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Saturday, August 12th 2017, 7:55pm

Unternehmen Donnerschlag (Operation Thunderclap)

Posts regarding the upcoming German fleet exercises will be placed here. IC and OOC comments are welcome; please identify which are IC and which OOC.


Saturday, August 12th 2017, 8:00pm

The Admiralstab, Berlin, Wednesday, 31 March 1948

At the request of Generaladmiral von Fischel, Chief of Naval Operations, his Directors of Plans, Naval Intelligence, and Naval Operations were meeting to discuss the projected fleet exercise scheduled to commence in the following months. Kapitän zur See Heinrich Gerlach, Director of Naval Intelligence, came armed with the latest intelligence reports which he shared; the information cast a shadow on his peers’ expectations.

“Gentlemen,” he explained, “we have proceeded thus far on a false assumption. Unlike the Great War, the Royal Navy does not use Scapa Flow as its principal base. Wireless traffic analysis and agent reports suggests that heavy units of the Royal Navy are based at Invergordon and Cromarty, on the Scottish mainland.”

“Hmm,” muttered Kapitän zur See Karl-Friedrich Merten, Director of Naval Operations. “That explains why our submarine patrols have encountered nothing larger than a destroyer. But certainly the British still use the anchorage?”

“In time of war,” Gerlach observed, “they would do so without a doubt. Presently the British base nearly a dozen light cruisers on the Clyde, and these would no doubt deploy to Scapa Flow to enforce a blockade of the North Sea.”

Merten began to lay down markers on the chart that lay before them. “Cruisers on the Clyde…” he noted. “And lighter units no doubt?”

Gerlach nodded assent. “The numbers vary, from what we have learned.” He then continued, “At Cromarty we believe there to be three aircraft carriers, four heavy cruisers, and flotilla of destroyers. The cruisers are new ships, and only recently arrived, according our agents.”

Kapitän zur See Heinrich Bramesfeld, Director of Plans, spoke up at this point. “You reported that the British have disbanded their Western Approaches command. Have they not moved those ships elsewhere, perhaps to reinforce their weaknesses?”

“We have no confirmation,” Gerlach admitted. “It is probable that they will, eventually… At the moment, the only other force in play would be those ships based at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth – half a dozen cruisers and two flotillas of destroyers. There are, of course, light craft based further south…”

Merten finished adding markers to the chart, and then let out a long sigh. “The main force of the Royal Navy is concentrated then at Plymouth?” he asked.

“Such as it is,” Gerlach agreed. “The Royal Navy has large commitments to the Mediterranean and to the Far East. Neither does it help that they have laid up the elderly Queen Elizabeth-class battleships.”

All three officers fell silent as they did the calculations in their heads. The Royal Navy appeared to concede the North Sea to the Kriegsmarine, even though land-based aviation would balance the disparity in numbers. The proposed exercise was intended to determine how the British would react to a realistic threat; but there was a problem.

Bramesfeld spoke first, “these dispositions are but approximate – we need to confirm them.”

“I agree,” Merten replied. “Our submarine patrols need to be shifted southward, as does our air reconnaissance. It may also be necessary to delay the exercise.”

Fortunately no public mention had been made regarding it; indeed, given the intense training tempo of the Kriegsmarine, some of the units scheduled to participate could make use of the extra time. Gerlach decided it was his turn to bell the cat and suggested that they advise Konteradmiral Werner Graf von Bassewitz-Levetzow, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, of their recommendations.


Saturday, August 12th 2017, 8:26pm

Merten finished adding markers to the chart, and then let out a long sigh. “The main force of the Royal Navy is concentrated then at Plymouth?” he asked.

Not sure where I heard this, but apparently in the early 1990s, a Royal Navy officer was heard saying "It's good that the Cold War is finally over so that we can get back to our primary reason for existence: watching the French!"


Sunday, August 13th 2017, 10:46am

I'm sure I've heard a similar story in the past.

Good to see the Germans making some sound analysis, of course the obvious joint factor is that all those ports mentioned are beside extensive infrastructure, Scapa Flow is rather remote for supporting a fleet without expensive mobile support or construction work which is not feasible (financially justifiable) in peacetime.

Brock has a point though, with the formation of the Grand Alliance some attention has to be paid to securing the Channel and the Western Approaches and historically this is where most of the major naval bases are (thank you France). The disbandment of the Western Approaches command is seen by the Germans as the opposite of the strategy, it keeps 'em guessing!


