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Wednesday, November 13th 2019, 3:36pm

French cruiser Lafayette, The Baltic Sea, Saturday, 9 July 1949

The central portion of the Baltic Sea – pedantically known to hydrographers as the East Gotland Basin – was large enough to manoeuvre a body of ships as the Lehrdivision had gathered today. Besides his own cruiser Capitaine de vaisseau Delcroix looked out over the Latouche-Tréville and a veritable fleet of German warships – the aircraft carriers Westfalen and Pommern, the air defence cruisers Szina and Temesvar, and the destroyers Plauen, Frankenhausen, Naumburg, and Helmstadt. As senior officer in tactical command, a broad pendant flew from the Lafayette’s main mast.

Their mission was simple ship-handling in formation – though for many of the officers aboard the German vessels this would be their first experience in operating together in such numbers. The training syllabus of the Kriegsmarine’s Lehrdivision called for a progression of exercises – individual ship handling, unit ship handling, and then formation ship handling – the stage that had been reached. Thus far the task group had kept to simple movements, nothing fancy. Too many of his charges had months of training ahead of them before their ‘graduation’. Delcroix courted no accidents.


Sunday, November 17th 2019, 6:03pm

Training Ship Roon, Palanga, Lithuania, Monday, 11 July 1949

Mohr saw little danger in bearding the lion in its den when the Roon first dropped anchor in the harbour – little more than an open roadstead – of Palanga. It was crowded with the vessels of the Lithuanian Naval Service – chiefly elderly destroyers and minecraft – as well as fishing trawlers. Not long after their arrival their tenacious hanger-on arrived – and Mohr chose discretion as the better part of valour by not permitting his crew liberty to go ashore.

Lithuania was still recovering from its long and divisive civil war, and despite having contributed troops and treasure to the League of Nations force that had finally brought the war to a close, Germans were not particularly welcome. Perhaps there were other factors but Mohr suspected that the strong-arm tactics that had prised Memel from Lithuania’s grasp was a major elements in the latent distrust he sensed in his dealings with the local port authorities.

Upon reflection, it made sense that a foreign intelligence entity might make use of Palanga as a base upon which to spy upon the activities of the Kriegsmarine. Proximity, a porous border, simmering emotions – perfect conditions for unexpected danger. Mohr doubled the sentries on watch aboard the Roon, and resolved to cut short his stay, departing in the morning.


Sunday, November 17th 2019, 11:00pm

the vessels of the Lithuanian Naval Service – chiefly elderly destroyers

...I'm not actually sure you can call the Vytis class "elderly". It's true they're in their early teens, but they underwent a major modernization in 1947, receiving French electronics.


Monday, November 18th 2019, 12:40am

the vessels of the Lithuanian Naval Service – chiefly elderly destroyers

...I'm not actually sure you can call the Vytis class "elderly". It's true they're in their early teens, but they underwent a major modernization in 1947, receiving French electronics.

This is the description put forth by the commander of one of the Kriegsmarine's latest vessels, equipped with state of the art German electronics. Is he biased in his assessments and opinions? Quite possibly. To Mohr, anything more than a couple of years old is 'elderly'.


Monday, November 18th 2019, 2:59am

the vessels of the Lithuanian Naval Service – chiefly elderly destroyers

...I'm not actually sure you can call the Vytis class "elderly". It's true they're in their early teens, but they underwent a major modernization in 1947, receiving French electronics.

This is the description put forth by the commander of one of the Kriegsmarine's latest vessels, equipped with state of the art German electronics. Is he biased in his assessments and opinions? Quite possibly. To Mohr, anything more than a couple of years old is 'elderly'.

Ah, so - German techno-snobbery. ;) :D


Monday, November 18th 2019, 3:03am

the vessels of the Lithuanian Naval Service – chiefly elderly destroyers

...I'm not actually sure you can call the Vytis class "elderly". It's true they're in their early teens, but they underwent a major modernization in 1947, receiving French electronics.

This is the description put forth by the commander of one of the Kriegsmarine's latest vessels, equipped with state of the art German electronics. Is he biased in his assessments and opinions? Quite possibly. To Mohr, anything more than a couple of years old is 'elderly'.

Ah, so - German techno-snobbery. ;) :D

Mohr is perhaps one of the less-'enlightened' officers of the Kriegsmarine. Not everyone can be perfect.


Thursday, November 21st 2019, 3:38pm

Fliegerhorst Pillau, Friday, 15 July 1949

Kapitän Walter Nowotny read the cable from Admiral Glaser with obvious disappointment. Dropping it to the desk with a soft sigh he summoned his yeoman, requesting that Captain Kramarenko report to his office immediately. Kramarenko arrived a few moments later, and Nowotny waved him into a chair.

