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Thursday, March 19th 2020, 1:44am

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Friday, 9 September 1949

It was well afternoon when the signal station acknowledged the arrival of the store carriers Cunewalde and Fürstenwalde; former Hansa-type freighters they had served the Kriegsmarine faithfully over the last half-decade, hauling supplies between naval bases in the Baltic and the North Sea, or, occasionally carrying out resupply missions to the orient in support of the East Asia Squadron. Their appearance at Swinemünde struck no one as out of the ordinary.

Neither did it strike the casual observer as unusual that shortly after their arrival they discharged a considerable amount of construction equipment and supplies – which the dock personnel of the Versorgungsbetrieb training organisation took charge of warehousing against future needs. What might an informed observer might have noticed was the care taken to keep equipment and supplies in unit sets – Einheitensätze. After she finished discharging two days later the Cunewalde departed, while the Fürstenwalde remained.


Sunday, March 22nd 2020, 3:24am

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Thursday, 15 September 1949

It was not every day that a vize-admiral visited the port of Swinemünde and the word of the impending visit of Vize-admiral Becker had put the entire station in a tumult of preparation. The last week been spent in anxious preparation for an inspection – preparation that had been complicated by news that a battalion of construction troops was to be sent there before the end of the month. Already Nissenhütte were being erected to house the thousand or more troops that were now to be added to the already crowded facility. Fregattenkapitän Wulle, chief of staff to Konteradmiral Glaser had arrived the day before to assure that all that could be done for preparation had been done. He was dismayed by how much remained.

Becker himself arrived the following afternoon in company with Glaser; and still there were crews at work all over the naval station. Wulle anticipated the worst.

To his immense relief Wulle discovered that Admiral Becker was satisfied, rather than displeased, at the continuing labours of the sailors working under the gaze of senior officers.

“If they can to their tasks well and efficiently during an inspection, perhaps they can do equally well under enemy fire.” Wulle was not completely certain that Becker was entirely joking.

Becker showed particular interest in the training facilities for cargo handling that had been constructed at considerable cost. The lessons learned here had already been passed along to many of the larger ships assigned to his command, but he was well aware that more would pass through the Schauermannsschule, where crews would learn the lessons of efficient cargo handling and combat loading.


Sunday, March 29th 2020, 1:39pm

Fliegerhorst Krössinsee-Schönfeld, Saturday, 17 September 1949

Marinefliegergruppe 71 had transferred from its temporary base at Pillau and was now concentrated at the Marineflieger’s own air station at Krössinsee-Schönfeld. Here, alongside the instructional units of Angriffflieger Waffenschule 3 Nowotny could set the final edge on his pilots and aircrew before they deployed on their ship. The Westfalen was due to complete its operational training in a week’s time, and in five Marinefliegergruppe 71 would formally go aboard her for final ‘graduation’ exercises. Nowotny itched at the prospect of returning to what he saw as the ‘real’ Kriegsmarine, even if he was playing a supporting role.


Sunday, April 5th 2020, 7:08pm

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Tuesday, 20 September 1949

Korvettenkapitän Peter Frankenburg was on the bridge of the crane ship Siebengebirge as the harbour pilot conned her into the naval base. He had brought her here in company with Korvettenkapitän Wendisch’s Cunewalde, which was carrying stores and equipment for the burgeoning facility. Tugs warped the Siebengebirge alongside one of the piers that jutted seaward from the port’s main cargo handling area, and after his ship was securely tied up, the Cunewalde was guided into place outboard of the larger ship.

An hour later the cranes aboard the Siebengebirge began to move, swinging first in the direction of the heavy-laden Cunewalde, lifting cargo and then swinging shore-ward to deposit it on the pier, either across the Siebengebirge’s own deck or the open water beyond her stem. It was the mission she was designed for, and the training schedule Frankenburg had been handed left no time to waste.


Wednesday, April 15th 2020, 3:07pm

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Saturday, 24 September 1949

As naval attaché Konstantin Khrenov visited many of Germany’s naval bases, particularly in the two years since the initiation of the joint exercise and training programme that saw Russian Federation naval units regularly exercising with their Kriegsmarine counterparts. However, today was the first opportunity he had to visit the naval facility at Swinemünde. He had heard numerous accounts of his hosts’ activity there, and, following some urging from St. Petersburg, an invitation had been given to permit him to assess the situation for himself.

