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Thursday, June 8th 2017, 2:55am

Brussels, The German Embassy, Sunday, 22 February 1948

For Franz Blucher the stories in the Belgian press raised his blood pressure. Rusticated to an ambassadorship in Brussels because he championed German economic expansion in the East he now saw the Belgians adopting the very policies he had long advocated for Germany. And he knew that for the Belgians, as for Germany – before that damned prince took charge of things – those policies would pay great benefits.

Belgian laws, he knew, made it easy for speculators to raise capital for investments abroad, and the bourse had already seen an uptick in activity of that sort. Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia – all of the successor states of south-eastern Europe were starved for capital and ripe for colonial-style economic penetration. Eventually, of course, there would be a crash, and the pockets of the rentier-class would be emptied to fatten the accounts of the bankers and speculators. He had to warn Berlin of these developments, and sat down to write a long despatch.

Berliner Morgenpost, Monday, 23 February 1948

The arrival at Tempelhof aerodrome of an American Boeing Stratocruiser airliner marks the opening of new trans-Atlantic services between Berlin and New York. The service, operated jointly by Lufthansa and Pan-American Airways, features one daily flight in either direction, with a technical stop in Reykjavík, Iceland, for refuelling. Junkers Ju390 aircraft share the route with the American aircraft, and it is expected that should the growth of traffic warrant it, a second flight in either direction will be added.

Berlin, The Cabinet Meeting Room, Tuesday, 24 February 1948

Adenauer looked at the agenda. “Herr Lehr,” he said abruptly, “what is going on in the Tyrol? Have Germans suddenly turned upon each other?”

“No Herr Chancellor,” said the Minister of Justice. “By all accounts these incidents are confined to the areas immediately along the Italian frontier; and the local police believe that the perpetrators cross the border to carry out their crimes.”

Adenauer looked at Dehler, the Foreign Minister. “And have we protested to Rome?”

Lehr responded. “We cannot prove this to be so,” he admitted, “but I have kept the Foreign Ministry apprised of what is happening.”

“I have instructed von Bergen to make informal inquires,” said Dehler.

The thought of Italian banditti preying upon German citizens sat poorly with the Chancellor. “Draft additional police to the border and put a stop to this before it gets out of hand,” he ordered.


Friday, June 9th 2017, 7:34pm

Berlin, The Foreign Ministry, Wednesday, 25 February 1948

The door to Thomas Dehler’s office closed behind the British ambassador, and Dehler allowed himself a small sigh of relief. The ambassador had conveyed His Majesty’s Government’s assurances that the recent unrest in Baghdad had been settled without further bloodshed and that it was unlikely that matters there would get out of hand. Further, the ambassador assured that should such an unforeseen event come to pass that sufficient British forces were present in Iraq to quell any further disturbances.

In an oblique reference to the despatch of two German frigates to the Arabian Sea, the ambassador indicated that His Majesty’s Government understood Germany’s concern for the safety of its citizens in Yemen, in the wake of the coup attempt there. However, as the situation there was stabilising, he suggested that their presence might no longer be necessary.

“Warned off!” Dehler thought. But the ambassador was correct; as the situation in the Middle East returned to its normal level of friction the precautionary movement could be reversed. He picked up the telephone to call the Chancellery and arrange to speak with the Chancellor.

The German Embassy, Den Haag, Thursday, 26 February 1948

For von Zech-Burkersroda his current report for Berlin was but a sketchy account of the recently concluded conference in Amsterdam. Despite an unambiguous call by the delegation from Oubangi-Shari for independence, the Dutch Government had managed to steer matter safely off those shoals and back towards a compromise that would assure ultimate Dutch control of the fate of its African colonies while erecting a veneer of local autonomy. Or at least that was how he interpreted what reports he had; he inserted sufficiently vague language that a future report, based upon more complete information, might not seem too contradictory. He wondered whether the Dutch had finally tracked down the rebel N’dofa and eliminated him; a reappearance at this juncture would be most unfortunate.

Militär-Wochenblatt, Friday, 27 February 1948

Following on the Defence Ministry’s announcement that members of the Jaeger Brigade of the Eingreifdivision will participate in this year’s Dakar-Algiers trans-Sahara rally, selections have been made for those units that will send teams to the 1948 Militariad in Russia.

Teams from Gebirgesdivision 1, Gebirgesdivision 3, and Gebirgesdivision 4 will compete in the Alpinist Challenge event. Teams from Infanteriedivision 1, Infanteriedivision 9, and Infanteriedivision 19 will compete in the Grenadier Challenge, Pioneer’s Challenge, and Thunderbolt / Artillery Biathlon events. The Wachbataillon of the Heer will represent the nation in the Presentation event, while the Kommando Spezialkräfte will send a team to the Frogman Challenge event.

Participating in the Parachute Raid event will be teams from Fallschirmjägerdivision 1, Fallschirmjägerdivision 2, and the Kommando Spezialkräfte. Teams from the reconnaissance battalions of Panzergrenadierdivision 12, Panzerdivision 11, and Panzerdivision 2 will participate in the 1200 km Military Rally while teams from the same units organic pioneer battalions will participate in the Sapper’s Challenge event.

