“Captain, we will reach Saint-Nazaire in an hour”
Captain Franz woke up from his slumber and looked at his watch. It was half past six in the morning. It has been five hours since the order to return was issued by the Chief of Naval Operations.
Captain Franz walked to the mess room, hoping to join his men for breakfast but when he got there, he was alone. Perhaps it was still too early for breakfast, thought Captain Franz. He was about to leave when Becker, the chef called him.
“How about fresh toast and coffee for breakfast, Captain”
“Well, yes I don’t mind” said the Captain as he sat down
“The boys had their breakfast?”
“No, Captain, they have not – they should be joining us soon”
There was laughter heard along the corridor and ten young men appeared at the mess room. When they saw the Captain, they stood attention. The Captain had a good look at each of them – young men, some barely aged twenty but full of sea-fairing passion.
“Stand down, men. Please join me for breakfast”
The Captain had barely finished his breakfast when word got to him that they are now entering Saint-Nazaire.
“Captain, you got to look at this – you are not going to believe this” radioed his second in command, Ernst
The Captain made his way to the bridge.
“Captain, up here” Ernst shouted from the outside. He was standing on the outside, looking amazed.
The Captain walked up the stairs and was greeted by a sight of a huge ship. It was the biggest ship that he had ever seen. It had four 380 mm main guns at the front and another four at the rear. Smaller guns dotted at various places. Its armour thickness was massive – it seem like it was able to take multiple torpedo shots without any damage.
“One of ours?”
“It has to be, Captain – it is flying the Reich flags and that is German sailors on board”
As U-133 sailed past this huge ship, the Captain also noted there are several escort destroyers moored at the port.
“Hmmn, the big ship needs a big protection as well” laughed the Captain
The U-133 reached its pen and the men were busy off-loading to the base. The Captain took a ride to the Base Commander’s office. When he reached the office, he noted several senior officers at the office. Captain Franz did not notice the Chief of Naval Operations among the crowd but he sensed that his name must have been nominated by the Chief. One of them introduced himself as the captain of the battleship, Bismarck – the huge ship that is moored at the port.
“It looks like we will be working together for a while” smirk the Bismarck Captain Lindemann.
Captain Franz looked puzzled but senses that the Captain Lindemann may be right. In Kriegsmarine, such collaboration is frequent and has been effective in the past.
“Come in, Captain Franz. Sorry for taking you away from your hunt – I heard you made good kill but unfortunately there are more pressing matters” said the Base Commander Voss as he walked towards the windows overseeing the port.
“The huge ship that you see down there is the latest, biggest and most powerful ship in the Third Reich. It is called the Battleship Bismarck and it is going on a mission to hunt for the Royal Navy’s two main ships, the HMS Hood and HMS Walter which was involved in the coastal bombardment last week. It scored high casualty on our side. The High Command of the Wehrmacht wants Kriegsmarine to take the necessary action to hunt and destroy HMS Hood and HMS Walter”
“HMS Hood is a large battle cruiser and is the pride of the British Royal Navy and is a big threat to our military operations”.
“The Fuhrer himself has issued the order for the hunt of these two Allied ships and the best ship to take the both down is the Bismarck. Of course, we also need to make sure that high protection is given to Bismarck in case the Allied decided to lay a trap for Bismarck. The word on the intelligence is that the Allied is preparing a special task force to plan the hunt for Bismarck”
“As such Captain Franz, you are hereby appointed as the X Wolf Pack leader. You will be responsible over five U Boats who will sail under the command of Bismarck task force commander, Admiral Gunther and will spearhead the hunt and destruction of any Allied ships that may threaten the task force. Your X Wolf Pack will have the highest priority to get supplies and torpedoes from any U Boat bases”
“Captain Franz, here’s your orders and appointment letters personally signed by the Fuhrer. The task force leaves in ten hours – brief your men and get the X Wolf Pack ready for a long range mission”
Captain Franz looked stunned but felt that his mistakes in the past have somehow been redeemed.
“I told you that we will be working closely” the Bismarck captain shaking hand with Captain Franz
Ten hours to go and there is very little time available to get ready. Basic supplies, fuel and extra armaments need to be loaded into all the U Boats. The U Boats need to be also upgraded for long range mission – a task that a special team from Berlin already started when Captain Franz was being briefed. The men need to be briefed and for some need to be allowed time off to spend time with their loved ones. It could the last time the families be seeing the men.
Captain Franz’s family was staying far away – there is no time for him to go back home for one last visit before mission starts. He felt lonely but had to contend with long distant phone call to his family. Captain Franz was on active duty and chances for a long holiday back in Berlin were not possible.
The men at the U Boat pens worked extra hours to get the U Boats from the X Wolf Pack ready for the critical mission. Captain Franz had done the briefing to the captains of the U Boat under his lead. Captain Franz had an advantage for the captains of the U Boat under his command were experienced captains with long range mission experience. This time, it will be different stressed the Captain to himself.
His men had left the base to be with their families or spend time in the local bar in the nearby town – the lower ranking sailors have not been briefed on their next mission other than a brief update that the U 133 will be going on a routine mine laying mission nearer to the Spanish coast. This is in fact the opposite of the U 133’s direction in its actual mission with the Bismarck’s task force.
The Kriegsmarine is quite aware that there could be spies and double agents lurking in the nearby town, seeking vital information from unsuspecting sailors. Critical missions have been compromised in the past due to a slip of information to the wrong persons. Those with vital mission information have been barred from leaving the base whilst the 23rd Waffen SS division doubled their guards several miles surrounding the base to catch any spies and saboteurs. Anti aircraft guns have been doubled in the recent weeks to shoot down any aircraft from flying over the base with the Luftwaffe providing secondary air defence support with its Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter aircraft.
Having nothing much to do at his quarters, Captain Franz decided to take a stroll along the U Boat pens and see for himself the progress of readiness of the U Boats for long range mission. There was still five hours to go before the mission starts. Massive work was being done on U 133 – it was getting a new propulsion system and thicker armour. The sonar and tracking system was also being upgraded.
“Thanks to you captain, we managed to do major upgrades to our U Boats”
Captain Franz turned around and saw the Base Commander Voss standing behind him.
“Thanks to me?”
“Yes, remember that we caught the Allied U Boat hunting class ship sometime ago? We learned some new tricks after we have dismantled the ship and studied it in details. Of course we gather the Allied would have upgraded their technology since then but based on intelligence gathering and new techniques fine-tuned, we should be one step ahead of the Allies”
“This new layer armour is one the new items that has been developed. It absorbs sonar and also provides additional protection to the hull. You will find quieter and fast propulsion with the system that we are installing for the X Wolf Pack. The order to prioritise came from Berlin directly”
“X Wolf Pack will also be getting the latest generation of torpedoes designed specifically to hit large battleships and destroyers. We are loading 2 types of torpedoes for X Wolf Pack – both have zero failure launch and hit systems.”
Only one hour to go before the mission starts. All X Wolf Pack sailors and officers gathered for a final briefing.
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