Thursday, August 24th 2017, 11:57pm

Operations Room of the Admiralstab, Berlin, Friday, 2 April 1948

Merten checked the current plot on the chart of the North Sea laid out in the center of the room with a sense of satisfaction. The repositioning of the U-boat patrol line south along the Scottish coast had brought a laudable increase in the sightings of the Royal Navy’s ships in that area. More focused air reconnaissance brought its dividends too, and Merten felt that the decision to hold off the fleet exercise for a few days was paying dividends.

He was joined by Gerlach, the chief of intelligence. “Looking better I would say,” he commented, scanning the plot.

“Yes…” Merten mumbled. “Any more information from our French friends?”

Gerlach shrugged. “They have told us that insofar as they can determine the British still have five battleships, three aircraft carriers, a number of cruisers, and twenty-or-so destroyers at Portsmouth and the ports at the western end of the Channel. Though it has been disbanded, there is no indication that the ships assigned to Western Approaches Command have departed for other stations yet…”

Merten did a quick count of the markers gathered in the corner of the map labeled “SOLENT”. “If this were real those ships would do the Royal Navy little good there” he observed.

“No, they would not” replied Gerlach. “Thankfully this is just an exercise. Our friends also advise that the boats of the 2nd Submarine Flotilla have begun departing Dunkerque to take up their positions to play their part in the exercise.”

“Ah,” said Merten with amusement. He placed four markers at the eastern end of the Channel, their courses indicated as northeast. “They should arrive off the Jade in a day or two… I do not envy them.”


Tuesday, August 29th 2017, 9:08pm

Submarine Q193, 53 dgs 58 min North, 7 dgs 54 min East, Tuesday, 6 April 1948

Capitaine de Corvette Denis Charpentier put his eye to the periscope to scan the horizon again, and was somewhat relieved to see it clear. In a few moments it would be sufficiently dark for his boat to surface in order to charge their batteries and allow the crew a few moments time topside to fill their lungs with fresh air.

The Q193 and her sisters of the Second Submarine Flotilla had departed Dunkerque several days ago with sealed orders; Charpentier had at first been thrilled. He was less so when he opened his orders to find that the boats under his command would be participating in an antisubmarine exercise with the German Navy; the orders posted the French submarines on a patrol line stretching in an arc from the exit to the Jade nearly to Heligoland.

Once more he scanned the horizon through the periscope, making certain. “Surface!” he ordered.

The Q193 might be twenty years old, but her crew were highly-skilled professionals and responded quickly. Ballast tanks were blown, the bow planes angles up, and the last of the boat’s battery power was fed into her engines to bring her to the surface. Moments later the hatch to the conning tower was cracked, and a trickle of water admitted, followed by sweet night air. The lookouts were the first out to take their place aloft, followed by Villon, the first officer, and then Charpentier himself. Mercifully, there was no ship traffic nearby.

As the diesels throbbed to manoeuvre the boat while charging her batteries, Charpentier resumed his reverie. The odds did not favour him. The Germans had some of the most modern antisubmarine vessels available in Europe, against which his boats would now be pitted. Each of the boats of the Second Submarine Flotilla carried an exercise umpire, who alone knew what was supposed to happen whenever the exercise began. On their voyage from France they had first to dodge sandbanks of the Belgian coast, and then the patrols of the Dutch Navy, who had no idea what French submarines might be up to. For the last day they had been forced to avoid patrols of the German air force, lying doggo on the sea floor or carefully manoeuvring to avoid commercial traffic and fishing smacks.

And so he drank in the night air. On the foredeck the crew could come up for a look at the stars. Thankfully the world was still at peace; an exercise was just that.


Sunday, September 3rd 2017, 9:49pm

Sundry Locations, Sunday, 11 April 1948

(Wilhelmshaven Harbour, Midnight)

Signal lamps flashed from ship to ship across the broad expanse of the Jade – a short imperative message: “DONNERSCHLAG AUSFUHREN”. Officers of the watch on every ship roused commanders from their slumbers; in engine rooms boilers were lit off and steam raised, or diesel engines switched from standby to ready.

(Fliegerhorst Nordholz, 0100 Hours)

Maintenance crews had been up for nearly an hour tending to the Dornier Do330s lined up on the flight line; now armourers were loading the aircraft with full loads of practice armament and other stores. Pilots and crews were in their briefing rooms, and assigned their search sectors over the North Sea. The scene was being acted out at other Marineflieger stations – at Norderney, at List, and at Westerland, where the elderly Blohm and Voss flying boats were being readied for the longest sorties, as far as the Norwegian Sea.

(Cuxhaven Harbour, 0300 hours)

The slim frigates and corvettes of Einsatzverband 44 formed a line ahead as they slipped out of the harbour and into the waters of the North Sea. Normally they would be shepherding the fleet train – but not today. Signal lamps flickered once the ships were free of the channel and they broke in two groups – one heading due north, and one more north-easterly; as the lines of ships changed formation into semi-circles the sea around them began to be filled with the powerful pings of their echo-location equipment.