The Armoured Spearhead event will see teams from Panzerdivision 2, Panzerdivision 9, and Reserve Panzerbrigade 23 participating, while teams from Panzergrenadierdivision 14, Panzergrenadierdivision 12, and the Jaeger Brigade of Eingreifdivision 1 will vie for the title in the Flying Column event.


Friday, June 9th 2017, 7:44pm

If the Germans are interested, those frigates could drop into Djibouti for a port visit before heading back east or west.


Friday, June 9th 2017, 8:12pm

If the Germans are interested, those frigates could drop into Djibouti for a port visit before heading back east or west.



Monday, June 12th 2017, 1:37am

Frigate Gefion, 13 dgs 40 min North, 52 dgs 12 min East, Saturday, 28 February 1948

Kapitän zur See Heinrich Graf von Haugwitz, commanding the small German flotilla operating in the Arabian Sea, received the directive from the Admiralstab that freed his ships from their lonely vigil with some relief. Thankfully the crises in Iraq and in Yemen had resolved themselves without the need for any outside intervention. The Gefion and the Hela were free to begin their return voyage to Indochina. But their tanker, the Lech, stood high above the waterline, and she would have to take on bunkers before the flotilla could head eastward. His orders included discretion to call at friendly ports in the area to take on fuel, provisions, and water, and he had chosen to exercise that discretion and ordered his ships to the French port of Djibouti. Once replenished, they could depart – though of course their presence in the French colony might twist the tail of the British lion. Von Haugwitz had no problem with that potential outcome.

Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof, Sunday, 29 February 1948

The train from München rolled into the station and came to a halt. From the forward coaches passengers rushed to make connections or made their way into the booking hall. The last two coaches disgorged four score armed Grenzschutzpolizei, who formed up in double ranks as their officers counted noses and assured that all their equipment was accounted for.

“Damnation,” muttered one of the troopers, “why did they bring us all the way to Innsbruck?”

A sharp-eared officer heard the complaint and took the opportunity to explain. “The good citizens of the Tyrol have been regularly oppressed by bandits, identity yet unknown, who are operating in the border zone. As it is our duty to protect the borders of the Reich, you have been sent from your warm barracks to earn your pay by patrolling the Alps to catch these thieves and restore security for the citizens who pay your wages. Any other questions?”


Friday, June 16th 2017, 10:01pm

German News and Events, March, 1948

Frigate Gefion, Djibouti, Monday, 1 March 1948

It was late afternoon when the Gefion and her consorts arrived off the French port of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Signals were exchanged with the French authorities and the German flotilla slowly steamed to its assigned anchorage in the roadstead. Von Haugwitz and his officers prepared for the obligatory round of calls while the crews wondered how long they might remain in what they had already named “Hell’s Sandbox”. It was still officially winter and yet the temperature was above 30 degrees on the Celsius scale; below deck, German sailors sweltered in the heat and humidity; sundown might bring some relief.

Café Doris, Brennero, Trentino, Tuesday, 2 March 1948

A small knot of men sat at a table in the corner, engaged in whispered yet animated conversation. Franz Kompatscher, the young man whose job it was to sweep the floor, nudged closer to them while he worked, straining to hear every word. The men were incomers, Italians, who met frequently in the café, keeping to themselves. To Kompatscher they seemed like a gang of thugs, and in fact his guess was right on the mark.

“Another company of border guards has been deployed,” he heard one say to the group. “What difference does that make?” asked another. “We can still get there and back with no problems,” a third opined.

Kompatscher’s broom caught on a nearby stool and it scraped the floor, attracting attention to his presence.

“Buzz off,” said one of the men, switching to German. Hoping that the thugs did not realise he understood Italian Kompatscher hastened to do as he was told.

Bremer Nachrichten, Wednesday, 3 March 1948

The air defence destroyer Kassel was launched today in the Deschimag shipyards at Cuxhaven, while her sister the Trier was launched at Wilhelmshaven. It is expected that they will be completed in the early autumn. These are the last of the sixteen vessels of the Wiesbaden-class to be laid down.


Thursday, June 22nd 2017, 2:51am

Manama, Bahrain, Thursday, 4 March 1948

For archaeologists Hans Bessig and Rolf Hachmann there were but a few things left to do before winding up their program of excavation for the season; assuring that their equipment was placed in storage under the watchful eye of Alexander Klaws, the Hansa Line representative; paying off the last of their local workers; securing the samples of pottery and other artefacts for future study; giving thought to writing up the results of their initial investigations. Of these, there were many – of the numerous burial mounds of Bahrain they had found that they ran from the Bronze Age right through to the Hellenistic period; they had done a thorough survey of potential archaeological sites on the island of Bahrain – which put to rest theories that the place was a necropolis; they had carried out test excavations within the walls of the old Portuguese fort, and had found tantalising suggestions that it was in fact a tell – a city mound with who knew how many levels beneath. These questions would have to wait.

Frigate Gefion, Djibouti, Friday, 5 March 1948

Refuelled, reprovisioned, and again ready for sea Kapitän zur See Heinrich Graf von Haugwitz led his small flotilla out of the harbour of Djibouti towards the Gulf of Aden. Salutes and signals were exchanged with their French hosts. Free of the land the sea breeze brought some relief to the crews of the frigates, and at least those not on watch could lounge in the shade of awnings rigged on the afterdeck. Von Haugwitz had discretion as to his course back to Cam Rahn Bay, and for the moment he spent his time considering the details of the route he would take.

