A Royal Navy officer sets sail, inspired by the wartime actions of his grandfathers who served on either side during World War II.
Second Lieutenant Ben Hoffmeister, 23, from Oxford, is following in the footsteps of the two men in the pursuit of a life at sea. He will be on board the new patrol vessel HMS Trent, which will depart for the Mediterranean next week.
Hoffmeister’s grandfathers fought on both sides in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Ernest Hoffmeister served in the Atlantic and Arctic, determined to keep the UK’s shipping routes open, while Second Lieutenant Hoffmeister’s maternal grandfather, Erwin Menzel, manned a U-boat determined to save Britain’s lifelines. strangle.
Lieutenant Ben Hoffmeister’s grandfathers, Ernest Hoffmeister (photo left) and Erwin Menzel (right) fought on both sides of the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II
Hoffmeister (pictured above, in a handout photo released by the Royal Navy), 23, from Oxford, will be on board the new patrol vessel HMS Trent departing for the Mediterranean next week
After completing mechanical engineering training, Mr. Menzel was assigned to U-963 and completed 10 patrols from bases in Norway and France in the last two years of the war.
This included a failed attempt to attack the Normandy Invasion in June 1944.
Although a stoker, Mr. Menzel manned one of the submarine’s anti-aircraft guns and was awarded the coveted Iron Cross for his part in an action against an RAF Liberator bomber – often the scourge of U-boats.
The submarine was finally sunk off the village of Nazare in Portugal 12 days after VE Day and Mr. Menzel was captured with his shipmates.
A handout photo issued by the Royal Navy of U-963 arriving in Portugal. Assigned to U-963, Menzel flew on 10 patrols from bases in Norway and France in the last two years of the war.
An HMT King Sol on the Mersey. Mr. Hoffmeister was assigned to the Royal Naval Patrol Service after completing his training as a coder, serving with a converted trawler, HMT King Sol, in the Atlantic and Arctic.
‘If we had lost, there would have been no D-Day’: Battle of the Atlantic ‘fundamental’ to the outcome of World War II, historian says
The Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic, according to one historian, was “fundamental” to the outcome of World War II.
Speaking of how important the battle was, Jonathan Dimbleby, who wrote Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War, said, History Extra: ‘It was fundamental.
The Atlantic Ocean was the route by which all the springs came to Britain, without which the land would have collapsed.
If we had lost the battle, we wouldn’t have had enough weapons – nor the industrial capacity to make weapons – and US forces wouldn’t have been able to cross before D-Day.
“In fact, there wouldn’t have been D-Day.”
Winston Churchill described the Battle of the Atlantic as “the dominating factor throughout the war,” as control of the Atlantic shipping lanes was central to the British war effort.
Germany’s naval blockade began the day after war was declared in September 1939 and did not officially end until VE Day in May 1945, after 35,000 Allied troops were killed in battle.
It saw the Royal Navy and the RAF, allied with American forces, fight against German U-boats and the Luftwaffe for supplies and materials to reach Britain.
The fighting culminated in the spring of 1943, when the Allies gained the upper hand thanks to new technology such as radar and farther range aircraft.
He then emigrated to Great Britain, where he settled.
Paternal grandfather of Second Lieutenant Hoffmeister, Mr. Hoffmeister, was assigned to the Royal Naval Patrol Service after completing his coder training, serving with a converted trawler, HMT King Sol, in the Atlantic and Arctic before being transferred to a destroyer in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). ) when the war against Japan reached its peak.
He died when Lieutenant Hoffmeister was only 10 – with the future officer too young to ask the questions he wanted about the war.
Lieutenant Hoffmeister said, “One of the few stories I remember talking about was that during the convoys I had to climb the main mast to cut off the accumulated ice and threaten to capsize the ship.”
As for Grandpa Erwin, he was, says Lieutenant Hoffmeister, “helpful in piquing my interest in joining the Navy.”
He added, “By the time he died, when I was 17, I had already decided that I would join the Royal Navy.”
Considering where their ships served and when, it is unlikely that his grandfathers faced each other in the Atlantic or North Pole, but his parents were nonetheless somewhat nervous when they first met.
“They got along incredibly well when they eventually met,” he says.
It seemed that the shared experience of the Battle of the Atlantic was more important to them than which side of the war they had fought it on.
“That legacy is perhaps the most important aspect to get from their story.”
And that post-war friendship will be reflected in Trent’s commitment as she works side by side with the German navy on NATO duties in Operation Sea Guardian, the Alliance’s counterterrorism mission in the Mediterranean.
Lieutenant Commander David Webber, in charge of Trent’s maritime engineering department, said: ‘It’s an interesting story from the perspective of how far Europe has come, with Ben now serving in the Royal Navy on a ship that will work alongside the modern Deutsche Marine.
“His family history closely follows the human impact of 20th century Europe’s history: World War II, the division of Europe in the Cold War, reunification and cooperation.”
Menzel, pictured above, manned one of the submarine’s anti-aircraft guns and was awarded the coveted Iron Cross for his part in an action against an RAF Liberator bomber
Hoffmeister, following in the footsteps of his two grandfathers in the pursuit of a life at sea, will sail aboard HMS Trent, pictured above