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Feb. 11, 2022

78 German Submariner Part 1: Atlantic, POW in Canada.

78 German Submariner Part 1: Atlantic, POW in Canada.

German submarine U-111’s tour of the North Atlantic during the second world war. By Kurt Schoenthier. Sinkings, survivals and POW's.


German submarine U-111’s tour of the North Atlantic during the second world war. By Kurt Schoenthier. Sinkings, survivals and POW's. Plus stacks of family stories, including a Green Howard Padre's account of the Dunkirk beaches.

LINK TO KO-FI

LINK TO BUY ME A COFFEE

Western Approaches museum
https://liverpoolwarmuseum.co.uk/


Military Combat Stories
https://www.facebook.com/groups/776796136302975/?ref=share


Battle of the Atlantic 1939 to 1945.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/140314613337524/?ref=share


Royal Army Chaplains’ Museum, Army Museum, Swindon, UK.
https://royalarmychaplainsmuseum.business.site/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=referral)

 

Chris Willet’s family history – Ted Dimmock
https://www.family-treasure.com/greenhowarddunkirk

 

Full show notes, photos and transcript at:

https://www.fightingthroughpodcast.co.uk/78-german-submariner-and-pow

Reviews on main website

https://www.fightingthroughpodcast.co.uk/reviews/new/

Apple reviews - https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/ww2-fighting-through-from-dunkirk-to-hamburg-war-diary/id624581457?mt=2

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Interested in Bill Cheall's book? Link here for more information.

Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg, hardback, paperback and Kindle etc.

Transcript

Keep scrolling for more and more pics and don't miss the Read More link further down!

Ted Dimmock WW2 picture set

Edward Dimmock 7th Green Howards WW2 memoirs. KIA Dunkirk WW2.

Edward Dimmocl portrait Green Howards WW2 memoirs

John Edward Dimmock’s body was never recovered, but he has a head stone at the Dunkirk Memorial, France

Dunkirk KIA

Green Howards Stanley Coleman and his best friend John Edward Dimmock 1930, Bridlington UK.

Green Howards Stanley Coleman and his best friend John Edward Dimmock 1930 Bridlington UK

Ted Dimmock far right in Green Howards band C1939. Rufty Hill 4th left.

Ted Dimmock far right in Green Howards band C1939

Wes Hickman WW2 memoirs photo set

Bill Hickman 2nd left - Master Sergeant - Bastoigne ww2

Bill Hickman 2nd left - Master Sergeant - Bastoigne ww2

 

Surrender leaflet Second World War - American, German. WW2 memoirs

Surrender leaflet Second World War - American, German. WW2 memoirs

Hat captured off German POW's - WW2 podcast.

Hat captured off German POW's WW2 podcast.

Daniel Linhart Krbeček re-enactment ceremony

Funeral of RAF and RCAF pilots of RAF Bomber Command, at Pålsjö cemetery, Helsingborg, Sweden, 7 September 1944

Funeral of RAF and RCAF pilots of RAF Bomber Command, at Pålsjö cemetery, Helsingborg, Sweden, 7 September 1944..jpg

Daniel sent me the above photos of the re-enactment of a Funeral of RAF and RCAF pilots of RAF Bomber Command, at Pålsjö cemetery, Helsingborg, Sweden, originally held on 7 September 1944.

The funeral of the RAF and RCAF pilots who perished during 29-30 August 1944 which is locally called “Stora flygnatten” (The Great flight night) in Scania, Sweden, was attended by around 3,000 people and took place with full military honors.

There were numerous recorded crashes DURING THIS BOMBING RAID and here’s just a sketch of the details:

Höjalen, Vittsjö, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had seven crew members, none of whom survived. All were buried in 

They were Sergeant Raymond Walter Bysouth, RAF, Sergeant William Robert Campbell, RAF, Flying Officer Anthony Hugh Carver, RAF, Sergeant Ronald Henry Clifford, RAF, Flight Sergeant Donald Alastair MacDonald, RCAF, Sergeant Ernest Mutch, RAF and Sergeant Frederick George Plowman, RAF.

Lärkholm, Lärkeröd, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had nine crew members, none of whom survived. Eight of them were buried in Helsingborg and one in Malmö.

The eight buried in Helsingborg were Flight Sergeant John Kennedy, RAF, Sergeant Albert Ernest Muat, RAF, Pilot Officer Francis Anthony Pocock, RAF, Sergeant William George Rasey, RAF, Flight Sergeant Kenneth Stephenson, RAF, Flight Lieutenant William Alistair McLean B. Stewart, RAF, Flying Officer John Edward Swanson, RCAF, and Sergeant John Stenhouse Wood, RAF.

Skälderviken, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had eight crew members, one of whom survived.

He was found at Torekov. All the dead were buried in Helsingborg. They were Sergeant John Alan Gibbon Brown, RAF, Sergeant William George Noel Heath, RAF, Pilot Officer Wilfred Herbert Howie, RCAF, Sergeant George Farrington, RAF, Sergeant James Charles Fawcett, RAF, Pilot Officer Francis James Kendall, RCAF and Flying Officer Gordon Leslie Piprell, RCAF.

Svensköp, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had seven crew members, one of whom survived, three perished and three missing. The dead were buried in Helsingborg.

They were Sergeant Herbert William Causley, RAF, Sergeant Charles Burton Hill, RAF, and Sergeant Derrick Leonard Desmond Moon, RAF.

The pictures were taken by Clarence Webb.

Keep scrolling to see full show transcript. 

Chris Willet’s family history – Ted Dimmock
https://www.family-treasure.com/greenhowarddunkirk

Carl Weidenburner is a military historian who has made the CBI Theatre of War his specialty. Check out his extensive page, and amazing collection of information on his site:

https://www.cbi-theater.com/menu/cbi_home.html

Royal Army Chaplains’ Museum, Army Museum, Swindon, UK.
https://royalarmychaplainsmuseum.business.site/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=referral)

 

U-111 Submarine - North Atlantic

1 Kurt Schoenthier aged 19

2 Captain Wilhelm Kleinschmidt is handed the “keys” to the boat

3 Captain Kleinschmidt U-Boat commander WW2

4 Part of the crew of U111, my dad in the middle

5 Playing an extra in the movie, escaping from the sub

 

6 U111 in the cold WW2 North Atlantic

7 - U111 in WW2

11 Kurt Schoenthier POW WW2

 

12 In the winter of 43, my dad was a POW in Canada, in a small camp on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river. They were cutting trees for a company.

13 WW2 POW camp

14 “TRAPPER JOE”

15 1946. My dad worked as a farmhand in southern Ontario. Playing with the farmer’s kids. Red POW stripe on his pants and red bullseye on his back

16 1946. The farmer and family wanted to take my dad to the fair. They let him wear these clothes to conceal his POW status on a hot summer day. The farmer would have been in deep trouble if caught

My Mom aged 21

 

Fighting Through WW2 Episode 78 – German Submariner and POW, Kurt Schoenthier – more ww2 memoirs on a WW2 podcast

More great unpublished history! WWII

Intro Passage 1

After nearly a month at sea, our bridge watch sighted a steamer. It was not even taking the precaution of sailing in a zig zag course and cruised at close range right across our path. Obviously, her lookout had not noticed us at all. She became an easy prey!...............

We manoeuvred into position

Tubes 1 and 2.....ready to fire!

Intro Passage 2

They went down the driveway and hollered out to the neighbor but did not get an answer, checked the outbuildings and no sign of him there either. They went down to the cellar from the outside entrance and were so surprised to see …

Intro Passage 4

I was dragged to the 2cm gun and they made me hold on to the barrel. A whack to the back of my knees forced me into a kneeling position.

Intro Passage 5

I was in the bow sound detecting station, at the very front of the boat. The engine sounds of our attacker were pounding in my headphones. He was directly over us! Then, four splashes and seconds later, four explosions rocked our boat!

