Silent Hunt – Chapter III: Silent Hunt

The British submarine was drifting across the blue waters, unpowered, some would say abandoned if it weren’t for the relaxed crew walking across the deck. The chief engineer was working with the motor officer to get the engines running again. A gremlin seemed to plague the cylinders, none of them firing properly, puttering helplessly before dying a short death marred by another trial of resuscitation.

Behind and slightly beneath the unwitting Tommies, the U-boat was lying in wait, unmoving under the waves. This stillness betrayed the ordered chaos inside, as the crew was scrambling to their battle stations, ready to unleash hell upon the unknowing Brits. The air inside was all vibrating with sound and anticipation. Torpedoes were heated and loaded. The tubes were flooded. Everything was ready to commence.

The British crew knew none of it. They were oblivious to what was brewing nearby, under the seemingly calm and beautiful water. Some of them were whistling, others singing and joking among themselves; not even the captain was every bit worried as to what may happen. The Kriegsmarine members in the U-boat were almost scared as to what may happen.

The order to fire was given, and the German torpedo-man fired the underwater rocket. At the same time, however the British submarine’s engine came to life and the engineer accelerated a bit to test it.

Little did the Brits know what a bullet they dodged; none of the crew actually saw the torpedo silently pass by. When the announcement came that the torpedo missed, the Kriegsmarine captain felt a twinge of disbelief. He thought that the enemy submarine had him and his crew in the crosshairs. Little did he know that this wasn’t true, that the enemy was just as unknowing as he was.

He gave the order to crash dive. A few seconds later he figured what a huge mistake he made as the engines roared at extreme speed to get the boat underwater as fast as it could go. It was like giving smoke signals to the enemy.

The British hydrophone officer was startled. He couldn’t believe his ears – propellers, moving this fast, behind the submarine, just underneath? He panicked. His voice trembling, he called the captain and gave him the ear-phones.

The captain shouted “Battle Stations!” as the sound of the enemy submarine slowly crept away in the murky depths. “Periscope Depth! And kill those engines!”, he yelled. Suddenly, everything was silent again. He could only hear the nearby navigator breathe, and the pressing silence. He could almost hear his heart beating.

The German captain waited. He knew they were now aware of him. The surprise attack was blown by sheer chance. He did not want to risk his men, but if he stayed there for much longer, the carbon dioxide levels would rise to dangerous levels. Yet he decided to wait, at least for the moment. The enemy would not go away now – it’s in their mission to protect and hence attack any enemy that is encountered.

For an hour the British submarine waited, snorkeling along with the crew. The captain was just waiting for something to happen. For a while, nothing did. But then, the watch officer spoke. Apparently there was movement in the depths.

Torpedoes were locked and loaded, the tubes were flooded. Everyone was just waiting for a hint of the enemy to attack. It did not take long for that to happen. The ear-phones of the hydrophone operator rung loud with the propellers of the U-Boat, but it was coming from behind, and was closing fast!

The two boats would ram each other if maintaining course. The British captain yelled orders, so that the boat would evade the incoming U-Boat, but the enemy had other plans. Committed to this sacrifice it seemed, the Germans stormed through.

It was just a feint though; when the boats came close to colliding, the Germans moved with all speed back. The propellers almost torn themselves to pieces in the sudden change, and the engines almost died because of the effort they made to fight the current and speed.

At that same moment, when the German captain thought he was far enough, he fired the salvo. A clean hit with one of them, and the British were flooded and started going down, fast. A few of the Brits were wounded; some others had been deafened or killed by the blast. Every hatch had been closed to prevent water from coming up, but it wasn’t fast enough. The hidden boat struggled to surface but couldn’t, and it began a slow descent to the sea floor.

The German captain stood defiant on the deck now, barely touching the Knight’s Cross he wore at his neck, proud of his crew but not of his deed.

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