I joined the PBF for the Hunters a week ago on BGG and what a great experience. Not only does it give you people to share your good and bad times with but it also opens up role play interaction between fellow PBF members.
If you want to know how this continues why not join or view the PBF
Here is the first report and role play. Hope you enjoy
• U-Boat Type – VIIB – U85
• Kommandant – Kapitan-leutnant Joachim Ballert – Age 27
• U-Boat Name – The Green Sawfish
• 1WO - Leutnant zur See Heinrich Zimmermann – Age 21
• 2WO – Oberfanrich zur See Walter Ackermann – Age 20
• LI (Eng) – Leutnant zur See Werner Koch – Age 23
• Doctor – Matrosnobergefreiter Hans-Werner Clausen – Age 18
The Crew of the Green Sawfish Return from Leave prior to our first patrol
I head to the Jager Stammlokal and see that my 1st Watch Officer Heinrich Zimmermann is already sat down with a beer in front of him and one waiting for myself. I head to the table and Heinrich stands to attention and says “Kommandant Ballert” and gives a salute. “Stand at ease and sit down Heinrich” I say “We are still officially on leave so Joachim will do for tonight”
We have returned to our base a day early from our leave after our training exercises. The rest of the crew are also on their way back to base having been recalled. War is coming is the rumour. It’s not a matter of if rather of when war will be declared.
“When will it start?” asks Heinrich. “I don’t know but word is any day now” I respond. “We need to be ready and I hear the technical reports on the G7e’s aren’t good. Half the time they either sink below the target or the trigger fails”
“That’s right and they need heating to 30C or they are slow and well short on range” adds Warner Koch or chief engineer who has just walked into the club. He signs to the bar for a beer and one is brought to him as he sits down and joins us. “Evening” he says. “Where are the rest of the crew?”
“They will be back tomorrow” I respond. “I’ve been thinking of our torpedo mix” I say “I want to go out with the Front and back tubes loaded with G7a’s with 6 x G7a’s and 2 G7e’s ready for front reload and a G7e in the aft reload space. I don’t want to fail due to bad fish missing easy targets and I am happy that the Green Sawfish is a match for anything the Royal Navy can throw at us”
Heinrich says he will make sure that we are ready with the correct torpedo load first thing in the morning and adds “Kommandant” at the end of his sentence. Some habits can’t be broken so I don’t remind him to call me Joachim. I drain my beer glass and bid then good night as I head for Konteradmiral Arnauld Furst’s office to see if there is any news of when we may be setting sail. Our first patrol is imminent but the waiting seems to go on forever.
The night before The Green Sawfish makes her maiden voyage
I ask the officers of the Green Sawfish to meet me at the Jager Stammlokal at 18:00 on the 2nd September. The table is prepared with 5 glass of Rauchbeir, my favourite Bamberg beer which uses smoked hops and 5 glass of Korn the spirit of choice in Northern Germany.
The four officers arrive together chatting but once they see me standing at the table with the drinks set up they fall silent and approach nervously. They know something important is about to happen and our medic Hans-Warner Clausen looks very nervous and much younger than his 18 years. I wonder how he will stand up to what is going to happen over the coming months.
“Kapitan” they say in unison and salute standing to attention sensing that this is a formal occasion.
“Welcome” I say. “Tomorrow is an important day for us all and for the Green Sawfish. Yesterday the fatherland invaded Poland and our gallant forces are closing in on Gdansk. We have been placed on a state of high alert and ordered to put to sea at 09:00 in the morning on our maiden voyage. Further orders will be given when we are underway but I expect you all to be at the docks at 05:00 making preparations.
“Now lets us toast our Admiral and the Fuhrer” I raise the glass of Rauchbeir and say “Furst” and down the contents. The crew follow suit also toasting Konterabmiral Arnald Furst. Then I pick up the small glass of Korn and say “To the Fuhrer” and the rest of the crew follow this example as we down this fiery spirit.
“Now go and do what you need to do. I will collect letters for sending, should we not return, first thing in the morning”
With that I turn and walk out of the bar and head to write my own letter to Annette my loving wife of some two years having married her when I left the Merchant navy before joining the U-bootwaffe.
