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You wait all year for a Christmas story and two come along at once. However,

unlike dpit’s tautly-written piece, this is a typically verbose 2,000-word baggy monster. So

posters who don’t care for 2,000-word baggy monsters should look away now. For

the remaining few, in my role as John the Baptist, paving the way for Mister Chops,

the one who shall come after me…


The story so far…

It is the autumn of 1942. The pride of the Kriegsmarine, U-1902, affectionately nicknamed Der Kanarienvoegel,

has crash-dived to the bottom of the western Mediterranean after a savage depth

charge attack from HMS Pulis. One of the ballast tanks has been ruptured, water

is leaking into two of the torpedo tubes and the hydroplanes are jammed in a

downward position.

In the

cramped bridge Kapitan zur See Jurgen von Doomcaster has just relayed the news to the

assembled crew. ”Are we doomed? Doomed with von Doomcaster?” muses the delphic

BlyBlyKinder, the U-boat’s Official Zen Buddhist Poser of Nonsensical

Rhetorical Questions (1st Class). “Aber, eine liebe, nicht wahr?”

”I saw this

coming,” storms Able Seaman Herr.Carrow (Accountant 3rd Class, who graduated from high school Summa Cum Cherry-Picker). "It

was quite obvious as soon as you compared the 1835 spending allocation on

tangible unfixed submersible assets by the Paraguayan navy with the equivalent

figure from the Hanseatic League for 1267.

Years on underinvestment by the High Command have left us without any escape

equipment. Doenitz out! Doenitz out!!!”

”Look on the bright side, chaps,” says Oberleutnant Graf Lilac von Purple, the

mauve-faced Prussian purser and Official Optimist Bore (1st Class,

with Knight’s Cross and Oak Leaf Cluster). “From what the captain has said, that we’re stuck on the

bottom with absolutely no hope of losing enough weight to get clear, faced with

the prospect of a slow and lingering death thousands of miles from our friends

and families, at least I can arrange another of my popular seminars on

Fiduciary Duty and How It Affects The Ordinary Seaman.”

“Yes, well, be that as it may,” says von Doomcaster, “Meanwhile I

propose to

take the unique step of asking for advice.” There is a stunned silence.


is broken by Herr.Carrow, for the first time actually seeing the wood

for the trees. “Well, if it really is just weight we need to lose

then why don’t we cut loose that bloody hotel we’ve been towing behind

us all

the way from La Rochelle.

That ought to do it.”

”Out of the question,” von Doomcaster splutters, his monocle falling to the

floor. “Every section of the German war machine is under strict instructions to

diversify its income stream away from purely conflict-related activities. That

“Rotten to the Afrika Korps” chain of night clubs kept Rommel in Tigers for a

year, and the Monte Cassino casino has proved very popular with the monks. Then

there is the palm court palais de danse in the tractor factory at Stalingrad…well, perhaps not such a good example, but an

order is an order. And this hotel is just the start. I’ve already got my eyes

on a couple of castles in Bavaria

to expand the portfolio. Ditching our first property would play havoc with the

profit and schloss account. [With thanks to the Financial Times sub-editor who

coined that joke; as they say, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best]

And in any event it would be a suicide mission. Someone would have to go

outside to cut the hawser without a hope of getting back in.”

At which

point all eyes turn to Leutnant Heinrich Grant, the inexperienced and all too

eager to please navigation officer whose idea it had been to make a surface run

past the Royal Navy dockyards at Gibraltar in broad daylight with the U-boat’s band

and choir on deck performing the Horst Wessel song while the rest of the crew

waved banners emblazoned with “Let’s be havin’ you, Tommy!”



its escape from a clichéd watery grave, Der Kanarienvogel has now run aground

in the less fashionable part of Provence, Grant’s replacement (“Roeder – a good

German name” according to von Doomcaster) had initially proved capable of reading

a chart the right way up. Until he became embroiled in a heated argument

conducted by foghorn from the conning tower with his opposite number on U-1903

as to which one had missed whose time as navigation officer on the Bismarck.

Resulting in a silted-up channel of the Rhone delta being mistaken for the approach

to the Royal Navy base at Malta.