Tender Adolf Luderitz, Helgoland Harbour, Saturday, 6 March 1948

Orders had taken the Adolf Luderitz from its accustomed station at Husum to Helgoland, the Kriegsmarine’s forward operating base in the North Sea – a station which buzzed with activity despite the last ebbs of winter. Today one of her dependant U-boats, the Drachenfisch, had sailed into the harbour from her patrol station, tying up alongside the tender to take on fuel, provisions, and other supplies with a sense of urgency. The submarine was due to depart in the morning, with no special ceremony, slipping her moorings and heading back to the North Sea. The scene was to be repeated over the next weeks.


Monday, June 26th 2017, 12:20am

Oberösterreichische Rundschau, Sunday, 7 March 1948

Two members of the Grenzschutzpolizei were wounded by gunfire yesterday during the attempted apprehension of unknown individuals who had illegally crossed the frontier near the village of Obernberg am Brenner. The perpetrators escaped across the Italian border after firing more than a dozen shots at the pursuing border guards.

Berlin, The Foreign Ministry, Monday, 8 March 1948

The afternoon’s dispatches brought the report of the consul in Bangui, and Foreign Minister Thomas Dehler took the time to read it carefully. While the Dutch authorities seemed pleased by getting King William accepted as King of Kongo and of Oubangi-Shari the reaction among the common people of the latter nation suggested that acceptance was not universal. The consul reported that pro-independence demonstrations had erupted in the capital, and that rumours were circulating about the aims of the Oubangui leader Julius Limbani - the ostensible Prime Minister – as well as even more unreliable stories of the imminent return of General N’dofa. The consul put no stock in the latter, but Limbani might be at work to bring about independence by more peaceful means. Dehler added the report to his portfolio for the cabinet meeting scheduled for the next day.

Elbinger Volksstimme, Tuesday, 9 March 1948

The Type XXIII submarines Koboldhai and Kragenhai were launched today in the yards of the Schichau Works at Memel. They are expected to be completed later this spring,


Wednesday, June 28th 2017, 6:50pm

U-boat Seeteufel, 58 dgs 40 min North, 2 dgs 53 min West, Wednesday, 10 March 1948

The Seeteufel had been on her patrol station for nearly two weeks; and it took her captain some effort to keep his crew from growing bored. The spent the daylight hours submerged, monitoring the naval traffic coming out of the British naval base at Scapa Flow – noting their routine, marking unexpected changes, departures, arrivals – to the extent that they were able, they kept track of air searches – though submarines were ill-equipped to do such. Despite the air mast with which the U-boat was equipped it was a welcome relief to surface at night and allow the crew a few minutes of fresh air in the still-chilly night. Strung out along a patrol line to the north the Seeteufel’s flotilla mates fulfilled the same task. In a few days, perhaps, they would be relieved temporarily, and be permitted to reprovision and refuel. That day could not come soon enough.

Kleine Zeitung, Thursday, 11 March 1948

On Tuesday the Vienna Shipyard launched its first vessel in more than ten years – the river tug Raueis. One of six specialised icebreaking tugs intended for river or harbour service she is intended to assist commercial traffic on the Danube and extend the navigation season on that important artery of trade. She is due to be completed by mid-spring, and will be followed soon by a second such vessel.

Italian Consulate Salzburg, Friday, 12 March 1948

Nicola Fulgenzi Nicolelli looked with horror on the front-page of the Salzburger Nachrichten, which announced that further police reinforcements had arrived in the wake of the most recent border incident in the Alps. Two German border guards had been wounded – one of whom had since died – in a firefight with ‘persons unknown’. Nicolelli was convinced he could put a name to those assailants - camorrisiti from the Nuvoletta clan, who he knew had transferred their operations from Naples to the north of Italy, in order to exploit fresh territories.

He would draft another cable to Rome; he expected it to have the same effect as the others – that is to say, none. The morass of indecision into which his Government had fallen was perfect for the likes of the Camorra or the Sicilian Mafia. If not in the pockets of such criminals, an official or minister was hamstrung by the inaction or back-stabbing of those who were. But if nothing were done the day would come when the Germans would take matters into their own hands. So he had warned Rome, and would do so again.


Sunday, July 2nd 2017, 10:40pm

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Saturday, 13 March 1948

Kapitän zur See Heinrich Gerlach, Director of Naval Intelligence, pondered the cablegram reporting the decision of the Royal Navy to disband its Western Approaches Command. It portended the probable concentration of the Royal Navy’s capital units to meet the perceived threat posed by the Kriegsmarine in the North Sea, and suggested that the British had made a choice of how to prepare their response. From his point of view though, the Royal Navy was in an unenviable position.

In the event of war between Britain and the Grand Alliance – however unlikely that might seem – no less than three major threats would present themselves. First, the Kriegsmarine itself; secondly, the Northern Fleet of the Russian Federation Navy; and lastly the latent ability of a joint Franco-Atlantian force to operate against convoys in the North Atlantic, possibly cutting Britain’s sea lines of communications. By disbanding Western Approaches Command Britain seemed to signal that it was choosing to face the direct threat the Russo-German fleets at the risk of its links to the Empire, at least in the short run. This Gerlach saw as the most probable explanation for the redeployment – and a return of capital units from the Mediterranean or the Far East might follow.