“Admiral Glaser has turned down our suggestion to hold a competitive exercise with the Luftwaffe.”

“Why?” The Russian officer was nothing if not direct.

“Our theoretical opponents, Zerstörergeschwader 76, are in the process of converting to new aircraft, the Fw340 jet fighter, and are having their own issues in training. The Luftwaffe is unwilling to interrupt their training programme for our convenience.”

Kramarenko shrugged. “I can understand their position. And there are no other potential opponents?”

“So Admiral Glaser advises. We shall have to devise other means of developing unit elan.”


Wednesday, November 27th 2019, 10:07pm

Berlin, The Russian Federation Embassy, Wednesday, 20 July 1949

Captain First Rank Konstantin Konstantinovich Khrenov wondered how long the German Kriegsmarine could sustain its present building tempo. Shipyards in every corner of the country were at work constructing new vessels to its order or working to convert merchant hulls as naval auxiliaries. In July alone eight frigates, a pair of small escorts, and twelve amphibious ships had been laid down, far afield as Memel, Vienna, and Wilhelmshaven. Reports crossing his desk suggested that work proceeded seven days a week. The press had intimated that the naval programme for 1950, then being debated in the German Parliament, would be as extensive.

Perhaps knowledge of German ability to send a large fleet to the Far East had played into Chinese calculations when they backed down from their confrontation with France over sandbanks in the South China Sea? Khrenov was well aware that Germany might have been asked to cover some French, and Russian, security obligations in European waters – but Beijing could in no way discount the possibility of a German battle fleet appearing in the Far East.

He looked at his notes again. The rapid increase in the Kriegsmarine’s amphibious lift capacity suggested the expectation of power projection; yet by all indications the German government harboured no ambitions that would call for such a force. Still, the fact that vessels were being built suggested that some purpose was to be carried out; but what he was still unsure.


Sunday, December 1st 2019, 12:56am

Training Ship Roon, Marinestützpunkt Kiel, Sunday, 24 July 1949

Not long after the Roon had left Palanga her familiar shadowing trawler had reappeared on the horizon. It had followed the German vessel at a respectful distance, even occasionally seeming to stream fishing gear in order to give a bit of verisimilitude to her activities. However, when the Roon neared the port of Kiel their unidentified shadow had broken contact and sailed over the horizon in the general direction of the Danish island of Bornholm. For Mohr that was sufficient proof that the trawler was engaged in nefarious activities, perhaps in league with the Danes. Of course, it was also possible that the proximity of regular Kriegsmarine naval patrols in the area was a determining factor.

The Roon had called at the great naval base to have some of her sensitive electronic gear put right by the dockyard staff – preventive maintenance in anticipation of her scheduled cruise the following month. The days in port afforded the opportunity for the cadets aboard to attend special classes ashore, while the rest of the crew were given liberty in turn. Palanga had not be conducive to such.

He himself had the opportunity to observe the activity in every portion of the dockyard, which bustled with thousands of workers. Two great aircraft carriers were taking form, one in a graving dock while the other was on the dockyard’s huge covered slipway. A cruiser and two frigates lay at the fitting out wharf, and the sound of riveting and welding echoed everywhere.

He expected the Roon would be at Kiel for at least another week – and then head for Warnemünde for a final inspection by Admiral Glaser and the ship’s formal graduation from the Lehrdivision.


Saturday, December 7th 2019, 1:22am

Coastal Escort Alpenföhn, the Gulf of Danzig, Friday, 29 July 1949

Leutnant zur See Werner Schattmann took pride in his first command, and throughout their training programme had kept his crew up to the mark in all their evolutions. In the grand scheme of things his ship was but a pint-pot compared to the larger destroyers on the horizon that ringed the quartet of small landing ships, but the Alpenföhn and her sister Höllentäler had the duty of providing close escort and, if necessary, fire support to them.

They had departed Pillau that morning, en route to a rendezvous with other elements for a training exercise off Rügen. Kept to the slow speed of the landing vessels they had only covered half the distance and the sun had begun its descent to the horizon; in these high latitudes dusk would be long lasting and the summer night brief, but Schattmann was determined to take all proper precautions. The Gulf of Danzig was a busy place.

“Switch on all navigation lights! Pass the word to the Höllentäler and our charges to do the same.” Strings of bright lights appeared on all the ships, marking their presence in the seaway. Thankfully it was peacetime, and they were in transit. Such measures could not have been risked if wartime. He also had lookouts doubled and a special watch kept on the ship’s dradis equipment.