(Heligoland Harbour, 0400 hours)

The ships of 2. Minenlegerflotille were rarely in the spotlight of the news; mine warfare is the business of shadows. But even in an exercise the shadow warriors had their place. Four of the light minelayers laid in a course for the Little Fisher Bank; four others for the Eigersund Bank. Their mission was to lay simulated mine barrages off the Nordish coast.

(Wilhelmshaven Harbour, Dawn)

The sun peaked above the horizon as the ships of Einsatzverband 58 made their way to sea. The antisubmarine ships of Einsatzverband 71 had preceded them, but no one wished to risk the great battleships and aircraft carriers in darkness without good reason.

(Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Dawn)

Admiral Werner Lindenau sat in a chair above the huge plot of the North Sea around which staff officers were busily moving markers indicating the progress of Unternehmen Donnerschlag. The antisubmarine screens were moving into their initial positions, and the great fist of Einsatzverband 58 forming up; that would take time. Yeomen went to and fro bringing updates and reports from the initial air searches; not that Lindenau expected much at this point in time. He looked across the gallery to where the exercise umpires sat; they would, in time, evaluate all that would transpire in the next ten days.

(Submarine Q193, the North Sea, Dawn)

With the coming of dawn Capitaine de Corvette Denis Charpentier had taken his boat down for the day; despite the relative quiet on the part of the German Navy he had no wish to be spotted by one of its patrols with the exercise in the offing. He was about to retire to his cabin when he was greeted by Capitaine de frégate Philippe Lemaire, the exercise umpire assigned to the Q193; silently he handed Charpentier a message; it read “Exercise underway. Prepare to act accordingly.”

Charpentier looked at Lemaire and shook his head. “Merde!”


Monday, September 4th 2017, 10:54pm

The North Sea, 53 dgs 48 min North, 7 dgs 30 min East, Sunday, 11 April 1948

The chronometer in the conning tower of Submarine Q195 indicated 0800 hours. Lieutenant de Vaisseau Tristan Deshayes raised the submarine’s periscope and scanned the horizon. His boat held the inshore position of the “Red Force” scouting line – the island of Langeoog was just over the horizon to the south – and in some measure the lieutenant felt like Uriah the Hittite – in the forefront of battle. Something cast a shadow across his field of view – what he could not tell.

“Mon Capitaine,” reported the hydrophone operator, “several objects hitting the water…”

“Depth charges?” Deshayes asked. He thought the shadow might have been a passing aircraft.

“No explosions mon Capitaine,” the operator replied. “But…” The sonic ping echoed through the boat, a chilling sound despite the awareness that it was just an exercise.

“Put her on the bottom,” Deshayes ordered. If the Germans were deploying acoustic buoys it meant that antisubmarine vessels could not be far distant. The best chance for the Q195 to survive was to make like a hole in the water. Thankfully the charts indicated that the bottom below the submarine’s keel was sand.


Oberleutnant zur See Wilhelm Meentzen had brought the four ships of the 2. Geleitflottille westward in response to a report of a submarine operating off Langeoog. Marineflieger aircraft had dropped acoustic buoys in the vicinity but the results were ambiguous. Indications were that something had been there, but for the moment, nothing. When the navigation officer indicated that the Seehund and her sisters had reached the location of the sighting he ordered the flotilla to heave to and drift, listening for the echo returns from the buoys and straining to hear anything on the passive hydrophones.


The Q195 had touched the yielding bottom gracefully some two hours ago. Deshayes looked at the chronometer which now read 1020. The pinging of the buoys had gradually died away – he imagined that their batteries had run out, or perhaps they had switched to a listening mode. He did not know; his intelligence briefings had given no indication of this level of sophisticated antisubmarine methods on the part of the German Navy. He turned to the hydrophone operator – “Anything?”

“There was some engine noise mon Capitaine,” the man replied, and bent his heat towards his instruments, concentrating. “Now… nothing.”

Deshayes decided to wait. He looked to the umpire, who merely shrugged. “Patience is a virtue” he said cryptically.


The airwaves were filled with reports, but none for the Seehund or the 2. Geleitflottille. Meentzen watched while the current moved the small ship closer to the shore. If there was a submarine beneath them it was doing a good job of remaining silent.


The air in the Q195 was growing heavy and more foul. Deshayes had ordered some of the boat’s reserve oxygen released, but the carbon dioxide level was rising. The chronometer on the bulkhead now read 1200 hours. He made a decision. “Bring here to periscope depth.”