The approach vector of the air transport that bore him hence took him directly above a portion of the base, known to his hosts as the Schauermannsschule – Stividornaya shkola – a locale for logistics training. While several larger ships were berthed in the outer harbour in the inner anchorage he was struck by the number of smaller craft tied up at the wharves and the very new barracks blocks – some of which were still under construction.

The kommandant of the base graciously provided an all-encompassing tour of the station, during which Khrenov learned that besides training crews for the rapid loading and unloading of ships the Stevedore School was also involved in development of new equipment for moving equipment from ship to shore. He had seen and heard of the varied used to which the Kriegsmarine would put its extremely useful modular pontoons; here he was shown two different designs of powered ferries that were undergoing tests.

He observed the recently formed Marine-Bau-Abteilung 314 engaged in training exercises. This unit, he was informed, was intended to participate in ship-to-shore movement, operating such equipment as amphibious trucks and pontoons, as part of the newly formed Einzatzgruppe 71.5. On this occasion the bau-abteilung was practicing its craft together with the crews of several ships, including the impressive-looking auxiliary Siebengebirge – and merchantman outfitted with several large cranes each capable of handling heavy loads.

His overall impression was one of deliberate effort to train all elements present in the need for coordination to move needed supplies from the ships afloat to units ashore, and vice versa. His host were happy enough to supply him with a draft of the most recent manual drawn up to cover these aspects of naval warfare, a document to which he would give much study upon his return to Berlin.


Monday, April 27th 2020, 2:36am

Insterburg, East Prussia, Tuesday, 27 September 1949

The train from Königsberg pulled into the station and Frenchman gathered up his things in preparation of detraining. Commandant Robert Galley was still somewhat mystified by the decision of the General Léchères to send an officer to the forests of Germany ‘to observe and learn’. His official orders had detached him to Schnelleinsetzbare Schwere Betriebsreparaturgeschwader 22 to serve as a liaison officer, which, he had been informed, was undergoing formation and basic training near the garrison town of Insterburg. He was to report to an Oberstleutnant Rall.

Commandant Gallery!”

He heard a voice calling to him over the din of the platform and saw a German officer striding in his direction. “Oberstleutnant Günther Rall at your disposal. Welcome to Insterburg. Have you retrieved your luggage?”

“No, not yet. I…”

Rall turned to the NCO at his side. “Retrieve the Commandant’s luggage from the van and have it brought to the car.” Turning back to Gallery, he continued. “I hope your trip was not too tiring. Given the late hour, formalities can wait until tomorrow but I hope that you will find the officer’s mess acceptable for this evening.”

Rall’s briskness surprised the Frenchman, who nevertheless appreciated the fabled efficiency and thoroughness of the German military. In but a few moments he found himself ensconced in a comfortable Opel sedan riding through the forests that fringed the town. As they drove Rall began explain why Gallery had been seconded.

Schnelleinsetzbare Schwere Betriebsreparaturgeschwader 22 is the newest of the Luftwaffe’s airfield construction formations, one with expanded capabilities. It is my understanding that you have had experience in the rapid construction of airfields in forward areas.”

Gallery nodded. “To some degree… my last assignment took me to Africa supporting our counter-insurgency operations there.”

“Yes, you, and Podpolkovnik Savitsky, your Russian counterpart, have more actual knowledge of what must be done. Our studies and plans can take us only so far – there will always be facets of the challenges that go unanticipated. I hope that you both can help us narrow the gap between theory and practice.”

Gallery was somewhat surprised by the news that a Russian officer would be serving alongside him in a similar capacity, but he could understand Rall’s logic. The Germans had never undertaken significant operations abroad since the end of the Great War, and as good as historical studies might be, tapping the well of actual experience made sense. While not common knowledge, Gallery had heard that in the run-up to the confrontation with China over le Banc Macclesfield the Russians had requested the deployment of Luftwaffe construction units to Siberia to aid in the redeployment of units to the zone of operations. Rall continued...