It could, of course, be merely an economy move – something the British did periodically. In this explanation however he put little stock.

Brennero, Trentino, Sunday, 14 March 1948

Franz Kompatscher made his way to the border post and showed his papers to the officious man from the Guardia di Finanza…

“Where are you going?” the man asked in a rather menacing voice.

“To church,” Kompatscher stammered. “To St. Georgskapelle, in Neustift im Stubaital”

“What is wrong with the church here? Why do you have to go to Germany to go to church?” The frontier guard narrowed his eyes.

“My aunt,” the young man replied, “is not well… she lives in Neustift… and I would like to see her before she dies”.

The Italian snorted, grabbed the papers from Kompatscher’s hands, and stamped them with a flourish. “Go,” he ordered. “If you are lucky you might catch the ‘bus.”

Kompatscher thanked him and hurried through the border crossing and managed to catch the Reichspost motor omnibus just as it was departing. His aunt did live in Neustift, but that was not why he was going there. He hoped to be able to contact someone who might be interested in the activities of the gang of thugs that had made the Café Doris their headquarters. As the motor omnibus slowly made its way along the winding mountain road he marshalled in his mind where he would first turn.

Der Tagesspiegel, Monday, 15 March 1948

Minister of Transport Hermann-Eberhard Wildermuth delivered the semi-annual progress report on the National Motorways System. Despite delays occasioned by the winter the linkage of the main highways to the ports of Bremen and Hamburg was completed, as was the Bielefeld Bypass. Substantial mileage was completed in the region of the Schwartzwald though less than projected, and some progress was made on the main highway leading north from the city of Magdeburg. He also outlined the planned construction programme for the forthcoming season, which should see completion of several long-delayed sections in both Swabia and the Austrian provinces.


Thursday, July 13th 2017, 8:37pm

Berlin, Headquarters of the Kriminalpolizei, Tuesday, 16 March 1948

Walter Gerike and Erwin Sander approached the office door of their supervisor, Inspector Otto Langemeyer, with a certain sense of dread. Summons to his inner sanctum usually involved solving tough cases.

“Don’t bother to sit down,” Langemeyer said gruffly. “Pack your bags and be on the next train to Innsbruck.”

“And when we get there…” asked Sander. He was the troublesome one of the pair, always asking questions too soon.

“You check in with Superintendent Grunwald at the Innsbruck Kripo office,” Langemeyer answered. “He’ll explain what he needs from you two.

“Something to do with what’s happening on the Italian frontier?” That was Gerike, who actually paid attention to the regional reports.

“Yes,” Langemeyer confirmed. “There has been a development, and the local office has asked for help.”

Three hours later the two policemen were seated in a railway carriage that was pulling out of the city’s main railway station. Gerike silently mused that whatever it was, it could not be so important; if it was, no doubt the Kripo could have afforded air fare.

Elbinger Volksstimme, Wednesday, 17 March 1948

Work on the construction of the replica East Indiaman König von Preußen nears its end. The wooden vessel is due to emerge from the covered facility which has been her home in but a few weeks, after which the final tasks, such as stepping her masts and setting up her rigging, will proceed during the spring and summer.

Hamburg, Deschimag Shipyards, Thursday, 18 March 1948

A crew worked at the site of the yard’s Number One slipway, clearing away the detritus of previous construction and staging equipment and materials for a new vessel that would soon see its keel laid. All winter the yard had laid idle, with only a minimal work force. Now more shipfitters and mechanics were being hired, and railway waggons were delivering steel and other materiel to the shops. A sense of pride suffused itself throughout the city, for soon hammers would ring and the unemployment lines grow shorter.


Tuesday, July 18th 2017, 2:06am

Innsbruck, Provincial Police Headquarters, Friday, 19 March 1948

Superintendent Grunwald explained the situation succinctly. “Since the War there have been incidents of cross-border criminal activity – mostly smuggling – but in the last several years the number of robberies, assaults, and extortion attempts have grown; in the last six months, it has gotten much worse. You’ve seen the data in the files; we think that the Camorra has moved into northern Italy as the ability and willingness of the Italian authorities to maintain law and order has crumbled.”

Gerike and Sander nodded their understanding and agreement. Since the piratical raid on Monaco several years ago the situation in Italy had gone from bad to worse.

“Four days ago Franz Kompatscher, a native of the Italian town of Brennero, walked into the police post in the village of Neustift im Stubaital, and gave information regarding the activities of a gang of thugs working out of the town. I’ve got his full report here,” Grunwald concluded, and slid a portfolio across his desk.

“Can we interview him?” Sander asked.

“Unfortunately,” Grunwald replied, “Kompatscher had to return to Brennero – and it would have caused an incident if we held him without cause.”

Gerike thumbed the report, quickly scanning it. “Other than filling in some details and names,” he opined, “I suspect he merely confirmed much of what you suspected.”

“True,” Grunwald admitted. “But we now know that there is a gang operating out of Brennero and if we can tie them to any of the crimes committed on our side of the border, perhaps…”

The two Kripo analysts from Berlin looked at one another but said nothing. What could be done would depend in large measure what further information they could develop. “Can you provide us an office to work out of?” Gerike asked.