Intro Passage 6

“Stay down here”, he shouted to me. “They are all dead up there “.  He had manned our 2cm gun, when a direct hit from the enemy’s 4” gun exploded on the bridge of U-111

Intro Passage 3

I begin to shout “ Hilfe”.  (help). 

Then my call is returned!  Hilfe! 

I turn around and see Alfred, frantically shouting and waving his arms. Then, as I look in his direction, I can suddenly see the bow of our attacker behind him, coming straight at us! (Bow = Beau)

Welcome

Hello again and another exciting WW2 welcome to the Fighting Through second world war podcast. 

I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WWII memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in FTFDTH. 

The aim of this podcast is to give you the stories behind the story and much more. You’ll hear memoirs, and interviews with veterans in all the countries and all the forces. I dare you to listen!

I’d just like to say that I’ve done several episodes with what you might call a German Eyes context to them but in doing so I’d like to point out that in no way do I condone the actions of Hitler and his Nazi cohorts. After Heidi‘s dads story was published a few months ago, someone wrote in and said I was very brave for publishing it. I didn’t really react to that suggestion, partly because I didn’t accept that I was being brave. At the end of the day, that story and indeed today’s are both about ordinary German soldiers caught up in something they wouldn’t want to have been.

Neither story glorifies the Nazi party or the SS and had they done so then I wouldn’t have covered them in this podcast. 

 

If anybody has any views or feelings about all this I’d be more than happy to hear from them but for now I’ll refer to the view that my dad did when looking after the German prisoners of war in North Africa.

“My favourable reaction to the young Germans was to give them little treats, like biscuits and chocolate. These were soldiers just like us – Wehrmacht not SS.

 

So, I’ll be taking my dad‘s lead on this one.

 

Possibly one of the best military history podcast.

This episode

The main feature today is about German submarine U-111’s tour of the North Atlantic during the second world war. You heard various passages during the intro so enough said for now methinks. Talk about living history! Have your life belts and blindfolds ready chums.

That’s coming later and before then I’ve got some more family stories including one on the Green Howards, Dad’s regiment, plus a first hand account of Dunkirk by a Padre in the Green Howards.

Gulp indeed!

All ww2 history

 

A bit of back story for you ….

The battle of the Atlantic - Western Approaches command

was the longest running campaign of the second world war lasting from the very first day of the war to the last. For nearly 6 years the British Canadian and American navies and air forces fought a constant battle against the deadly German submarines the u-boats as they sought to sink the vital merchant convoys bringing supplies food raw materials and Men to Britain. Winston Churchill famously stated that the only thing he ever truly feared during the war was the u-boats.

Western Approaches command was responsible for controlling and coordinating the allied efforts in the Atlantic and it's primary objective was the safe and timely arrival of the convoys. From February 1941, combined headquarters more commonly referred to as Western Approaches headquarters was located in the basement of Derby House in Liverpool. From here the men and women of the Royal Navy the Royal Air Force and their female equivalents the women's Royal Naval service WRENS and woman's auxiliary airforce WAAFS worked tirelessly 24-hours a day until victory was achieved and the command could finally be disbanded in August 1945.

The Atlantic campaign was arguably the most important of the entire war as so much relied upon equipment supplies and men being transported safely by Sea but it was won at a huge cost both in terms of ships, aircraft and Men lost. Over 72000 Allied soldiers both naval and civilian and airmen lost their lives during the campaign and over 30000 German sailors were killed. Their sacrifice is remembered and honoured at the western approaches HQ museum in Liverpool.

The museum is run by a local heritage company, big Heritage, and a program of restoration has been undertaken. This has seen the museum become an immersive experience for visitors, allowing them to step back into the 1940s and see, hear and feel when it would have been like to live and work in this most important site. The operations room has been entirely restored and new rooms, previously abandoned have been opened up unearthing new discoveries such as cigarette packets and lighters, hairclips and message sheets. The museum is the fourth most popular attraction in Liverpool and continues to welcome visitors and keep the story of the brave men and women who helped win the battle of the Atlantic alive.,

 

I thought this episode was ready until, last weekend, I happened to visit the museum and realised what a great backdrop to the show it could offer. So this intro has been a last minute edit. There is a link to the museum website in the show notes together with a few pics of the jaw dropping operations room and other features of the museum.

 

 

First

Buy me a coffee 2

A short omission to be redressed re Todd Kehoe who bought me some Calvados on the previous episode.

Todd had said in his Buy me a coffee donation:

“Feel free to make this a couple "fancy" coffees.

And do you know why they call it a "Latte"? Because it costs a "latte".

Don't order a "Depresso", that's just a really bad fancy coffee.

Lastly, don't get an Americano, that is fancy coffee watered down for Americans.

That’s a fancy coffee joke on my own country. I'm buying the coffee so I give permission for an Englishman with a good English accent to make fun at the American palate.

That’s three jokes for the listeners & coffee for you.

Todd thanks for that chuckle. I think I said previously you needed a little therapy.

And I take that back now.

 

You need a lot of therapy!

 

TR

 

 

Family stories 1 Chris Willets

This item is how a random query from someone researching his Great Uncle’s war can turn out like Alice’s proverbial rabbit hole.

Chris Willets ​Charlotte North Carolina wrote in about the Green Howards.

My family has enjoyed your Dad’s fabulous book a lot! It’s like I’m sitting with my Grandad telling me about the adventures and feelings he experienced through the war. It’s the best way to understand what anyone from the 6th & 7th GH went through. 

 

Chris goes on to talk about his uncle Ted - John Edward – Dimmock from the 7th Green Howards and starts off with an extract from Dad's book with Dad on the beaches of Dunkirk.

The Green Howards have been fighting through Normandy and have made their way back to Bray Dunes near Dunkirk.

 

Here’s what my Dad said:

“None of us could see any sign of the 23rd Division assembly area and nobody seemed to know what to do for the best. Then the planes came over again, causing more deaths. Only twenty yards from me some lads had been hit by shrapnel and one of them was in a serious condition - the medics were there - but he would not live.

 

So the point of Chris writing was if this could be his Uncle who died in the dunes early on 31st May. But the story ends up way beyond that …

Here’s a bit about Ted ..

“Uncle Ted has the sad distinction to be the only man of the 7th Green Howards to be killed at Dunkirk.

He hailed from West Layton near Richmond UK and was the only boy in a family of four. So he was brought up firmly in Green Howards country in the North East.

He was jolly and an easy man to get on with.  He had a natural musical ability and helped an elderly couple maintain their garden. However, life on the farm was unpleasant to him, as was his father’s treatment of him.  On one occasion his father threw a brick at him.

He chose to leave and soon found a new job working for the council as a road worker and later was betrothed to his sweetheart Sally, who worked in the general store in nearby Ravensworth.

His career change ultimately proved fatal because it meant he was no longer in a protected occupation and he was called up to fight at the age of 20. He enlisted in the 7th Green Howards, where he met his closest friend, Stanley Coleman.

At the close of the Dunkirk campaign, allied soldiers were retreating to Dunkirk following their fighting retreat from the German invasion of France. Upon arriving at Bray Dunes early on the 31st May, they were ordered to disperse and take cover in the dunes. Shortly after, at 6am they were shelled. While the overall casualties were few, Ted was killed. A piece of shrapnel went through his chest wallet and claimed his life. Pastor Metcalf was on duty and grabbed Ted’s belongings, including his wallet, tags and a packed pipe ready to smoke. He was wrapped in a blanket before they buried him in the sand-dunes. Reportedly, Metcalf, “then ran like hell.”

At 8am they were ordered onto the beach to try boarding small boats, but the sea was too rough. Instead, the 7 Green Howards were ordered to head to the East Mole to act as stretcher bearers.