First Patrol to British Isles - 3rd September 1939 09:00
At 09:00 we set sail from Wilhelmshaven harbour and into the North Sea. We have the whole crew stand on deck and salute as we glide out of the harbour. Once clear of the safety of the harbour walls I order all crew to prepare for dive and sound the alarm. I am the last in the conning tower and check that everyone is below before I vacate it and close the hatch as the Green Sawfish starts to dive beneath the waves.
3rd September 15:00
We raise the radio mast to transmit and receive the latest information as per our operational procedures. We signal our position and receive a message, which is decoded by our enigma machine, for the Kapitan’s eyes only. It reads “ As of 12:56 on 3rd September we are at war with the United Kingdom. All ships not from the Fatherland are now considered targets for the Kriegsmarine ... End of Message”
I tell the radio operator to open a line to the whole ship and pick up the mike and say “ At 12:56 today we are at war with the United Kingdom. We are to proceed into the North Sea and establish a patrol to the east of Scotland. All none German ships in the vicinity of our patrol are legitimate targets. This is what we trained for, this is what we have been expecting. I know you will do your duty to the very best of your abilities. God bless the Fatherland and the Fuhrer”
The boat echoes to the sound of “Heil Hitler” from the 44 crew. I hope their loyalty and commitment will carry them through what we might have to do over the coming months.
10th September 1939
It takes us a week to get to our ordered patrol area east of Scotland. A moderate breeze blows from the South West but the sky is clear. The half moon gives good visibility on this clear night but there is quite a large swell in this slight to moderate sea. I have taken the first night watch. The sun set at 20:00 but an hour later I spot what looks like a lone ship some 10 nautical miles to our North East. I order us to dive and close on the potential target. At approximately 5km away from the target we come to periscope depth. I look through the periscope and spot a tanker and refer to Janes Merchant Ships. I’m fairly certain it is the Dutch Tanker Maasdam at 8,800 tons. I ask Heinrich to take a look and he confirms my thoughts. A final look from myself confirms that this tanker has no escort so I order us to close and surface and load all our G7e fish. This should be our first success with little risk to the boat.
We surface about 2km away and close to within a kilometre. The crew man the 88 and load rounds whilst the rear tube is loaded with an electronic fish.
The 88 fires and the first round slams into the superstructure of the ship whilst the 2nd falls short. The shell that hits explodes, obviously hitting something that wasn’t stable, but the torpedo passes the ship without event. I suspect that it has run deep again and gone under the ship.
The Maasdam is listing and in trouble but this is our first target and I want to finish it quickly so I turn the boat and fire all four tubes from the front. 1&2 are electric whilst 3&4 are my more trustworthy steam fish. The first electric torpedo slams into the front of the ship and a huge explosion occurs. My staff report that tubes 2 & 3 also hit and detonated but nothing is heard from tube 4. It didn’t make any difference this was over kill and the first torpedo had done its job. The ship was sinking quickly. Men were trying to get life rafts launched but the fires and the speed of destruction was too much for them. I doubt if any people survived this carnage. The dive alarm is sounded and we clear the deck and submerge. The crew is on a high after our first kill but those that saw the devastation we caused are a little more subdued.
14th September 1939
03:00 and 2nd officer Ackermann is on watch. There is a strong gale blowing from the SSE and the sea is very rough with a high swell but the sky is clear. The moon is still half full and gives plenty of light. Ackermann reports a suspected ship to our north and we close blow by the wind and waves. A little closer and Ackermann is certain that it’s a target and we submerge to close.
I arrive on the bridge shaking sleep from my mind. As we close I check the scope and identify the Large Freighter Moldanger. 6,800t of Norwegian merchant ship and no escort. We break surface 2km from the target and close towards 1km whilst the crew man the deck gun. The gun roars and w shells head towards the Moldanger. The first lands just short in the water but the second rips into the side of the ship. An explosion sounds and a fire breaks out in the middle of the shop. The aft tube is loaded with a G7a eel and we fire. The torpedo hits dead centre and breaks the back of the merchant ship. We submerge and leave quickly as the Moldanger sinks rapidly.
17th September 1939
At 08:30 with no wind a calm sea and clear skies I have begun my morning watch. Half an hour later I spot smoke to our west and given the lack of wind there appears to be a lot of smoke. We head towards it and submerge.
