Having nothing to do at the dock, both the Captain Franz and Ernst left for the base mess hall for some drinks – it was their only entertainment for the night.
“When did you last meet your family in Berlin, captain?”
“It has been a while since I last saw – almost 2 years of active duty have taken far from home. My wife informed that living in Berlin has been dangerous due to the night bombing run by the Allied air-force. She has taken the whole family to our country home where war not reaches it yet. Besides my two great uncles also have their homes in the country side quite near to mine, so I always someone watching over the family.”
“My two sons are stopped going to school and instead is getting private lessons. Schools nowadays have turned to propaganda machine. I am a military man, not a politician, so propaganda does not work with me. It does not work for my family too”
“What about you, Ernst?”
“Me? Well, the last I saw them was three months ago. They have moved out from Berlin too but instead going to the country side, they migrated to Norway. I have a family who been living in Norway for past 100 years, so blending in as Norwegians was not a difficult task. I am willing to die for the Reich land but the game that the politicians are playing is simply too dangerous”
“I share your concern too, Ernst. I am working out a plan for my family to move out to a safer place but for now, the country side seems to be a safer place. I have several months of active duty left before I can be released for a long break”
“When you retire, what’s your plan, Captain?”
“Plenty in my mind these days but I probably move to South Africa and run a vineyard. I have an uncle who has a vineyard there and he been calling me to come and take over. Besides South Africa seems to be the country to go after the war, it is sitting at the very bottom of African continent, far from Europe and its madness”
“A vineyard? That’s interesting – I guess I will join you. South Africa you said? I am not really sure how’s the place but if you going to be there, I will be there too. I drink to that, Captain”
The captain had known Ernst from the first he took helm of U 133 and Ernst has been his second in command since then. Ernst knows the captain’s thoughts and action far too well for the captain to mention in words. Before the captain would order Ernst to do something, Ernst would ready for it. The captain knows that for the skill and leadership talents that Ernst has now, it would not be too difficult for Ernst to captain a U Boat himself.
The two men continued drinking till late at night. Completely drunk, they had to be carried out from the mess hall by their men. It is not often to find the captain of a U Boat and his second in command completely drunk on a daily basis but at least they were drunk without any ruckus. When they were into their fourth bottle, the U 133 men had stationed five men to watch over them and to bring them back to quarters once done. These men were loyal and willing to do anything for their captain and second in command.
There was a bright sunlight piercing through the windows. The captain woke up; feeling a slight migraine but otherwise was alright. He wondered how he got himself on the bed. He could not remember the time. He could not remember anything from last night, other than the fact he was drinking quite heavily with Ernst. He looked at his watch; it was almost quarter to ten in the morning.
The captain got dressed and walked to the dock. His migraine was still there. He could not remember when the last time he got so drunk. Even the night before his marriage, he had plenty to drink with his men and officers but he was sober enough to drive back home and ready for the wedding next morning.
He saw a new U Boat at the dock. U 454 had arrived. Ernst was no where to be seen – probably was still sleeping from all that drinking he took last night. Now that U 454 had reached the base and U 133 could finally go back home, the captain went to the Base Commander’s office and query about his orders.
The Base Commander was busy with the captain of U 454 when the Captain Franz was called in.
“Captain Franz, meet Captain Linker, who will be taking over the Wolf Pack. And here are your orders despatched from Berlin. You are free to leave whenever you are ready. But before that, please brief Captain Linker on the X Wolf Pack – the captains and the men of the other U Boats. Captain Linker is very experienced and has led several Wolf Packs in the past but he will need your advice and guidance”
“That true captain, I am still new to the X Wolf Pack and I guess it will take sometime before I get to know the men closer”
The briefing to Captain Linker was brief and concise and soon the U 133 was ready to leave the dock. In the captain’s absence, Ernst had been keeping himself busy with the departure preparations. As with the captain, he too has been having a bad migraine but he did not display it in front of the men and certainly to the higher ranking officers at the base. The last he need is an order stopping U 133 from leaving the base because the captain and the second in command have not recovered from the drinking session last night.
“What are our orders, Captain?” Ernst asked when he saw the captain was dropped off at the U 133 docking bay.
“Ernst, I thought you are still in quarters, still drunk”
“I have not completely recovered but I am ready to leave this base. What is our orders? Can we leave the base?”
“We been ordered to sail back to Saint-Nazaire and wait for further orders. But we have been instructed not to engage any Allied ships on our way back. The High Command wants us back in one piece” said the captain noting that the question is being asked quiet loudly in front of the other dock workers. Ernst is excited but he has forgotten the important safety protocol.
“Alright then, I will gather the men and get U 133 ready to depart”
Half way to Saint-Nazaire, Captain Franz called Ernst in to his quarters.
“Ernst, I did not reveal everything whilst we are at the dock but now we at the deep sea; it is alright to inform you on the orders. We have been instructed to sail to Saint-Nazaire but once reach there; we need to go to Berlin for an important meeting with the High Command. Only you and I have been authorised to proceed to Berlin. There is a transport aircraft waiting for us to pick us up to Berlin”
“Berlin? This is getting quite serious. Will it be safe?”
“Berlin has its own perils but being a military men, such risk is nothing news for us. Besides I don’t think the meeting will be held in Berlin itself. I sense we will be brought to another place far from Berlin for the meeting”
“I hope we will get some time off whilst we are in Berlin. Perhaps we will have enough time to still make a short trip the country side” asked Ernst questionably
Captain Ernst laughed, knowing what Ernst was trying to say
“We will see, Ernst. As you know, I am longing for a short trip to the country side myself but we are on a tight schedule ourselves. Beside the High Command these days are unlike those days – the fury of its activities goes up or down depending on the mood of our Fuhrer”
This time Ernst laughed. He wished that there was an easier way to leave the Kriegsmarine but with the whole Third Reich at war, it was almost impossible for able men not to be in the military. Ernst gathered that being in the U Boat, it was still better than those in the normal army or the Panzer group. With the Kriegsmarine planning for more secret U Boat bases, a U Boat with able captain and men would last long enough to inflict serious damages to the Allied naval fleet. For a country like the Great Britain where the main source of survival is from the supplies from the America and through the main shipping lanes, the hold of these waters would have serious impact on the country. The other option is of course supply via air but the quantity of supplies via air has been very low and small for the country to survive. Luftwaffe has been running a rather successful mission against large but slow transports aircrafts.
There were still several days before U 133 reach its base in Saint-Nazaire but the U 133 has been keeping very low. Ever since the mission undertook by the Bismarck task force, the Allied naval patrols has been on the increase and there is a special task force dedicated to hunt for U Boats. Captain Franz wants to avoid any confrontation with Allied ships for now. His orders expressly mentioned this.
But the captain did not want to miss this opportunity to train his men. As they are unable to surface or use their weapons for target practice, what was done was to train on sonar detection, speeding and stopping procedures and damage control drill. The captain knows that there will be time when the U 133 will be the hunted instead and the men need to be ready to face it.
U 133 only surfaced in the nights and when the sonar did not detect any Allied ships in the vicinity. The surface allows the U 133 to replenish its oxygen supplies and also to recharge its batteries. Unlike the last time, U 133 is now able stay below the water for a much longer period but they need to resurface to recharge their batteries and oxygen supplies.
The captain have heard of rumours of the scientist working on a new power plant for U Boats will allow them to remain under water perpetually. The new technology is known as “nuclear propulsion” but the perfection of this alien alike technology is still several years away. Besides the U Boats that will run on this new technology had to be twice the size of the U Boats that are in active service now. But rumours remain as rumours.
But is it?
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