“Rapid Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron 22 will be the first of its kind for the Luftwaffe, with sufficient organic resources in manpower and equipment to survey, lay out, construct, and have operational an airfield within five days of the arrival of the leading elements. Accomplishing that goal will require significant pre-planning and tailoring of all unit assets. I believe your experience will be invaluable.”


Monday, May 25th 2020, 3:33pm

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Sunday, 2 October 1949

Korvettenkapitän Warzecha was happy to receive the orders that directed the Bottsand to leave the Baltic and join the Atlantikflotte. Admittedly, he was surprised that Emden was the port to which the ship was directed; he expected that the major fleet bases – Wilhelmshaven or Cuxhaven – would have been the likelier choices. Of course, with all the new ships that had passed through the Lehrdivision to the fleet perhaps there was no room left elsewhere. The Eversand would be in company – this was not surprising – she had completed her operational training some days ago. Before their departure though there was much to be done – stores to be laden, last-minute equipment requisitions to be filled, and bunkers to be topped off.


Thursday, June 4th 2020, 6:10pm

Marinestützpunkt Swinemünde, Sunday, 9 October 1949

The crane ship Siebengebirge had finished her initial operational training and was cleared to deploy to her next station, which rumour had as being Emden. With her went a detachment of Marine-Bau-Abteilung 314, the stevedores who would handle cargo transferred from the Siebengebirge herself or from other vessels to the shore. Stores filled her holds and a number of the ubiquitous pontoons were stowed on her deck. What her mission might be was anyone’s guess – though the general consensus was more training.


Wednesday, June 24th 2020, 3:13pm

Berlin, The Russian Federation Embassy, Friday, 14 October 1949

Rarely had Pavel Kozyukhin had need to travel to the German capital, despite the length of time his destroyer flotilla had been assigned to Operation Pionier. Khrenov, the naval attaché, more commonly visited the Thirteenth Destroyer Flotilla, or they met at one of the German naval stations along the Baltic. The request that he travel to Berlin suggested that something was in the wind. After the obligatory pleasantries over tea Khrenov got down to business.

“I have news – and wished to deliver it in person. I fear you will have to give up your current command in the near future.”

Kozyukhin sat impassively; the move was not unexpected. He and his ships had served in their current assignment for two very-fruitful years. “Indeed sir.”

“The naval staff wants you back at Kronstat in order to pick your brain and get your assessment of the lessons you have learned in working alongside our allies. The ones you could be reluctant to commit to paper. And no doubt they will have a flurry of questions you have not even thought of. After that, you will be sent to the advanced special officers' course.”

This news came as a great surprise to Kozyukhin. That was a recognised prerequisite for flag rank. “Thank you sir. I am honoured.”

Khrenov chuckled. “Yes, you are. You will not be departing for about another month, so you will have time to make arrangements with Admiral Glaser and prepare your executive officer for the transition.” Kozyukhin, anticipating further instructions, merely nodded and listened.

“Captain Voznesensky will take command of the Pylkiy until your successor takes command; Yevgeniy Pervachev – he is completing an assignment in the Black Sea and will not arrive until January. I believe you two know each other.”

“The Black Cat of Tallinn? Our paths have crossed. He is a good commander and an honourable man.”

“In the interim Counter Admiral Ustinov will take charge of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla.”

This revelation surprised Kozyukhin. “Isn’t he the deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet?”

“That was his last assignment. I presume that the naval staff has selected him to assess Pionier due to his extensive experience in dealing with our allies on the other side of the world. Technically, he is senior to Admiral Glaser, but his remit will be limited to the 13th Flotilla. When you brief Glaser on these changes, please make that clear to him.”

“I shall sir.”


Friday, July 10th 2020, 12:15am

Insterburg, East Prussia, Monday, 17 October 1949

Podpolkovnik Yevgeny Savitsky had been with Schnelleinsetzbare Schwere Betriebsreparaturgeschwader 22 little more than a month, and if he had learned anything it was that his German hosts were thorough. He had worked on construction tasks in Siberia, in the Caucasus, and the steppes of Central Asia, and never had he seen a much mechanised equipment in use as here in the forests of East Prussia. The personnel of the unit were no mere labourers – all were secondary school graduates, some with engineering education – and if a task could be mechanised, the Germans seemed capable of producing a machine to do it. His notebook – which he kept in his uniform pocket all the time – was filled with impressions.

