Volume 3, Chapter 45
“Colonel Muller, the Cerberus Corps performed very well in this battle. I am very satisfied with your command.” Xu Jun smiled and said as he greeted Muller. “Yes, you did a very good job in this battle, it really did not disappoint me. You are indeed a good commander.”
Xu Jun turned and looked at the other officers gathered around.
“You will receive your deserved rewards and honors; your performance has impressed me. As well as the soldiers, who, with their actions, have proved their extreme courage and loyalty.”
“Thank you very much for the Commander’s admiration. We were actually just following your plan. The glory of this battle should belong to you. Without your sophisticated planning and tactical genius, we might not even see this victory.” Muller gave an excited response, the other officers also nodded in agreement.
“Haha, how can you say that? The glory of victory should belong to everyone involved in this battle. From ordinary soldiers to the highest command everyone will receive their deserved honor. There have been preparations to give every soldier participating in this operation a commemorative medal recognizing the Battle of Dunkirk and all who supported it.”
“Ah, thank you, General. Oh, forgive me. I have not yet congratulated you on your promotion to general. I would have never expected you to be promoted from brigadier general to a full general in only a short two or three weeks. You must have created a record. I, and the officers and men of the entire Corps. We express our sincere congratulations on your advancement. Your rank can finally be balanced with your merits, haha. But perhaps Field Marshal would be a better fit for you.” Muller said with a smile.
“When did you learn to flatter so much?” Xu Jun put his head close to Muller and whispered. “Don’t tell me you learned it from those two.” Then Xu Jun’s eyes glanced at the two SS officers.
“Haha, General, you’re kidding.”
“Haha, yes. But anyway, let’s not stand here in the sun all day. Let us quickly go to your headquarters. Although the report is written in great detail, there we still some questions.”
Muller quickly lead the way as the group made their way to the command center. Xu Jun walked into the conference room and sat down at the large meeting table. The other officers also sat in two rows on either side of the table. While the lower-level officers sat down on chairs against the wall. The attendants quickly offered everyone fresh coffee and biscuits.
Xu Jun took his coffee and started to greet every officer he recognized. Then turning to Muller who sat next to him. “Muller, I read your report carefully yesterday and details surrounding of the navy still is not clear. I know that I authorized the capture of the warships if possible. However, that was only wishful thinking at the time. How did you capture those warships? Why did the British not try to scuttle them? Give me a better account of the naval battle from start to finish.”
Muller quickly expanded on the report and detailed the fierce fighting on all fronts. Xu Jun listened attentively to Muller recollection. Inwardly complaining that he missed the wonderful scene of the battle of the railway guns and the battleships. However, Xu Jun also knew his limits. His body was not adapted to that of a cold-hearted killer. If he really saw the immense destruction, he would surely get nauseated. This was not something he wanted his officers to see. Besides, his chances of personally witnessing the front lines will only become scarcer from now on. Being a general usually meant sitting in command headquarters. Using a pencil and a map to direct his army. Thousands of deaths on paper reduced his psychological burden much more than witnessing blown up bodies on the ground.
Xu Jun had doubts on how the three battleships were captured. However, after listening to Muller’s narration, he started to understand one thing.
Even after the torpedoes from the Luftwaffe bombers, most of the battleships still managed to persistently float. Although quite a few torpedoes struck each ship, the ships themselves were too large. Each holding numerous watertight compartments all around its hull. Hence, they could stay floating for a certain period of time. At least not immediately sink like the destroyers. But sinking was still unavoidable, only much slower.
Most of these warships were devastated by the barrage of torpedoes; their engines stopped functioning. Basically, losing their mobility and combat effectiveness. At the time, Muller was overjoyed to see such a result. He wanted to quickly find a way to capture the warships. Although it was riddled with countless holes, after repair it should still be reusable. Which for Germany would be a great wealth. The problem being that Muller could not find any ships to tow them. Nor did he have any experience with capturing enemy warships. As a result, he consulted with Lieutenant Colonel Siegfried.
However, Siegfried also seemed clueless on what to do. He quickly reported the situation to the Naval Command. Of course, the Navy was also overjoyed by the result. They stated that would immediately deploy warships to receive the bountiful fruits of victory. Luckily, the Navy had stationed a destroyer fleet in the occupied port of Ostend, Belgium. A total of twelve ships were sent in all haste. They made preparations to tow away the battered warships before they were completely sunk.
The Navy also negotiated with the local garrison to place a group of assault infantry on-board each destroyer. Each Royal Navy Battleship supposedly is equipped with a team of infantry. Typically carrying very high firepower. Hence, the Navy, admittedly, knew that their sailors stood no chance at boarding an enemy ship.
However, the situation at Dunkirk changed even before the destroyers left the port. The first was the HMS Warspite. One of the most hated ships by the German Navy. It suddenly gave birth to a huge blast. Even now, they weren’t sure if it was a fuel or munitions explosion. Anyhow, the explosion sent visible ripples across the sea and was even felt in Muller’s observation post. The 33,000-ton battleship, in a flash, turned into a cremation furnace. The rising fireball reached three hundred meters. The smoke column reaching a full kilometer in seconds. The officers and men aboard, more than half died in the explosion alone.
