During the ensuing period, the Royal Navy used them for test and trial purposes as Experimental Craft FPB 5130 and FPB 5208. As they were to be used unarmed, the torpedo tubes were de-activated and closed, and the cannon unshipped. Additional fuel tanks were installed in order to increase their operating radius and powerful radar and radio direction finding suites were fitted. In order to conduct comparative trials, S-130 had her three MB 501 V-20 diesels replaced by three, state-of-the-art Napier-Deltic diesels rated at 3140-PS each, whilst S-208 retained her original engines. This new lease of life gave S-130 a speed of 45 kts – an increase of about 5 knots on her previous maximum.
It was then decided to re-deploy them to British-occupied Germany on reconnaissance duties under the direction of Flag Officer Germany and, for this new role, the boats were given a coat of special, white, non-reflecting paint.
Pirates Turned Spies ……….
At first, they were used for coastal survey, based in Rotterdam, but the British Admiralty had urgent need of information about the equipment and activities of the Soviet Fleet, who were making their presence in the Baltic increasingly felt. The boats were re-deployed to Kiel (under command of one Lt Cdr John Harvey-Jones) and were soon turning up in the middle of Soviet Fleet manoeuvres and in the approaches to their bases. They photographed Soviet Units, collected a large quantity of useful information and made a thorough nuisance of themselves but, as soon as they were detected they were able to escape at high speed despite all efforts to intercept them. In order to confuse the situation further, they carried and wore a variety of ensigns and insignia. This made identification very difficult, as several navies used former Kriegsmarine S-Boote, given to them by the US and UK as war prizes, at this time.
During this period (1948/9), a decision was made to set up a “British Baltic Fishery Protection Service (BBFPS)” as a cover organisation. Its principal purpose was to conceal the details of Operation Jungle, a programme for the clandestine insertion of agents into the Baltic States, to be mounted by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). They had trained selected emigrants from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as agents and these were by now ready to be returned in order to link up with anti-Soviet resistance groups who had been conducting anti-Soviet resistance and hiding in the forests since the end of the war.
The Royal Navy felt confident that it could find suitable German candidates to crew a small flotilla for this dangerous undertaking. Tens of thousands of Kriegsmarine personnel had worked for the Royal Navy as part of the British-supervised German Mine Sweeping Administration and its smaller civilian successor, the Cuxhaven Mine Sweeping Group. Most importantly, these included one Hans–Helmut Klose, a daring veteran of the Kriegsmarine S–Bootwaffe. During the last year of World War II, Klose had commanded the 2nd Fast Torpedo Boat Training Flotilla, which operated throughout the Baltic during the final desperate months of the Kriegsmarine’s existence. Klose’s boats performed a wide range of missions, including the escort of transports, reconnaissance missions, clandestine insertion of agents and even the rescue of high-ranking officials from encircled enclaves. He had fought the Soviet Fleet off Kürland and, during the last days of the War, had played a leading role in the brilliantly-executed but desperate evacuation of Libau in East Prussia. He was highly-regarded and had no “baggage” from the British point of view: Klose was a born pirate but he was no Nazi.
In May 1948, Commander Anthony Courtney RN, an intelligence officer, interviewed Klose and asked him whether he would be interested in putting his unique experiences and talents to use against the Russians. He agreed and soon got things moving. Operations began in May 1949, from when MI6 used S-208 (alias FPB 5208) and a variety of other vessels to transport agents to landing sites in Polanga (Lithuania), Uzava and Ventspils (Latvia) Saaremaa (Estonia), and Stolpmünde (Poland). The boats flew the White Ensign but were manned by German crews, all former members of the Kriegsmarine S-Bootwaffe. Called to duty again, this time in the service of the British, they formed what was to become famous – albeit in rarefied, clandestine circles – as “The Klose Fast Patrol Group”.
The agents were flown from England to West Germany, landing there on British military airfields from where they were brought to various harbours to board one of Klose’s vessels. The first stage of the trip was usually to Bornholm, off the Swedish coast, where they would await the radio signal from London giving the final order to penetrate the territorial waters of the USSR. On receipt, British Officers would issue any final instructions and disembark, leaving the German crew to make the run. Only the vessel’s Commander knew the destination. After nightfall, the boat closed slowly and quietly to within about 3nm of the coast. Following the satisfactory exchange of agreed authentication signals with the shore reception party, a rubber dinghy with an outboard motor was lowered and the coxswain, who was in radio communication with the mother S-Boot, put the agents ashore. There he embarked any agents for return to England and rejoined the S-Boot which, after clearing the coast with the minimum of noise and disturbance, accelerated out of hostile territorial waters.
S-130 Joins a Very Private Club
After these rather improvised beginnings, MI6 decided to create a more permanent organisation, which was set up 1951 in Hamburg-Finkenwerder and later moved back again to Kiel. In 1952, S-130, rejoined her sister ship S-208 and the scope of operations was widened to include electronic and signal intelligence activities. This involved the fitting of a variety of signal intelligence (SIGINT) equipment and, from 1953 on, following a co-operation agreement between the British and the American Secret Services, American CIA agents (supported by the famous US-backed Gehlen organisation) were also inserted along the coasts of the Baltic States by Klose’s boats.
Seaworthy Ships but a Leaking Intelligence Service……………….
From 1951 onwards, MI6 had suspected that Soviet counter-intelligence might have infiltrated the spy networks in the forests of Kürland. In fact, the KGB had been very successful with its counter-penetration operation “Lursen-S." Over 40 agents were inserted into the field and all were caught, sentenced, or turned as moles or double agents. This complete failure of the MI6 operation in the Kürland had much to do with superciliousness and a lamentable lack of internal security inside MI6 itself. In the end, neither MI6 nor the KGB achieved their intended aims and many human lives were sacrificed for a trickle of information which, after close analysis, proved to be of little value. The landings were finally stopped for good in 1955.
In contrast, the Naval intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations conducted by the Klose Fast Patrol Group were very successful indeed and it was for this that Lt Cdr Harvey Jones (now rather better-known as Sir John Harvey-Jones, formerly Chairman of ICI) was made an MBE. These operations also did much to set aside the Anglo-German naval bitterness and resentment of the immediate post-war period and laid the foundation of what was to become the German Navy’s new "Schnellbootflotille" and the Intelligence Organisation.
The New Germany Joins NATO and The Bundesmarine is Born
In spring 1956 the BBFPS was disbanded. The crews received medallions from a grateful Royal Navy for their services and the boats were handed over to the nascent German Federal Navy. Our heroines, S-130 and S 208, were restored to their old condition and handed over, in March 1957. They were used as high-speed training vessels, designated UW 10 and UW 11 respectively, at the underwater warfare school, while the newer boats formed the first Fast Torpedo Boat Squadron.
Most of the crew members also joined the German Federal Navy and the Flotilla Commander, Hans Helmut Klose, finally retired in the rank of Vice Admiral, having created and commanded the complete, new and excellent Schnellboot arm, in 1978.
S-208 was finally broken up but S-130 continued to give valuable service as a test and training platform in a variety of roles under the pennant number EF3. She was finally paid off for the last time, after 48 years’ service, in 1991 in Wilhelmshaven, where she remained as a house-boat until her acquisition for restoration in England by her present owners in January 2003.