Listener I’m fairly sure though not certain they would have got away from the East Mole later that day - I’m not sure whether on the Lady of Mann alongside my Dad and the 6 Green Howards.

Ted’s mother Minnie Dimmock, received Ted’s belongings and another man’s tags from Pastor Metcalfe.  It is speculated that his mother was never the same after, holding out hope that Ted was alive and there had been a mix up with the tags. She continued to look to the hills above their house in West Layton, waiting for him to come home and often thought she could hear his footsteps. The farmers brought her food, but she refused as she blamed them for mistreating Ted and believed they forced him to leave the safety of farm work only to be called up and killed.

Sally eventually married someone else.

Stanley Coleman, Ted’s mate, had missed the battle due to developing diphtheria and later visited the family home to share his commiserations for his best friend’s death. This is when he first met a certain Jenny Butler. They kept in touch and wrote letters to each other throughout the war and were destined to become my grandparents.

Thanks to Pastor Metcalf we have Ted's wallet. Unfortunately Ted wasn’t a rich man with a thick wallet to stop the shrapnel passing though and hitting him in the chest. Inside is a picture of Sally his Fiance that he will never get to marry and the souvenirs he collected to give to her. 

So. Chris asked if the lad dying on the beach in front of him could have been his Uncle Ted. Well having studied the dates I’d say not because Ted arrived on the beach the day after Dad’s incident had happened but who knows whether - but the scene would have been very similar. A young man surrounded by his pals trying to help him but helpless to do anything.

[Dad arrived morning of the 30th and left 6pm 31st. The lad above would have been hit early on the 30th but the 7th GH hadn’t arrived at that point – they actually arrived the morning after on the 31st – so the lad referred to above wouldn’t have been Ted –]

 

Many years later 1960’s, continues Chris, my Nana Jenny tells a story about how she and Stanley went to visit her father in St John of God Hospital at Scorton, near Richmond. Stanley recognized a man at the hospital who looked “tough as old boots.” He claimed that he was 1 of 3 men that were hit by the shell along with Ted.

We are still looking for the two that stood by him at his death and wonder if they can shed any light on what happened. Also, we are truly thankful to Pastor Metcalf and his service.

Chris ended his piece to me asking a few questions about this incident.

  1. Who was next to TED when he Died?
  2. Anyone know of a Sally from Butterworth Village UK.
  3. Images of the Green Howards band.

There’s a link to Chris’s family history web site in the show notes.

https://www.family-treasure.com/greenhowarddunkirk

And Chris has done his Uncle Ted really proud with the web site with lots of info and photographs – I think true GH afficionados will really enjoy it.

But here’s the piece de resistance:

Chris’s final request for info was as follows:

Ted Dimmock was in the Green Howards Band. He was very musically talented and could play a number of instruments. Would love to see if there are any pictures or write ups.

Well, that’s all the info Chris had but it set my little brain whirring because I recalled in episode 25 we covered that photo of Rufty Hill and pals with Winston Churchill. And one of the discoveries around that photo was that the five lads, clowning around in a photo booth in Limassol in 1941, were in a band, obviously the Green Howards band.

But I took a long hard look at that photo and could not recognise Ted in it.

But wait!

I had another photo of an obviously young looking Rufty Hill in a collection sent to me by his nephew Mike Smith. See the show notes.

And blow me – there on the far right is none other than Ted Dimmock, same blonde hair, parting and square jaw.

And Chris agrees with me.

So Chris and his family now have one more photo of Chris than they had before and not only that, it’s got all his band mates in it as well, dating back I’d say to 1939 when these boys were joining up to fight. But being in a band means these lads must have spent hours together rehearsing and that will have built a bond of friendship amongst them.

It’s funny but I can imagine that these boys must have had untold excuses not to do fatigues and guard duty because they had band rehearsal at various times. And how they must have enjoyed that.

For me, the story behind this band photograph is this.

The boys that Ted associated with in the band were a tough bunch of good northern lads who would have gone to the end of the Earth for him in battle. In particular, Rufty Hill and Bill Vickers went on to distinguish themselves in later battles throughout the war and my dad described Rufty as a good tough scrapper and one of the lads. But Rufty was sadly killed on Gold beach on D-Day. If you want to learn more about this group listen to episode. 25, Sgt Rufty Hill meets Winston in WW2.

Bill Vickers survived WW2 and you can bet he would have remembered Ted for the rest of his long life as a result of being in that band together.

Chris Willets, thanks so much for writing in about your uncle Ted. If anyone can add to the background to John Edward Dimmock, please get in touch.

 

Chaplain in retreat Rev N S Metcalf DSO

Chris earlier mentioned the Chaplain, Metcalf, who comforted his Uncle Ted as he lay dying on the beach at Bray Dunes.

During his research on his relative, he’s managed to dig out the following article in Dunkirk written by the Rev N S Metcalf DSO himself.

 

“Generally speaking, a commander may be able to pull back his formations in comparatively good order, losses of men and equipment being minimal after taking into consideration the prevailing situation.

 

However, there is another side to the picture - it concerns the “minimal losses”. This means the soldiers left behind, some wounded, some killed and the survivors, in general, deprived of so much of the basic necessities of life. It is in situations like these, that the chaplain in retreat has opportunities literally hurled at him!

 

My “chaplain in retreat” experiences began as was the case with so many other chaplains, in the Dunkirk saga. Attached to the seventh battalion the Green Howards, I arrived in France on Saint Georges day, April 23, 1940 and left with a major part of the regiment on June 1 from Dunkirk. During those six weeks or so, the unit occupied an area to the east of Paris still abounding in preserved World War I trenches.

 

With the German breakthrough of Belgium on May 10, the regiment was ordered up to Belgium to counter the German thrust around the northern flank of the Maginot line.

 

I shall always  remember the night of May 10! In some incomprehensible way, I found myself involuntarily engaged in the work of a dispatch rider on the motorbike. It certainly gave me much-needed mobility and  enabled  me to keep in touch with the various companies of the regiment.

 

Driving through the various checkpoints, manned by trigger-happy French soldiers , was invaluable in helping me make myself understood in French!

 

For the rest of the month of May, the regiment was continually on the move. It was during this hectic period that I had to undertake the first of many of sombre duties, the conducting of burial services of several members of the regiment and attached units. By May 31, after the advance to the northern section of the Maginot line we, like the greater portion of the allied armies, had been forced to retreat to break dunes . It was here we prepared for the evacuation from the  port  of Dunkirk. 

 

However, there was still a job to be done before embarkation and that was to destroy our transport and any stores we could not manhandle. I mucked in! With a sledgehammer, given me by the RSM, I joined others in the work of destruction. 

 

I discovered, like so many, that’s after the initial feeling of distaste in wrecking expensive machinery, the desire to destroy grows! A grim lesson to be learnt in this respect as many of the soldiers found. It makes a good subject for sermons. June 1 dawned and the regiment marched along the sands from Bray Dunes to  Dunkirk pier without a single Casualty. It was a fact that although we were late in the evacuation program, we escaped the carnage that had gone before and was to come after on the last day of the withdrawal. Most of the regiment were able to board a Tramp steamer that had come across from Dover laden with stores. These were not unloaded and we found them most welcome on the journey to Folkestone.

The article was published in the Journal of the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department in 1983.

Connected with the Royal Army Chaplains’ Museum, Army Museum, Swindon, UK.

“A haven of peace and calm for all, the home of British armed forces chaplaincy provides a rich and warm experience for all.

Chris says - Best to ring ahead and let them know you're coming - it's part of the Ministry of Defence and there is security on the gate!

https://royalarmychaplainsmuseum.business.site/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=referral)

TR

 Family stories 2 Wes Hickman

Pics on file

I listen to podcasts all day at work and Fighting Through WW2 is my favorite and I often listen to past episodes again.  My Grandfather, Bill Hickman of Kennett Square Pennsylvania, was a Master Sergeant in the 10th Ordnance Battalion in Gen. Patton's 3rd Army.

