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.
September 24, Landskrona Hospital 1615 hours
Two Swedish Foreign Ministry officials approached the ward nurse.
“We are here to see a Herr Laurence.”
“Let me check with the Doktor if he can see visitors today.”
Tilda Louise took her time seeking out the Doktor. The Doktor was harried. The crew of the E1 had overwhelmed his little hospital. Normally the town of Landskrona needed a hospital but rarely. Fishing was the business here and when they had an accident, it was beyond the help of medicine. Mostly he delivered babies, and eased old people out of this world. The number and variety of the submarine crew’s injuries left him out of his league. He would be glad to see them go.
“Laurence you say? Yes, he can see visitors.”
Tilda Louise ushered the two men into Laurence’s room.
“We are from the Swedish Foreign Ministry.”
“Yesterday, two officers of the Swedish Navy informed you that your craft was in Swedish waters and under the terms of The Hague agreement, you and your craft must leave neutral Swedish territorial waters by 3:30 today. Clearly you and your crew are still here and I am informed your vessel is still is Swedish waters.”
“Yes. I don’t see how we could have left…”
“Thus, you, your crew, and your vessel must be interned until the cessation of hostilities. Internment shall begin immediately.”
One of the diplomats handed Laurence an official-looking document. He assumed it was some sort of writ of internment, which is precisely what the document indeed was, although it was written in Swedish, which Laurence could not read.
“Gentlemen, some of my crew cannot be moved at this time.”
“Do not fear, Herr Laurence. None shall be moved until all can be safely moved. We will however have to put this hospital under guard to prevent your escape.”
“Good day, sir.”
The two functionaries left Laurence’s room and sought out Tilda Louise.
“May we have a few minutes of the Doktor’s time, please?
“Let my bring him.”
A few minutes later Tilda Louise and the Doktor returned. Tilda Louise was dismissed but she listened beyond the door.
“Herr Doktor, we would speak to you about the English mariners.”
“What would you know?”
“As you may or may not know, these men are English navy sailors who have violated Swedish neutrality. Under international agreements, we must intern them in Sweden for the remainder of hostilities. We would move them to a place where they can be more easily guarded.”
“Yes. Some of these men cannot be moved for some time, at least under the care I can give them.”
“Would it be helpful if some medical personnel from Stockholm come to assist?”
“Indeed it would. This is a small-town hospital, not equipped or staffed for more than a few people at a time. These mariners have overtaxed our capacity.”
“Would another doktor and a couple of nurses help?”
“If the Doktor were experienced in trauma treatment it would be most helpful.”
“We will send a ship up from Stockholm within three days. We would like to get all of the English ready to move to internment as soon as possible. Do you have any idea how long it will require for them to recover to the extent they can take a sea trip?”
“Once additional help and supplies arrive, probably a week to ten days.”
“Very well. You do realize we will have to keep the hospital under guard, to prevent their escape.”
“You may do as you like as long as my staff and normal patients may come and go. The English will be no risk at all of escape for at least a week. However I do not presume to tell you your business.”
“Very well, Herr Doktor. I see we are in agreement. Our ship shall be here soon. Good day.”
September 26, British Submarine E8, Course 040 Speed seven knots, Surfaced 1540 hours
Gulf Of Finland
For over a month, this cruise had been a big bust. Slipping through the Danish minefields had been a joke, but once he was in the shipping lanes between the iron mines and Germany he had seen absolutely nothing. Despite being very light on the throttle, fuel was getting low and the E8 would have to make its way back to Harwich soon. The bloody Huns find our ships so easily the E8’s skipper – Commander Francis Goodhart - thought. Why is it so difficult for us?
“Sir. A wireless message.”
“Wireless? I thought we were beyond signal range?”
“I don’t know about that sir but the code authentications were right.”
Goodhart went to the radio space and looked at the message.
“You are sure this is for us?”
“Yes sir. Our call sign, the proper prefixes and authentication.”
The message instructed the E8 to rendezvous with two other submarines and a Russian gunboat outside Dvina, Estonia, giving a time and date. Checking his chart he realized this was a tight time constraint. He would have to make good speed to make the rendezvous.
“Come right to 175 All ahead full.”
September 28, British Submarine E8, rafted up with Submarines E18, and E19 and tied to pier in Tallinn, Estonia
The three submarine commanders stood on the pier to meet the mysterious Captain Blake they were ordered to meet at the pier. The rendezvous had gone well enough, although like any dealings with the Russians there was a great deal of suspicion.
Goodhart expected to see Layton. The E13 had followed just a few hours behind the E8 transitting the Öresund. The E8 had gone through with no problem.
A carriage pulled up to the end of the pier and a portly grey-haired man in a Royal Navy uniform made his way to them.
“Goodhart, Halahan, and Cromie, I presume”
“Yes sir. That’s us.”
“Gentlemen, I am Captain Blake. Please come with me.”
The four of them went back to the carriage and they rode to a small building at the edge of the port. Inside they went into a modest room and sat around a small table.
Blake started with: “Gentlemen, we are now His Majesty’s Baltic Submarine Flotilla. I understand you have all been in the Baltic for over a month.”
“Yes sir. Halahan has been here for six weeks. In fact if we had not received the wireless he would be working back to Harwich today.”
“Good thing he got the wireless. The Öresund has been closed.”
“Closed, sir? We all have recently passed through there. The Danes and Swedes have a pro-forma mine field there but nothing more.”
“I’m afraid that “pro forma” minefield has been heavily reinforced. You would have no way to know but we have lost three submarines transiting the Öresund in the last month. First Layton in the E13 ran aground. That apparently stung the Danes and Swedes. They have put thick minefields and submarine nets up. Charlie Halahan – any relation? – in the D6 entered the Helsingör strait and has not been heard for since. The Danes reported a vessel hit a mine in that area about the time he was to transit the straits. Of course Whitehall denied it, but the Admiralty is rather sure it was poor Charlie. Now Laurence in the E1 ran aground near Landskrona and has been interned. We have also gotten reports the Danes have densely mined the Grosser Belt. The Admiralty views the mine fields as impenetrable at this time. We are sealed up in the Baltic for now.”
“Normally I am the Deputy Naval Attache at St. Petersburg. Being the senior expendable officer present, the Admiralty has wangled me loose from Whitehall and made me flotilla Commander until someone more conversant with submarines shows up.”
“For now we can draw logistical support, mostly fuel and food from the Russians. How is the hunting?”
Cromie had sunk three ore carriers and Halahan had gotten one but Goodhart had seen nothing.
The three spent the rest of the day talking about details.