Over the ultrakurzwelle he could hear the reports of the destroyers in the outer screen – they were doing their assigned role of warning off merchant traffic. He hoped that they continued to do so.


Tuesday, December 10th 2019, 7:49pm

Air Defence Cruiser Temesvar, Off Rugen, Sunday, 31 July 1949

The Greifswalder Bodden seemed filled with ships and small craft, some allocated from the Lehrdivision as well as others brought from the Fleet to provide the mix of shipping required for a full brigade-scale landing exercise. Vize-admiral Becker had made his headquarters aboard the Temesvar with regard to her excellent command, control, and communications facilities. With all the elements involved he wished to have as many C3I assets as he could have.

Marine-Schützen Brigade 3 was being put through its own form of ‘graduation exercise’. Stood up but a few months before it had been put through extensive training to prepare it to take its place with the Kriegsmarine’s expeditionary forces. Under conditions as realistic as possible the brigade’s riflemen were storming ashore to seize their initial positions, supported by naval gunfire, and followed by tanks, artillery, and other supporting arms. A map table surrounded by an array of talkers announcing movement and objectives reached proclaimed that on the whole the exercise was progressing well. There were the units that tended to lag behind and require ‘encouragement’; for each of these there as a unit that rashly moved ahead too fast which were taught a sharp lesson by the ‘Red Army’ – units of the Heer reserve playing the role of defender.

At the end of the day he was satisfied. Issues had been discovered that more training would have to address. Some officers would have to be relieved; others promoted. Losses men and materiel had been kept to a minimum, no ship suffered serious damage. Marine-Schützen Brigade 3 would be ready to deploy to its permanent station next month.


Monday, December 23rd 2019, 8:22pm

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Wednesday, 3 August 1949

Boatswain’s pipes twittered as Konteradmiral Glaser, commander of the Lehrdivision, stepped onto the deck of the training ship Roon. White-gloved side-boys stood by the gangway according to the ancient ritual. Fregattenkapitän Mohr and his officers snapped to attention as admiral arrived on deck, their salutes being acknowledged by the admiral and his staff. For Mohr and the Roon this was a very important day – a final inspection to ascertain whether the ship and its crew was ready to embark on its operational mission or whether some failure of man or machine would delay it.

The inspection was quite thorough. Glaser and his chief of staff, Fregattenkapitän Heinrich Wulle, adjourned to Mohr’s day cabin for a thorough review of the Roon’s six months of operational training and the periodic assessments of the fitness of her crew. Officers of Glaser’s staff fanned out over the ship, reviewing the state of the ship’s systems and equipment and making their own assessments of whether the regular crew of the Roon was prepared to undertake the often difficult task of training sea cadets in an operational environment.

Several hours later Glaser asked Mohr to excuse himself while the admiral discussed with his staff their findings. With a natural sense of apprehension Mohr went to the ship’s bridge and forced himself to appear calm while under the gaze of the duty watch. For what seemed an eternity he waited, until a junior staff officer came to retrieve him.

Mohr re-entered his cabin to the sound of laughter, which momentarily caused him annoyance, not knowing whether this indicated success or failure.

Fregattenkapitän Mohr” the admiral announced, “Your ship is judged ready for sea and fit to take its place in the Kriegsmarine’s order of battle. The formal orders for your mission will be issued in the next several days. Until then you may authorise liberty for your crew at your discretion.”

“Yes Herr Admiral!” Mohr could say no more, no less. The ship had passed its inspection; his efforts judged sufficient.


Tuesday, December 31st 2019, 8:44pm

French cruiser Latouche-Tréville, Karlskrona örlogsbas, Blekinge, Friday, 5 August 1949

Capitaine de vaisseau Alexis Boulanger strolled the quarterdeck of his ship enjoying the warmth of a Baltic summer afternoon. As he took his daily constitutional he pondered how his Nordish hosts regarded the presence of his ship and its consorts, for their presence was meant to convey a message. Alongside the Latouche-Tréville were the German cruiser Szina and the destroyer Frankenhausen, together with the Russian destroyers Skoryi and Smetlivyi – all members of the Grand Alliance joint training squadron formed nearly two years previously. Individual ships might have come and gone but their continuing operations of the squadron certainly had not gone unnoticed by the other Baltic nations. The fact that three of the most powerful navies in Europe worked and trained together was a constant reminder that the Alliance was real and not a scrap of paper.

