I always try to add a little of the human touch. Changed the beginning of this chapter to reflect the issues with my girlfriend.
November 25th, 1941
French Naval Headquarters, Dakar, Senegal
Admiral Gensoul was eating dinner at his favorite Senegalese restaurant in Dakar, where he was dining on CeebuYapp & Basse-Salte. He was expecting to meet his young mistress here but she was a no show. He had met her several years ago while on leave in Paris, she had told him that she was an aspiring model but was finding it hard to find work despite the outstanding portfolio that she had. They seemed to hit it off almost immediately as they sat and talked for hours even after the restaurant closed for business. After that day they had seen each other on a regular basis, getting romantically involved after just a couple of weeks. She had told him that her name was Yvette Durand from Orleans, that she was just 24 and has been modeling for 8 years.
Meeting Yvette was something Admiral Gensoul never dreamed in his life, she had made happier than he has ever been and he would dream of her and their passionate lovemaking each time that he was away from her and couldn’t wait until were together again. But he had to be careful with the amount of time that he would spend with her and where as his wife Jeanne of 30 years was getting suspicious of his long absences away from home. Several times she had questioned him about his activities, but each time he would stress to her that his trips were for national security and he could say no more on the subject. She tried to believe him but in her heart knew that there was a possibility that she was losing him.
During one of their rendezvous Admiral Gensoul told Yvette that he would help in getting her modeling career started. He mentioned a young designer that he knew personally in Marseilles and would contact him about her. Within 6 months Yvette was one of the most popular models in all of France and she found no trouble in expressing her thanks to Admiral Gensoul, doing whatever he wanted. More than once they expressed their undying love for each other. Yvette even said that she would be more than happy to go wherever Admiral Gensoul wanted her to go. One day he said to himself he would take her up on her promise. When she didn’t show at the restaurant he began to get a little worried as she never late before. He was still thinking about this when a young officer rushed into the restaurant and quite literally hurried over to his table. He had an envelope in his hand.
“Pardon me Admiral” said the young Lieutenant “I have a message for you”
At first Admiral Gensoul did not respond even though more or less he was looking right at the officer.
“Admiral Gensoul it’s Lieutenant Beauchamp from Headquarters I have an urgent message for you”
This time Admiral Gensoul responded as that last statement broke him out of his reverie. “Ah Lieutenant Beauchamp you said you have a message from Toulon for me “
“Yes Admiral here it is” handing the sealed envelope rather quickly.
“Thank you Lieutenant”
“You’re welcome sir, excuse me but I must report back to Headquarters immediately”
“Yes go ahead you’re dismissed”
With that said the young Lieutenant left Admiral Gensoul in the restaurant to read the message.
DATE: NOVEMBER 25th, 1941
FROM: ADMIRAL DARLAN
TO: ADMIRAL GENSOUL
RE: SORTIE OF GERMAN NAVAL RAIDERS
1) NAVAL HEADQUARTERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED BY THE GERMAN HIGH COMMAND THAT WILL ATTEMPT A GERMAN BREAKOUT OF A NUMBER OF NAVAL SURFACE UNITS ON THE 26TH.
2) THEY’RE REQUESTING IF POSSIBLE CAN FRENCH FLEET INSTIGATE A DIVERSION TO DRAW OFF BRITISH HOME FLEET. IF NOT POSSIBLE CAN GERMAN SHIPS ENTER DAKAR FOR REFUELING AND PROVISIONS.
3) IF THE OPPORTUNITY ARISES AS A RESULT OF NAVAL ACTION BETWEEN BRITISH AND GERMAN FORCES YOU ARE TO MOVE THE FLEET TO MARTINIQUE. BE ADVISED THOUGH THAT AN AMERICAN NAVAL TASK FORCE HAS BEEN SPOTTED NEAR AZORES.