“Submarine blowing ballast tanks,” came the report from the Seehund’s hydrophone operator. “Three hundred meters to starboard…”

Meentzen checked the charts. The Red Force submarine was to seaward of them – it was likely that they had drifted over it. Swiftly he flashed the word of the contact to Seelowe, Seeigel, and Seepferd and ordered them to converge on the target’s location. The Seehund’s own engines coughed to life and the forward mortar mount was trained out. “Fire!”


“Multiple engine contacts,” the Q195’s hydrophone operator reported, repressing an urge to shout.

Things were happening too quickly. Deshayes ordered the boat down again but a succession of small explosions in the water around her suggested that the Germans had found the range. The acoustic lash of the surface vessel’s detection devices echoed throughout the submarine. Louder detonations suggested that their foe had dropped practice depth charges. Another rain of small explosions indicated that the Germans had dialled in the Q195’s location. One such detonation was quite close aboard the submarine, popping a valve the spewed water into the conning tower until it could be turned off.

“Your boat has been disabled,” the umpire intoned, making a note in his logbook.


Meentzen watched as the Red Force submarine breached the surface. His four small escorts circled it warily. A signal flashed indicating that the exercise umpires had declared it ‘sunk’. The crews of the hunters and the hunted waved to one another, and the Q195 proceeded westward on the surface to the port of Emden for an opportunity for rest and replenishment.

The four craft of the 2. Geleitflottille resumed their patrols of the approaches to the Jade.


Tuesday, September 5th 2017, 2:49pm

“Your boat has been disabled,” the umpire intoned, making a note in his logbook.

Well, that's about right.


Tuesday, September 5th 2017, 5:14pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Sunday, 11 April 1948

The regular clock on the wall indicated it was noon; the special clock indicated that Unternehmen Donnerschlag had been underway for twelve hours. Admiral Werner Lindenau had been joined by Konteradmiral Werner Graf von Bassewitz-Levetzow, the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, who had come from the Admiralstab in Berlin to serve as Generaladmiral von Fischel’s personal observer for the exercise.

The grouping of counters on the large plot map told their own story. The striking force of Einsatzverband 58 was now at sea – twelve aircraft carriers and twelve battleships and battlecruisers, together with their escorting cruisers, destroyers, and frigates – forming a compact mass that moved steadily north-eastward into the North Sea. Ahead of them screens of antisubmarine vessels guarded the flanks, and smaller markers indicated the positions of other specialised flotillas.

“All is proceeding according to plan?” asked von Bassewitz-Levetzow.

“Thus far…” Lindenau grunted. “An operation this large is bound to develop problems.”

Both men knew that Donnerschlag was the most ambitious fleet exercise undertaken by the Kriegsmarine to date. More than one hundred and fifty vessels were participating, from the striking groups to U-boats patrolling off the British coast to minelayers probing the Nordish sea frontiers. They both paid heed to the markers indicating the ships of the Royal Navy in their home ports – ships that they expected to move; ships that ought to move in reaction to what was happening in the North Sea.

“Perhaps,” joked von Bassewitz-Levetzow, “we should have christened the operation “Kopenhagen”.


Wednesday, September 6th 2017, 3:12pm

Admiralty Building, London, Monday 12 April

The main Board of Admiralty conference room was almost full despite the short notice given of the meeting. Among those in attendance were the First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Bruce Fraser, who was the chair, the Second Sea Lord Admiral Sir William Jock Whitworth, the Fifth Sea Lord Admiral Sir Denis William Boyd, Vice Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Andrew Cunningham and his deputy the Assistant Chief Naval Staff Admiral Sir Patrick Brind and the First Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander.

The purpose of the meeting was the recent heavy German naval movements in the North Sea. There had been no formal public announcement which normally preceded a large exercise, normally the precise and orderly Germans were very diligent on that matter. The barest warning to mariners was given but hardly giving anyone in London time a decent warning. The VCNS raised the reports of 'Room 40', the Naval Intelligence bods under the Director of Naval Intelligence and similar reports derived from other secret sources [GCHQ] monitoring German naval communications traffic. There had been no unusual spike in radio traffic, indeed most operational orders would be transmitted by landlines, but the opposite was true. There was if anything a decrease in radio traffic, some ships that should normally have been expected to have been at sea over the preceding weeks were not. Several callsigns were absent. However, as Andrew Cunningham went on to explain, the last 24 hours had seen an explosion in radio traffic from Marineflieger patrols which indicated aircraft from units stationed at Nordholz, Norderney, List, and Westerland were flying quite large operations. Also there had been some U-Boat traffic too, indicating that several most now been at sea in the southern North Sea. Worryingly it seemed possible that some French submarines were also at sea, though this had not definitely been confirmed.