10:00 5Km away we come to periscope depth and I have to check the scope twice to believe what fortune has placed in our path. Before us north east of Scotland is the HMS Eagle a 22,600t British Aircraft Carrier with two destroyers as escort. We manoeuvre into a firing position some 2km from the Aircraft Carrier and fire 4 steam torpedoes from our forward tubes and then turn away and dive to 100m. Sonar tracks the eels and reports the seconds to impact.
“Tube 1 no contact its run deep. Tube 2 impact .. No explosion the fish was a dud. Tube 3 no impact it missed, tube 4 impact and small explosion.“
One of the destroyers immediately breaks off from the Carrier and heads in our direction. We hear its screws off to our east. It is following a standard search pattern and is obviously not its first action but it can’t locate our position. It eventually breaks off its search without dropping a single depth charge.
We come to periscope depth and HMS Eagle has slowed and is obviously damaged but not in any immediate danger of sinking. I decided to try and shadow the Carrier and its escort and reengage after dark
We successfully manage to maintain contact with the capital ship and just after midnight we move into firing position some 2km away from our target. Our last four steam torpedoes have been loaded and I give the order to fire. We dive to 150m and sonar tracks our fish
“Tube 1 Impact .. No explosion” We’ve been sent out to hunt with peashooters I think.
“Tube 2 impact and small explosion, tube 3 no impact, tube 4 impact and huge explosion”
A destroyer heads directly towards us. Its propellers sound like they are directly above us when sonar reports depth charges in the water. I order us to turn to starboard and explosions detonate behind us. We are rocked a little but no damage. The destroyer changes course and closes on our position again. Once again sonar reports that depth charges have been fired and we turn to port. Several explosions sound close and then one is very close. The boat is thrown around and First Officer Zimmermann screams as an unsecured storage container crashes into his leg and he goes down with a crash. Our medic Clausen in close on hand and goes to tend to Heinrich.
Sonar reports the destroyer coming around again and closing. We turn to port as the destroy launches its depth charges. We feel the concussion of the explosions but there is no damage to the boat.
The destroyer continues on and seems to have lost our position. We slide away silently having confirmed with sonar that there were definite evidence and sounds of HMS Eagle sinking.
Medic Clausen reports that our first officer has a compound fracture of his left leg and that he is currently in sick bay asleep heavily dosed with morphine.
We are out of torpedoes and Zimmermann is seriously injured so I order us to return to base.
An uneventful return voyage sees U-85 (The Green Sawfish) enters Wilhelmshaven on 24th Sep 1939 with three victory pennants flying from her conning tower. 38,200 tons to her credit including an aircraft carrier on the Royal Navy
Engineer Koch reports no damage to the boat and that we will be ready for our next patrol in November
Medic Clausen reports that the base Doctor has set our first officers broken leg again and Heinrich Zimmermann will require 6 months to recover from his wounds meaning he won’t be ready for active service until April 1940
Evening of 28 Sep 1939 - Jager Stammlokal
By Kplt Schmitzer
Kplt Erhardt Schmitzer walks into the Jager Stammlokal, an attractive blond on his arm. Walking up to the bar he orders three beers, having one sent to the table where Kplt Joachim Ballert sits. When the drink arrives and Joachim looks up, Erhardt catches U-85’s Kommandant’s eye. Raising his own glass he calls across the room, “To your aircraft carrier, and the Knight’s Cross it should have earned you.”
The woman with Schmitzer whispers in his ear as she looks in Ballert’s direction. Taking her hand, Erhardt leads her to Ballert’s table. Affecting an official air, Erhardt intones, “Fraulein Gertrude Klein, Kapitan-Leutnant Joachim Ballert. Kommandant of U-85 and hero of the Fatherland. Joachim, Fraulein Klein.”
Gertrude flashes Ballert an inviting smile. “May I?” She indicates an empty chair at the table. If Schmitzer is upset by his date’s apparent interest in another, he gives no sign.
By Kplt Ballert
I immediately rise from my chair and say “Fraulein Klein, I would be honoured if you’d join me” and pull the empty chair out from under the table to help Gertrude be seated before taking my seat again.