4) IF YOU DECIDE TO REDEPLOY FLEET TO MARTINIQUE YOU ARE HEARBY DIRECTED TO AVOID COMBAT AT ALL COST ESPECIALLY WITH AMERICAN NAVAL FORCES.
5) WARNING! YOU ARE IN NO WAY TO JEOPARDIZE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE VICHY FRENCH GOVERNMENT OR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BATTLESHIPS ALSACE AND NORMANDIE WITH ANY DECISION YOU MAKE.
Upon reading the message he saw an opportunity and if given the chance he would choose to take it on the other hand it seemed as though his hands may be tied with any decision he would chance to make. The way he saw it moving the fleet to Martinique would move the fleet closer to the US on the other hand if he moved the fleet to the US under the current conditions there would be a good chance Germany would invade Vichy France and he could lose not only the Alsace and Normandie but 3 heavy and 2 light cruisers that were scheduled to be delivered to the fleet sometime during the summer of 1942.
Since the fall of France and the establishment of the Vichy Government Admiral Gensoul has been secretly devising a plan to keep as much of the French Fleet intact as possible. He was not fond of the Vichy Government nor of Admiral Darlan but neither was he a Gaullist. He was just an ordinary Frenchman filled with French pride. Right now he had part of the fleet that he wanted, the remainder was still undergoing fitting out and soon would be commissioned and delivered to the French Navy. The commanding officers, officers and crews of 90% of the ships that he currently under his command were loyal to him, the remainder would be dealt with when the opportunity would arise.
To crew the new battleships and cruisers he would have to rely on new recruits for half of the crews the rest would be transferred from the carrier Bearn and the battleships [Provence, Bretagne & Lorraine of which the majority of the crews were secretly loyal to him, when the time came.
As far as getting the ships to him it had already been worked months ago ever since the planned attack on the British in Gibraltar. The plan would be as follows:
A) The plan would be one that Admiral Darlan would believe that he devised himself.
B) This newly constituted 2nd French Fleet would leave Toulon on a moonless night after the waters have been swept of mines.
C) The plan as Admiral Darlan believed he had planned would be that this 2nd French Fleet would hug the North African coast until they reached the British Fleet still in Alexandria, they would then attack and destroy it.
) If by chance the British Fleet was absent they would turn their guns on the British fortifications and bombard them
E) Upon completion of this mission they were to retire back to France or if not possible enter an Italian port preferably Taranto
F) In actuality the 2nd French Fleet would depart Toulon as planned but with one exception it would head for the Straits of Gibralter hugging the North African Coast with minimal running lights and once out into the Atlantic and to proceed to Dakar.
G) Preceding this 2nd French Fleet would be 4 French submarines scouting for British forces, if they anticipated to be a threat they would be attacked and sunk.
Admiral Gensoul desperately wanted those new battleships. They would be powerful additions to the fleet. Each would weigh in excess of 45,000 tons, be armed with 12 x 15” guns and have a speed in excess of 30 knots and so would be amongst the world’s most powerful battleships. French honor was at stake here.
November 26th, 1941
USS North Carolina, Panama Canal Zone
The following morning soon after breakfast and morning muster the Special Sea & Anchor Detail was set. Word was received on the bridge that the escort of 4 destroyers would be on station outside the Miraflores Locks within an hour. The Virginia was first to raise her anchor at 0815 and began to get underway heading for the Pedro Miguel Lock. Next it was the North Carolina’s turn to up anchor and head for the Locks.
As with the Gatlun Locks it was a matter of entering the locks and securing to the mules. This time however instead of waiting for the Locks to fill, it was waiting for the Locks to drain. No sooner than the Lock drained, the Lock doors opened and the Virgina was let loose of the mules so she can proceed down the waterway to the Miraflores Locks then the doors closed and the lock began to fill for the North Carolina, soon she repeated what her sister ship and followed her sister ship to the Pacific Ocean.