The Fifth Sea Lord gave a brief appraisal of the aerial situation. He confirmed that the RAF had monitored similar Marineflieger radio traffic on the previous day. Coastal Command patrols had been sent up yesterday and more this morning. Reports had been sketchy, it was clear that several Marineflieger flying boats were spotted, they seemed generally to be co-operating with escort vessels in what appeared to be anti-submarine exercises. The lack of complete aerial reconnaissance of British waters tended to give the impression of the Germans not being too concerned with the Royal Navy, but the First Sea Lord felt this was probably due to a use of submarine screen. Already suspicious contacts had been made around Scapa Flow for the past month or more and only two days ago a destroyer of the 12th Destroyer Flotilla on the Clyde had also made an intermittent ASDIC contact whilst on a routine exercise. The most important factor though was that a Shackleton had broke through some cloud and German patrols and had photographed a large fleet steaming north, it included at least three carriers and several large capital ships or cruisers.

The board now had to decide what to do. To do nothing was not an option and the First Lord of the Admiralty needed something with which to brief the Cabinet. The VCNS felt sure that the Germans were carrying out a mass fleet exercise, partly to practice its usual Atlantic breakout plan. He had no doubt that was where the Germans would end up. Last time the RN had exercised in the lower North Sea to highlight the German's weakness in being cut off from home. Here was a chance to do so again. The ACNS had an argument that if French units were taking part, they may will be playing the role of a British counterforce. This tended to confirm the intention of the Germans to exercise counter-Royal Navy tactics. There was no concrete evidence of French involvement however.

That would soon be rectified. RAF Coastal Command would be directed to sweep the Channel, seeing what was in the French ports and what was heading North. So far Channel Command had nothing of note to report, no major surface movements had been spotted so far. Coastal Command would also be directed to keep tabs on all German surface groups, normal protocols would be observed for safety. There seemed little point in advertising the aerial defence plans of Britain, the First Sea Lord would propose to the Joint Chiefs that RAF Fighter Command shouldn't pay too much attention to shooing off Marineflieger patrols near the coast. However, it was proposed to begin anti-submarine sweeps off the main North Sea ports. The 2nd Destroyer Flotilla and the 9th and 13th Sloop Flotillas would be moved into the North Sea and would begin sweeps from Harwich to Lowestoft. How to remove German submarines was a tricky issue, in international waters there was little that could be done apart from minor harassment and interference in the hope the U-Boats would move position further out. For any U-Boat caught inside the 3-mile zone the procedure would require Cabinet approval, forcing a submarine to surface and identify could be complicated and legally both nations were at peace and an international incident would ideally be avoided at all costs. However some in the room felt that if a German submarine was caught inside the Clyde or Cromarty that it would be too bad if the Germans got shook up by some practice charges (grenades) and heavy lashings of ASDIC. However, a decision would need political approval. All they could do was search, mark and hopefully nudge them clear.

The timing was poor given work underway on Exercise FOREMAST planned off Gibraltar later in the month but some deployments were necessary even in the absence of complete information, in fact the need for more reconnaissance drove the need. The 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Sherrness should be put to sea to sweep the southern waters and again shadow any German units from a safe distance. From Rosyth the 20th Light Cruiser Squadron should from a patrol line westward and would be supported by 12th Destroyer Flotilla, they would patrol the mid-North Sea and intercept any German ships. It seemed unwise to move any North Atlantic Command units from the Clyde, they might be needed later. It was decided however to not send out anything from Cromarty at this stage. The heavy cruiser HMS Essex was currently at sea, she would be ordered to patrol the eastern Nordish side of the North Sea. The Home Fleet at Portsmouth would be alerted, crew's recalled from leave and the ships of all major combat flotillas to stand-by to leave harbour within 48 hours. As to submarines, there were two submarines in the North Sea [HMS Sealion and HMS Walrus], it was decided to begin submarine patrols off the German coast and that reinforcements should come from the 2nd and 5th Submarine Flotillas at Portsmouth. Secrecy again was key, radio usage was to be minimal and all preparations were to be low-key.

The First Lord of the Admiralty was satisfied that the Navy had the situation under control, now he just needed to get the political sanctions and get the Foreign Office to do their jobs. He was thankful Fleet Street hadn't yet picked up the story but sooner or later he knew they would and that they would then demand some kind of action. The First Sea Lord too was satisfied with the first round of decisions. It would take another Naval Staff meeting to thrash out the operational orders and the precise details, but first he would need to call the Chiefs of Staff and get a Joint Chiefs meeting and final approval of the necessary co-ordination of the service responses.