“I hear you sank an Aircraft Carrier, is that correct?” asks Gertrude. “How did you manage it?
“It wasn’t just me I have a good boat and an excellent crew” I state modestly.
“Yes but the crew takes it orders from you don’t they?” Gertrude asks
“Well then you must take credit for the sinking of an enemy warship”
“I suppose so” I say somewhat taken aback are Gertrude’s directness.
“So how did it happen?” she asks again.
I spend the next hour telling Gertrude about our first patrol and in particular about the sinking of the Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier, the hunt for us by the destroyers and the server injury that happened to my first officer Heinrich. Gertrude asks questions and seems enrapt with the story and an hour has gone by before we know it.
Gertrude says “my, look at the time. Thank you very much for such a wonderful story. It is great to listen to a really life hero of the Fatherland”
“Must you leave so soon?” I ask
“I’m sorry but I have to go but thank you once again for a fascinating evening Kapitan Ballert”
“Joachim “ I say. “It was a pleasure meeting you will you be coming back to the bar again?”
“We shall see” Gertrude says flashing a dazzling smile. I notice, not for the first time, how her red dress shows the curves of her body off to the maximum as she stands.
“Kapitan Schmitzer will be able to let you know when I may be back. Goodnight Joachim” she says in a sort of breathless manner
“Gggood Night” I manage to stammer back and I rise from my chair.
With that Gertrude walks off to Kapitan Schmitzer and after a short conversation they leave the bar.
I sit down in silence and finish my beer. My feelings are confused. I have just spent the last hour in the company of a beautiful young blonde woman, in a very flattering red dress, who treated me as a hero. It felt exhilarating but at the same time I feel an enormous guilt.
I leave the bar and head to my quarters trying to bring to mind the face of my beloved Annette but an image of Gertrude keeps intruding. I turn the radio on and listen to the news which focuses on the Polish surrender at Warsaw yesterday and the formation of the RHSA under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler’s second in command. This is the combination of the SS Security Service (SD) the Secret State Police (Gestapo) and the Criminal Police (Kripo). Neither of these stories can take my mind off Gertrude and I climb into bed hoping the sleep will give me dreams of my home town Bamberg and Annette my wife but that is not the case and I spend a interrupted night with dreams of glory and Gertrude.
I awake tired and this is not a good start to the day for a submarine Kapitan
Great report but you set the officers' ages unrealistically young, I think.
We used the following details provided by one of the PBF players. If you have evidence that this is setting ages too young I would love to hear it.
Below are the most likely starting ranks and corresponding minimum ages for the named positions on the U Boat crew list. Note that where there are two starting ages separated by a “/” the first age represents a 1939 start while the second age represents the influences of both outstanding accomplishment and the need to fill vacancies filled by attrition and an expanding fleet as the war progresses. Also note, per the comment in the rules under 10.5.3, the doctor on Type VII U boats was more likely a trained enlisted man than a commissioned officer MD.
Position Starting Rank Minimum Age
Kommandant Kapitanleutnant 26/22
Oberleutnant zur See 23/21
1WO Leutnant zur See 21/20
Oberfanrich zu See 20/19
2WO Leutnant zu See 21/20
Oberfanrich zu See 20/19
Fanrich zur See 20/19
L1 Leutnant zur See 21/20
Doctor Leutnant zur See 30 (MD, Officer - usually only on type IX boats)
Matrosnobergefreiter 18/17 (EMT, enlisted man – usually on type VII)
As the war went on, the younger crew and officers were put on the boats. But that wasn't the case in September 1939. Looking at data from the book Neither Sharks Nor Wolves: The Men of Nazi Germany's U-boat Army, 1939-1945, of 129 petty officers and enlisted crew captured by the British during the first 4 months of the war, only 7 percent were age 20 or younger. The commander might have been 27 (this source says the typical age of the beginning commanders was 27 to 31), but the other officers seem rather young. True, most Type VII boats had a trained medic for a "doctor" but it seems unlikely that the crews in 1939 wouldn't have had more experienced petty officers than an 18-year old.
Many thanks for the information and the reference that really helps. I'll check this out and look to update our start age tables to reflect this info.
John, what a fantastic write-up! Glad you could get around to sharing your play experience with us. It was worth the wait!