Berlin, The Admiralstab, Saturday, 20 March 1948

Kapitän zur See Heinrich Gerlach, Director of Naval Intelligence, gave a slight chuckle when he read the report of the Belgian decision to construct an aircraft carrier. In the grand scheme of things it would not be in any way a threat to the Kriegsmarine – even as part of a joint Belgian-Dutch task force (an unlikely outcome in its own respect) it would little upset the balance of forces in the North Sea. It reflected, he thought, the Belgian predilection for home defence – falling into the same category as their fortified lines facing in all directions. He would pass the technical information – when he received it – along to von Friedeburg, the Director of Naval Construction; perhaps the Belgians might come up with an idea worth imitating.

London, The German Embassy, Sunday, 21 March 1948

Otto von Bolschwing, the embassy’s commercial attaché, had spent the previous day touring the newly opened Administrative Staff College at Greenlands, Henley-on-Thames. His hosts proudly spoke of it as Britain’s first business school, where a new generation of business leaders was to be taught scientific methods of management. He had listened attentively to the presentations offered and made copious notes which formed the bulk of the report he was in the midst of preparing. Yet he had to wonder how the British had managed to come so far without formal education in business management.

His own alma mater, the Handelshochschule Königsberg, dated its existence from 1907, while the Handelsakademie Wien traced its own foundation to 1857. Long ago Germany had learned to apply scientific techniques of management to develop its industry; the United States had founded its first such school not long after its civil war; while France, with its École supérieure de commerce de Paris, had a venerable institution which was the oldest business school in the world – founded in 1819.

Still von Bolschwing had to wonder if training up a generation of managers with a military outlook was what Britain needed for its nationalised industries. Certainly they could manage their current situations, but would the new leaders have the vision to see beyond the present and implement strategies to develop new industries? Could managers with better skills grapple with the Trades Union Congress? He had his doubts. Only time would tell.


Saturday, July 22nd 2017, 8:08pm

Frigate Gefion, 12 dgs 5 min South, 78 dgs 17 min East, Monday 22 March 1948

“Smoke bearing Green 100!” came the shout from the lookout aloft. In this part of the empty Indian Ocean any sort of diversion was welcome enough, and von Haugwitz and the other bridge officers turned their classes to port.

“I can’t see much more than a smudge on the horizon from here,” he said. “Are we getting any returns on our Seetakt equipment?

The response was negative; whatever it was stood below the horizon. The flotilla altered course to port to close on the vessel – if it proved to be one – for the charts indicated no islands in the vicinity.

Several hours later the top of a volcano could be made out, spewing ash high into the atmosphere.

“Should we close Herr Kapitän?” asked the first officer.

Von Haugwitz choked back his natural curiosity. “Not today. Note the sighting in the log; perhaps the Admiralstab will sent out a survey ship to investigate.”

U-boat Seeteufel, The North Sea, Tuesday, 23 March 1948

The sound of the patrolling vessel’s ASDIC echoed throughout the boat – announcing that one of the guardians of Scapa Flow had found them. There was no panic – such things had happened before – and in time of peace it was unlikely that the ASDIC lash would be followed by a water-bomb. Word was passed to rig for silent running, and the U-boat dove for the seafloor. Decoys were deployed in the hope that they could elude the first vessel before it could summon help.

Fliegerhorst Nordholz, Wednesday, 24 March 1948

Mechanics and ground crews made last-minute checks of the Dornier 330 patrol aircraft sitting on the flight line awaiting their take-off clearances. The pilots and aircrew had been briefed on their mission – routine patrolling of traffic in the North Sea. However their assigned patrol areas extended far beyond coastal waters. Some of the more cynical pilots saw this as an indication that something was in the air.


Saturday, July 29th 2017, 1:35am

Innsbruck, Provincial Police Headquarters, Thursday, 25 March 1948

Walter Gerike and Erwin Sander, of the Kripo main office in Berlin, had spent the last several days attempting to piece together the web of incidents along the Italian frontier – and a pattern was starting to emerge. The first reports were dated more than a year ago – local businessmen being pressed for ‘protection money’, or being beaten up for refusing to pay such. When they plotted the date and location of these reports the earliest ones were scattered in breadth and depth along the frontier – the more recent incidents were confined to the immediate area near the Italian border town of Brenner.

“What do you think caused the thugs to scale back their operations?” Sander asked his partner.

“They underestimated the resilience of the forces of law and order,” Gerike replied. “Even here people know that their local constable is a friend and ally, and will brook no trouble. That and the local standschützen…”

Sander shot back a quizzical look. “The what…”

Standschützen”, Gerike repeated. “The local militia.” He handed over a couple of sheets of paper. “Apparently one gang of thugs ran afoul of some veterans of the war who had ‘forgotten’ to turn in their weapons when they demobilised. They had a pretty hot firefight when they tried a daylight robbery of a bank.”

Sander quickly scanned the reports. “I call than an understatement. Shot five of them dead and tracked down the rest to a ravine in the mountains. I don’t think word of that made it to Berlin…”

Gerike shrugged. “Whoever they are now confine their activities closer to the Italian border – and it would seem that they prefer to make quick forays across it.”

“Which makes it all the more difficult for the Grenzers to deal with them,” Sanders concluded.

