Discussion thread: https://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=317163 There is no use of nuclear weapons in this story. Introduction March 14th was the first day of World War Three and on that day the British armed forces suffered horrific losses. The Royal Air Force (RAF) had more than six hundred of its personnel killed, the Royal Navy (RN) lost just short of nine hundred when three vessels were sunk yet the British Army had casualties dwarfing those of its sister services: five thousand plus soldiers were killed. It could have been a lot worse though. If there hadn’t been almost two months of preparations, in the main led by General Sir Brian Kenny – the commander of the British Army of the Rhine – under orders of the UK Government, then five, maybe ten times as many casualties might have been inflicted when the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc forces struck westwards that Monday morning. Then there were the civilian casualties that were inflicted upon Britain. The absence of deployed thermonuclear weapons meant that millions weren’t killed as many feared, but over three and a half thousand were when conventional weapons were deployed against the UK mainland. These were the losses on just that first day. * This is the story of Britain in World War Three. One Later, the Western media would deem the events of the last day of November the previous year as ‘the Moscow Coup’. On the November 30th 1987, a coup d’état was launched within the capital of the USSR. Three men who called themselves patriots set into motion a series of violent events that would replace one illegal regime with another: theirs. They had been plotting such an undertaking for the past few months and had proceeded with great secrecy in this. To be discovered in those planning stages would have meant shallow graves for themselves… which was just where they intended to send those that they moved against. The names of the three men were widely unknown. Viktor Mikhailovich Chebrikov was the first, Volodymyr Vasylyovych Shcherbytsky was the second and Marshal Sergey Fyodorovich Akhromeyev was the third. These were men of power and also remarkable cunning. They had risen to the highest ranks within the power structure of the Soviet Government and Armed Forces, yet they each wanted more. Chebrikov was the Chairman of the Committee for State Security, the dreaded KGB. The sixty-four year-old was a career bureaucrat and a secret policeman. He had come a long way from very humble roots after being born in the southern Ukraine, and risen almost to the top. Like most powerful men he wanted more power though. In the position that he was in, as head of the KGB, Chebrikov was one of the most informed people within the Soviet Union. The KGB was known in the West for its external intelligence operations and crushing of any internal sign of revolt from its citizens. The organisation gathered plenty of intelligence from within the country though and as the man in charge, Chebrikov had access to all of that. He knew the state of the country’s economy, the true capabilities of the Soviet military (in comparison to the armed forces of the West) and – what he regarded as of great significance – the vulnerability of the country to fall into civil unrest that would topple the regime. He worried over the General Secretary’s plans for the future; Chebrikov was convinced that the path that Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was leading the country down would bring ruin to them all. His co-conspirator Shcherbytsky was another Ukrainian. The Party Secretary from the Ukraine was another life-long bureaucrat and someone with great ambitions too. Shcherbytsky had his own little empire down in the Ukraine and had initially been an ally of Gorbachev, especially when it came to the man’s plans for reform of the Soviet Union. That, however, shouldn’t have included any interference in the Ukraine party organisation. Gorbachev’s plans for stern anti-corruption measures and a little bit of democratisation across the country alarmed Shcherbytsky: he saw a future for himself under the General Secretary’s rule as disgrace and exile. Once these two men begun plotting to do something to rectify what they saw as their personal ruin, they came to realise that the influence that they both held – over the KGB and a significant section of the all-prevalent Communist Party – wouldn’t be enough. They wanted to get rid of Gorbachev and many of the people around him, but the forces at their disposal weren’t enough to guarantee that such a move would work. Neither Chebrikov nor Shcherbytsky were gamblers that liked to take risks, especially if they would be gambling with their lives if they didn’t make a sure move. They needed the support of a man who commanded many men who had guns behind him. Before the Moscow Coup was launched, they brought a third man into their plans. Marshal Akhromeyev was the Chief of the General Staff: the most senior military officer in the Soviet Union. He had been a fighting soldier during WW2 and knew the value of the military in protecting the country. In the months leading up to his secret alignment with Chebrikov and Shcherbytsky, Marshal Akhromeyev had had several policy disagreements with Gorbachev. The General Secretary wanted to decrease military tensions with the West (the United States in particular) and this meant signing agreements that