Wednesday, November 11, 2015


One day, Werner was passing by the officer's mess' kitchen when he encountered Schneider talking to the cook. Near their feet was one of the electricians working on one of the stoves.

"Problems, gentlemen," he asked.

"Just a little trouble with one of the stoves, Captain," said the cook, "I can't get it to work." Schneider snorted.

"You probably spilled some soup on the controls." He turned to Werner. "One of the fuses for this compartment popped, Captain. Bachmeyer here is checking out the stove." Schneider turned to the electrician.

"Find anything, Johann?"

Bachmeyer looked up from his work. "I think there's a short on the cable that's supplying power to the stove, sir. The wire goes into the wall space so I'll have to open the panel to get to it. I'll have to remove the stoves though."

"You do that and the cook will have to use the main kitchen to prepare the officer's meals. That means you and your mates will have delayed meals until you fix it. How do you think will the other men like that?" Schneider growled at the hapless electrician. The man just shrugged, leaving the decision up to the officers.

"The other stoves are still working, correct?" Werner asked.

"Yes they are, Captain," the cook answered. "One stove won't matter much. I'll just have to cook earlier."

"There you go, Schneider. Leave the repair for when we return to base. That way, Bachmeyer won't have to face his fellow crewmates for delaying their breakfast, lunch, and dinner." Werner smiled at Bachmeyer who smiled back.

As Werner turned to leave, he almost bumped into Meyer who was standing behind him.

"Problems, gentlemen," he repeated Werner's words of just a minute ago. Werner answered for the others.

"One of the stoves seems to have suffered a problem with its power cable. It's not a serious problem, though. We'll repair it when we get back to base."

Meyer looked at the others as if he was going to ask more questions but thought better of it. He made way for Werner to pass and headed in the opposite direction. Schneider gave Bachmeyer a soft kick.

"You heard the man, Johann, get out of there!"

Submarines are busy places. If they just cruised around and only responded when there was a threat, they wouldn't live very long. Survival depended on every crewman knowing what to do in the event of an attack, whether they were doing the attacking or someone was attacking them. This was done by conducting drills at random times of the day and can be done any number of times. The duration of these drills depended on the results and the whims of the First Officer, Fischer. Right now, Fischer was having the men simulate a crash dive. In the other, smaller, submarines, a crash dive usually required every available hand to rush pell-mell toward the forward torpedo room to make the vessel bow-heavy and enable them to make a steeper, faster dive. Due to the size of the U-1215, however, this was no longer practical. Besides, the controls of the new submarine were more responsive and easier to operate.

"Dive! Make your depth 100 meters, fifteen degrees down angle on the planes," Fischer ordered. As the sub's bow dipped forward, the men held on to whatever they could reach. A few items crashed to the deck but everyone ignored them. If an item wasn't dangerous, rolling about on the floor, it would stay there until they could pick it up.

As the sub headed for the depths, a warning light came on in the electrical room. Another fuse had popped disabling one of the water distillation units that provided water for the sub. They couldn't do anything about it for now but Schneider called the control room to report.
Meyer looked up in alarm. Another failure? There were three distillation units in the submarine though two were enough for them to continue operations without fear of running out of water. Still, the thought of another electrical problem worried him. Was the submarine coming apart from the inside?

Later, after the drill, another electrician reported that a wire for the unit's power supply had shorted causing the insulation to melt. The wire was replaced and the incident was considered closed. They continued their trips up and down the continental shelf.

"Captain," Meyer stepped into the latter's cabin and closed the door. "I'd like to talk to you about something."

"Of course, Meyer, please sit down." Werner put down a book he was reading and gestured at the only other chair in the room, a fold away seat on the wall. A loose chair would just slide or tumble about when the sub maneuvered violently. "What's on your mind?"

"Captain, I'm a little worried about the problems we've been having with the electrical system. Perhaps we should return to base to make a thorough check of the sub's wirings." Meyer's face reflected his concern about the incidents. They were minor in nature but who knows what might fail next.

Werner smiled and waved a hand in the air. "Nonsense, Meyer! Other submarines have problems and continue on their patrol in spite of them. We repair them as best we could and call for a repair sub if necessary. Sometimes we just do the repairs back at the base. Besides, this patrol is just a little more than half over. We'll be back to base before you know it."

Meyer, however, seemed a little more than just worried. When he stood up, Werner thought he seemed like someone about to run out of the sub. "I know that, Captain. But this sub is not just any other sub. It's the only one of its kind in the world and experimental at that. There are things we don't know and still need to find out. Things have gone well since we started, I know, but these failures are too close together and too similar for me to ignore. Besides, we cannot call for a repair sub like all the others do. We just can't."

Werner looked at Meyer thoughtfully for a few seconds. Then he calmly bade Meter to sit down, relax, and take a deep breath. "Meyer, are you claustrophobic?"

Meyer looked surprised. "No, I am not, Captain! Whatever gave you that idea?"

"I've known crewmen who seemed perfectly at ease when the situation was quiet. Then when things start to go wrong, like a leaking pipe or when things break down, they get all worked up. I remember once, we had a crewman who was the picture of efficiency. He was even being considered by our captain for entry into officer's school when the sub's e-motors suddenly stopped. We dropped to the bottom in less than a minute. Fortunately, we were in shallow waters so we were never really in danger. He became unglued and started trying to open the hatch, the fool. In the end, we had to tie him up and the medic gave him a sedative to calm him down. We eventually had to let him go. The last I heard he was in an infantry division fighting in the Eastern Front."

Werner leaned forward and looked Meyer in the eyes. "You're our resident expert in the workings of U-1215, Meyer. I can't afford to lose you and, much more, I can't have you spreading your uncertainties to the crewmen. That's one sure way of jeopardizing the sub, the crew, and the mission. I need you to focus and help us, not scare us. Can I get your assurance on this?"

Meyer did not speak immediately, he met his captain's gaze for some time that Werner wondered if he was going to have a staring match with him.

"I am perfectly all right, Captain, thank you for your concern. Please forgive me for being so...worried. As I said before, I will follow your orders and do my best to be an example to the crew." Meyer stood up, bowed to his captain and exited.

Werner gazed at the closed door without moving before leaning back on his chair. He took his own advice and took a deep breath before going back to his reading.

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