Wednesday, September 6th 2017, 5:58pm

That would soon be rectified. RAF Coastal Command would be directed to sweep the Channel, seeing what was in the French ports and what was heading North.

Well, since you mention it...

Not much at all! :P

Remember that it is longstanding French policy, since before WWI, not to focus significant forces in the Atlantic Fleet, instead depending for the most part on allied forces (Atlantis, Russia, Britain, and now recently Germany) to dominate these theaters. The sole French force the British would be most concerned about - the Force opérationnelle Atlantique Nord, headquartered in Brest, with one fleet carrier and two capital ships - is currently visiting Cam Ranh Bay. The British should be pretty well aware of this deployment, since it was published in the newspapers, and the force had to pass either Panama or Suez on their outbound leg. Their absence means the French Atlantic Fleet has no surface ships of destroyer size or larger north of Dakar, with the exception of the Forbin-class destroyer Savorgnan de Brazza, which is two months into her shakedown cruise, and Le Beautemps-Beaupré, which completes on April 15th.

Of the coastal commands, some details:
-- 1st Région Maritime, HQ at Dunkerque, seems to have all four of their CS-27 class submarines at sea. The rest of the force - ten 120t subchasers and four La Combattante II motor torpedo boats, is either pierside or derping around in the Manche, conducting the normal coast guard sorts of patrols.
-- 2nd Région Maritime, HQ at Brest, has five of their six submarines at pier; Pégase is at sea somewhere (possibly in the Manche, more probably in the Mer Celtique). Four of the eight minesweepers are running around in Quiberon Bay, while the rest are in port.
-- The 5th Région Maritime, HQ at Lorient, appears to be pretty active, with two of their four submarines at sea, and five of their submarine chasers undertaking coast guard patrols - but their responsibility and zone of action is south along the coast of the Golfe de Gascogne.

The Forces Sous-Marins, HQ at Lorient - with twelve Emeraude-class fleet submarines and the two Roland Morillot-class submarines, appears to be 100% in port (alongside the 4th Fleet Submarine Flotilla, the sub wing of the FO Nord, which stayed back from the voyage to the Pacific). If the British have bothered establishing a baseline of behavior, it's extremely unusual for the French to have all twenty of those submarines to all be sitting in port at the same time. Usually at least four to six of them are at sea.

No warships at Cherbourg aside from La Combattante herself, which is continuing to field test her gas turbine engines by tearing up and down the Manche.

The British MIGHT note that four Étendard-class destroyers of the 6th Flotilla Torpillieurs, normally homeported in Toulon, are currently derping around in the Alboran Sea, sailing for Tangiers in company with the naval tanker La Vestale - the old one, in one of her last cruises. If asked, the French naval attaché will point out that they annually hold Exercise Orion, a small antisubmarine exercise, in conjunction with the Irish Naval Service around the month of May. With FO At-Nord in the Far East, the exercise this year has fallen to the first division of the 6th Flotilla Torpillieurs, out of the Mediterranean Fleet.

It's almost like the French got tipped off about the big German exercise a few weeks in advance, and are sitting around looking angelic.


Wednesday, September 6th 2017, 9:15pm

Light Minelayer Spica, 57 dgs 48 min North, 5 dgs 1 min East, Sunday, 11 April 1948

The sun had set some hours before, and the Spica and her sisters of the 2. Minenlegerflotille had reached the Eigersund Bank off the coast of Norway. Formerly fast minesweepers the ships of the flotilla had never before featured in any of the fleet’s exercises. For the most part they had exercised with minesweepers and played targets for U-boats in training. Not today.

Oberleutnant zur See Alfred Radermacher checked the ship’s position. After a long run from Heligoland the Spica, the Altair, the Regulus, and the Orion had reached the location where they were to lay a simulated minefield. In theory, were this not an exercise, the barrage might impede the ability of a Nordish fleet to intervene in any action taking place further to the south. The time was 2200 hours.

“Signal the flotilla to slow and commence deployment of the barrage,” he ordered. The weight of tactical command sat heavily upon his shoulders.

The Spica slowed to five knots, turning to port as she did so; in her wake her sisters did the same. From the ship’s stern there was a steady “plunk” as buoys slid into the water. Long cables stretched down into the waters of the North Sea to moor them.

“Seetakt contact Herr Kapitän, aircraft”, reported the operator of their search apparatus. “Passing to the east of us, course south-southeast”.

Radermacher supposed it might be a Nordish search aircraft operating out of a base in southern Norway; or perhaps even a civil airliner on a peaceful flight to Hamburg. He ordered the operator to continue to monitor it and went back to superintending the laying of the simulated mines. Progress was slower than he might like, but the men were performing efficiently. They would be finished before midnight and headed back to Heligoland; he suspected that they would be tasked with a follow-up mission to expand their barrage. While only an exercise, the Kriegsmarine prided itself on thoroughness.