would end certain military weapons programmes. The Chief of the General Staff was unhappy at such plans from Gorbachev because he saw a weakening of his country’s military might as a result of such agreements with foreign powers. Fed lies by the men who would become his co-conspirators, he came to believe that Gorbachev’s ultimate aim was a near-demilitarisation of the nation so that the Soviet Union would be left defenceless against a modern day Barbarossa. Marshal Akhromeyev was manipulated into supporting the other two due to their need for him to make sure that the Soviet Armed Forces, with its millions of armed men, would step aside to allow them to do what they wanted to take charge of the country. He was promised much by them for doing so, chiefly that the military wouldn’t be shrunk and that they both also had no plans for warfare. This final point had been something that Marshal Akhromeyev had made clear: he had no intention of ‘saving’ the Soviet Armed Forces from Gorbachev’s planned reductions so that Chebrikov and Shcherbytsky could kill his soldiers in a war. Of course, things didn’t turn out that way the following year. * The pre-dawn raids in Moscow that started the coup were undertaken by Spetsgruppa A (also known as ‘Alpha Group’). This was a KGB anti-terrorist commando formation with detachments nationwide, though its strength had been concentrated in the Soviet capital in the days before the troika of Chebrikov, Shcherbytsky and Marshal Akhromeyev struck. The men of Alpha Group were highly-trained and well-experienced. Since the inception of the formation in the mid-Seventies, they had been deployed in a variety of combat roles across the Soviet Union fighting off terrorist attacks launched by separatists and armed deserters from the Soviet Army. In addition, elements of Alpha Group had fought in Afghanistan in the opening stages of the invasion there when they had assaulted the Tajbeg Palace in Kabul and killed President Amin. That November morning, seventeen detachments of Alpha Group soldiers (four and six man teams, depending on the target) assaulted residences throughout Moscow and the surrounding areas. They were clad in black and carried assault rifles… along with pictures of the people that they went after. Security agents from the KGB’s ‘Ninth Chief Directorate’ opened the doors – literally and figuratively – that led the Alpha Group to their targets and then stood aside when the commandoes went to work. Within moments, seventeen of the top political and bureaucratic figures with Gorbachev’s Government were dead. They were either shot while in their beds, bathrooms or kitchens. None were armed and none were in any way prepared for their own assassinations. The hit squads withdrew afterwards, in most cases leaving behind terrified family members of the dead men. Among those killed were some of the most well-known politicians in the Soviet Union. The Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze was one of them, then there was the Interior Minister Vlasov, the Council of Ministers Chairman Ryzhkov, the Chief of Party Ideology Yakovlev, the Defence Minister Yazov, Chebrikov’s ambitious underling Kryuchkov and other Politburo members like Andrei Gromyko, Ligachev, Solomentsev, Talyzin and Voronikov. The recently disgraced Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was another victim of the Alpha Group hit squads. When at his apartment, the commandoes also managed to accidentally shoot his wife – Naina Iosifovna – dead too. Viktor Grishin found himself marked for death as well when the Alpha Group murdered another politician who had been previously forced out of his former position by Gorbachev. Four more targets for the lethal killers that morning were not politicians, but career civil servants. The commander of the Interior Ministry’s OSDMON domestic security troops was gunned down and so too was his deputy. Another assassinated man was the KGB officer in-charge of the Kremlin security forces: someone who when sounded out, had shown an aversion to what would later occur there. A senior personal adviser to the General Secretary was the final target for the Alpha Group’s selected killing. This wave of carefully-planned murders was only the beginning. A larger detachment of the Alpha Group launched a near-bloodless assault against the Kremlin complex right in the heart of the city simultaneously to those assassinations. Two hundred plus men moved on foot, in vehicles and also in light helicopters against the famous red-bricked seat of the Government. Armed and ready for a fight, they found themselves up against no opposition at all: Chebrikov had managed to convince lower-ranking officers of the KGB-manned Kremlin guard force to have their men leave their posts right at the very last moment. Nevertheless, the Alpha Group went into the Kremlin expecting trouble. They cleared the huge complex building by building, room by room. Maintenance, cleaning and clerical staff were bound and secured when they were encountered throughout. The General Secretary himself was the ultimate target of this elaborate move and he was snatched from his bedroom rather than killed there. Gorbachev was taken from the bed that he shared with his wife and the two of them were whisked away with hoods over their heads. The General Secretary had no time to wonder where the security troops who should have been guarding him where or what