There were his observations on the steel planking that the Luftwaffe used to rapidly lay down a hard surface for the take-off and landing of large aircraft – not only were these used in their intended role but the German construction troops used them in many unintended applications – like reinforcing temporary retaining walls. The rolls of matting that were used to form rough roadways he had heard of before arriving in Insterburg – they were of naval origin he understood. What truly impressed him were the quick connect/quick disconnect couplings used to rapidly lay down fuel lines and establish fuel dumps.


Wednesday, July 22nd 2020, 2:53am

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Wednesday, 19 October 1949

Vize-admiral August Becker re-read the memorandum delivered to his office that morning with great satisfaction. Penned by Khrenov, the Russian naval attaché, it proposed that a German contingent join their allies in a small landing exercise in the upper Baltic scheduled for early November. While the Russians played their cards close to the vest it was clear that like the Kriegsmarine the Russian Federation Navy was strengthening its amphibious forces. The proposal indicated that the exercise would take place near Pärnu – Pernau in the old days – in Pärnu Bay, an arm of the Gulf of Riga.

Becker allowed himself a small smile at the irony. As a young midshipman he had received his baptism of fire during Unternehmen Albion – the series of amphibious landings that had brought the war to the doorstep of St. Petersburg itself – in these waters. The undertaking, though successful, had been improvised throughout. His resources were far better now.

He summoned his staff and put them to work preparing a detailed plan and preparing drafts of the necessary orders, while he himself called on the Chief of Naval Operations to obtain the necessary approvals.


Tuesday, July 28th 2020, 9:19pm

Berlin, The Russian Federation Embassy, Friday, 21 October 1949

Khrenov received the positive response to the Russian Federation Navy’s invitation to a joint amphibious exercise as expected, and had forwarded it to Petrograd, where wheels would be set in motion. That it was accepted was not a surprise at all. When observing a joint amphibious exercise earlier in the year Khrenov had learned about Unternehmen Albion, the successful German landings to capture the Moonsund archipelago islands of Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, and Muhumaa. He had since made the effort to learn more about this operation, filling in an important gap in his knowledge.

Conceived by the Imperial German naval staff as a rather desperate attempt to turn the flank of the Tsarist armies Unternehmen Albion had succeeded all too well, taking advantage of the war-weariness of the Russian people and the abdication of the Tsar to convince Russia to leave the Great War. Not that its success had brought Germany ultimate victory. Sifting through papers in the library of the Petrograd Nakhimov School he had found a few studies that had examined the operation. It was described therein as a classic economy of force operation – one to which little more than a division had been committed to – which had paid considerable dividends.

He had also discovered that as a very junior officer Admiral Becker had participated in Unternehmen Albion and the subsequent Battle of Moon Sound.


Wednesday, July 29th 2020, 1:15am

Conceived by the Imperial German naval staff as a rather desperate attempt to turn the flank of the Tsarist armies Unternehmen Albion had succeeded all too well, taking advantage of the war-weariness of the Russian people and the abdication of the Tsar to convince Russia to leave the Great War.


Here in WWTL, I wouldn't attach as much importance to Operation Albion. Russia certainly does not view it as a decisive battle, but rather as a largely symbolic attempt to grab territory in preparation for the negotiating table - which was only partially successful, as by the time both sides got to negotiations, Germany's situation was so much worse that Russia managed to get it back with a bit of careful negotiation and horse-swapping.

Of course, memory of Albion did drive much of the massive Russian development efforts for amphibious warfare in the 1920s and 1930s, even if the battle itself wasn't all that consequential to anyone besides the locals and the Germans.

Oddly, neither Operation Albion nor the Battle of Moonsund were ever incorporated into The Great War timeline. I vaguely recall leaving the Battle of Moonsund off intentionally, but I probably overlooked Operation Albion altogether. I'll fix it later.