Everyone knew that the battleship was completely finished. The surviving sailors and officers who survived the explosion clung onto various objects at they jumped into the sea. Their objective was to clear the distance as the ship tipped over. Staying in the ship as it rolled over and sunk was death wish.
Finally, the HMS Warspite broke in half and pointed towards the sky. Forty seconds later, the warship had completely disappeared into the sea. Leaving only a large variety of sundries and oil on the surface. Hundreds of naval officers and men were left floating on the sea.
Both sister ships, the HMS Royal Sovereign and the HMS Revenge, were also almost capsized. The port side deck almost approached the water’s surface. Fifteen minutes earlier, the crew had already decided to abandon ship. Now the two 31,000-ton battleships have finally finished their journey. Both tumbled into the dark English Channel to accompany their other sister ship, the HMS Royal Oak.
Now the remaining British warships still afloat were the: HMS Revenge, HMS Resolution, and the unlucky flagship, HMS Nelson. The other three battlecruisers were all sunk into the sea without a trace. The HMS Hood had given a spectacular explosion as its ammunition ignited before sinking, killing everyone aboard. The survivors of the other two warships were much better off. They managed to lay out dozens of lifeboats before their ships sank. Basically, half the crew survived.
Muller was also bewildered by the sight. Many of the men had sustained severe injuries. Whenever the destroyer fleet arrives, they will have to take in approximately six thousand British. He could not help but wonder if they could afford to bring so many sailors ashore.
But Muller did not expect that the British themselves would solve this problem. General Gort dispatched a military officer to contact the Germans. The British officer suggested to Muller for an hour of ceasefire in the name of humanitarianism. During that period the small ships that were hiding in the harbor would be sent to rescue the poor sailors.
Muller decisively agreed to the request as the boats had no hope of escaping the port by themselves. During the battle, some of them dreamed of trying their luck before they were torn apart the modified gunships.
Although Muller agreed with the British demands, there were two conditions. First, all the boats were to operate under the surveillance of the German gunships. Any attack on the gunships would be regarded as the end of the ceasefire. The second condition was that the rescued sailors must return to Dunkirk. Any attempt to escape will also be considered a violation of the agreement.
The British officer agreed to Muller’s conditions. The small boats then started to gather the struggling British sailors and officers. The gunships still flying overhead. Occasionally giving some warning shots for the boats to redirect their course.
As the boats were struggling to rescue their own sailors, the shadow of twelve German destroyers appeared in the distance.
When Britain’s paralyzed ships saw the destroyers, they did not even have the courage to resist. The warships spontaneously hung the white flag on their tall masts. As the destroyers slowly approached their warships, the British officers stood on deck solemnly.
As the assault infantry boarded the warships, it shocked the British. They could not imagine why such heavily armed soldiers would appear. However, because there was no resistance, Germans did not embarrass the British. They just coldly announced the ship was captured by the German army and that the sailors would be sent to the destroyer.
The Germans rushed to the bottom of the warships with the fastest speed. Their fear was that the British had opened the value and began to sink the ship. On-route to Dunkirk, they were puzzled as to why the proud British Navy would not scuttle their ships. As soon as they reached the bottom of the ship, the Germans finally understood the cause. It wasn’t that the British didn’t want to, it was that they were unable to. The entire bottom of the ship was filled with seawater. There was no way anyone could find the valve in the darkness. Much less open it.
After the German destroyers learned the news, they did not neglect and promptly organized the towing operation. Unexpectedly, the HMS Revenge started to sink as it was being towed. Forcing the Germans to give up the warship. In the end they had to return with the Nelson and Resolution. The Navy was making preparations to tow them to a safe port for repairs. However, before that, they needed to prepare escort ships and planes for the captured ships’ safety.
The XIX Panzer Corps’ outcome was also quite good. Their railway guns managed to sink three heavy cruisers and a battleship. The sunk battleship was the flagship, HMS Barham. The captured battleship was the HMS Malaya. It has been dragged into the port of Calais. Originally, they had reported four battleships. It seems they misidentified the heavy cruisers as a battleship.
After listening to Muller’s report, Xu Jun nodded slowly. He was very satisfied with the outcome. After this operation, there were only two battleships left in the entire Royal Navy. Leaving only the HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, the HMS Valiant. None of the other British cruisers were a match against Germany’s Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Leaving the German Navy open to freely roam the seas.
However, it’s not enough to rely on large-scale warships. Sometime in the near future, the aircraft carrier project needs to be restarted. However, currently, there was still the problem with the British Expeditionary Force.
“Colonel Muller, send some messengers to the British lines. Tell Gort that I agree to meet him to discuss their surrender. The time will be at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Let him come to our headquarters, he can bring three attendants. That is all. I’m going to take a break, that overnight ride was really rough. After the negotiation with the British, we well have a grand celebration, haha. Muller, take me to the quarters.”
Xu Jun stood up and saluted the officers present and followed Muller out of the room.