was going on before he and his wife were loaded into a helicopter and flown away. Chebrikov had been responsible for the bloody part that the KGB had to play in the Moscow Coup, but where Marshal Akhromeyev acted there was no violence. He was at the Ministry of Defence building when the assassinations were taking place and the Kremlin was being seized, within a security communications room there at the time. He personally made phone calls and signed telegrams to other Generals and Admirals commanding military forces not only in Moscow, but across the Soviet Union ordering their forces to remain in their barracks and stand-by for further orders. No one who he contacted seemed to know what was going on and they did exactly what they were told. Moreover, Marshal Akhromeyev didn’t receive a single enquiry asking about his nominal superior Defence Minister Yazov. Shcherbytsky was in Moscow that morning too. He went to the Interior Ministry building and established himself there. Second in number only to the Armed Forces, troops from the Interior Ministry were based nationwide and were quite a force to be reckoned. The bureaucracy in-place within the Soviet Union meant that they took orders from the top though and from the Ministry, Shcherbytsky was able to make sure that there was no hostile reaction on their part to what he and his co-conspirators were doing. No urgent orders were sent out for OSDMON security troops to come to the aid of Gorbachev’s dead and dying regime. Throughout that morning, with only a very few people having known what had gone on, further stages of the coup took place. Shooting politicians, snatching the General Secretary and silencing the OSDMON were one thing: there was still much else to do though. There were a lot of people within the country who were not going to be happy at what had just occurred and the instigators of the toppling of Gorbachev knew that it wouldn’t have been easy nor would it be necessary to kill all of them at once. Lists had been drawn up that consisted of names of influential people in the Government, the military, the security forces and the civilian sector who were deemed to be ‘counter-revolutionaries’. Chebrikov had orders cut for KGB internal security officers to start arresting people nationwide at their places of work or in their homes. Officials and bureaucrats were soon rounded up and placed into custody and so were civilians who worked in the media and the Government-led trade unions. Marshal Akhromeyev had officers throughout the Soviet Armed Forces take their comrades-in-arms into custody and prepare them for court martial: again, those who were suspected to be ready to act against the new regime were seized before they even knew what had gone on that morning. As to be expected, many innocent people suddenly found themselves facing imprisonment and death due to fears over what they might do… but this was the Soviet Union after all. * Rather than being shot out of hand like his Politburo colleagues, Gorbachev had been taken prisoner for a reason. He was flown away from the Kremlin and out east a short distance to a facility that the KGB quietly maintained in the Preobrazhensky District. The hood over his head was removed and he was shown that his wife was with him in a windowless room along with many people with guns. A piece of paper was handed to Gorbachev with shouted instructions for him to read it in front of the video camera that had been set up. Gorbachev did as he was told and read out the statement that announced his resignation from the office of the General Secretary on the grounds of ill health. He was scared for the lives of himself and his wife and there was no hint of a lie in what he stated for the benefit of the camera. Quickly enough, he was re-hooded and he joined his wife in being taken down to a specially-constructed secure cell within the basement of the anonymous building. The plan was to keep them where they were for the meantime in case they were needed again for another public appearance, though it was anticipated that Gorbachev – probably his wife too – would end up being shot. By lunchtime on November 30th, Chebrikov and his co-conspirators were ready to announce their ‘change of government’. Shcherbytsky had prepared statements that were to be issued to the main newspapers of the Soviet Union and these were distributed to their editors for immediate publication the following day. Pravda, Izvestiya, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Sovetskaya Rossiya and Trud would each print highly-favourable headlines and editorials the next day which would praise Gorbachev for ‘unselfishly stepping aside due to ill health’ and encourage ‘the people to support his replacements’. No mention would be made of the blood that had been spilt or the hundreds of arrests that had taken place afterwards of many influential people. The official newspaper of the Soviet military, Krasnaya Zvezda (‘Red Star’), would the following day run similar messages though it would say what Marshal Akhromeyev wanted it to: the military needed to obey orders given by the State. The newspapers would go out the next day, but before then, both Chebrikov and Shcherbytsky went to airwaves. Both men were more suited to the radio, though in the modern era that knew that they would have to force themselves to adapt to the medium of television. There had been mass arrests across the civilian