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Old 03-15-23, 06:32 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2011
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Default A U-Boat Commander's War - A short story. Day 1. 1st Sept, 1939

U-14 (Type IIA) War Patrol Log
Patrol 1
Day 1. 1st September, 1939
We slipped our mooring in Kiel at 16:20 on Friday, 1st Sept, 1939, to military tunes played by the local Kriegsmarine band and good luck waves from dock workers and admin staff, including some very pretty girls. They had gathered at the quay side to wish us well on our first operational patrol. “That will be the last time we will see the fairer sex for many days, eh Kappler,” I remarked as we waved our farewells from the bridge of the small conning tower. Like many of us, this was his first combat patrol, and the Stabsoberbootsmann gave a wry smile.
A Räumboote escorted our Type IIA to the entrance of the Kiel Canal, where it gave a short blast of its horn and we parted company. We were now on our own, with orders to patrol AN81, in the North Sea between England and The Netherlands. The late afternoon weather was good and the men were in high spirits. I had asked Bootsmann Krieg, our radio operator, to find a popular music radio station on the wireless. The upbeat sounds of the foxtrot, “Vieni, vieni,” played by Barnabas Von Geczy’s Orchestra, drifted up through the hatch.
As the day drew on and we cruised through the canal, daylight turned to a wonderful sunset, an artist’s palette of burnt orange, deep red and pale through to dark blue. The silver-smooth water, punctuated with the merest hint of a swell, reflected the riot of colour, before the sun finally set ahead of us. The first stars could be seen, tiny jewels on a darkening tapestry.
At 21.00 a message is passed to me, from Krieg. I opened the folded paper and recognised the radio operator’s flowing hand. “From OKM to U-14. Overt military operations have commenced against Poland. All Polish vessels are to be considered hostile and valid targets that may be attacked at the commander’s discretion. Vessels of other nations are to be considered neutral and are not to be attacked.” So, this is the first day of the Reich’s retaliation for Poland’s attack on one of our border radio stations yesterday. We are at war!
I gathered my officers in the bow quarters and relayed the message. Shortly thereafter, our total complement of 25 men were aware of this historic news. It was the moment we had all trained for. Matrosengefreiter Hippen, a torpedo man, broke the gravity of the situation with one of his signature comedy quips. “But Captain, we are sailing west. Poland is to the east!”
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