“True,” Gerike ruefully admitted. “But I have an idea…”

Marburg, Friday, 26 March 1948

Archaeologists Hans Bessig and Rolf Hachmann were busy in their office at the University, drafting what was to be the summary report of their first season of exploration of the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. A knock at the door announced the chair of the department, Doctor von Bissing.

“Good afternoon gentlemen,” he said, entering unbidden – as the son of a general the air of command was always about him. “You have a visitor who wishes to speak to you regarding your work in Bahrain.”

Both sighed inwardly but stood politely to receive their guest – a man in his late thirties, early forties perhaps. Though dressed in a suit and tie such garb seemed not to fit him well – and the air of a field archaeologist hung about him. Von Bissing did the honours of an introduction. “Doctor Henry Walton Jones of Marshall College in the United States.” Hands were shaken all round but soon after von Bissing found reason to depart; he really did not like foreigners.

“So, Doctor Jones,” began Bessig, ever the diplomat. “How may we help you?”

The American sat down on a convenient chair and began his story.

“I presume you are aware of Nearchus, admiral of Alexander the Great, who is mentioned in Arrian’s Anabasis Alexandri?”

“Of course,” Hachmann snorted. “He commanded the fleet that Alexander built at the mouth of the Hydaspes, and led it back from India to Mesopotamia while Alexander marched the army across the deserts of Gedrosia, losing half of it in the process.”

“True enough,” Jones said, “but on his voyage he called at many intermediate points, including that which Arrian refers to as ‘Alexander’s Haven’. I am hoping that what you found on Bahrain might help me work out where that might be.”

This, both Germans thought, was an intriguing hypothesis, worth of discussion, over a cold beer or two. They offered to introduce Jones to their favourite Rathskeller.


Wednesday, August 2nd 2017, 5:27pm

Aero Kurier, Saturday, 27 March 1948

Seen here at Waltersdorf bei Berlin the latest Heinkel He500 twin-engine executive aircraft is prepared for its delivery flight to a private customer in Iberia. Since its introduction orders for the type have exceeded three-dozen, and the Ministry of Defence is considering the type as a possible replacement for its fleet of Siebel Si204 training and liaison aircraft.

Marburg, Sunday, 28 March 1948

Having spent a considerable time discussing the archaeological history of the Middle East with their guest Professor Jones, Hans Bessig and Rolf Hachmann had returned to their office and begun an often-interrupted search through their notes for any evidence that could shed light on Jones’ quest for the location of ‘Alexander’s Haven’. What they found was thin – in some of the grave-mounds they had excavated they found some artefacts of Hellenistic origin – which were dated, preliminarily, the Selucid era – a century after the death of Alexander. This, by itself, proved little, if anything. But it did suggest that investigation of the documentary record of the Persian Gulf in the Hellenistic period could pay dividends; the decision was to put several graduate students on an archaeological “dig” in the university’s library.

Café Doris, Brennero, Trentino, Monday, 29 March 1948

The ‘soldati’ of the Nuvoletta clan sat in the corner, speaking quietly with their ‘capo’. The news from one of their contacts in Neustift im Stubaital was troubling.

“According to our friend,” the capo explained, “the good citizens of Neustift had decided to band together to avoid paying us the tribute to which we are due.” His words were filled with venom. “You know what this means?”

“Uh, it means we try our luck elsewhere?” asked one of the capo’s more fawning soldati.

The capo flicked the back of his hand and slapped the face of this underling. “No you idiot!” he exclaimed. “It means we convince them of the error of their ways in a most direct and unmistakeable manner. We break some heads.”

The meeting in question was scheduled, so the informant had reported, was due to be held Thursday evening. It would give the gang an opportunity to prepare and make their way across the border without incident.


Monday, August 7th 2017, 6:40pm

Hamburger Abendblatt, Tuesday, 30 March 1948

The Army Armaments Office has announced the start of trials for a new automatic rifle, the call for which was issued in January of this year. Mauser-Werke, Walther-Werke, and Industriewerke Karlsruhe have each submitted designs for consideration. The current trials are expected to last through May, with a decision expected sometime in June.

The Pension Kleist, Neustift im Stubaital, Wednesday, 31 March 1948

Gerike and Sander tried to get some rest. The day of decision on the success or failure of the trap they had laid for the gang of thugs would dawn on the morrow. A number of members of Grenzschutzgruppe 9, a special tactical element of the border police, had made their way into the town in twos or threes, posing as tourists; the two policemen from Berlin hoped that the arrival of so many strangers would not tip off the gang.

“If we do catch them,” asked Sander, “then what do we do with them?”

Gerike shrugged. “We catch them first, and then figure out who and what they are; only then do we determine the next step. Never hypothesize in advance of the data.”


Wednesday, August 23rd 2017, 1:21am

German News and Events, April 1948

Neustift im Stubaital, Thursday, 1 April 1948

Tommaso Buscetta and his gang of camorra thugs had drifted across the border in twos and threes, taking rooms in the German town of Neustift to await the reported meeting to be held that night. Reports were that all the good burghers of the town would be there, at the parish house of the town’s church. Buscetta relished the thought of teaching these stubborn Germans that it was better to pay their ‘tithe’ to the Nuvoletta clan than risk a never-ending succession of ‘accidents’ and ‘persuasion’.

