By Revel Barker
In July 1940 a couple of weeks after the fall of
STAGE ONE of the plan was to overwhelm the British fleet in the
STAGE TWO was for Hitler's triumphant arrival in the
STAGE THREE of the journey was for the Führer to travel along the river
After the victorious arrival in
This would not have been that ship's first visit to the
Although Hitler was subject to seasickness and not a confident sailor, his choice of arrival was intended as a mark of respect for the Kriegsmarine and to signal to the world the defeat of the Royal Navy. This is the story of Grille, and of Motorboot 1 now known as Grillet.
Motorboot 1 in background
The Aviso Grille carried three smaller boats on her decks during the war. All were built by the Lürssen yard at
Grille was the first ship to test the high pressure steam machinery planned for German destroyers. According to the diary of a former crew member, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Krämer, "The complicated engine design of the ship demands a high degree of technical competence to maintain immediate readiness for service. The drive-shaft turbines run with 400 degrees of superheat. The boiler system of the ship is automatically controlled by an Askania-Anlage system, it is a new and untried power design and we in Grille carry out trials in anticipation of similar engines being installed in all new destroyers. We live in a permanent state of stress."
Krämer was one of four “Jacob's-ladder men“, junior officers who, in addition to their regular naval duties, looked after VIPs, usually arriving alongside the ship on board Motorboot 1. The team members had to be 1.8m or more in height and wear white uniforms. There was a modern laundry with ironing machine on board. They were often in close contact with the Führer and his staff. Important secret conferences of the Naval Command took place.
"We were subject to the strictest security measures. The visitors were leading personalities of the Third Reich included Göring, Hess, Göbbels, Himmler and honoured visitors from
Hitler aboard the Aviso Grille
According to another Kriegsmarine officer: "Hitler had little understanding of naval strategy, though he often memorized small details of a ship to humiliate his admirals when they couldn't answer his every question."
Apparently life on board could be stressful for VIPs. Interrogated after capture by the US Navy in July 1943, Kapitänleutnant Klaus Bargsten, sole survivor of U-521, reminisced about serving as a midshipman on Grille. Once, he said, when a group of these 'Olympians' was on board, an orchestra was playing for their entertainment, but the ship's ventilator fans were making so much noise that the music could scarcely be heard. Göbbels complained to the captain in his usual high-handed manner, ordering him to do something about it. The captain, while engaging Göbbels in conversation, managed to back him into position in front of one of the ventilators. When he gave the order for the ventilators to be shut off, the shutter gave Göbbels a resounding whack on the backside.
Bargsten also spoke somewhat heretically about the alcoholic habits of the Nazi great. Hitler, he said, objected strenuously to drinking and often gave his staff violent temperance lectures. Shortly after having been subjected to one such harangue on board the Grille, the staff gathered in the saloon to sooth their frayed nerves with a bottle of
In addition to the fleet reviews and engine trials the boilers did not permit sufficient maneuverability to satisfy Blohm & Voss, so were not fitted to other warships Grille was employed in peacetime for navigation and artillery instruction, and as a target ship for U-boats, all uses requiring regular voyages in the North Sea and the Baltic. But whenever she was required for state duties, Grille was summoned back to
Her first appearance as a state yacht was on
Aviso Grille in 1938, seen to the far left of Gneisenau, center
In his memoirs
"Hitler had bethought himself of a signal honor to pay me. In my distinction as the last Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian fleet, the traditions of which were now proclaimed by the German Navy, I was to attend the launch of a heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and my wife was to christen the vessel.
"My wife, accompanied by a party of ladies and several other guests, had gone on board the elegant HAPAG liner Patria. Hitler and I went on board the control vessel Grille, which Hitler used for his sea trips. The naval review that was held displayed the surprising number of vessels possessed by
Kapitänleutnant Werner Lott, commander of U-35, was to recall that, exactly one year later, around
Two days later Grille was laying mines around
Three years after the visit of his former king and three years after the start of “a hazardous war“, Mussolini attended the launch of the world's then biggest battleship, perhaps predictably named Führer, and was taken out for a celebratory dinner cruise on board Grille in the Baltic, his host (according to one officer) being particularly pleased that "on this occasion he had not felt the slightest bit queasy."
