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.
October 26, Gunboat Grøndsund, Anchored Copenhagen Roadstead 1215 hours
Lieutenant Paul Eddis looked over the rail of the old (launched 1881) gunboat, now used mostly as a kind of floating warehouse. She was maybe 150 feet long and was moored to a buoy about two miles from the nearest land.
Eddis was not closely supervised. On occasion, boats came from the base with material or to retrieve parts. During those visits, Eddis was confined to his cabin. Other than that, he had pretty much the run of the boat. Eddis ate with the crew – four ratings, a cook, and a truly ancient petty officer – and ate Danish naval rations. Twice they had handed him a shovel and had him lend a hand loading coal onto the boat. Eddis viewed doing manual labor as unfitting for an officer, but the crew glowered at him until he pitched in. At least he wasn’t cooped up in that cabin.
Most nights a boat would take the petty officer, the cook, and two of the ratings ashore and bring them back in the morning. The ratings that stayed tended the pony boiler. This old scow wasn’t going anywhere soon.
Eddis spoke no Danish and the crew apparently spoke no English. Mostly, they ignored him. They called him out for meals and to shovel coal. After a few days Eddis took to cleaning not only his own cabin, but other compartments as well - just to keep from going stir crazy.
Eddis had been left to peacefully rot on a forgotten rust-bucket.
This morning something had changed. A British merchant ship – the SS Bellbank had anchored about a half-mile away. She was sitting low in the water, probably carrying some sort of timber product. She would probably not tarry long in Copenhagen. This might be his only chance to get away.
At dusk, the steamer did not seem to be making any motions toward getting under way.
Two hours later, Eddis lowered a barrel into the water and then lowered himself into the cold water. Laying on top of the barrel and arm paddling got him over to the steamer just as he thought he could go no further. He got to the boarding stairs and dragged himself up. At the top he was confronted by a deck hand.
“Wot we got ‘ere?”
(weakly) “British officer”
“T’hell you say. You’re some sort of crook trying to rob us.”
“No, no. I’m a British naval officer interned in Denmark and I’m trying to get back to the Royal Navy.”
Eventually an officer came by and took Eddis below. After some questioning, the master had come to a decision.
“This may be your lucky day. We are headed for Aberdeen, but we can’t be seen haulin’ the Royal Navy about. The Danes and Swedes have gotten a bit unfriendly over the last month. We have to wait here ‘til a convoy is ready to pass through the mine fields. Can you do anything on a real workin’ ship?”
“I can navigate and stand watches.”
“How about stokin’. I need stokers real bad.”
“If that is what it takes to get back I’ll stoke.”
“Right. Besides if the Danes inspect us they won’t look too closely at another stoker. I’ll have the black gang get you some duds.”
Two days later, the Bellbank got under way and made its way through the nets and minefields, escorted by a Swedish gunboat, and eventually through the Helsingör strait and into the Kattegat.
October 29, Detention building, Copenhagen Naval Base, 1740 hours
Again, ‘Mr. Andersen,’ the ‘Red Cross representative’ came to visit Commander Layton
“Good evening Commander.”
“Good evening Mr. Andersen.”
“Are you well?”
“I am well, but bored stiff.”
“That is good, because you are escaping tonight.”
“Tonight? What of my crew?”
“That’s the bad news. We located your crew at an internment camp in Grinsted. It is a properly guarded camp and escape is not possible. You, on the other hand, can simply walk out of here. I have reconnoitered the way out. If you simply walk past your snoozing guard you are out.”
“Where would I go from there?”
“If you walk out at 10:00 P.M. tonight, I will meet you just outside the gate. One of my employees will get you to Sweden before dawn.”
“Is Sweden an improvement?”
“Very much so. Another of my employees will get you to Norway and from there back home.”
“There is another reason for you to leave tonight. They will be coming for you in the morning to take you in Grinsted. Leave tonight or spend the rest of the war caged like your crew.”
“I’ll leave tonight. By the way, Mr. Eddis…”
“We have absolutely no idea where Mr Eddis is. We have to take the one we can save, and that would be you. Your ‘Red Cross parcel’ has a lot of things you’ll need.”
‘Andersen’ got up.
I must leave. See you at 10 P.M. outside the gate.
October 29, Front Gate, Copenhagen Naval Base, 2205 hours
Layton was relieved but astonished at the laxity of the Danish Naval base. At a Royal Navy base he would have been challenged at least three times by now, but even sauntering out the gate, there was not only no challenge but not even any evidence anybody was on duty at all.
Layton had left a dummy in his bed to fool the guards, but now he wondered if it were worth the effort. Seeing ‘Andersen’ he walked up.
“It was as easy as you said.”
“You aren’t home free just yet. Come with me.”
The two walked a few hundred yards to an alleyway where they found a small wagon waiting.
“Change into these clothes and give your uniform to this man.”
“Yes, your uniform. Do you think you can parade around in a neutral country wearing the uniform of a belligerent? This man is our decoy. He will ride in another wagon to the west side of town and indeed start parading around in your uniform later in the morning. By then you will be on the ferry to Malmö. This is where I take my leave. Good luck, Commander Layton.”
Layton changed clothes with the decoy and got into the enclosed wagon. It made its way to the area of the morning ferry to Malmö. Layton and his taciturn companion embarked on the ferry at 0630 hours.