media sector and those had included employees of the central TASS news organisation. Those who remained did exactly what they were told with regard to assisting in the broadcast. The two public faces of the new leadership of the Soviet Union addressed the country across the stations of Soviet Central Television. They spoke of Gorbachev’s ill health, and the threats to the State from both ‘external enemies’ and ‘internal counter-revolutionaries’. The two of them had been ‘selected by their colleagues’ to ‘guide the nation through this time of struggle’. They promised that little would change within the country and what did would only be ‘for the good of the workers’. It was typical Soviet domestic propaganda and thus very much a lie. Two The news of the turnover of leadership at the top of the Soviet Union came quickly to the West. Media organisations in North America and Western Europe monitored their counterpart television and radio stations that broadcasted from behind the Iron Curtain and thus caught the announcement that Chebrikov and Shcherbytsky were now in charge. The claim the Gorbachev had resigned because he was ill was immediately seen for the falsity that it was. His pre-recorded statement on camera was dismissed by so-called ‘experts’ as being made under duress, while other talking-heads were unconvinced by what his replacements had to say. They called it the ‘Moscow Coup’ and such a name immediately stuck. However, those in the West didn’t understand what all of that was about. Gorbachev’s statement and those made by Chebrikov and Shcherbytsky weren’t made for the benefit of the Western media, but rather for the Soviet people. It was those to whom the new men in charge wanted to convince that there was nothing untoward with regard to the General Secretary’s departure. * The governments and intelligence agencies in the West were alerted to what had gone on in Moscow by the media too. Presidents and Prime Ministers asked the heads of their intelligence gathering services why there had been no indication of what was coming: politicians never liked surprises. In turn, those head spooks pushed that question onto their field operatives with the intention that such intelligence officers should at once talk to their agents in the Soviet Union. Everyone wanted to know why there had been no warning of what had suddenly occurred. Several days later, a British spook working for MI-6 managed to arrange a clandestine meeting with an agent working in the Secretariat of the Central Committee. The agent was anxious and skittish; he was a man greatly worried for his life. There had been hundreds of arrests, he told his British contact, of anyone suspected of having reformist views. Furthermore, he said the party hierarchy had been killed off in a wave of violent assassinations. He urged the man from MI-6 not to contact him for the foreseeable future. MI-6 soon spoke with the Soviet defector Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky. The one-time head of the KGB’s London station had known Gorbachev and Chebrikov personally and had also had some dealings with Shcherbytsky. He assured his new masters in the UK that the General Secretary would never have resigned and he agreed with those in the media that the man’s statement had been made under much duress… he had probably been in fear of his life. The KGB Chairman had the makings of a dictator, Gordievsky furthered, and if there had been killings in Moscow, then he would have been behind them. As to Shcherbytsky, the new Soviet General Secretary was a thoroughly corrupt individual who was the polar opposite of the man that he had replaced. There would be no reform in the Soviet Union under him, instead Gordievsky prophesised a return to ‘the bad old days’ like those under Brezhnev. Gordievsky was known to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and she asked to speak with him after she had been briefed on his warnings from the Director-General of MI-6 Sir Christopher Curwen. The two of them met alone at Downing Street on the evening of December 8th where Thatcher – an avid and life-long opponent of communism in all its guises – listened carefully to what her guest had to say. Neither Curwen nor his nominal superior the Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Sir Geoffrey Howe were happy with Thatcher listening to the dire warnings of future woes that they knew Gordievsky liked to relate, but the PM had forced the issue so that she could talk to him personally and hear him in his own words. After that meeting at Downing Street, Thatcher’s closest advisers would say that she took a much closer interest in the after-effects of the Moscow Coup than they thought she would have done. Throughout the month, the PM personally reviewed intelligence from MI-6 (and also what was shared by NATO partners) concerning the new leadership of the Soviet Union. The stories of secret trials of alleged counter-revolutionaries – which were similar to those that had taken place under Stalin – that came out from behind the Iron Curtain held her interest and so too did confirmation that senior members of the deposed Gorbachev’s Politburo had been shot on November 30th. A few days into the New Year, Thatcher spoke on the trans-Atlantic telephone to President Reagan when she was at Chequers in the English countryside and he was at his Camp David retreat in Maryland. The two of them were known for