Across the harbour he could see one of the large train ferries arriving from Danzig or Stralsund on the other side of the Baltic – a reminder of this importance of Karlskrona to the Nordish economy. While at the moment the ‘coal bridge’ of colliers that carried Polish or German coal to Swedish ports landed their cargos at Stockholm or Helsinki come winter ice-free Karlskrona would see their continuing voyages. He could also see a pair of Nordish destroyers, which gave the appearance that they had recently left the shipyards that gave them birth.

Checking his watch he noted that he was due to dine with the captains of his consorts within the hour, and to host a delegation of Nordish officers that evening. Reluctantly he started back to his cabin to change into a more formal uniform.


Sunday, January 5th 2020, 2:53am

Training Frigate Roon, Tuesday, 9 August 1949

The Roon made her way seaward from Warnemünde harbour, saluting the other vessels of the Lehrdivision present in turn. Kapitän zur Zee Mohr stood on her bridge with appropriate pride – his promotion had been confirmed two days previously and the official ceremony had been performed not twenty hours ago. His ship had orders to commence a cadet cruise to the Mediterranean, to build the next generation of German naval officers as well as showing the German ensign in waters where it had not been seen in years.

Mohr was confident that he would carry out both tasks to the satisfaction of the Admiralstab. His ship was equipped with the latest ship and weapons systems, as well as classrooms for instruction; his crew included some of the best instructors the Kriegsmarine had to offer, and six months of preparation with the Lehrdivision had sharpened even these experienced officers to a fine edge. He had resolved that he would assure that the Roon would demonstrate to the world that the Kriegsmarine had come of age.

At his order the frigate changed to a westerly course, headed for Kiel in order to transit the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal; once free of the Baltic he would take the Roon out into the Atlantic via the English Channel and then…


Monday, January 13th 2020, 9:37pm

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Sunday, 14 August 1949

The coastal escort Alpenföhn rode easily at anchor in the inner harbour. Leutnant zur See Schattmann watched as Admiral Glaser’s gig left the neighbouring Höllentäler and made its way to his ship. There were no great crowds – the small escorts did not rate them – but the commander of the Lehrdivision took his responsibilities seriously, and Glaser had chosen to formally visit every vessel of his command before they were released to join the fleet. True, it was a formality; but Schattmann appreciated the gesture.

With the trill of boatswains’ pipes the Admiral was welcomed aboard. Schattmann introduced his officers, and Glaser delivered a set speech that he had given many, many times before. The officers and crew of the Alpenföhn had distinguished themselves in their unit training, and they were now ready to active operations, etcetera, etcetera…

It was over in ten minutes. Fregattenkapitän Wulle, the admiral’s chief of staff, delivered Schattmann’s orders. His ship would depart for Kiel in two days.


Saturday, January 25th 2020, 4:37pm

Escort Aircraft Carrier Westfalen, The Baltic Sea, Thursday, 18 August 1949

There was apprehension among the officers and crew of the Westfalen as she turned into the wind and steadied on her new heading; particularly so for the aircraft handlers on the flight deck, who were busy checking the arresting gear and erecting a crash barrier forward. The Westfalen had long ago displayed her ability to operate the aircraft for which she was designed – but to fulfill her wider role she would have to demonstrate her ability to land and launch the Marineflieger’s latest fighter aircraft – the jet-powered Dornier Do335. Not that she would do so regularly, yet as a maintenance ship for larger aircraft carriers she would be called upon to service the Dornier fighter.

The single fighter entered the landing circuit and approached the aft end of the flight deck with its undercarriage and flaps lowered, slowing to near stalling speed. The landing signals officer stood with his paddles, guiding the pilot towards the deck. At the last moment the pilot cut his engines, bringing the plane down with an audible thud, and thundered forward – catching the third arresting wire and stopping but a few feet from the barrier that would have ensnared the jet should the landing attempt have failed.

It was several hours later that the Dornier stood on the forward flight deck readied for launch. Of the two portions of the carrier qualification trials, this was by far the more dangerous. The destroyer Helmstadt stood by as plane guard, should her intervention be required. The Westfalen again turned into the wind and rang up maximum speed, giving the best possible conditions to the launch of the fighter. The pilot brought his engines to maximum thrust and held them there, awaiting direction from the catapult officer.

And then the Dornier was thrown forward and into the air. Her pilot fought to maintain air speed as the jet clawed its way aloft, banking to port and out of the path of the Westfalen. Slowly it climbed and circled the ship before waggling its wings and heading east to return to Pillau.

All aboard the carrier breathed a sigh of relief.