Across town Gerike and Sander, with the troopers of Grenzschutzgruppe 9, were already ensconced in the parish house. As the citizens of Neustift arrived the burgomeister identified and vouched for them, and then they were led to the hall’s basement, a place of relative safety, where they were told to remain silent until instructed otherwise. The policemen waited as the minutes ticked by…

“That looks like the last of them,” said one of Buscetta’s soldati, noting a final knot of townsmen entering the parish hall.

“Well give them a minute or two to get themselves comfortable,” Buscetta sneered. “Then we’ll teach them a lesson they will not forget.” With studied indifference he checked his watch, lit a cigarette, and when he had finished his smoke turned to his crew and said, “Now.”

A sentinel in a darkened room on the upper floor of the parish house spied the group of strangers crossing the square and signalled the imminent arrival of the thugs. At Gerike’s direction some of the grenzer troops filled seats arranged before the dais upon which he and Sanders stood. Other grenzers retreated into the shadows, out of sight.

The door to the hall was practically ripped from its hinges by the force used to kick it in, admitting Buscetta and eight of his soldati, brandishing truncheons. “What you think you do here?” he shouted in broken German.

“Welcome,” said Gerike. “Please take a seat gentlemen. The meeting has only just begun; you have not missed a thing…” The Berlin policemen tried to exude a calmness he did not feel; despite the knowledge that the trap had been successfully sprung, there was no guarantee that casualties would be few.

“You the big man,” Buscetta continued, leading his thugs forward, jostling the grenzers who feigned cowering in their seats. “You think you teach these sheep not to pay us? We teach you…”

As Buscetta raised a truncheon to strike him Gerike drew and fired his pistol at the camorrisiti, hitting him in the shoulder. The gunshot was the signal for the grenzers to spring into action, securing the room to prevent any of the thugs from escaping and pinioning those in the room against the walls. The thug’s bravado withered when faced with the barrels of drawn Walter automatics. For his part Sander checked the wounded capo.

“It’s a flesh wound,” he determined.

Hamburger Abendblatt, Friday, 2 April 1948

The management of the Deschimag works here announced that the current building programme at the yard includes three icebreaking harbour tugs for the Government of Latvia. Sisters of the Eisblume-class vessels constructed for the Kriegsmarine, the Latvian ships will be named Krisjanis Barons, Karlis Baumanis, and Janis Poruks in honour of eminent men of letters. They are expected to be complete sometime in August of this year, and will keep much of the yard’s work force employed.

Cam Rahn Bay, Saturday, 3 April 1948

Konteradmiral Bernhard Rogge stood on the bridge of his flagship while salutes were exchanged with the returning frigates Gefion and Hela, and the tanker Lech. He was happy to see their return. It was nearly time for the East Asia Squadron to make another round of visits across the China seas, and he wished to have every vessel at hand before confirming his plan.


Saturday, August 26th 2017, 5:59pm

Innsbruck, Provincial Police Headquarters, Sunday, 4 April 1948

Consul Nicola Nicolelli in Salzburg had received the news of the arrest of his countrymen with horror, realising that his greatest fears had come to pass. The German police had arrested several members of an Italian criminal gang on German soil and were holding them pending arraignment on a variety of charges. He had caught the first train to Innsbruck in an attempt to intervene in what was likely to become an ugly international incident, and, upon arrival hurried to the local police headquarters with all the gravitas he could muster – for if nothing else, he had to defend the honour of his country, if not his countrymen.

Superintendent Grunwald received the Italian consul in his office in a quiet and correct manner. The relative strengths of the cards in play left Grunwald and the Kriminalpolizei with all the trumps. He knew that the consul could do little, and a small amount of politeness could pay dividends.

“Inspector Grunwald,” said the consul as he entered. “I demand to know why you are holding nine Italian citizens here!”

Grunwald invited the consul to take a seat, while he opened a file and began to read the charge sheet. “Tomasso Buscetta – illegal entry, attempted assault on a police officer, suspicion of extortion, suspicion of assault, suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery… Paolo Di Lauro – illegal entry, assault on a police officer, suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery… Vincenzo Di Lauro – illegal entry, extortion, robbery… you would like me to continue?”

Nicolelli recognised names associated with the camorrisiti of the Nuvoletta clan, confirming his worst fears. He had warned Rome that left unchecked this would happen, and if it continued who knew what the Germans might do. “I demand their immediate release to my custody,” he began, playing his first card.

“That is not possible Herr Consul,” Grunwald replied. “They are, at the moment, under interrogation; moreover, Tomasso Buscetta is recovering from a wound incurred as he attacked one of our policemen.”

“Then I demand to speak with them!” Nicolelli continued.

“As I explained, Herr Consul, they are being interrogated. When that is complete, I shall be happy to afford you the opportunity to speak with them – if they wish.” Grunwald smiled.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Berlin, Monday, 5 April 1948

The Ministry of Defence has announced that the Kriegsmarine will conduct large scale fleet exercises in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea commencing Sunday 11 April and continuing through Tuesday 20 April. Commercial traffic in or near the area bounded by 54-14 North, 7-42 East, 53-40 North, 2-40 East, 58-30 North, 1-3 West, and 61-50 North, 2-35 East should prepare to encounter naval vessels at any time and pay heed to daily updates of prohibited zones in German territorial waters.