getting on famously when it came to working as a united front against Soviet interests and their conversations when it came to how to act with regard to that nation always brought a smile to the lips of those who were able to listen in on them. Like the UK intelligence services, their counterparts in the United States had been getting patchy but worrying information from out of the Soviet Union. Chebrikov and Shcherbytsky had violently conciliated their rule, Reagan’s advisers had told him, and that also meant that they brought the military under their control too. Reagan expressed to Thatcher worries that his military and intelligence chiefs had about plans by the new Soviet regime to bolster their armed forces in new weapons, capabilities and size. Their phone call ended with a suggestion by Thatcher that she should visit Washington sometime in the next month to talk to the President in person. She stated that they would both have more intelligence brought to them by their spooks and that could be shared then too. Reagan agreed to the proposal and told the PM that he was most pleased at the idea of the United States and Britain continuing to work closely in reaction to the Soviet Union. Events would overtake plans made by the American President and the British Prime Minister though: namely the so-called ‘Bornholm Incident’ of mid-January 1988. Three Almost exactly two months before open warfare broke out in Europe, elements of a pair of navies from either side of the Iron Curtain clashed near the Danish island of Bornholm. This was a wind-swept island in the Baltic Sea east of Denmark that rested between Sweden and East Germany. It had for a long time held strategic value because it commanded entrance to the eastern stretches of the Baltic. Occupied in WW2 by the Nazis, they had used its location as part of their war against the Soviet Union. At the end of that conflict – after V-E Day – the Soviets had bombarded and conquered Bornholm from a garrison that had wished to surrender to the Western Allies. Moreover, Stalin had then refused to have his troops leave the island for a whole year afterwards. Following WW2, Denmark had joined NATO at its inception to rely on the stronger Western powers for its external defence. There had been Soviet diplomatic pressure exerted against Copenhagen with regards to Bornholm afterwards and Denmark had caved in. While never announced as official policy, the Danish government not only didn’t base strong military forces of their own on the island but also refused basing rights for forces of their allies on Bornholm too. Denmark’s allies had never been happy at this kowtowing to Soviet demands on the part of the Danes. Reconnaissance aircraft and naval vessels operating in the NATO intelligence role could have utilised Bornholm to preform stand-off surveillance of the Soviet Baltic coastline. Yet, the Danes were only doing what the Norwegians – another NATO member – were doing too: Norway didn’t allow its allies to regularly base military forces in the northern province of Finmark, which bordered the Soviet Union. * Despite being a small nation, Denmark maintained a well-equipped and capable military to defend itself. Training of the armed forces was up to NATO standards and there was much modern equipment deployed. A particular focus of Danish defence preparations was made with regard to its naval forces due to much of Denmark being an archipelago around the Jutland peninsula. The Danish Navy fielded a few ocean-going frigates (those of the Niels Juel class), yet the majority of its combat strength was in its fast missile and torpedo boats as well as coastal submarines. On January 13th 1988, despite the winter weather, three Danish vessels were conducting exercises around Bornholm. Two of those combined missile and torpedo boats and a submarine were conducting training in anti-submarine warfare; the waters of the country’s easternmost island had been chosen because they were far away from the civilian shipping lanes of the busy Baltic. No live weapons were to be used in this training though because the Danes considered themselves at peace. Not long after the beginning of their operations, the Danish vessels became aware that there was another ship nearby and it was also tracking them with its radar. Upon investigating those radar transmissions by zeroing in on their source, that vessel was found to be the East German missile-corvette Rudolf Eglehofer. The missile-tracking radar from the Eglehofer locked onto the pair of Danish boats in what could only be regarded as a hostile manner. Yet, the Eglehofer wasn’t moving. It had come to a halt just inside Danish territorial waters: ten miles off the coast of Bornholm. The Danish ships chose not to up the ante and escalate the situation in any way by engaging their own fire-control radars. Their training had been interrupted and while they monitored the East German ship and also contacted their operation headquarters back at Korsor, they moved closer to investigate. However, for a reason that the Danes couldn’t fathom, the Eglehofer continued in its hostile behaviour. The corvette kept its radar active… one which could easily guide a barrage of missiles at them. In the past, such threatening behaviour had been directed against Danish ships in the Baltic from the Soviet Navy. Nothing had ever come of this before though: there had never been any shots expended from either