Wednesday, September 6th 2017, 9:35pm

OOC: as an aside, I think I read quite recently (although I can't recall precisely where), that during WWII, something like two-thirds of the Kriegsmarine's personnel had served in the mine warfare commands. (I don't know if this means 'at any given time' or not, however.)


Wednesday, September 6th 2017, 9:57pm

OOC: as an aside, I think I read quite recently (although I can't recall precisely where), that during WWII, something like two-thirds of the Kriegsmarine's personnel had served in the mine warfare commands. (I don't know if this means 'at any given time' or not, however.)


Given the large number of minesweepers and motor-minesweepers constructed by the wartime Kriegsmarine, and the number of auxiliary minelayers commissioned, it is entirely possible that two-thirds of its personnel had done time in mine warfare. I doubt two-thirds at any one time, but it might be. Interesting factoid.


Thursday, September 7th 2017, 1:08pm

Good points Brock and handy info I'll work into my IC pieces.
The Admiralty would be aware the Force opérationnelle Atlantique Nord is currently away and of course nothing can get past Gib without them knowing about it. At this point in time however they have little hard information on what is going on and whether French lighter units are moving as some kind of Red Force. The full scale of Unternehmen Donnerschlag isn't yet clear to the Admiralty. When they find out the entire German surface fleet is on the high seas the natural reaction will be "well, Germany's Grand Alliance partners [France or Russia] must have her back covered" but of course this isn't the case. Actually with the Germans sailing around up north this is probably one of the few times for many a year that the RN has complete dominance of the entire northern seaboard of Western Europe (barring the Dutch and Belgians) [*sigh* if only I had a couple of armies and a few hundred LSTs *megalomaniac laugh*]. At the moment the Admiralty will assume this is a typical annual exercise which will end up sailing into the Atlantic and back. Whether the RN responds is still a political decision to be made (probably late not until Tuesday 13th), but expect the German Naval Attache in London to get a call on Monday.


Thursday, September 7th 2017, 3:09pm

Submarine Q193, 53 dgs 54 min North, 7 dgs 53 min East, Monday, 12 April 1948

Capitaine de Corvette Charpentier distractedly observed his crew as they took turns for a few minutes of fresh air. The Q193 had spent far too much time submerged, hugging the bottom. They had been lucky. Numerous times they had heard the lash of the Blue Force’s echo-location devices, sometimes quite close. They had surfaced not three hours ago, their batteries low, and the carbon dioxide levels inside the Q193’s hull far too high.

Capitaine de frégate Lemaire, the umpire, came up through the hatch and joined him on the submarine’s bridge. “Twenty-four hours and you’re still alive,” he said in mock horror. “You’ve done rather well.”

“Better than I might have expected,” Charpentier replied, “if hiding on the bottom and nearly asphyxiating the entire crew can be called a success”. Neither officer had any idea of how the rest of the flotilla had faired.

“I don’t understand why the Germans are constantly using their ASDIC equipment,” Charpentier wondered. “All it does is keep us down and blind”.

“That is probably what they want,” Lemaire observed. “If you want to get your big ships out of harbour without being observed driving patrolling submarines off is just as good as destroying them. Our general position is known to the exercise umpires but the English, or the Dutch for that matter, are not likely to be so obliging.”

“But our boats…” Charpentier let his voice trail off. He strained his eyes and looked into the darkness, his ears alert. Then one of the lookouts cried, “Aircraft, bearing Green thirty.”

“Lookouts below,” Charpentier ordered. “Clear the bridge! Dive, dive!”

The crew responded promptly to the order. The submarine’s diesels were shut down, the inductions closed, and Charpentier took one last look to assure that all was in order before closing the hatch to the conning tower behind him.

“Straight green board,” the chief of the boat announced. “Make your depth forty metres” Charpentier ordered.”


Thursday, September 7th 2017, 4:19pm

206 Squadron BCAC Buccaneer TL178 'K - King', 08:16 GMT, off the Northern French Coast

Flt. Lt. K. Bywater checked his altimeter as the twin-engined aircraft roared down the Channel at 1,000ft. Off to port he could clearly see Calais and its harbour, two ferries were plying their trade and a few other merchants were sailing up and down the channel bound for ports east and west. The intercom clicked, "Ok, we've completed our second run," the navigator confirmed.
Bywater adjusted the throttles slightly and his eyes ran over the fuel gauges, "How much film do we have left?" he asked.
"About twenty exposures Skipper." So far they had spotted just a solitary motor torpedo boats off Dunkirk, so he decided to have one last run to make sure, "We'll go round again and check one final time." He couldn't see the eeys of his crew roll, all they wanted to do was get back to base and have some breakfast.

