Rank and File
A Clerk’s War
1st May to 15th May 1939
Mobilisation! This is it, there can be no backing down now. The official announcement was before dawn on the 1st of the month. This is not a bluff intended to weaken the resolve of our enemies: the costs associated with a call-up of the reserves are too high. Across the country young men are saying goodbye to their families (and their employers!) and heading the nearest mobilisation point. I hear the clerks in the Ministry of Transport have been working around the clock for the past few days, rescheduling trains, arranging for hundreds of additional wagons to be available for military freight and generally re-organising the Reich’s transport network.
Minister Schacht has also had his staff working all night – our industry production priorities have been shuffled to allow millions of Reichsmarks to be allocated to upgrading existing military units. It won’t be long for civilian rationing to be introduced, and I am already regretting that I didn’t put away a few more luxury items. Although the chatter among the junior staff is that this is only a temporary crisis and that all will be back to normal by the end of the year, my close study of the document trail for the past few years means that I know better.
On the 5th, we took another step along the path to war. Minister von Neurath presented what could only be seen as an ultimatum to Juozas Urbsys, Foreign Minister of Lithuania. Memel must be returned to the Reich, from which it had been stolen. Otherwise we would take it back by force. The Klaipeda Convention which had stolen the territory from us had four signatories, two of whom (Italy and Japan) support our claim. The other two, France and Great Britain, have said nothing. This was predicted by Minister von Neurath in his briefing to the Cabinet. Without Russia’s assistance, the Western Powers cannot hope to prevent our liberation of the population of Memel. The Lithuanian reply was back within 24 hours – Lithuania would accept our terms. Yet another bloodless victory. Maybe I am wrong – maybe Poland will concede Danzig to us, or the French and British will abandon their ally?
German warships sail into Memel harbour for the first time in 20 years, to be greeted by a reconnaissance unit of the Army of East Prussia.
I suspect the Office of Skilled Personnel has been putting pressure on research teams: no less than 5 projects were completed in the second week of May. The Heavy Tank group reported success in engine and reliability trials and immediately doubled its research. They are now improving engines, armour, reliability and the main gun. The Luftwaffe training division completed medium bomber and close air support pilot programs, and has been provided with a method of increasing armour on our single engine aircraft. The last available research team has been sent to further our Schwerpunkt methodology.
As tension built around the Kanzlei, news from China did not attract much attention, particularly as it only confirmed what we already know. Japan’s attempt to create a mainland empire is over, and they have lost both Manchukuo and Korea in the process. A province in Korea is nominally under Japanese control, but there are no troops present. Whether the defenders have disbanded or were evacuated is not clear, but what is definite is that no Japanese unit remains outside Japan’s Pacific territories, other than those in Hainan and Taiwan.
Korea: Japan’s defeat is now complete as it has no military presence on the mainland of Asia.
I cannot understand the Danes. With our troops on its borders, it has chosen this time to join the Allies! Maybe King Christian X has again exerted his authority over the politicians. Whatever the reason, our policy of placing a substantial garrison along the border can now be seen to be wise.
Very late on the 15th, I saw the documents that to me signalled that war was about to begin. Copies of orders from Minister Raeder were delivered, with a note that they were not to be opened until the next day. Needless to say, with some judicious use of steam I managed to carefully unseal the envelope and read the contents. The Kriegsmarine (now renamed the Nordsee Flotte) is to commence patrols in the Oresund region, and intercept and force to action any hostile naval vessels. The Baltische Flotte is to carry out the same order in Danzig Bay. The Type IIB submarines of II Untseebootsflotte will carry out convoy attacks off the Mouth of the Thames, and the Type IXs of 1 and 2 Unterseebootsflotte are to attack convoys in the Iberian Plain and East Central Atlantic respectively. I must contact my sister Helga, she tends to get a bit emotional and when she realsies that her husband is at war she will be distraught. But I can’t do it now, this is the sort of knowledge that gets people arrested.
There is now no doubt – tomorrow either Danzig will be ours or the Reich will be at war!