On the Führer's orders the ship had not been camouflaged for war, but had retained her distinctive yellow funnel and white hull with gold paint on the bow and stern. He referred to the ship as "The White Swan of the Baltic". But Grille, in the interim between state visits, had nevertheless switched roles from royal yacht to warship.
When Hitler¹s army invaded
"We had, however, sunk 300 pigs," noted Kapitänleutnant Krämer, philosophically. Back at sea, Grille fired a shot across the bow of another Scandinavian merchant ship and captured it; this one was carrying cellulose bound for
Hitler’s battle plan, from conception to fulfillment, allowed for 80 days preparation (as a comparison, the D-day landings took two years to organize). The invasion envisaged the use of ten infantry regiments, 170 cargo ships, 1,277
Thereafter, Grille enjoyed a relatively peaceful war.
In 1942 she was painted wartime gray and used as the staff ship and operational headquarters for Grand Admiral Erich Räder, C-in-C of the Navy, based mainly at Narvik. The
The last German entry in the log was: “May 2-4: Flag at half-mast in memory of the hero’s death of our Führer“. A few days later Grille, by now with patches of rust showing on her gray hull and with only one working boiler (the engines were reported to have been sabotaged), sailed from
Paying visitors were allowed on board her. They were shown 35 luxurious guest cabins and the crew quarters, the all-electric galley, the laundry, workshops, sickbay, and the plant that could desalinate 24 tons of water a day. They searched almost in vain for the sign of a swastika: there were in fact only two, one on the stern as part of the emblem of the Kriegsmarine, and another on the ship’s bell. Hitler’s suite was the main attraction, with an ante-room, a bedroom and a bathroom. The bath was set flush to the floor. There were carpeted floors, a desk, sofa and chairs, all upholstered in eggshell-blue with off-white paintwork. Across the companionway was an exact duplicate suite with rust red as the dominant color. Visitors were told this was the "boudoir reserved for Eva Braun” but, although this would undoubtedly be a good sales pitch for potential purchasers and tourists, there is no record anywhere of her ever having been on board.
In August 1946 the Admiralty announced that a buyer, a Canadian ship owner and financier living in Byfleet,
In April 1951, four years after he had bought her, he sold Grille for scrap for GBP 35,000 less than one tenth of what he had paid and the vessel was towed to a yard on the
Meanwhile in Hartlepool, Mb-1, which had become known as Grillet, using the German diminutive, made available by the Royal Navy for service as a race rescue tender for the local yacht club.
In 1946, when Grille was first sold, Mr. Tommy “Tot” Richardson, commodore of the club, acquired Grillet in exchange for a new Austin Ten car. Mb-2 was bought by a fisherman who planned to use her for passenger trips on the
Revel Barker at the helm of Grillet in Gozo
The current owner bought Grillet from Mr. and Mrs. Slack in 1999 and has since cruised her in the
Grillet moored on the River Thames at Penton Hook, near Chertsey, Surrey, during a refit in 2001.
The marina is the closest that Motorboot 1 ever got to Windsor - just 10 miles away.
|Shipyard||Blohm & Voss, Hamburg|
|Machinenery||4 Benson high-pressure steam boiler, and later reconstruction|
3 x 12.7 cm guns
4 x 3.7 cm-Flak
4 x 2.0 cm-Flak
option for 280 mines
|Commander||05.35 - 05.38 Cdr. Helmuth Brinkmann |
05.38 - 06.40 KzS v.d.Forst
06.40 - 10.40 Lt.Cdr Poske
11.40 - 03.42 Lt.Cdr Lanz
03.42 - 08.42 out of
08.42 - 05.44 Lt.Cdr Just
05.44 - 05.45 KLt.dR Ludloff
|Remaining||1945 by the UK, |
1946 sale to a company in Lebanon for cruises in the Mediterranean,
11.47 damaged in Beirut
08.49 Sale in the USA,
1951, scapped in Sydney
STRANGE VEHICLES OF PRE-WAR
STRANGE VEHICLES OF PRE-WAR