In fact, Gen. Patton once stopped him and his buddy and gave them “the business” because they didn't have their neck ties on properly!  He captured two Germans in early 1945 and kept a few pieces of their kit which I still have today, and are some of my most prized possessions.  Please keep up the excellent work Paul.     

Wes Hickman, Wilmington Delaware, USA.

 

And Wes has sent some photos which I’ve shared in the show notes.

He said “First is my Grandfather's uniform jacket. Next is the rabbit fur hat he took from one of the Germans. My Grandfather said his head was cold and the hat looked warm, so he took it from them. And what a fabulous hat that is.

Then there is the surrender leaflet that Germans presented to him. They were dropped over enemy territory and guaranteed proper treatment, food and medical attention.

Last is my Grandfather  (second from left) standing in the mud with some friends. The back of the photo says "These are the conditions in Bastogne 1945". I wish I would have asked him more about his wartime experiences, especially the capture of the two Germans but he's been gone for 25 years or so now, it was foolish of me not to do so. He was a good Grandfather and I miss him.

That’s all for now Paul, cheers! Wes Hickman.

Wes thanks for writing in. I can feel your frustration at not knowing how your Grandad captured those Germans. But if you catch up with the Omaha series Episode 56 onwards, starring PFC Morris Prince, I think that’ll give you an insight into how it possibly happened.

 

War stuff 2 - Daniel Linhart KETCHEK Krbeček from Sweden – wrote ages ago!

I hope I pronounced that properly Daniel.

Daniel sent me some photos of the re-enactment of a Funeral of RAF and RCAF pilots of RAF Bomber Command, at Pålsjö cemetery, Helsingborg, Sweden, originally held on 7 September 1944.

The funeral of the RAF and RCAF pilots who perished during 29-30 August 1944 which is locally called “Stora flygnatten” (The Great flight night) in Scania, Sweden, was attended by around 3,000 people and took place with full military honors.

There were numerous recorded crashes DURING THIS BOMBING RAID and here’s just a sketch of the details:

Höjalen, Vittsjö, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had seven crew members, none of whom survived. All were buried in Helsingborg. I’m putting the names of all these pilots in the show notes.

 

They were Sergeant Raymond Walter Bysouth, RAF, Sergeant William Robert Campbell, RAF, Flying Officer Anthony Hugh Carver, RAF, Sergeant Ronald Henry Clifford, RAF, Flight Sergeant Donald Alastair MacDonald, RCAF, Sergeant Ernest Mutch, RAF and Sergeant Frederick George Plowman, RAF.

Lärkholm, Lärkeröd, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had nine crew members, none of whom survived. Eight of them were buried in Helsingborg and one in Malmö.

 

The eight buried in Helsingborg were Flight Sergeant John Kennedy, RAF, Sergeant Albert Ernest Muat, RAF, Pilot Officer Francis Anthony Pocock, RAF, Sergeant William George Rasey, RAF, Flight Sergeant Kenneth Stephenson, RAF, Flight Lieutenant William Alistair McLean B. Stewart, RAF, Flying Officer John Edward Swanson, RCAF, and Sergeant John Stenhouse Wood, RAF.

Skälderviken, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had eight crew members, one of whom survived.

 

He was found at Torekov. All the dead were buried in Helsingborg. They were Sergeant John Alan Gibbon Brown, RAF, Sergeant William George Noel Heath, RAF, Pilot Officer Wilfred Herbert Howie, RCAF, Sergeant George Farrington, RAF, Sergeant James Charles Fawcett, RAF, Pilot Officer Francis James Kendall, RCAF and Flying Officer Gordon Leslie Piprell, RCAF.

Svensköp, Wednesday 30 August 1944.
The plane had seven crew members, one of whom survived, three perished and three missing. The dead were buried in Helsingborg.

 

They were Sergeant Herbert William Causley, RAF, Sergeant Charles Burton Hill, RAF, and Sergeant Derrick Leonard Desmond Moon, RAF.

 

“Here are some pictures from the same cemetery. Taken by Clarence Webb. It's our re-enactment club during our ceremony. WW2 pics in the show notes.

 

Julián Péter

And while we’re on Lancasters:

 

I am researching the story of Avro Lancaster PB958 F2-P, which took off in the morning hours of 31st March 1945 from RAF Downham Market on an air raid to Hamburg. Over the target, the plane was shot down, and crashed only a few streets down from where I live. Of the 7 crew, only 2 managed to bail out, with one becoming a POW, while the other, F/SGT Kevin George Clark was also captured, but handed over to Volksturm who had him executed the same day. 

 

With the help of many archival documents, I was able to piece back together F/SGT Clark´s final moments, and am working on a retelling to commemorate his and his crew´s sacrifice.

Neverthless, I was wondering if you had any information, tips, contacts, places where one could search for more archival documentation.

 

Thank you in advance,

Julián Péter

 

Peter thanks for that snippet and my best advice is to start on the FTP Research tab which has a few worthy discussion forums you could explore and in your case in particular you could try the Bomber Command Facebook page where I’m sure someone will be able to give you some leads.

 

 

Main feature –

Voyage of War by Mark Peters fanfare

U-Boat U-111 Back story

Wiki

German submarine U-111 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.

Oo Boat = U-Boat

 

She had a short career, sinking four enemy vessels and damaging one other. These victories took place over a period of two war patrols. During her first sortie, the boat sank two enemy vessels and damaged a further one.

So today’s story was written by the late Kurt Schoenthier, who was an eighteen year old sailor

The book’s been independently published by his son, Rainer, who lives in America in St. Thomas, Ontario. So, yet another Indie product showing its mettle. Or should I say Aluminum.

The title is The German Immigrant, and it’s about the life of a German country boy in Hitler’s Third Reich, on a German U-Boat, and as a Prisoner of War.

 

Here’s just part of that story, brought to life with the kind permission of the son of the author:

Sue Weiss Polidoro from Australia tipped me off on this one.

Sue thank you so much for this. The story was floating around on a Facebook group which you kindly pointed me to so I was able to get in touch with Rainer Schoenthier, the author of the posts. Rainer, from Ontario, has published the book of his father’s memoirs and I’ll give you details later on in the show in the event that you want to read the full WW2 memoir.

 

 

 

First Patrol wiki

The British Steam merchantman Somersby, was the first enemy vessel to be sunk by U-111

U-111 went to sea on a war patrol for the first time on 5 May 1941. For a period of 64 days, she roamed the North Sea and eventually the North Atlantic as far west as Nova Scotia  - effectively all the way to Canada - in search of any Allied convoys heading to Great Britain. During that time she encountered three WW2 enemy vessels.

The first confrontation took place on the 13th, just eight days after leaving port, when she came across the British merchant vessel SS Somersby and sank her just south of Iceland.

On 20 May, the submarine came across the tanker San Felix and fired a torpedo at her, causing damage to her hull but failing to sink her. Two days later, U-111 sank the second and last enemy vessel of her patrol, the Barnby, south of Greenland. After these victories, the boat returned to port.

However, instead of returning to Wilhelmshaven, she entered the port of Lorient in occupied France on 7 July.

 

Second patrol wiki

U-111 left Lorient on 14 August 1941 and travelled south off the west coast of Africa and into the South Atlantic. She then turned west towards the eastern coast of Brazil. It was in these waters that the boat sank her last two enemy merchant ships.

The first was the Dutch Motor merchant vessel Marken. She was torpedoed on 10 September just north of Ceará in Brazil. All of her crew survived the attack and boarded life boats. They were questioned by the crew of the U-boat, given food and released. Marken's crew were later safely picked up by a Spanish merchant vessel.