Truppenübungsplatz Döberitz, Tuesday, 6 April 1948

Oberst von Hauser of the First Armoured Cavalry Regiment scowled at the morning report. The next shipment of “Löwe” light tanks for his unit would not be delivered until the end of the month. “Due to production delays at the Ardelt works at Magdeburg…” the notice read. He put the message in his desk drawer, closed and locked it. He needed fresh air.

His unit had received barely a squadron’s worth of its promised tanks, which bottle-necked troop training to no end. Production was proceeding at a rate of five units a month, and while three new factories would begin deliveries before the end of the year, that would not help von Hauser now. For training purposes he had been lent a number of older Panzer IV medium tanks, but they lacked the cross-country speed and mobility of the new “Löwe”. But they would have to do. Grousing to the High Command would avail him nothing; previous attempts had shown him the error of such.

“Have my horse saddled,” he told the orderly as he exited his office. As a cavalryman von Hauser knew that a ride might pull him out of the funk in which he now found himself.


Wednesday, August 30th 2017, 3:08pm

Innsbruck, Provincial Police Headquarters, Wednesday, 7 April 1948

Walter Gerike and Erwin Sander walked into Inspector Grunwald’s office to report on their latest round of interrogation of the thugs arrested in Neustift.

“Herr Inspector,” said Gerike, “we have not been able to get a word out of them; not even their names.”

Grunwald frowned. “The Italian consul has visited my office twice demanding their release. I’ve refused of course, but can we hold them?”

Sander answered that question rapidly. “Assuredly; enough witnesses have come forward to identify them as participating in robberies, extortion, and assaults four times over. The charge sheets on each of them is quite lengthy, but none of the crimes are capital crimes – so our birds have no incentive to sing.”

“Sir, perhaps if the Consul had an opportunity to speak to his fellow citizens he might be able to persuade them to be more forthcoming.” Gerike spoke with a twinkle in his eye. “Particularly if they did not know we were listening…”

Münchener Post, Thursday, 8 April 1948

With little more than three month until the opening of the Games of the XIV Olympiad, construction of the Olympiapark here continues at a feverish pace. While some events of the summer games will take place elsewhere, the majority of activities will take place here in specially constructed facilities, including the Olympia Schwimmhalle for the aquatic events.

Berlin, Abwehr Headquarters, Friday, 9 April 1948

The cable from Baghdad had been included in the day’s regular budget of reports. It was brief and to the point; Iraqi peasants had demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. Gehlen wondered if it was to be a harbinger of more anti-Royalist and anti-British activities or nothing more than a street dispute.

More to his brief were the reports from stations across Europe and the Middle East of the continuing interest of his Dutch colleagues in the whereabouts of N’Dofa, the rebel leader from Oubangi-Shari. He too wanted to know the rebel’s location, if only to tip off the King’s Intelligence Service; alas, the wily rebel had chosen his hide well, and he could only scribble a note indicating that the Abwehr should redouble its own efforts to find him.


Saturday, September 2nd 2017, 7:36pm

Innsbruck, Provincial Police Headquarters, Saturday, 10 April 1948

For Inspector Grunwald and the two policemen from Berlin, Gerike and Sander, the results of their observation of the interviews between Consul Nicolelli were disappointing. For one, the thugs seemed uninterested in the consul’s assistance – at best all the consul could do was get the prisoners to give their names. The leading thug, who gave his name as Tommaso Buscetta, as much as told the consul that ‘his own people’ would have him out of gaol in no time at all. When Nicolelli attempted to explain to his countryman the enormity of his crime in Germany the consul was dismissed with a string of profanity casting great doubt on the consul’s paternity.

“Well, at least we have names now,” Grunwald observed. “Though I do not know how that will help us. Their arraignment is fixed for Monday.”

“I’ve already wired the names to Berlin to ascertain if Central Records has any information on them,” Gerike noted. “I’ve also asked them to check with the Abwehr, who might possibly have a line on things happening on the other side of the border.”

Grunwald raised an eyebrow. “The Abwehr? They deal with spies? No?”

“If we want to do more than play ‘Catch-me, catch-you’ with them on our side of the border” replied Gerike “we need more intelligence. The road to that could lie in less obvious places.”

Cam Rahn Bay, Sunday, 11 April 1948

Konteradmiral Bernhard Rogge had reached conclusions for deployment of the East Asia Squadron. He would leave the recently-returned Hela and Gefion at Cam Rahn Bay for the time being, together with the tender Gustav Nachtigal. He would send the frigates Blitz and Pfeil to cruise the China coast and show the flag, while the Schwalbe and Sperber would do the same in the South China Sea, monitoring the continued Philippine efforts in developing the Spratly Islands. He would take the rest of the squadron through the Sulu and Celebes Seas to the wide Pacific herself, to stretch their legs so to speak.

Aero Kurier, Monday, 12 April 1948

It has been revealed that work on a prototype of the Lippisch Li-10 high speed research aircraft has been underway at the Ernst Heinkel works at Rostock-Marienehe. Designed by Doctor Alexander Lippisch of the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Wien the Li-10 is meant to explore the means and possibility of piercing the so-called Schallmauer or sonic barrier which heretofore has impeded high-speed flight. A flight of the prototype is expected sometime later this year.