side. To see the East Germans acting like this though was rather surprising. The military forces of the westernmost Eastern Bloc nation were known to be heavily politically controlled down to the smallest sub-unit and thus any independent action without higher authority wasn’t supposed to happen. There wasn’t meant to be any heat-of-the-moment actions made by a warship commander undertaken. HMDS Willemoes was the lead Danish ship. It approached the idle Eglehofer and the captain attempted to make contact over the radio. The East German ship was twice the size of its Danish counterpart, but the crew of the Willemoes were not intimidated. Their weapons matched that of the Eglehofer and their sister-ship HMDS Hammer was nearby and catching up fast. Furthermore, there was an absolutecertainty that nothing untoward was going to come of this confrontation between elements of the Danish and East German Navy’s. No one had told the East Germans this though. No response to the radio calls – made in both Danish and English – came from the Eglehofer. The Hammer came closer to the Willemoes and one of those aboard the second vessel informed his superiors that he spoke passing German: his grandfather had been from Hamburg and he had learnt some of the language as a boy. The seaman was brought to the radio room and he spoke over the airwaves. The Eglehofer was asked whether she was experiencing engine trouble or such like and also whether her captain was aware that he was inside Danish territorial waters. Again, there was no response from the East German warship. The Danish vessels kept approaching the intruder. The loudhailer was taken out and handed to the German-speaking Danish sailor so that when the Hammer got close enough it could be used for further contact. Like any nation, Denmark greatly valued its sovereignty and the pair of vessels had every right to challenge the presence of the East German ship inside what were their country’s territorial waters. Electronic warfare detection systems on both the Willemoes and the Hammer weren’t by any means state of the art, yet those systems on each ship were able to pick up signs that the Eglehofer was using its SATCOM antenna. The East German ship was communicating with someone using this secure method of voice transmissions, and it wasn’t something that the Danes could monitor to overhear who the Eglehofer was talking to and what was being said. Moreover, the East German Navy wasn’t thought to field such systems in the place of ordinary radio transmissions. One of the look-outs on the Willemoes was using powerful field glasses and he reported to his captain that the antenna in use was pointing eastwards, not southwards as expected. The Danes struggled to understand what this meant… Six minutes afterwards, the unexpected happened. A weather-cap from the top of one of the four missile-launchers that the Eglehofer mounted was observed being released just after the ship had turned to face the Willemoes directly. Before the Danes could react, a lone P-20M Termit (codenamed SS-N-2 Styx) missile shot out of that missile tube and shot across the short distance between the vessels at near-supersonic speed. The huge missile then raced past the Willemoes and towards the Hammer; it slammed into the small superstructure of that vesselbefore exploding in a thunderous roar. Meanwhile, the AK-176 cannon that the Eglehofer mounted was lined up against the Willemoes before proceeding to open fire. The captain aboard the Willemoes had been hastily considering his peacetime rules of engagement and what they meant with regard to the Hammer being taken under fire; he was trying to decide whether to fire on the East German when the Eglehofer reacted first. High-explosive shells flew towards the Willemoes and then started exploding when they struck the small ship. Both Danish vessels carried an impressive array of weapons themselves, but there was no time for any of these to be used in self-defence. The 500kg warhead of the Styx missile had shattered the Hammer, while the 76mm shells that struck the Willemoes had exploded down the length of the ship. Missiles and torpedoes aboard each vessel then detonated themselves during the inferno aboard the stricken ships; the Danish ships blew up in immense fireballs and took the majority of the crew of each with them. As to the Eglehofer, the East German ship engaged her idling engines and started heading back southwards. There were a few Danish sailors in the water, but the orders that had come through from Kaliningrad stated the Eglehofer was to leave those few survivors behind in the freezing waters. The first shots of what would soon become World War Three had been fired, though it would take some time before they were seen as heralding such and also before it was known who had given orders for this. Four Forty-seven Danish sailors lost their lives when the Willemoes and the Hammer were sunk. The explosions of their little ships and the cold waters of the Baltic combined to make sure that there was only one survivor from the pair of vessels. Danish Naval Command had been monitoring their radio transmissions and later dispatched an SAR aircraft to their last reported positions. However, the submarine Nordkaperen – which had meant to link up with the two ships for their exercise – reached the scene first and surfaced to attempt a rescue mission. The Nordkaperen was only a little boat though