Wednesday, November 4, 2015


"Good. Let's go meet your officers and then I'll have the design engineer give you an overview of the submarine."

The admiral stood up, opened the door, and started walking down the passage quickly, forcing Werner to hurry to catch up. They got off the boat and walked along the pier to one of the structures along the sides. They walked in and came upon a row of men, standing at attention.

The admiral took some time to walk the line, hands behind his back, looking at each man as if he was doing an inspection, which he probably was. At the end of the line, he made an about face.

"Men, I introduce to you to your new commander who will take over the testing of the submarine. This is Fregattenkapitän (Captain Junior-Grade) Hans Werner, former commander of U-684. Captain, these are the officers and petty officers of submarine U-1215."

Werner looked at the men and merely nodded his acknowledgment. Although they looked alert, they were obviously awakened from sleep as he was. The admiral started his introductions.

"This is Korvettenkapitän (Commander) Karl Schmitt, Engineering Officer. He is knowledgeable with both electrical and mechanical equipment. He use to serve on U-496 before he was transferred here. Be careful though as he thinks he owns the boat." The admiral moved his head a little closer to the man who gave a ghost of a smile though he kept staring ahead. Probably old shipmates or boatmates as the case may be, thought Werner.

"This is Leutnant zur See (Lieutenant-Junior Grade) Wilhelm Schneider, Second Watch Officer. A very capable man with the crew. He knows how to handle the men. He used to serve on a destroyer before deciding to join the u-boat service." Schneider looked to be about 27, a bit old for a Leutnant zur See but appearances can be deceiving, Werner thought.

"Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant-Senior Grade) Herbert Fischer, First Watch Officer. Next to Schmitt, he's the most experienced officer in the group. He was one of the first to join the project." Fischer's expression didn't change. He looked a bit younger than Schneider but, again, it was probably just appearances.

"And this is Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant Commander) Heinz Meyer; he is the most knowledgeable man with the design of the boat." Werner noted the lack of any reference to military experience. An engineer, most likely. Not a military man though he gave a good semblance of standing at attention.

"These other men are your chief petty officers and your petty officers. I will leave you to learn their names yourself, Captain. I must go back to headquarters to attend to some things. You have a busy day ahead of you. I will come back later tonight to brief you on your coming tests." Werner saluted the man as the admiral turned away and walked out of the building after returning the salute. Werner turned back to the men and looked at them for a few seconds without saying anything.

"At ease, men." There was a subdued air of relaxation as the officers and non-coms went to parade-rest. "I can see that all of us have been pulled out of bed much earlier than we would want to. You men may have been working late last night while I was pulling in U-684 into the base. So, seeing that we all lack sleep, we might as well give a good yawn to wake ourselves up."

At this, Werner opened his mouth and started yawning and stretching. The men looked at him in astonishment for a while before Lt. Fischer barked an order.

"You heard the captain, men! Yawn and stretch!"

There were a few hesitant pauses before everyone was soon yawning and stretching with gusto. That seemed to break the tension as everyone soon looked with interest at their new commander.

"Okay, now that we're all alert, I would just like to say that I look forward to serving with you men and making this submarine crew a part of the Kriegsmarine albeit, a secret one." That drew a laugh from the assembled men.

"Seeing that I am the most ignorant of the lot, I will be depending on all of you to help me learn everything there is to learn about this boat. Lt. Fischer, aside from you, who among the crew has combat experience?"

Fischer drew himself back to attention before speaking, "Sir, all the officers except for Lieutenant Commander Meyer have combat experience of various lengths. Some of the petty officers are transferees from surface ships while all of the crew are fresh from submarine school." That drew a surprised look from Werner.

"I see. I assume, however, they had special training for this assignment."

"That is correct, Captain. I must also inform you, sir, that there are special members of this crew who are not submariners. They are here to operate and maintain the reactor."

Werner frowned. "The reactor?"

Meyer spoke up. "I think it would be best if I discussed that part of the sub with you separately, Captain. It would require some detailed explanation."

Werner thought about that for a while before nodding his head and continuing. "Very well. Lt. Fischer, do we have anything on our schedule for today?"

"No tests are scheduled for today sir," Fischer answered, "there are only the normal work that needs to be done for a submarine in port."

"Good. Well, I won't hold you any longer, men. You obviously have your assignments so, let's get the day started."

With a chorus of "Yes, sir," the men fell out and moved out the door. Meyer stayed behind and waited for everyone to leave before he spoke.

"You've had a number of surprises today, I see." Meyer had a smile on his face that Werner was not sure if he should wipe off. He was probably a civilian who had been given a military rank to make sure that he could dictate what he needed to dictate. That meant that he had connections to high places...maybe.

"Yes, I have commander. I guess one of them would be you." Werner gave Meyer a questioning look that the man didn't miss.

"I think it is fair that you should know what my exact role is with regards to this project, Captain. It is important for you to know, in any case. Shall we sit down?"

Werner moved to one of the chairs among the tables. The place was obviously the mess hall though the cooks were not behind the counter yet. Probably preparing the day's meal, Werner thought. It was still too early for breakfast. Meyer sat on the opposite side of the table and started explaining.

"You already know that this is a new submarine design, Captain, and therefore it is but normal that it be designed and built in secret. However, this submarine is not just an improvement on an old design. It also tests new engines, operational methods, submarine propulsion, and several other aspects that may not just give us back the upper hand in the war in the Atlantic but also usher in a new era in submarines."

Werner had already guessed what Meyer had just said. There was still the question of what made this prototype more special than others.

"Meyer, new submarines are being designed and built as we speak. The Type XXI is almost as fast underwater as it is on the surface. It has hydraulic loaders for its torpedoes and it can go three days on its batteries compared to just hours for the older boats. This new secret boat is bigger and definitely more comfortable for the crew but how does it compare to the Type XXI?"

Meyer smiled and replied, "Captain, the Type XXI is nothing compared to what this submarine can do."

"Alright, perhaps we should start at the beginning then." Werner wanted to see just what this man was referring to. Meyer was starting to pique his interest.

Meyer stood up. "Let's go to my office."

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