Ten days later, U-111 sank her fourth and last enemy vessel, the British motor merchant ship Cingalese Prince also off Brazil. On 28 September she was involved in an action in Tarrafal Bay, in the Cape Verdeislands; having been ordered to rendezvous there with two other U-boats, U-67 and U-68. She was struck by the British submarine HMS Clyde which had accidentally dived onto her after unsuccessfully attacking U–67. U-111 was so badly damaged she was left unable to dive, and was obliged to head for home.

On 4 October 1941, she was hunted down and sunk by depth charges from the British anti-submarine trawler HMS Lady Shirley southwest of Tenerife. Of a crew of 52 men, eight died and 44 survived.

They were subsequently interrogated; it was the first time prisoners of war were captured from a U-boat operating in the South Atlantic. According to the lengthy interrogation report, the crew of U-111 put up a poor fight and surrendered speedily to their much less powerful adversary after their Captain was killed.

The crew consisted of four officers, three chief petty officers, fourteen petty officers, and thirty ratings, plus an officer under instruction as a prospective U-boat Captain. The latter, Wilhelm Kleinschmidt, was killed in the action along with the sub’s First Lieutenant, a junior officer, and five ratings.

The captured POWs said that the normal complement was 43, including officers.

 

 

Straight in - Family story

This is the story of a young country boy growing up in Germany during the rise of Hitler's Third Reich. Written in his own words, beginning with his early school age years and on to the pre-war period. He joins the navy with dreams of "seeing the world" and ends up serving on a U-boot and is sunk in the Atlantic. After being captured he is shipped to Canada as a P.O.W. and spends the last of the war years there. The end of the war brings his return to a shattered homeland leading eventually to his immigration to Canada and the beginning of his new life.

Rainer Schoenthier son

Kurt Schoenthier father

 

There’s a short intro by son Rainer to each section of this story:

 

Summer 1940 Training school

In the summer of 1940 and my dad was in U-boot training school and was getting a 2 week vacation. This is how he remembered it. 

 

It was the summer of 1940 and we were in the midst of u-boot training school at Kiel. Our base was on the training ship “Wilhelm Bauer “and also on the “Ahrensburg.”

      A notice had gone up that we had vacation time coming. After making some inquiries I had a 2 week vacation permit in my pocket and wasted no time getting on the first train home. 

      Home was the village of Grunhartau, in the province of Silesia. It was about 30 km south of the large city of Breslau and about 50 km from the Sudeten mountains. It was farm country. 

        Grunhartau was our village of about 700 people. A place where everyone knew everyone else. Our farm was one of the biggest, employing several dozen people.           There were only 2 tractors in the village. We had one of them: An old iron wheeled Fordson. There were only 2 cars and we had one of them: a 1936 Opel. My father was also the Burgermeister (Mayor) of the village. 

       It was a 5 hour train ride home and My family didn’t know I was coming!            

I would surprise them!

       Finally I could see the familiar silhouette of Grunhartau and the tall steeple of the church that stood in the centre of the village.                                 I stood at the window waiting impatiently for the train to stop. I was the only passenger getting off, and, since I was coming home by surprise there was no one at the station to pick me up. That didn’t matter, as I was looking forward to the one hour walk home, taking the shortcut, a narrow footpath through the fields. 

      Before long I could see our barn, partially obscured by a row of willow trees. And then......I knew that familiar sound....it was our old tractor!! This old tractor could be heard for miles around and I knew immediately it was ours!

       I stopped walking for a couple minutes and sat down on my suitcase. I was thinking about past years, about all my buddies I had grown up with since childhood, who were all spread out in different directions now, doing their “ duty “.                                Everyone of my group had joined the forces. I was the only one joining the navy. When war broke out we were all just the right age ( 18, 19, 20 ) to be nice and ready to fight.......and for most of us to die.                           

   Already my good friends Max Hermann and Freddy Reichelt had fallen and I wondered who would be next. Thank god my little brother is only 14, I thought to myself......(he would die in less than 4years, taking shrapnel from a grenade, damaging his heart)

     I began walking again. The church bell had just started ringing 12  o’clock, to let the farmers know it was dinner time, the main meal of the day. I turned onto the street leading to our farm just in time to catch my dad who had stepped out to compare his pocket watch with the clock of the church steeple. He glanced up and saw me!

         “Well now, I’ll be darned!!!......is this ever a surprise!!!”  And he rushed over to greet me. And so it went with my mother and brother and sister as well!  

           Next day, while walking through the village, I passed by the home of my school buddy who had just been killed in France. His mother was in the garden. I went over to express my condolences to her. I could really understand her pain and sorrow which caused her to say: “ One has to die, while the other comes home on vacation. It must be nice to be the son of the Burgermeister!“

       I didn’t know what to say! I had no answer, and I just walked away silently. 

        The 2 weeks flew by. Although village life was still pretty normal and the war was still far away, things  just weren’t the same anymore. All my friends were gone off to war. I enjoyed the time with my family but soon it was time to go. Next thing I knew I was on my way back to the Ahrensburg and training school.    

       Upon my return, I was surprised to find a film crew had taken over the “Ahrensburg”. A movie was being made and the “ Ahrensburg” was being used to shoot one of the scenes. We found out they were looking for “extras” to be in the movie. Hans Spiegel and I went and applied immediately and were hired. We were going to be movie stars!!

       For the filming, the Ahrensburg became a “Dutch” vessel, sailing for the British. Flying the British flag, it got torpedoed. Smoke bombs helped to make it look real. My job was to abandon ship, jumping over the railing into the sea. It was about a 3 second scene but hey, I was in a movie!!!

      I saw this movie and myself, about a year later while on leave after our first mission. 

     It is called “ U-boote Westwarts”.

 

That’s my dad, upper left, playing the part of a sailor jumping overboard. Pic

 

 

“Schnapps Nummer 111”

 

  My dad, Kurt Schoenthier, arrives in Bremen where construction of U-111 is nearly complete. Captain Wilhelm Kleinschmidt is handed the “ keys” to the boat!

 

I had made my way to Bremen where the finishing touches were being done on U-111. Most of the crew was already there. They were a great bunch of guys, all of them. You have to be a special type, to be crazy enough to volunteer for U-boot service. Bootsmann Boeckmann met with us at pier #4 where U-111 was now docked.

      “Her name is U-111” he bellowed. “You guys know what this means, three ones?…..”Schnapsnummer”!….. it means  “Luck”.

      From now on our pay would increase considerably. Submariners were the highest paid, got special food rations, and many other advantages such as preferred seating on trains and vacation whenever possible.

        We also received our “U-bootspaeckchen”, (submarine kit), shortly after arrival. This consisted of special underwear,

shoes with thick cork soles,

heavily lined grey leather pants and coats,

gloves,

grey coveralls,

blue knitted toques or beanies,

heavy sweater and more.

This was in addition to our already heavy supply of clothing.

      Our blue navy uniform was not worn on board anymore, only when going on vacation. It otherwise remained on land and was shipped separately to wherever the boat went.

      A difference of rank was hardly noticeable on board. The white cap of the captain stuck out though, or whatever little of the white was left to be seen. “Once in a while it had to be tarred because of the white showing through” was a popular saying among the men.

        As you can see, advantages of serving on an U-boot were many fold. Disadvantages?..... we would soon find out!  We heard stories and could read between the lines. Slowly that feeling gathered in the pit of my belly....there will be a price to pay for all these goodies!

      We just didn’t realize that price would read “HELL”, and for the vast majority of us “DEATH”. Six out of every seven U-boot men went down with their “Iron coffins”.

 

        However, we were young and full of idealism, ready and proud to serve our country.

      Lined up alongside one of the barracks, we saw our skipper for the first time.....”Heil, men of U-111 , my name is Kleinschmidt , head to the pier and get on board, I’ll talk with you all then”.

      And so, led by Bootsmann Boeckmann, we marched in formation down towards the pier, and there it lay, tied onto the quay, our future home.......U-111.