and would have struggled to accommodate a large amount of wounded men. Only one man was found, a sailor from the Willemoes, and he was hauled aboard before the submarine headed back westwards. The Danish Prime Minister, Poul Holmskov Schlüter from the Conservative People’s Party, was informed within the hour of what had gone on and at once requested that his Cabinet meet to discuss the matter. Schlüter at once upset his military chiefs by focusing solely on the political issues surrounding the Bornholm Incident rather than allowing them to brief him in detail and request instructions as to how to react. He led a coalition government of centre-right parties though and so the political implications of an act of such magnitude were always going of be of greater importance to Schlüter. Yet, Schlüter was a patriot and forty-seven Danish sailors had just been killed by a foreign power in an unprovoked military attack. He made a public statement later that night to the Danish media; this was later carried on television and radio across the West. Schlüter condemned East Germany for what one of their naval vessels had done. The Berlin Government had murdered innocent sailors, he proclaimed, and this couldn’t be allowed to happen again. Denmark was putting her military forces on alert and they would defend themselves against further unprovoked aggression. Furthermore, Schlüter stated that he was requesting that the United Nations be empowered to investigate the Bornholm Incident so that the world would know the truth of what East Germany had done. Later that night, away from the gaze of the media, Schlüter spoke with President Reagan. Relations between Washington and Copenhagen had been rather cordial in recent years with Denmark having a centre-right government as opposed to the many long years of Social-Democrats being the dominate force in Danish politics. Reagan had met Schlüter beforehand too and the two of them had got along as well as national leaders of allied states can best do. To the American President, the circumstances of the Bornholm Incident were surprising, though not that it had actually happened. He had been warned by his advisers for the past month that intelligence pointed to there being some sort of armed attack made against a Western nation from that of the Eastern Bloc. The exact details of that intelligence were being kept very hush-hush by the CIA, but their warnings had come true. In addition, what East Germany had done was to Reagan exactly what he expected from a totalitarian communist power that followed the ideas of Marx and Lenin. At the Christiansborg Palace – Schlüter’s official residence in Copenhagen – the Danish Prime Minister was assured that the United States was ready to stand with Denmark. Both countries were core members of the NATO alliance and the Bornholm Incident was thus an attack on all NATO nations. Should Schlüter request so, Reagan told him that American warships, aircraft and even troops if need be could be temporarily deployed to assist Denmark. Moreover, Reagan would support Schlüter if he chose to request that other NATO nations provide similar assistance. * In Britain, what happened in the waters near Bornholm alarmed Thatcher. She had been briefed a few weeks beforehand by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fieldhouse (one of the architects of the naval campaign in the Falklands), concerning a near clash in the Mediterranean Sea between a Soviet warship and a Royal Navy frigate. In that incident, the RN captain had felt that he was deliberately targeted by the missile radar of that Soviet vessel that had been shadowing his ship and then attempted to ram him; Fieldhouse had informed Thatcher that the RN captain had considered firing in self-defence, but his training had kicked in and he had maintained his discipline. The Prime Minister had decided to sleep on the matter and consider how to act. Thatcher had to think of her party, Parliament and what Britain could actually do to support Denmark before rushing into anything. Early the following morning, Geoffrey Howe spoke with his Prime Minster concerning further developments with the Bornholm Incident. To begin with, elements of the left-wing press in Denmark had made some startling revelations in several newspapers there. There was an allegation in one newspaper that the statement Schlüter had made had been false: one of the Danish ships had fired first before the East Germany Eglehofer had struck back. Schlüter hadn’t mentioned the submarine Nordkaperen in his televised press conference, but his media detractors did. The innuendo in a second newspaper was that there was much more to the circumstances of the Bornholm Incident than had been said and Schlüter was covering something up. Howe had been told by Christopher Curwen that MI-6 had long ago marked key people at both of those Danish newspapers as being on the payroll of the Soviet KGB. They had too much information in their hands too quickly and thus there were signs of a conspiracy being at play. There was clearly an attempt to subvert public opinion not only in Denmark but in the West about the Bornholm Incident. The question that Thatcher and her key government advisers had on their minds in reaction to this was why had this all occurred? What were the new leaders of the Soviet Union up to? What was their motivation? What was their end game? And what did it mean for Britain?