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Episode Three

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 25, Prime Minister’s Office, Copenhagen  1000 hours

“Gentlemen, let us commence.  Mr. Foreign Minister.”

“Good news, gentlemen.  We brought up the matter of enhanced minefields to suppress passage and the possibility of some economic assistance in building these defenses.  The promise of enhanced minefields has mollified the Germans’ ire.  They have some materials we could use.  They have up to 50 captured Russian guns of about 15 cm caliber and a substantial supply of shells.  The guns and ammunition use black powder and are of no use to the Germans.  The Germans have artillerymen that can train our crews in their use.  Better yet they have 2,000 mines available immediately.  These are English mines they seized from the Belgians.  In addition they can sell us at a token price – another 2,000 modern German mines.  They also have 2,000 meters of 30 meter submarine net.  We will have to supply buoys and tenders for the nets.  The Germans have agreed to lease to us – for a token fee of one mark per day each – six coastal minelayers and their crews.  We of course pay for fuel and supplies for these craft and their crews.  Will this be acceptable Admiral and General?”

The Army Chief of Staff nodded assent.

The Admiral stated:  “That would be quite enough.  Inspection of the British submarine indicated that even in sea water, the submarine drew 3.7 meters of water and more like 4.3 meters in the brackish water of the Öresund.  As a result, the total amount of water to be covered by minefield and nets dropped from 25,000 meters to 9,000 meters.  This would allow for a density to three to four mines for every ten meters of mined channel.  We need only destroy a couple of submarines and they will go away as submarines have no means of detecting or removing mines.”

“How soon can all this happen?”

“To make the long process short, we could have workable field up in the Öresund passage within two weeks and the Grosser Belt can be covered in an additional two weeks.  A month later and both barriers could be impenetrable.”

“Gentlemen, is there any question this needs to be done?”

No disagreement.

“Very well.  Admiral and General, let’s get to work.”

September 3, Saltholm Island  1445 hours

The superintendent of the submarine net project stood at his temporary office door – actually a barge moored to the southern end of the island – and watched as the last of the mooring posts for the submarine nets were set.  Tomorrow, the nets, already attached to their bouys, would towed into place.  The little German minelayers (currently flying Danish colors) were busily working on laying their mines.  The bottleneck of the process seemed to be loading the mines off of the (Swedish) cargo ships and onto the minelayers.  The German crews knew their business and the mines were activated and laid quickly.  Work on the Swedish side had gone well and the minefields and nets at Helsingör had already been completed.  In less than four days, the superintendant would have to move his whole operation to Nyborg and start an even bigger project there.  So far, his project had gone well.  Mild, calm summer weather always helps, as do German gold marks.

September 5,  Danish Naval Headquarters Auditorium,  0945 hours

“Attention on deck!”

Threescore Danish and Swedish naval officers stood at attention.  In the back of the room a couple of German naval officers likewise snapped to.

The Naval Chiefs of both Denmark and Sweden strode into the room.  Given the historic rivalry of Denmark and Sweden, this assemblage was truly remarkable.  The Danish chief spoke first.

“As you were.”

“Gentlemen, as you are aware the Öresund has been closed to maritime traffic since the 26th of last month due to construction of submarine nets and laying of neutrality minefields.  Thanks to adequate resources and clement weather, the Öresund nets and mine fields will be completed by 1500 hours today.”

The Swedish naval chief spoke next.

“As you also know traffic has backed up in both directions.  We – Denmark and Sweden in concert – had issued Notices to Mariners at every port in the Baltic and North Sea that the passage was closed.  Unfortunately, two fishing vessels paid no attention.  Fishermen!  Their crews are lucky to be alive, but the boats are driftwood, and two mines were expended.  Now, with the nets and minefield completed, we need to open the straits to legitimate traffic.”

The Danish chief picked back up.

“This is where you gentlemen come in.  The existing minefields were not swept as they give us defense in depth.  Obviously the minefields were not marked except at the net passages.  Your gentlemen will be tasked to guide convoys of legitimate traffic through the minefields to the nets.  A series of guide lights has been set up so night navigation can proceed.  If weather is inclement the net commanders will be instructed to hold traffic until the weather allows safe passage.”

“The Swedish Navy will provide passage from Helsingborg/Helsingör to the fork in the Öresund fields.  Swedish escorts will continue through to the Malmo net.  Danish vessels will escort the traffic to and from the Danish side net.”

“The Swedish Navy will accept the majority of the load in the Öresund as the Danish Navy will have another passage to cover.”

“You have all been issued charts of the mine fields and recognition signals for the net tenders and the shore batteries.  The shore batteries are important.  As we speak the shore gunners at Helsingborg/Helsingör are taking practice and setting ranges.  Tonight Malmö and Copenhagen will get a display.  At 0015 hours the first of the outgoing convoys will leave northbound.  The first few convoys will be big in order to pass through ships currently backlogged and clear them before the British can react. It is imperative we get the traffic moving through the minefields then as Denmark is issuing a Notice to Mariners that the Grosser Belt is closed as of midnight.  At dawn mining operations will begin.”

“You all have your charts and your schedules.  Any questions?”

“Sir!  What if the British submarines follow us through the nets?”

“Good question.  Fortunately, the Öresund is too long for them to transit underwater.  They will have to surface and recharge.  If you see them on the surface they are to be immediately challenged.  We have obtained a supply of these new “star shells” and instruction on their use.  If you hear an engine running at night use these to illuminate the source of the sound.  If the source is a submarine immediately challenge it per the written orders.  If they run into the minefields, obviously we do not follow.  The old minefields are fairly thin and they may get lucky.  Then again, they may not.  The new belt fields are quite dense and you can expect an explosion fairly quickly.  Any other questions?”

There were none and the assembly was dismissed.

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