Monday, February 3rd 2020, 6:53pm

Marinestützpunkt Warnemünde, Tuesday, 23 August 1949

Fregattenkapitän Heinrich Wulle noted the report announcing that the port maintenance ship Eversand had been released from her builders’ trials and would report to the Lehrdivision for operational training by the end of the week. Having had the experience of developing the training programme for her sister Botsand, Wulle at least knew what could be done. He scanned the roster of her crew and then checked their personnel jackets. Thankfully the bureau of personnel had selected a nucleus of experienced officers and senior technicians, and this laid to rest many of his lingering concerns.

He scribbled a rough outline of what would be required in the roughly four weeks she would be under his eye – a few days here at Warnemünde, to assess the state of her crew, and then assign her to Swinemünde where she could practice her assigned mission; indeed, she could exercise with her sister, who remained there temporarily attached to the Baltic Naval Station.

His thoughts then turned to the other new ships that were coming down the ways and would soon fall under his care. The training programmes for the latest batch of coastal escorts and amphibious ships were already well established; the challenge would be the ‘crane ship’ Siebengebirge. Wulle suspected that like Eversand, she would spend most of her time at Swinemünde. The carriers Westfalen and Pommern were entering the final phase of their operational training – and that thought bore heavily upon him.


Thursday, February 6th 2020, 6:02pm

Fliegerhorst Pillau, Friday, 26 August 1949

Kapitän zur See Walter Nowotny acknowledged the orders contained in the cable that lay on his desk. The Admiralstab had finally made up its mind on how best to structure the air groups that would serve upon the Westfalen and the Pommern; but had been left to him to work out the assignment of personnel from Gefechtsverband Nowotny to the new units. It did not help that the new structure called for more personnel than were on hand at the moment; more personnel, the Admiralstab assured him, were in route and would arrive within the next several weeks.

Marinefliegergruppe 71 would serve on the Westfalen; Marinefliegergruppe 72 on the Pommern. Each would consist of a fighter squadron and a composite squadron – the former with familiar Fw190M ‘Wurgers’ and the latter with modified Fi168 ‘Haifisch’ operating in the anti-submarine and electronic warfare roles. Exactly what was meant by the last phrase was not completely clear to him; but he knew who to consult.

Besides the operational squadrons, each group would also comprise a replacement squadron – a pool of pilots and aircrew, with their aircraft which could be sent off to other aircraft carriers as attrition losses among the first line squadrons demanded. Nowotny could comprehend the necessity, though he did not envy any flyer assigned to the ergänzungsstaffel. What surprised him the most was the allocation of a maintenance and repair squadron to each carrier air group, separate and distinct from the ship’s company. This put all the aviation assets that might be deployed on the vessel under the command of a single officer, the Kommandeur des Marinefliegergruppe.

The only saving grace in the situation was that the orders advised him that he was Kommandeur des Marinefliegergruppe-designate for Marinefliegergruppe 71.


Thursday, February 13th 2020, 2:10am

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Wednesday, 31 August 1949

The port maintenance ship Eversand had dropped anchor in the harbour the previous evening, fresh from her builders’ trials. This morning her commander, Korvettenkapitän Theodor Spieß, had gone aboard her sister Bottsand to discuss with the latter’s captain the unofficial portion of the Lehrdivision’s training programme for these odd vessels.

Walter Warzecha, the Bottsand’s master, was more than happy to accommodate his counterpart; he knew of him by reputation, both having worked many years in the commercial salvage business though for different companies. Both had served in the Imperial navy during the Great War before being recalled to the colours. Spieß still did not completely understand what his ship’s purpose would be.

“I’ve looked over this training programme that Wulle drew up for us. I presume you had much the same?” He slid a portfolio across the mess table to Warzecha, who opened and quickly read it.

“Yes… it is rather much the same as was he drew up for the Bottsand, though a bit more abbreviated, concentrating on mission objectives rather than simple seamanship. I suspect after learning with ‘The Merry Widow’ Wulle knew what was important.” They both chuckled at Warzecha’s jest – the Bottsand had begun life as the timber carrier Hanna Glawari, named for the character in Lehár’s play.

“What I don’t comprehend is why fit out two ships of this sort. I don’t really see why the Admiralstab needs even one? When I think of the reservists like you and me that they pulled from who knows how many corners to sit here swinging at anchor in the Baltic…”

Warzecha stroked his beard thoughtfully. “You remember, before the war, we young officers used to talk about Der Tag?”

Spieß nodded. “We talked too much in those days, and found ourselves dragged into war unprepared.”

“I think someone in Berlin hopes to avoid that fate by preparing for the unexpected eventualities of war. That is why your ship, and mine, are here.”