The Destroyers Lansdale, Jouett, Melvin & Stack were waiting for them as they exited the Canal. With the Virginia leading the two battlewagons formed up and the 4 destroyers formed a diamond formation around them with the Virginia leading and the North Carolina[I] trailing. No sooner than getting into formation than the ships set course for San Diego At a speed of 26 knots it was determined that they would arrive at San Diego in 4 ½ days or midday on the 30th of November. The Saratoga and her group were scheduled to depart Bremerton today and would be off San Diego by December 1st, which would allow only a 24 hour port call in San Diego.
As the ships formed up it was later learned from the Captain of the [I]Lansdale that the reports of submarines, German or otherwise, proved to be false. After an exhaustive 72 hour search nothing was found at any of the locations that reported such sightings. This was nothing new he reported it has been like this for months as there has have been more 70 such incidents in the past three months.
November 25th, 1941
HMS King George V
Steaming out of Scapa Flow with the newly reconstituted Home Fleet Admiral Sir Cavanaugh Ramsey looked a little apprehensive. He was about to take this fleet and if possible do battle with a very powerful German naval force. He had no doubt that his ships and men could do the job but in the back of his mind were two thoughts he could not seem to get rid of. The first would be how would the battle go, would part of it be a repeat of the Hood being destroyed. This thought he temporarily put aside as he knew that he commanded a force of battleships and not a battleship and battle cruiser. The second thought was a bit more serious, would he be able to account for all of the German ships or would somehow manage to escape out into the Atlantic.
Moments before his ships were scheduled to raise anchor at 0915 he had been informed via a flash message that an American task force had been dispatched by the Americans to join his fleet and another was being assembled somewhere in the mid-Atlantic with the same reason or to act as backup. The unknown factor in either case would be whether or not they would be able to join his fleet in time. He was not informed of what units these task forces would consist of but he was assured that at least one of them would consist of the South Dakota class battleships and two carriers. Good he thought that would give him at least five battleships and four carriers to deal with the Germans.
As the ships sailed slowly out of harbor he could see from his vantage point the many signal flags that were going up and down the yardarms of his fleet. Looking forward he could see in the distance several destroyers that had been assigned the task of leading his fleet. With their ASDIC operators searching the waters ahead for u-boats the crews were on full alert and at Action Stations. To prevent a repeat of what happened to the Royal Oak an effort was made to increase patrols both inside and outside the harbor but the destroyers still did their own sweep just in case something was missed. Just behind the first trio of destroyers were the light cruisers Glasgow & Nigeria steaming about 300 yards abreast of each other.
Next came the heavy cruisers the newly commissioned Yorkshire trailing behind the Glasgow and the Bedford trailing behind the Nigeria by the same distance of 300 yards. The KGV followed the cruisers by at least 500 yards. To his starboard side and trailing his own ship was the Prince Of Wales and as he looked aft he could see the carriers Ark Royal & Indomitable as well as the cruisers Lincolnshire, Aurora & Newcastle as well as six more destroyers. To either flank were at least two more destroyers. All in all a very formidable force Admiral Ramsey thought, which would only be increased sometime tomorrow when the Duke Of York, heavy cruiser Northumberland and four more destroyers would be joining him.
Enough with the sightseeing, he thought, time to get on with the reason as to why this force was sailing from Scapa Flow.
“Captain any word from the Admiralty on the whereabouts of the German fleet?”
“No Sir not since our briefing this morning.”
“Very well Captain, signal all ships that once we are safely out into open sea to take up their assigned stations.”
“One more thing Captain, any word on the DOY and her group.”
“Yes Admiral they set sail about two hours ago and are right now steaming at about 21 knots to join us.”
“Excellent let me know when they report that they are in the vicinity.”
November 25th, 1941
The battle squadron lead by the Bismarck’s powerful sister-ship was just an hour away from Bergen, Norway when a flash message arrived from fleet headquarters. The message was quickly deciphered and sent to the bridge.
“Herr Admiral, a message from headquarters,” said the duty communications officer.
“Let me have it.”