      Looking at the conning tower a strange feeling flashed through my mind....”what am I going to look like when the time comes for me to leave you”? Was it a foreboding, or just a general feeling, an unconscious feeling in all of us, of what was soon to come.

      A grim, humorous farewell bidding for a U-boot putting to sea made the rounds all to frequently......”See you all again soon, chopping trees in Canada!”

      And so, we got  acquainted with our sub. My living, sleeping and eating quarters were in the front torpedo room. My berth was also Hermann Koerkel’s berth. Because of the cramped quarters on board everyone had to share a berth and we slept in shifts.

      One of the other wireless operators, lieutenant Fuchs (Fox) was in charge of the daily setting of the cypher code connections of the “Schluessel M”. The cypher machine...the “enigma machine”.

      Over the following weeks, everyone got an intensive introduction to the different tasks on board, gaining a broad knowledge of the function of our “war machine”.

      One day, a few of us, including Walter Bittner our cook, and Fritz Moeller, a mechanic, who was always ready for a joke, were having our lunch inside the boat, sitting alongside a group of Italian technical workers, also having a bite to eat.

      Suddenly Fritzy got up, approached one of the Italians, clutched him with both hands loosely around the neck and began playfully choking and shaking him while saying to him in German......”You better do a real good job or I’m going to strangle you” and then for added effect made a throat cutting gesture with his hand across his own neck. He then released the poor confused guy and gave him a big bear hug!!!

      The Italian, recuperating quickly from this surprise “attack”, extended his half finished bottle of beer to Fritzy and said..……”Du trinken, Italian und Deutsch gutt amigo”!

 

 

 

 

May 5, 1941 Patrol #1

U-111 sets sail for her first combat patrol. Having grown up as a farm boy, my dad had never been “to sea”. Here are his memories of the day.....

 

  “I have sent a flower telegram to my mother for today is her birthday, and most of us wrote last letters home. Slowly a large crowd of onlookers, well wishers, girlfriends, navy officials and a military band began to gather.

  Everyone off duty had gathered on deck and the crowd slowly fell into silence.

  We were prepared to face the unknown.

“Ropes awaaaaay!!!

  The command echoed ghostily about the silent harbour side.

  U-111 slid slowly away from the pier, and at the same moment the navy band began playing the popular song of the time: ”Den wir fahren gegen  Engeland”. (For we are sailing against England).

  A last wave of farewell and then the band changed suddenly to the tune of U-111, our song-“Komm zurueck”( come back again).

Our reply- a threefold shout of Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! for the fatherland! - echoed over from us to the slowly diminishing pier and our powerful Diesel engines roared up as if to give emphasis to this.

  A strong vibration shuddered through the hull as one by one we disappeared through the hatch. Only the watch remained on the bridge plus one extra lookout for drifting mines.

 

  U-111 was on war patrol #1.

  Heading for the open sea, soon the red rocks of the island of Helgoland appeared on port side, bidding us a last farewell!

  Darkness fell slowly and we kept on sailing on the surface, for now there was no danger of a surprise attack by airplanes.

  I was on midnight watch and had to get up after a 2 hour snooze. The boat rocked quite vigorously, ploughing through mountains of foamy water. We got our first taste of the saying “North sea / Murder sea”.

  A thought of my home and family flashed through my mind. How far away it all seemed now!

Large breakers crashing hard against the conning tower made our boat shudder violently. While climbing up and up to the peak of a huge mountainous wave I was gradually becoming aware of some disagreement of my stomach with this sort of treatment!  I quickly remembered the friendly advice of an old sailor…..”Chew some dry bread and think about the taste of a lemon”. It seemed to help and I was saved just short of sacrificing my stomachs contents to Neptune. Believe it or not, it really worked for me!

  Slowly my system got acclimatized to the different movements of the longer waves, different to those short choppy ones of the Baltic. The Atlantic Ocean has its own pattern again, due to the larger body of water. The towering waters of the wide ocean made the climbing, rolling and sliding up and down and up and down over and over  seem like endlessly riding a roller coaster for hours and days on end.

 The monotonous pounding of the diesels was the only sign for us that we were on the move at a steady pace. Our cruising speed of around 12 knots, would change only when diving or chasing.

  Diving had to be exercised daily, to keep the crew in top readiness. However, a change of speed would be an immediate indication for us that something extra ordinary was happening “up there”

 

And happen  it did on our 8th day at sea, May 13.

 

The alarm sounded !!!

 

We had spotted a freighter!!!

 

The hunt was on!!!

May 13, 1941 Patrol #1 continued.

My dads boat, U-111 was on patrol in the North Atlantic and had spotted a freighter. Here is what he told me of this, their first encounter.

 

  “Upon sighting the freighter the order was given.....

    “Both engines full speed ahead”.

      The diesels roared and I immediately felt the sense of accelerating speed. The rhythm of the engines, like the pounding of war drums, put the whole crew into the spirit of the hunter.

  Now is your time, U-111, to prove that you are not a ‘pup’ anymore, that you have learned the skill to hunt, to chase......to kill. You know that your strengths are your invisibility and your perseverance. If you are detected you are no longer the hunter. You not only risk losing your prey, but you most likely would become the ‘hunted’ yourself!

  So, keep your distance, young wolf.

  Don’t lose your prey, and run.........RUN!!!

  The plan was to swing out in a wide semi circle and come around in front of the freighter for the attack. The freighter was cruising at a speed about one knot slower than our top speed. Considering the longer distance we had to travel by making this wide arc it took more than half the day at top speed before U-111 reached the “right” position.

      Finally, after several hours, it was time to strike!

    We were in position.

    We fired 2 torpedoes.

One made a direct hit and broke the ship apart.

    One of my buddies was sitting beside me in the sound room, a stopwatch in his hand. We had the distance and time calculated. When the 2 “eels” left the boat he pushed the release of the stopwatch. After a few seconds he lowered his headphones and whispered “now!” and an explosion shuddered our boat as if he had triggered this with his word!

    There were cheers throughout the boat. Then silence.

    For a brief moment, my buddy and I felt a sense of success and triumph.

    But then, as he looked over to me, our eyes met for a few seconds, and suddenly the cruel reality of war had touched us. We both felt sick to our stomachs as we realized what had just happened. How many men had just lost their lives. Without a word spoken he left the room.

 

Insert Silence

 

 

 

    “Baptism of fire” they call it. They also tell you that ”you will get used to it”. None of us ever did.

    Afterwards each of us was poured a couple shots of whiskey by the “old man”  to help ‘take the edge off’, but each of us would  have preferred to drink the whole bottle ourselves

  War is destruction and death. War is madness. It is left to each individual to come to peace with god.

    Pushing through boiling seas towards our newly assigned position, several mastheads suddenly became visible. We were directly in the path of a large convoy.

 

ALARM.....!!!

 

DIVE......!!! DIVE.....!!!

 

 

 

 

July 7, 1941 patrol #1 ends.

 

We are going to LORIENT!

    It was in the early morning hours of July 7, 1941, when the coastline of Brittany glimmered through a veil of fog. Listener Brittany is a region in North West France.

    It had become mid summer since we left Wilhelmshafen 9 weeks ago on our first mission.

    Slowly the grey streak of land barely visible along the horizon began to change into green, lit up by the rising sun. White houses with brightly coloured roofs, emerging all along the green coast, appeared like Christmas ornaments on a stretched out garland for our reception! A light breeze from the coast carried a perfume like scent over to us, emanating from the millions of flowers of Brittany’s meadows.

    Our sense of smell was highly aware of this sudden change! Long enough had our noses been insulted by the stench of fuel, grease, sweat and mould!

    Two minesweepers had come out to escort us into the harbour, to give us protection against air attacks, and lead us through our own minefields.

    More of the crew came up now, and their growing excitement quickly spread throughout the boat.