HMS Essex, 14:24 GMT, 59 degrees 30 min North, 1 degree 11 minutes East, Monday 12 April

Captain E. Manners had just settled into his chair on the bridge as his cruiser was sailing south after completing their assigned mission, he was looking forward to getting home as in April the northern waters were still dreary and cold.
A messenger appeared beside him and saulted, "Sir we've received a Flash message from North Atlantic Command headquarters Cromarty."
Manner's raised an eyebrow, it was unusual to receive Flash traffic and he took the pad and read its decoded contents. The messenger stood by to take his response.
He read the text slowly, absorbing its implications.


Large unannounced German naval movements begun in North Sea early hours 11 April.
Several groups of ships appear to be moving north.
Intentions unclear but assumed to be major exercise.
Escorts and smaller vessels spotted around 56 degrees North and no further west than 4 degrees East.
Essex is directed to patrol area 57 degrees north latitude between 2 degrees east and 4 degrees east sweeping south.
Will try and send support.
If you spot German ships report their position and shadow formation from a safe position determined by your judgement of situation.

Manner's lowered the pad, "Number One, we've been given new orders, it seems the Huns are on the loose again."


Thursday, September 7th 2017, 4:57pm

Flottenkommando Atlantik, Bremerhaven, Monday, 12 April 1948

Lindenau arrived back in the operations room of his headquarters at 0600; Unternehmen Donnerschlag had been under way for eighteen hours. Thus far he had been able to maintain an outward demeanor of professional calm; inwardly he was worried at what the morning’s plot might show. He examined it with some surprise.

The easterly antisubmarine screen was operating off the Norwegian trench, as planned. It had encountered no unknown submarines thus far; the Nordish navy was, as far as could be told, sitting quietly in harbour. The simulated mine barrages off the Eigersunds and the Little Fisher Bank were in place and growing; their deployment was merely insurance.

The westerly antisubmarine screen had encountered ‘Red Force’ submarines but no unknowns; this surprised Lindenau, as he expected the Royal Navy to have had submarines in the German Bight in anticipation of the announced exercise. For this he was thankful; it avoided unnecessary complications for Donnerschlag, but augured ill had the exercise been real.

Einsatzverband 58 had reached the latitude of the Great Fisher Bank and begun its turn to the west. In his mind’s eye he could imagine the great mass of ships spread out across the North Sea, concentric rings of destroyers and frigates, cruisers, the great battleships, and lastly the striking force of aircraft carriers. In some ways he envied Lindemann, Ruge, and Langsdorff being at sea. But his attention was captured by von Bassewitz-Levetzow, who ushered a knot of officers into the operations room.

“Good morning Herr Admiral,” he said. “Our allies have answered our invitation to observe the progress of the exercise. Permit me to introduce Kontr-Admiral Giorgi Abashvili of the Russian Federation Navy.”

The two flag officers shook hands, while von Bassewitz-Levetzow continued. “Admiral Abashvili is deputy chief of staff of Russia’s Baltic Fleet. And this is Capitaine de vaisseau Georges Cabanier of the Marine Nationale – commander of the Forces Sous-Marins. I believe you know Capitaine de fregate Jean des Moutis from Admiral Lemonnier’s staff.” Introductions concluded Lindenau entered into an explanation of the current state of the exercise, which lasted some minutes.


Thursday, September 7th 2017, 6:54pm

Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin, 56 dgs 40 min North, 4 dgs 26 min East, Monday, 12 April 1948

Vizeadmiral Ernst Lindemann walked the bridge of the recently refitted Graf Zeppelin with a sense of exhilaration. He recalled how many times he had sailed his command under the watchful eyes of the Royal Navy – but not today. Above him were the air patrols of the Graf and her sisters; to the north Ruge with Einzatzgruppe 58.1 projected its search planes halfway to the Norwegian coast; to the south Einzatzgruppe 58.3 had four more aircraft carriers and supporting ships, projecting air patrols as far south as the Doggerbank. Langsdorff’s battleships formed the vanguard of the task force.

Lindemann was somewhat surprised that the British had not yet sent aircraft to reconnoiter their progress; it was unlike them. At nearly 1000 hours there would have been enough time for the flying boats of Coastal Command to have taken off and reached their position. A signal yeoman approached.

“Signal from one of our aircraft sir, British cruiser sighted at 59-02 north, 1-15 east, course southeast.”

“Very good,” Lindemann acknowledged.

“One cruiser,” he thought. “The shoe is going to be on the other foot.”