We barely moved. We couldn’t risk making any sound, lest we be detected. We couldn’t risk it. If they managed to get a distress call out, they would’ve sent all allied airplanes in a 100 kilometer range against us. We were in incredibly dangerous waters, and the whole crew could feel the trepidation and anticipation in the air. We did not dare move.
I was the sound man on our U-Boat. I kept listening around for other escorts while we were silently following this British submarine. Everyone was on edge, wondering when the time to strike would come. The hydrophone was tame. No other sounds other than the submarine that was going slow in front of us could be heard. The captain was looking sternly at the map, training his eyes on the little but dangerous isle of Malta. We were next to a viper nest, and he sure as hell did not want to disturb it.
The captain took a quick peek through the periscope. He barely took it over the waterline and then got it back down. “Damn Tommies are just chilling out. They don’t even know we’re here!” he said. “They’re washing the deck! On a submarine? Preposterous!”
He calmed down as fast as he got mad. He was a U-Boat captain. Such behavior was unacceptable in the Kriegsmarine. He suddenly felt guilty about acting that way, because it meant that he was disrespecting the enemy, something which he learned never to do. On the other hand, they were disrespecting him by doing what they were doing without knowing about his presence. Then he figured the futility of the situation and became as calm as a captain should be. They were his enemies. He shall not underestimate them.
Not even if he wanted to forsake the Knight’s Cross he held proudly at his neck.
I turned my attention from the Kaleun to my instruments. Something was odd. The engine sound felt like it was puttering helplessly like a dog with pneumonia, just waiting to die. I tried to listen more closely, wondering what this might have meant, when the puttering stopped suddenly along with the rest of the sound that was filling my ears. The propeller still turned once or twice, and I heard a muffled cry from inside the submarine.
It’s amazing how much you can actually hear when the engines of what you are listening to are off. You can almost hear every heavy step the crew-members make, every shout muffled by the metal hull, everything. It’s almost unreal. I felt like the only thing that was between them and I was a little door of metal. I paused for a moment, got my ear-phones off and stormed out of my post to the command room.
I said “They stopped!” They looked at me in disbelief. “Why?”, the Kaleun asked. “The engine,” I replied, “it just sputtered and died!”. “Then I guess we won’t have any other chance better than this,” the captain said and ordered two torpedo tubes to be filled and flooded.
“It is time”, he said to himself.