It was late in the morning when U 133 sailed into Saint-Nazaire.
The Base Commander was waiting for Captain Franz at the dock.
“I hate to see my best of my captains being treated this way” was the first words uttered by the Base Commander as U 133 docked in its pen.
Captain Franz smiled – he was glad to be back in Saint-Nazaire after the mission with the Bismarck task force. After all, this was U 133’s home base. He was also glad to see his Base Commander who has been more like an old friend than a strict Base Commander expected of him.
“Why do you say that, Commander?”
“Well, Captain, I rather have my U Boats out there on patrol and on hunting missions rather than having its captains pulled to the left and right for special missions” sighed the Base Commander obviously referring to the order from Berlin requiring the captain and the second in command for a meeting in Berlin.
“Your plane will arrive shortly. It has been ordered to departure at night, in time for it to reach its destination without any interception from Allied fighter planes. In the meantime, have a good rest and later join me for lunch and drinks”
“Of course, it will be my pleasure” replied the captain
After refreshing themselves and briefing the crew of U 133, the captain and his second in command reached the Base Commander’s quarters for lunch. A vintage wine was waiting for them as they entered.
“Lunch will be ready in 10 minutes but in the meantime, enjoy this wine – from one of my most prized collections. This is a good day to drink anyway”
The captain was puzzled with the sober statement from the Base Commander. It was very unlike of him to be speaking in such a manner.
“Is there anything wrong, Commander?”
“Well, it is nothing. Perhaps I am just worried. When you were away, this base was hit by an Allied bombing run. The damage was however not that serious – we managed to repair most of the damages done. Thankfully Luftwaffe was able to fend off the bombers and has kept them at bay for now. But unfortunately 20 of my dock crew was killed and a U Boat was seriously damaged”
“But what I am afraid is that this bombing run could just be start of future bombing runs. After all with most of main ships away on long range missions and Luftwaffe recourse is heavily tied to the North African campaign and Battle over Britain skies, Saint-Nazaire stand vulnerable to more attacks”
“I dread the thought of having most of my U Boats in their pens when that happens”
“I had voiced out my concerns to the Kriegsmarine High Command on this and they agree on this too. We are open for attacks and something needs to be done fast before it becomes too late”
“Hopefully I will have some good news once you are back from Berlin” the Base Commander poured more of the wine and drank it fast.
“Commander, the captain’s plane have arrived” was the word from the Base Commander’s sentries
It was still five hours before it gets dark and the plane is authorised to depart. Captain Franz was back in his quarters, writing letters to his wife and family. He was not sure why he decided to write but the conversation with his Base Commander made him to think about his family. He wrote a long letter and handed it over to his men and went to back to his bed for a short nap. The trip from Saint-Nazaire to Berlin is far and he is not sure whether they will land anywhere in between.
It was almost ten o’clock at night when he made his way to the dock. He wore his full military uniform with a large leather coat. His second in command dressed almost ion the same manner. His plane was a seaplane – the pilot was an experienced and aged man. He was a Major in the Luftwaffe and it was obvious an experienced and skilled pilot was picked to bring the captain and his second in command to Berlin safely.
The plane took off precisely thirty minutes later – the take off was smooth and was almost unnoticed inside the cockpit.
“Captain, we will be flying in radio silence and at fifteen thousand feet high, at least away from ground radar and anti aircraft guns. The parachute is right under your seats – just in case we need to bail out”
Captain Franz looked at Ernst when the pilot talked about the parachute. The pilot noticed the look and started to laugh.
“Don’t worry Captain; it is very unlikely you will ever use the parachute. By the way, we have some refreshments at the back of the plane in case you are hungry or thirsty – courtesy of the Base Commander”
It has been a while since the captain boarded an airplane but it was the first plane ride for Ernst. He was clearly looked nervous. Both the captain and Ernst did not have any mood to eat or drink but after a while, they dozed off. Several hours later, Captain Franz woke up and walked to the pilot.
“Hello Captain, we are flying over Berlin right now and will be making our descending soon. You better wake up Commander Ernst and fasten your seat belts”
The sea plane landed on a deserted lake just north of Berlin and quickly stopped by a small dock where several cars were waiting. The captain disembarked and was greeted by two men in long trench coats. They were not wearing any military uniforms.
“Hail Hitler!” sounded one of them whilst raising his hand towards the captain
The captain did not response in the same manner but instead ignored both of the men. He knew that both of them was from the Gestapo and is probably here to check the passengers of the sea plane. And since both the men were not wearing any uniforms, the captain did not find it fit for him to salute these men. He hated the Gestapo.
Both the Gestapo agents were obvious angry on the way they were treated by the captain but they could not say anything and do anything to the captain and his second in command. They were here under the direct orders from Berlin High Command and the last thing these Gestapo agents want is a backlash from the Kriegsmarine or even the Fuhrer himself.
Captain Franz and Ernst were shown to their cars and were driven towards the mountains known as the “The Eagle Lairs”. The captain gathered that they were some fifty kilometres away from Berlin.
“Did you know that the two men that we met earlier were from the Gestapo? I dreaded their response when you did not treat them well”
“Yes, Ernst, an angry Gestapo agent has long memories and I am sure I will be answering for today one day to the Gestapo. Anyway, as long as I have the backing of the Kriegsmarine, I am not really bothered about Gestapo. I had my share of aggrieve brushes with the Gestapo in the past and Kriegsmarine has come to my rescue all the time. I admit that I may not be so lucky in the future” laughed Captain Franz as their car was reaching a security checkpoint at the start of the mountain roads.
The mountain road was snaking toward to the top of the mountain and from afar, he could see more security checkpoints. It is going to be a long, short journey.
The guards at the first security checkpoint were strict and highly alert. They aimed their guns at the occupants of the car at all times as the head of the guards checked the papers. Several phone calls and more checking thereafter, the car was allowed to proceed pass the first checkpoint.
This happened several times at several checkpoints that car passed in the mountains. Security was certainly very tight here.
It was not long before the car stopped at an entrance of a fortified bunker craved out from a man made cave in the mountains.
“Captain, we have reached the meeting place. The meeting place is at the end of this bunker. I will take you there” said the driver of the car as Captain Franz and Ernst’ presence is being reported back to unknown persons by the heavily armed sentries at the entrance.
Captain Franz took a deep breathe and walked in. Once again, security was tight but it was less tight that the security check points on the mountain roads. Captain Franz was sweating, he was nervous but still put up a brave face. There were high activities in the bunkers – special operations rooms, intelligence gathering rooms and communication rooms. It was a long walk and suddenly they stopped outside a large room guarded by twenty SS soldiers.
Captain Franz recognised the emblem on the uniform of the SS soldiers – they belonged to the Fuhrer’s personal bodyguards.
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