The author does not speak Danish, German or Swedish, and rather than offend those who do speak those languages, the dialogue is rendered up in American English with a few local words mixed in.
August 16, Headquarters, Copenhagen Naval Base 1330 hours
“Attention on deck!”
The assembled officer came to attention as Admiral Evers – Naval Chief of Staff strode into the room.
“Let’s get started on this business of the submarine. I have to see the Prime Minister tomorrow morning and he’ll want answers.
“First things first, the Narhvalen has tied up and transferred the English crew to our Master-at-Arms pending diplomatic review. We have a watch on the boat. The question I need an answer for is how did he get so far through our minefields? From what the Swedes tell me the English submarines come through our mine fields as if they were not even there.”
Admiral Evers continued: “It is bad enough we let German warships pass through the Grosser Belt like it was the Rhine but now our noses are rubbed in the dereliction of our neutrality. I need not remind you that Germany took two provinces from Denmark not all that long ago (See Note 1) and may only need a small provocation to take more. The flaccid state of our neutrality may have them decide we aren’t so neutral after all. If they get the upper hand on the Russians, French and English, what is to stop them from taking a bite out of a country they view as not scrupulously neutral? What can we do about these submarines? You, Captain Jensen. What do you think?”
“Sir, we have no way of detecting submarines…”
“Neither do the English, but you don’t find U-boats chugging up the Thames!”
“I know perfectly well we cannot detect submarines or harm them if we do find them. But we do have easily mined passages. Obviously, we don’t do a good job of that. I want somebody to go out and look at where the thin spots in our mine fields are and we need to lay more mines. I’m sure after I meet with the Prime Minister there will be closer co-ordination with the Swedes. They are losing a lot of ore ships to these English submarines. Between the two of us, we’ll have to mine the Öresund with a much greater density.”
“Very well, gentlemen. We have an English submarine stuck on the flats. What next? I suppose the salvors are lining up for the contract.”
A pudgy, bespectacled officer stood up.
“Sir, indeed we already have five bids for pulling the submarine off the flats and towing them to our base. We will have to sweep the area of mines. The English submarine missed a mine by less than ten meters.”
“How soon after we sweep the area can the salvor get the submarine to our pier?”
“Within 24 hours, sir.”
“Very well. Who is interrogating the internees?”
“Lieutenant Barfød, sir. He is speaks excellent English and is a skilled questioner. We cannot press them too hard, sir. Maybe they will make a mistake and tell us how they got through so far.”
“Anybody else have anything to add?”
August 17, Prime Minister’s Office, Copenhagen 1300 hours
The Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Finance and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Navy convened for the second time this day to further discuss neutrality issues.
“Gentlemen, let us come to order. Since our morning session, there have been some new developments. Mr. Foreign Minister…”
“Mr. Prime Minister we have received a communiqué from the German Foreign Ministry. The Germans are rather disturbed that an English submarine got as far as Saltholm Island. In addition we have gotten a similar message from Sweden. They are complaining that their ore ships are being ravaged by English submarines.”
“Gentlemen, I need not remind you of the reality. Denmark is a small, fairly thinly populated nation that is difficult to defend against larger neighbors. We have fought both the Germans and Swedes in the past over our very sovereignty. How well would we fare these days?”
“Clearly mining the Öresund willy-nilly has not worked. Admiral, General, what say you?”
The Naval Chief of Staff spoke first.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I agree that the previous plan of a token minefield in the Öresund has not worked. The minefields are not dense enough nor deep enough to stop submarines. All they do is inhibit our own maritime trade. The English have successfully called our bluff. The Navy and Army have worked out a plan but it will not be cheap.”
“To exclude English submarines from the Baltic will require thorough control of the straits. We need to control each end of the Öresund and the Grosser Belt. Two defensive zones on each body of water will provide defense in depth and still allow our shipping to move about freely.”
“In broad strokes this is what we propose. At the northern end of the Oresund the strait between Helsingör on our side and Helsingborg on the Swedish side could be covered by a combination of submarine nets and dense mine fields overwatched by artillery. We would run the nets and mine field a little south of Helsingör and Helsingborg to allow the Swedes easy use of the port of Helsingborg. The nets and minefield would need run only about 6,500 meters, so we could have very dense fields for this short distance.”
“At the south end, there are two passages around Saltholm Island. The west passage, closer to Copenhagen only runs 2,000 meters and is relatively shallow. We may opt to only have a minefield here. The longer gap – from Saltholm to Malmo is about 7,000 meters. A single submarine net across the main channel would be the gate and the flanks would be mined.”
“In the same way we would propose two such control lines on the Grosser Belt. At this point we would favor lines at Korsør-Nyborg and at Sletnæs. Both of these passages look wide but the navigable channels are relatively narrow. The shallows will be easy to mine. General.”
“Yes gentlemen, these narrows can be easily covered by modern guns. At each point, the entire strait could be covered by 7.5 and 10.5 cm guns. From what the Admiral tells me, submarines are not armored and a solid hit from either a 7.5 or 10.5 cm gun will suffice to sink a submarine. We do have a few older 15 cm guns that would add authority to our supporting barrage and truly these guns are no longer something I would wish to face an army with.”
“Would this stop submarine passage?”
“We believe it would. Submarines are a new type of vessel and we do not know all their capabilities, but sooner or later explosive opens hulls to sea water.”
“What of the Germans? We know they have been transitting our waters as well.”
“We will do as we have been doing before – turning a blind eye to them. If they give us advance warning the nets will be open for short periods. Of course we will sweep our unmined waters for offensive mining but if an English submarine lurks outside our nets…well, the Germans are on their own.”
As in any such proceeding the Finance Minister weighed in.
“How much will all this cost?”
“We are working on estimates and should have something in a few days.”
“Since the Germans are so disturbed, maybe they would provide us some aid. Could we bring this up to them?”
“I think that would be reasonable.”
“General, do we have that many guns to spare?”
“That is a problem, sir. Perhaps the Germans could offer us some aid in that area.”
“Very well, what of the submarine and its crew?”
“That is the easy part. The vessel has been tied to a pier at our naval base. The craft is on shore power to operate her pumps. We had a petty officer and four men from her crew to clean all the food from her to keep rats and other vermin down. We allowed the engine to be run long enough to put a full charge on the batteries to prevent deterioration but our electricians disconnected her motors and we pumped her fuel tanks nearly dry. She cannot be taken away without some work. We found an old barracks for the enlisted men and the officers are confined separately – the captain in a naval brig and the first officer on one of our ships. The officers are kept well away from the men. All this is in punctilious compliance with the provisions of applicable treaties.”
“We could allow the Germans to inspect the submarine, quietly of course, as a part of our asking for help in defensive measures and to show our good faith, but they would be able to inspect only. We will have to turn this craft back to Britain after the war and we want to maintain proper relations with them as well.”
The Foreign Minister had one last thing to add.
“You gentlemen will be amused to note that the British Embassy still denies that an English submarine was caught in our waters.”
August 18, German Torpedoboat G-132, Course 085 Speed 5 knots, 2230 hours
2,900 meters South of the southern tip of Saltholm Island
“Sir. Signal from Flotilla.”
The message for the G-132 was short – “Return to base”
Schnell expected this. The crew of the submarine had boarded a Danish torpedoboat this morning. Schnell had reported that action and continued to watch. There had been no further developments and the diplomats were apparently satisfied the submarine would never be used against German shipping again.
“Come right to 160 Make turns for 15 knots”
Scheiβ! They got away. Schnell wondered if the diplomats knew anything about what they said.
1. As of this date, British submarines operating in the Baltic had sunk two Swedish ore ships bound for Germany.