The senior

officers are on deck contemplating the problem when out of the morning mist

looms a sturdy little ship. On its fo’c’sle is a rubicund man in a striped

shirt with pink braces, holding a copy of the Wall Street Journal. “Ahoy,

there,” he calls out. “The tugboat Cullum at your service. Looks like you need

a hand. Of course, I can’t tell you what the salvage deal would be although if

you assume I’m going to want an upfront payment of the equivalent of £20m in

gold bullion and I’ll need to be able to sell 60 per cent of the crew into

slavery in Morocco and offload the U-boat on to the Hungarian navy then you

probably wouldn’t be far wrong.”

”Impossible terms” von Doomcaster replies. “No self-respecting German


would accept them. You can try torturing my crew. But that won''t sway

me. Actually I would be delighted if you tortured the crew, but it

still won''t work. All I will tell you is what is laid down in the

Geneva Convention and what I

have for breakfast.”

”You mean…?”

 “Yes,” says

von Doomcaster. “My name, rank and cereal number. Do your worst. We will just

wait for high tide to lift us off.”

 “Not in the

Med, you won’t, me old china, unless it’s suddenly developed anything like a

serious tide after all these millennia. Still, it’s your look-out. Be seeing


 As the

Cullum disappears back into the mist a strange look comes into the kapitan’s





von Doomcaster’s idea of using a giant lilo, inflated  by hot air provided by BlyBlyKinder, to refloat

U-1902 has worked. Roeder has been put ashore in Provence in disgrace, and his replacement is

“Bren” Gunn, the former concert party organiser. His elevation follows the

insistent campaigning of Little Mel, the cabin boy with the unusually soft `skin,

girlish complexion and high-pitched voice, who dragged von Doomcaster into the

showers for a lengthy private discussion on the subject. The decision has been

welcomed by the rest of the company, on the self-serving basis that Gunn is the

man least likely to have a clue about anything naval in general and navigation

in particular. Therefore his attempts to follow von Doomcaster’s instructions

to head somewhere dangerous (like where there might be enemy ships) are bound

to fail and lead – serendipitously - to safe waters.

 This counter-intuitive

logic is panning out. Gunn’s intricately plotted westerly course (“Left hand

down a bit, Herr Mate”) back for a revenge attack on HMS Pulis at Gibraltar has

resulted in an easterly voyage to Suez and then a passage along a strangely

straight stretch of water (explained by Gunn to von Doomcaster as “probably the

Grand Union Canal near Bletchley”, adding “We lead the invasion, mein kapitan!

Glory is ours!!!”).

Heading due south through the Red Sea a cry of

“Ship ahoy” brings the officers up top. Out of the incipient mist appears a

dinghy, being rowed by a rubicund man in a sweat-stained striped shirt, with

pink braces, and a badly-folded copy of the Wall Street Journal on his head. In

the dinghy’s wake, being pulled along very, very slowly, is a familiar boat.

”So, Herr Cullum, we meet again,” von Doomcaster sneers. “The foot seems to be

on the other boot now, does it not?”

”Very droll. Always admired the German sense of humour. Moving on, any chance of a

tow to port, me old china?” Cullum asks. “Took a bit of a

gamble with a contango contract on the Romanian 

petroleum futures market. Forgot to factor in the chances of Bomber

Command actually hitting the target for once and it’s left me just a touch

short of readies to buy marine diesel fuel in the here and now.”

”Dear me, anyone would think there was a war on, Herr Cullum! Of

course, I am

just a simple sea-faring soul who probably thought contango was a

fashionable South

American dance. Perhaps you should have tried a backwardation deal, instead.

Never mind. Delighted to help, and I’m sure you’ll find my terms very

reasonable. A down-payment of the equivalent of £20m in gold bullion,

and I’ll

be selling you into white slavery in Morocco and you’ll also have to

pay me to

offload the dinghy and the tugboat on to the Bolivian Navy. And I’ll be

claiming on your life insurance.”


minutes later the dinghy, with a quietly cursing Cullum plying the oars

furiously, has disappeared from view, taking the tugboat with it. Destined to

become just another maritime mystery - the Flying Salvageman, a ghost ship fated

to sail the oceans forever without hope of finding a haven and just

occasionally being glimpsed from a distance before fading back into the sea

mist, along with the faint, plaintive cry of “A tow, a tow, my tugboat for a



After two more authoritative commands of “Left hand down a bit, Herr Mate”

U-1902 has somehow negotiated the Straits of Hormuz and surfaced off Bander

Abbas in the Persian Gulf. “Glasgow. I am sure of it, mein kapitan. Those

signs in Farsi are just a cunning ruse by the Scots resistance fighters.” Then

a bumboat appears from the port and draws alongside. On board are two sinister-looking

members of the Gestapo in black overcoats – a chain-smoking man and a woman

using an egg whisk to keep the flies at bay. With them is a savagely crewcut

Kriegsmarine officer, complete with a pair of duelling scars, who is

introduced to von Doomcaster as Kapitan zur See Eberhard Nasty. And as his replacement.

