, is rather a hybrid of German and Russian. Your assignments will be as language instructors ashore.”

“I assure you, you should not look upon this in anyway prejudicial to your careers. Each of you as shown particular promise and your efforts in this present assignment are of vital importance. I regret that at the moment I cannot be more specific.”

104

Tuesday, November 20th 2018, 9:20pm

Marinestützpunkt Kiel, Sunday, 19 December 1948

The first train arrived in the early morning, and disgorged its group of a hundred Kriegsmarine reservists under the watchful eyes of half-a-dozen experienced petty officers. They were marched from the railway station to the naval barracks, processed through reception, and assigned quarters. As the day wore on they were joined by other groups of reservists – all experienced destroyer-men, enough to fill the most important billets in any ship. Reserve officers arrived sometime later, taking charge of nucleus groups of the several departments of a ship – gunnery, machinery, navigation, sensors. Some of the reservists had served together, others had been recalled reluctantly from civilian life. For the time being, they were kept busy in drill. Everyone wondered why they had been recalled in so hasty a manner.

105

Tuesday, November 27th 2018, 3:48pm

Marinestützpunkt Kiel, Wednesday, 22 December 1948

The process of forming the recalled reservists into nucleus ships companies was underway when the first recruits – fresh from their basic training – arrived. So many were parcelled out to each of the ships companies, filling less-important billets under the watchful eyes of experienced petty officers. It would take time for them to meld.

What surprised the new crews was the amount of time they spent in the classroom; particularly the reservists. They found themselves listening to lectures on new operational procedures and, to the surprise of most, taking abbreviated language lessons. To the old hands the sight of their Russian instructors was almost unnerving – though their officers reassured them that working seamlessly with their allies was the key to future successes.

106

Friday, December 7th 2018, 12:36am

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Saturday, 25 December 1948

Konteradmiral Maximilian Glaser had called his staff to arms, despite the Christmas festivities and understandable desire to spend the holiday weekend with family and friends.

“Gentlemen, as you may be aware the Admiralstab has announced the reactivation of Zerstörergeschwader 31, Zerstörergeschwader 32, and Zerstörergeschwader 33. Within a few days the first ships will be stripped of their cocoons and begin refitting for active service. The nucleus crews are already undergoing refresher training at Kiel and by the end of next month we will have more ships to incorporate into our training programme.”

There was a murmur of concern from some members of the staff. There were already a dozen ships cycling through the Lehrdivision’s exercises, and the projections from the Admiralstab suggested that more new ships – including two of the new escort aircraft carriers – would be arriving before spring. The sudden addition of destroyers from the reserve could easily overwhelm them.

“I want you to work up accelerated training programmes for the ships once they are refitted. Our resources will be stretched, so training must concentrate on fundamentals. Fortunately, the crews coming forward have a good proportion of experienced men who will only need to absorb our current operating procedures. Our Russian allies have already provided a training cadre to assist in the transition.”

He paused and then concluded, “I want to see your plans by Thursday.”