    U-111 slowly cruised along the beach, as if she wanted to give us ample time to relax and get used to the idea that we had survived our first patrol.

    Most of us had come up on deck now. For the people on the beach and further down at the pier, an approaching submarine obviously still created quite a sensation. While the large crowd waiting for us were wearing a variety of uniforms, our interests were focused mainly on the beachfront that was crowded with sunbathers. Mostly girls, or so we imagined, surely influenced by our wishful thinking!

    If our arrival had brought on some kind of sensation to the people on land, they would not have the slightest idea of our feelings.

    How could they know what was going on behind those grey faces with the reddish , watery eyes. They might have been vaguely able to guess our time at sea by the lengths of our beards,......but our thoughts?

      But there is one thought that I dare to mention. The highlight of any lengthy sea voyage, is the homecoming!

    Why else would the yelling of one single word have created such a joy among the crew of many a ship since the beginning of navigation. That word is “ LAND” !!!!!

 

    However , this time not only had we braved the stormy North Atlantic, the icebergs and weeklong heavy fog off Labrador, the dangers and fears of a possible malfunctioning of our diving machine, and the deadly threat of depth charges. This time one more occurrence had an effect on us: We had accomplished our mission by sinking three British ships, and therefore had contributed our part toward the defeat of the enemy, and a quicker ending to this ongoing slaughtering.

    A military band was playing the popular tunes, while some dignitaries, and several German nurses and Blitzmaedel ( female wireless operators on land stations) walked across the gangplank, to shake hands, or, with a smile, a hug, a kiss or two, and flowers, offering us a “ welcome home”.

      We began to realize that we had jumped off the “ Devil’s Shovel” .....this time.

    We were looking forward to our fortnight leave in Germany plus an additional week at Carnac on the beach!

    But now our thoughts circled more and more on a shower, or several of them in a row!! Neglected for two months, it took more than just one, to give us that clean feeling we had been longing for during those long weeks at sea. And the removal of our several inches long beards was not done with a simple shave either. First, hair clippers to get closer to the skin, then an attack with soap and razor

    Our facial features had been changed quite considerably by the length of our beards. The chinline grew lower with the growth of facial hair, making the whole head look much longer. This “enlarging” process had happened so gradually, however, that we became quite accustomed to this look, and it took several hours after our shave, before we could face each other without bursting into a roar of laughter!

    Our belongings had been shipped overland from Wilhelmshafen, and had been moved to our quarters close by the harbourside. The rooms of former French army barracks were comfortably made up, and kept clean by local girls.

    Cleanly dressed, we now had ample time to start enjoying ourselves. With our pockets loaded with money, we set out to explore what this foreign city had to offer!

    After having walked on a continually swaying floor for two months, our steps on solid ground had an embarrassing resemblance to staggering home after a night of drinking, and it took a little practice to get our “ land legs” back again!

    We were surprised at the magnitude and selection of merchandise. Wine, beer and cognac abounded, and some of the French girls had learned quickly that the German U-boot men were the highest paid of the armed forces!

    The open market in the town square was overflowing with vendors.

    Sidewalk cafes were in abundance, and continuously invited passers by with their harmonica players and beautiful petite waitresses that one could resist only for so long!

    The first day on land flew by like a short dream. Nine weeks at sea had weakened leg muscles considerably.

    Next day we would meet with the “legendary” Admiral Donitz !!

 

Our captain!

 

 

 

  July 1941 – Meeting Admiral Donitz

Pic: Part of the crew of u-111, my dad in the middle 

 

Today they would meet the admiral. 

  It was July 1941 and U-111 had completed her first patrol. They were in the port city of Lorient for 2 weeks leave. 

      For my dad and most of the crew, Admiral Donitz was like a living legend, and to meet him in person would be very special!

     This is how my dad remembered the day…….

 

    “It was announced that Admiral Donitz would be making an appearance!

    “We assembled in front of a former French administration building. A military brass band was playing. We were in uniform in the simmering heat of the shadowless square. 

     And then.....he came, followed by his staff and a group of guest officers from the Army and Airforce. 

      He shook hands with each of us! Then stepping back a few paces, he gave a short speech. All I can remember of this was his well known phrase-

     “For us U-boot men, the day has 24 hours. If this is not enough, we’ll add on the night!”

       He then paused shortly, while one of his staff stepped forward, holding an open box of medals in his hands. 

      Then Admiral Doenitz pinned the U-boot badge to our chests!

      Later in the evening this day was crowned by a delicious supper. Wearing our white gala uniforms, we were seated, disregarding rank and order.

       This is how I came to sit directly across from the Admiral!!! 

   Lieutenant Fuchs from our boat, was on my left. 

      Needless to say I was a little nervous!

  A great variety of food was served, starting with turkey. 

       Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I glanced over at the Admiral, to see how he was holding his cutlery, when he solved the problem before it even became one. 

       “Boys” he said. “Don’t forget that I am a U-boot man too”. And then, taking a turkey leg with his fingers, he continued. “ Forget about my uniform and think of me as sitting here in my underwear!”

 

      Even if he had been sitting there in his underwear as he advised us to imagine, he would have retained his dignity and our respect!  

      As the meal proceeded, wine and champagne was served continuously by a very attentive group of very attractive young French women!  

    The adjutant of Admiral Donitz sat across from Fuchs, who sat beside me. The two of them were friends from earlier years. 

     Always the prankster, I knew Fuchs was up to something, a joke of some sort. With a wink of his eye he poked his elbow into my side. Then I noticed he held this cherry pit squeezed between his fingers. I just hoped it wouldn’t accidentally squirt onto my white shirt instead of at his friend across the table. However, Fuchs had miscalculated the missile’s trajectory, and it hit the Admiral square on the chest!!

     At first the Admiral gave the appearance that he had not noticed the incident at all, but then he suddenly threw a whole cherry back onto Fuch’s gala jacket. 

   

Fuch now had a mischevious grin and was playfully holding the entire bowl of cherries in a throwing position. Donitz, suspecting Fuch’s plan, warningly waved his finger at him. 

      “Son” he said. “This you have never been taught by me”, thereby averting an upcoming “food throwing” battle. 

       The night was long, with much merriment, singing and laughter, and the champagne, wine, German beer, and cognac flowed freely as long as the demand lasted. It finally came to an end at 06:00 in the morning, beginning with a normal day of duty!

       And so ended the day, when my dad met Admiral Donitz!!!

 

July 1941 Patrol #2

After a brief visit home, my dad made his way by train, back to Lorient where U-111 was being prepared for patrol #2. I’ll let him tell it from here. 

   

“My father and little brother had given me a ride to the train station.

    Leaning out of the train window, and looking back to wave goodbye, I saw the two for what turned out to be the last time in my life. The vision is now burned into my mind. To this day, I can still see them standing there, waving..... “Farewell !, Aufwiedersehen Kurt”..

        My superstitious mind told me I shouldn’t have looked back. It was a bad omen to look back. But I did look back......to see my dad, my little brother, and the steeple of our village, slowly vanishing......forever........

 

          After a few more days in Lorient, U-111 was underway! Compared to the cold rough unfriendly waters of the North Atlantic, we began to call this patrol our “ Kraft durch Freude Reise”(strength through happiness tour). For weeks, not a single ship in sight and no planes either. Many of the off duty personnel spent their time in the “rose garden”, the rear platform of the conning tower. The surrounding railing had an outwardly slant and thanks to some friendly design engineer, bench seats had been added all around. A beautiful place for sunbathing, and, why not have a snooze at the same time! The steadily blowing light breeze made the tropical heat quite bearable...on the upper deck.