“Ja Vohl” replied the officer handing over the message to Admiral Richter.
Taking a moment to first take a sip of his now warm morning coffee Admiral Richter unfolded the piece of paper and began to read the message.
DATE: NOVEMBER 25th, 1941
FROM: FLEET ADMIRAL RAEDER
TO: ADMIRAL RICHTER
SUBJ: BRITISH SHIP MOVEMENTS
1) ADMIRAL DOENITZ REPORTS SEVERAL U-BOATS HAVE SIGHTED TWO GROUPS OF BRITISH WARSHIPS DEPARTING SEVERAL BRITISH PORTS.
2) THE FIRST GROUP DEPARTED SCAPA FLOW AT APPROXIMATELY 0910 AND CONSISTED OF AT LEAST TWO BATTLESHIPS, 2 AIRCRAFT CARRIERS, 8 CRUISERS AND AT LEAST A DOZEN DESTROYERS.
3) THE SECOND GROUP OF BRITISH SHIPS LEFT ROSYTH NAVAL BASE CONSISTING OF ONE BATTLESHIP, 2 CRUISERS AND 6 DESTROYERS.
4) REPORTED COURSE BY BOTH GROUPS IS PRESUMED TO BE NORTHWEST IN THE DIRECTION OF ICELAND.
5) IT IS SUSPECTED THAT THE BRITISH HAVE BEEN INFORMED OF YOUR SQUADRON’S MOVEMENTS AND IS TRYING TO INTERCEPT.
6) NEW ORDERS ARE AS FOLLOWS, DO NOT PROCEED TO BERGEN, REPEAT DO NOT PROCEED TO BERGEN. INSTEAD PROCEED TO TRONDHEIM. YOU WILL TOP OFF YOUR FUEL TANKS THERE AND AT YOUR OWN DESCRETION PLOT A COURSE PAST THE BRITISH INTO THE ATLANTIC. YOU WILL RELAY THIS NEW COURSE TO ME WHEN YOUR SQUADRON IS SAFELY OUT AT SEA.
7) GOOD LUCK AND GOOD HUNTING.
FLEET ADMIRAL RAEDER
“Captain Schumann change there is a change in our orders. We will not be heading to Bergen as originally planned; instead we will be going to Trondheim.
“Why the change in destinations?”
“It seems that two groups of British warships have sortied from Scapa & Rosyth, destination is unknown but they are heading on a northwesterly direction presumably towards Icelandic waters. It is the High Commands belief that the British somehow got wind of our plans and are trying to intercept us.’
“But how Admiral?”
“It’s simple Captain, apparently the Danish underground spotted our ships movements and reported it to the British whom are now trying to stop us.”
“Then if the British are heading towards Icelandic waters then presumably they expect us to take the same course through the Denmark Straits just as the Bismarck & Prinz Eugen attempted to do.”
“This is what Admiral Raeder believes to be true, which is why the change in plans. For one we will not stop in Bergen, this is what the Bismarck & Prinz Eugen did and this is what the British expect us to do. Instead the squadron will head towards Trondheim where we will refuel as quickly as we can. Once the refueling has been completed I intend to sail the squadron not through the Denmark Strait, as the British believe instead I intend to take the squadron through the Norwegian Sea and out into the Atlantic. This move will catch the British off guard and by the time that they recover we will be safely past them and out in the North Atlantic.”
“But Admiral that course will bring us dangerously close to British airfields in Scotland.”
“I’m aware of that, which is why I’m glad to have the Graf Zeppelin along she will provide us with the necessary air cover. Also the change in course will allow the Luftwaffe to provide us with closer protection as well as per the original orders except that this time we will be much closer to our air bases in France, Belgium and Denmark.”
“Sounds like it just may work Admiral that is if the British cooperate.”
“I expect that they will Captain Schumann, the British have been predicable over the years and I don’t expect them to change. Plot a course to Trondheim and then signal all ships to alter course.”