The Death of Karelia
Kapteeniluutnantti* Anders Mattsson, Finnish Navy, stood in the Combat Information Center of the FNS Karjala. It was the fourth year in to the war and the things were slowly quieting down in the Gulf of Finland. Finnish Navy had survived the war well, mostly due to the tactics that consisted of hiding the ships inside the archipelago on the coast and camoflaging them in to the cliff faces of the smaller islands. It was quite spooky, how well the ships blended in, when properly masked with camoflage nets.
The Karjala had been on yet another run to Gothenburg in Southern Sweden. It had become a customary trip every now and then, protecting the merchant vessels, now very much fewer and smaller than in the past, over there to commence trade with things you could not obtain in Finland. Most of the crew had their dealings there as well - some simply engaging in one of the oldest customs in naval tradition, a girl in every port. Some were more cunning and with the little space they had to spare, they brought in things they could sell back in Finland for a small fortune.
"Sir, I have a faint signature on the radar, bearing 289, distance 4000", the radar operator, Kersantti** Risto Tauriainen said in Finnish. "It comes and goes, so it has to be something that floats." Mattsson gave a solemn nod. These contacts were a dime in a dozen. So many ships had met their fates in the Baltic alone in the past years, it was no surprise there was contacts popping up every now and then. It was dark outside, so there was no telling, what the object was.
Mattsson picked up the phone. "Bridge, we have a contact, bearing 289, distance 4000. Could be a small wreck, keeps popping in and out." There was not much else he could do than report it to the bridge. The Duty Officer, Komentajakapteeni** Airaksinen, was in charge and he would make the call, what to do. Time went on slowly.
The ships crew, 70 men, were mostly reservists - or rather had been before the war. There was no distinction between them and the "real navy" anymore. Mattsson, for an example, had worked on a ship before the war and most others had received at least the conscript training on the Karjala. Mattsson had been there to train most of the enlisted. Some junior officers had joined in later on along woth a couple of the newer enlisted men. The ship had lost twelve men, all but two of them in one night, in a skirmish against a Soviet minelayer near the Estonian coast. Karjala and its 120mm rapid-fire naval cannon had turned the enemy in to a burning hulk, but received some holes in to its own hide as well. The biggest loss had been, when the port AA gun took a direct hit and was lost with its crew.
"The contact popped up again", Tauriainen said. "Bearing 286, range 2800." Whatever it was, it was getting closer slowly. If it was a raider boat, they'd have no chance against the 800 ton warship. Mattsson picked up the phone again and reported to the bridge. The ship listed sightly to port and he knew, the Duty Officer had decided to go and check what it was. It was almost time for the change of watch.
The head of Aliluutnantti**** Kannuksela, a nice young officer, popped in through the door. "Anything I should be aware of, sir", he asked Mattsson. He was there a bit early, but it was better that way. Mattsson told him about the contact, patted his young colleague on the shoulder and walked through the door in to the brisk sea-air. The moon and the stars peeked through the clouds every now and then. He took a deep breath - and felt a force send him tumbling through the air as the contact, having turned out to be a drift mine, struck the Karjala amidships and detonated. He plunged in to the cold water of the Baltic Sea and remembered nothing more.
* Kapteeniluutnantti = Finnish Navy officer rank equal to Lieutanant (O-3), literally Captain Lieutanant
** Kersantti = literally Sergeant, the fourth lowest rank in Finnish Armed Forces, equal to E-5
*** Komentajakapteeni = Finnish Navy officer rank equal to Lieutanant Commander (O-4), literally Commander Captain
**** Aliluutnantti = literally Sub-lieutanant, officer rank equal to Ensign (O-1)
"Listen to me, nugget, and listen good. Don't go poppin' your head out like that, unless you want it shot off. And if you do get it shot off, make sure you're dead, because if you ain't, guess who's gotta drag your sorry ass off the field? Were short on everything, so the only painkiller I have comes in 9mm doses. Now get the hell out of my foxhole!" - an unknown medic somewhere, 2013.
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