 

  However, the inside of the boat slowly developed into a sauna. Wearing shorts and sailcloth shoes only, the saltwater mixed up with sweat and oil soon created serious problems on the skin, particularly on the inside of the elbow, the hollow of the knee and around the neck. The occasional sunburn and the lack of fresh water for cleaning did not exactly improve the situation. “Rash” was the problem. Below deck, a temperature of up to 60C was not uncommon! Stifling heat and humidity. Our bodies, perspiring continuously in the effort of fending off the almost unbearable heat, put us into a state of “perma thirst”. The water distillewas working at full capacity and a breakdown would have spelled catastrophe!

    After nearly a month at sea, on September 10, our bridge watch sighted a steamer. It was not even taking the precaution of sailing in a zig zag course and cruised at close range right across our path. Obviously her lookout had not noticed us at all. She became an easy prey!...............

 

    We manoeuvred into position

 

      Tubes 1 and 2.....ready to fire!

 

      ......1 and 2.....fire!

 

      The ejection of the 2 torpedoes could be felt as a slight jolt throughout the boat.

      “Captain fired a two-spread, wants to be on the safe side”, Plaumann whispered beside me, as he leaned against the edge of the sound room doorway.

      Sooner than we expected, two explosions shook our boat. “ Did he ever get close to this one” I muttered nervously. My estimated bearing was way under 300m!

      The pounding of her engines, clearly perceivable before the explosions, was gone now. Our chief engineer had quickly flooded the front trim tanks to make up for the loss of the torpedoes weight, and periscope depth was soon restored.

      There were no other noises audible, and after a 360 sweep with the periscope, the commander made the announcement .....”Ship hit but afloat. No escort vessels in sight. Surface “

      Two direct hits!

      But the merchant vessel did not go down immediately.

      The “ Marken” as it was named, was  loaded with aircraft and a large amount of cork. Perhaps it was this that helped keep her afloat!

      Her crew had launched their lifeboats.

      U-111 closed in.

      As soon as we were within calling distance, captain Kleinschmidt took the megaphone and, using his best English, began to gather information about names and so on.

    To our horror, the spokesman of the survivors answered back in nearly perfect German!

      Did we attack one of our own?

      “ The ships name is Marken, he shouted. But don’t be concerned. It is a Dutch steamer, sailing for the British”

    We let out a collective sigh of relief!

      Captain Kleinschmidt then asked the men to come closer.

      We had no room for survivors, but we did provide them with a large amount of supplies. They were given several tins of food, cognac, chocolate, water, matches and more.

      They made it as we later learned, to the South American coast!

      As the sun began its descent below the horizon, we continued on our course, nearing the equator.”

 

      I have recently learned, that a member of another discussion group, is from the town where the survivors of the Marken came ashore. He has an article from the towns newspaper, describing the events of that day, when the survivors came ashore!

 

 

Late summer 41’ Patrol #2 contd,

 

My dad recalls the summer of 1941, as U-111 crosses the equator.

 

      “ As we sailed along the coast of Brazil, and we  approached the equator, a rumour began to spread among the ‘greenhorns’ on-board.

      We began to hear whispers of ‘hazing rituals‘ and ‘initiation rites’ and ‘Equator christening‘.

        Four or five of the crew had crossed this imaginary line earlier in their careers , and were therefore exempt from these procedures. One of them took on the role of ‘Neptune’ while the others became his ‘assistants ‘.                                                                  Over the next several days, they held secret meetings, preparing for the dark rituals of the occasion. Now and then they would drop little hints and clues of what could happen, just to feed our imagination, and let our tension and anxiety build.

        When the big day arrived, everyone off duty assembled in the forward section of the boat.

        One at a time, we were then called up to appear before ‘Neptune’ and his committee, who had established the ‘ baptistry’ on the bridge.

      Looking through the bulkhead into the control room, we could watch the newly ‘baptized’ guys sliding down from the conning tower, and staggering towards the stern of the boat. Their scared and bewildered looks didn’t contribute a great deal of encouragement and we were not permitted to get in touch with them.

      Now it was my turn!

      As I climbed up to the conning tower, I was being poked, prodded, pinched and slapped by some of ‘ Neptunes’ helpers who were hiding behind the periscope.

      Just as I reached the hatch, my head was grabbed by several hands, and with a rough pull, I was heaved onto the bridge. They suddenly let go and a swift kick from behind sent me falling forward, landing with my knees on the planks of the bridge.

      At this moment my shorts were pulled down, and a painful slap with something like a paddle on my behind, made me jump up in a hurry, and run towards the ‘ Rosengarten’, the aft section of the bridge.

    I stumbled right into the hands of ‘Neptune’.

      With a white sheet over his shoulders, and a poor excuse of a crown on his head, his roaring, mean laughter gave me the creeps. Swinging a crudely made three-pointed staff, he reminded me more of the ‘devil’ !! 

    I thought of one of the rumours, that we would be tied to a rope and pulled down one side of the boat, underneath, and back up the other, when ‘Neptune‘ roared at me.

        ‘What is this dirty S.O.B. of the northern hemisphere doing here before me, Neptune, ruler of all oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, creeks and waterholes? ‘

        I remained silent.

        ‘ Answer me! ‘ he bellowed.

        ‘ I want to be baptized, your highness’.

        I don’t think he expected that answer, as I noticed a quick grin flash over his face.

        Then he instructed his assistants.......’ clean off the rotten dirt and filth of the northern hemisphere from his stinking body’.

      I was dragged to the 2cm gun and they made me hold on to the barrel. A whack to the back of my knees forced me into a kneeling position.

      Now the ‘cleaning’ would begin with a ‘shave’.

      One of the assistants pulled an oversized brush out of a pail containing some kind of a foamy, whitish slime. He slapped it on my head, smearing the ‘soap’ all over my hair and nicely groomed beard. Another guy ‘shaved’ me with some kind of paddle-like instrument.

      I learned later the slime was a concoction made up of used oil, graphite, rotten eggs, flour and whatever else they could get their hands on , and then whipped into a foamy condition.

      After the exterior cleaning, now my insides needed to be ‘boiled out’ in ‘Neptunes’ words.

      ‘Open your mouth, or would you rather have an enema?’

      ‘Oh dear God!!’I thought to myself, and I never in my life opened my mouth faster than at that moment!

      Then one of them shoved several large lumps, similar to meatballs, into my mouth. (Those things were made out of mouldy bread and fried in old oil. )

      Then , with my mouth held open, a firehose was used and a strong jet of seawater flushed this terrible tasting ‘ cleansing material ‘ out again.

      Now Neptune spoke again.

      ‘I Neptune, ruler of all oceans, seas, lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, and waterholes, hereby certify that the dustborn Kurt Schoenthier of U-111, has been cleansed today of the mud and filth of the northern hemisphere, and is baptized under equatorial rituals, and, from now on he may sail in the waters of the Southern Hemisphere! 

        I was then handed two bottles that had been tied together like binoculars, and filled with seawater mixed with pepper.

    ‘Now look through these binoculars and tell me what you see’

    I did what I was told, and then, while covering  up my burning eyes with one hand I shouted ‘I see the equator!’ 

      ‘Wrong answer, look again!’ 

      I thought to myself ‘whatever I say , it is sure to be wrong’.  So I jumped up and in a desperate attempt to escape from those devils, I made it to the hatch and slid and crashed to the deck below, and the safety of the boat’s interior.

      This is what many did, as I learned afterward, and was accepted by ‘Neptune’ as the end of the ‘baptizing’ act.

      The sun slowly set once again, on an otherwise lazy day, but dark clouds loomed on the horizon for U-111.

 

 

 

To find out what those dark clouds contain, check out Part 2 in the next episode, 79, where you’ll hear about the sinking of U111, and of Kurt’s remarkable survival, capture and ongoing life as a prisoner of war in Canada. And there are some more family stories to go with it. And no matter how long it takes, I promise it’ll be surfacing very soon!

 

 

Meanwhile, here’s a quick PS which is a follow up on the TED Dimmock story. 

 

Im Paul Cheall et cetera