“You are being transferred north, to the Russian front,” the Gestapo woman


”But that is a land war,” von Doomcaster gasps, suddenly very pale. “What use

will I be?”

”As much use as any of our troops there,” comes the grim reply.


One “Left hand down a bit” too many and U-1902 has entered the Tigris-Euphrates

delta (“Loch Ness, Kapitan Nasty, I stake my reputation on it. The monster will

be our secret weapon leading us to ultimate victory!”). And become irretrievably grounded. “Well, look on the

bright side, chaps,” says Oberleutnant Graf Lilac von Purple, Official Optimist

Bore (1st Class). “At least there can’t possibly be any fighting here. Who in

their right mind would ever go to war over a fly-blown country like Iraq?”



Using his expertise as a concert party organiser, Gunn has entered the footballing

members of the crew in the local Premier League, and overseen a strenuous bonding

session of group hugs and tots of rum before the first match, against Ur

United, managed by the wily and long-serving Abraham. A legend in


football, his innovative 4:3:2:1 “ziggurat” formation is hard to

combat, particularly

with its ability to launch pitch-length counter-attacks in 4.5 seconds.

Moreover his pre-match ritual sacrifice of a first-born son of a squad

member in the centre-circle in the Stadium of the Two Rivers still

strikes fear into the opposition. Not to mention his own squad.

Added to that are the fanatical supporters with their time-honoured “One

Ur of the Chaldees, there’s only one Ur of the Chaldees” chant, plus the

taunting “What’s it like to see a civilisation?” and what is believed to be the

oldest song in football history:

”On the ball, Ur of the Chaldees,

Never mind the Akkadians,

Steady on, now’s your chance,

Hurrah, we’ve invented writing.”

All this information is contained in a dossier drawn up by “Beau” Brummel, the boat’s PE instructor, trading on his

one appearance as a ballboy for Rot-Weiss Essen reserves. However Gunn is still

trying to come to terms with some of the basics of the game - “Is it the ball

that is round and the pitch rectangular, or the other way about?” and “I can’t

find any mention in the Rules of the horses. Where do they come in?” So the

dossier has been passed on to his assistant in the dugout, but Potato Peeler (5th

Class) Hugo “Ego” Scheister, selected by Gunn on the basis that he once drove

past a football stadium, throws it away unread. “My tactical genius is all the

help you need. And this lot we’re playing haven’t won a thing in 5,500 years



With the scoreboard showing (in cuneiform Sumerian) Der Kanarienvogel 1 Ur

United 7, Kapitan Nasty can been seen deep in an apparently friendly

conversation with Abraham that ends with a handshake, and the surreptitious handing-over

of what looks like a sharp, metallic object. Then the kapitan walks to the

dugout, grabs Gunn, and frog-marches him towards the blood-soaked centre-circle…


With absolutely sincere apologies to anyone with fond memories of Das Boot. With vaguely sincere apologies to anyone with fond memories

of The Navy Lark.

With totally insincere apologies to anyone who might

feel they recognise themselves. With sincere (but probably unnecessary) apologies to anyone left out. “Aber, eine liebe, nicht wahr?"


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[quote user="Camuldonum"]Nicely crafted PC but probably a little too subtle in places..................[;)][/quote]

I didn''t notice any subtitles?

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[quote user="Camuldonum"]Nicely crafted PC but probably a little too subtle in places..................[;)][/quote]Too subtle? Too subtle for a football message board? Is that possible?!

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[quote user="blahblahblah"]I got it the second time.  Or was it the third ?Extremely clever work Mr Purple [:)][/quote]In that case, blah, perhaps you could explain it to me when you''ve got a few hours to spare!

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