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Lord Louis Mountbatten

Mountbatten.jpg (27377 bytes)Lord Mountbatten as a Naval Officer.

Lord Mountbatten was born Louis Francis of Battenberg on June 25th, 1900. In 1917, the family changed its surname to Mountbatten.

 


At dawn on 29 November 1939, U-35 was cruising on the surface east of the Shetland Islands, 60.53N X 02.47E in the North Sea. The British Destroyer HMS ICARUS (Lt Cdr C D Maud) saw U-35 and turned to attack, with the sun rising behind her. Blinded by the sun, U-35's bridge watch failed to see HMS ICARUS approaching. Caught by surprise,  U-35 crash-dived and went deep - to 229 feet - and steered evasive courses. But HMS ICARUS got her on sonar and dropped depth charges set for 250 feet. Two other destroyers, HMS KINGSTON (Lt Cdr P Somerville) and HMS KASHMIR (Lt Cdr H A King), responded to HMS ICARUS's alert; all were under the direction of Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten aboard the HMS KELLY. Directed by HMS ICARUS to the likely spot, HMS KINGSTON made two depth-charge attacks, which jammed the diving planes of U-35 and put her at a sharp up angle. In an attempt to bring the bow down and regain control of the boat, all available men were rushed to the forward torpedo room. U-35 was put on full speed, but in vain. The depth charges had also ruptured fuel and ballast tanks aft and no amount of weight forward could level the boat. Believing the boat to be doomed, Werner Lott ordered all ballast tanks blown, resulting in an agonizingly slow rise to the surface. Upon surfacing, the deck gun was manned with the intention to shoot it out, but when three destroyers were seen close by and when one of them, HMS KASHMIR, fired at U-35, Werner Lott gave up and ordered the boat scuttled. As U-35 slowly flooded and settled, the gun crew raised their arms in surrender. There was a mad scramble overboard by the crew into the slimy, choppy and terribly cold water. HMS KASHMIR fished several officers and twenty-seven men from the icy water.
HMS KINGSTON picked up Werner Lott and eleven others, who were the last to leave the boat. The entire crew of 43 survived.[4,5,6,19]

(For more details on the scuttling of U-35 and the rescue of its crew, see the war page.)

The entire crew of U-35 was taken to the Tower of London, arriving there on 03 December 1939. Placed immediately in his own, very cold cell, Werner Lott, commander of U-35, said he would go on a hunger strike until he was seen by an officer. On the second day, Werner Lott was visited by Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, commander of the destroyer flotilla which had sunk U-35. Part of their conversation, as remembered by both men:

Werner Lott: "I should like to thank you for the way that we were treated onboard the KINGSTON and KASHMIR after the whole of my ship's company was captured by them. We could not have been more correctly treated and Lieutenant Commander Somerville even let me have a cabin of an officer on leave. Finding he was unmarried I obtained the name and address of his mother so that I could see she was properly looked after."
Lord Mountbatten: "She is a free woman living in a free country. You are a prisoner-of-war in our hands. I don’t see what you can do to help her?"
Werner Lott: "Not now but next Summer when we invade England and take over. Then I would like to make sure that she is well treated by the occupying forces."
Lord Mountbatten: "I am afraid you don’t understand what is going to happen in this war; yet you should as you are a naval officer. In the 1914/18 war your army was victorious everywhere but the Royal Navy blockaded you to the point of starvation, surrender and revolution. In this war your army will unquestionably be victorious in Europe when they come to over- run France next year but you still have got to cross the sea to invade England. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will prevent that. You will find the Germans confined to a conquered continent without having conquered the United Kingdom. Then in due course Hitler will make the same mistake that the Kaiser made which will involve the United States of America coming into the war on our side. When that happens it will be we who will invade the continent and defeat Hitler on land. That will be the end of the war with victory for us and defeat for you. I think therefore you had better start learning English and preparing yourself for the difficult times you will find in Germany after your release."

Lord Mountbatten arranged for him to be seen by the military commandant and soon afterwards Werner Lott was moved to new quarters, where he accepted an offered meal, honour now satisfied. The Admiralty sent apologies, via Lord Mountbatten, for the way that Werner Lott had been treated and offered as recompense a 'splendid' meal - an invitation for Werner Lott to dine at Scott's Restaurant. Werner Lott accepted on the condition that his second-in-command, Heinz Erchen, could accompany him. The two Germans, under promise not to attempt to escape, were given parole for the evening. Dressed in civilian clothes, they were escorted across the drawbridge to a waiting Admiralty limousine. After a very convivial dinner with two British naval officers (one being Commander Halahan), whom both had known in Gibraltar in 1938, the Germans returned to the Tower. [5,17,39]

The crewmembers of U-35 were transported to Canadian POW camps beginning in June 1940, and transported back to British POW camps after the war. 

In 1946, Gerhard Stamer began to correspond with Lord Mountbatten [39].

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, December 1st, 1946 (Content: Christmas and New Year's greetings, and a brief summary of the POW history) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 11th January, 1947, through his Naval superior, Rear Admiral Robert Mansergh (Content: Greetings)

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, February 24th, 1947 (Content: Discussion of connections to India) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 31 March 1947 (letter is missing, but a cover letter sent to Commander(S)C.H. Dunlop, R.N. by Lord Mountbatten's assistant requests the letter to be forwarded)

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, May 2nd, 1947 (Content: notification of imminent release as POW, thanks for letter, which had a significant impact on his screening by Lieutenant Edelstone)

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, July 14th, 1954 (Content: Comments on seeing a film of the Royal Tour, remembering his cruise on the Köln in 1932-1933) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 31st July, 1954 (mentions Lieutenant Kirkby of HMS KINGSTON).

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, December 2nd, 1956 (Content: Christmas greetings, Mountbatten's tour of West Germany, release of Dönitz and Raeder from Spandau, plans to visit England) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 14 December 1956 (reciprocation of greetings, invitation to visit)

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, 15 December 1957 (Content: Christmas and New Year's greetings, notification that visit to England fell through, explanation of offer by Bundesmarine for re-employment as full Commander, declined since it would have necessitated breaking all ties to his brother's family in East Germany) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 20 December 1957 (Christmas greetings, sympathies for being unable to accept offer of employment from Bundesmarine, whom Lord Mountbatten had contacted on Stamer's behalf)

 

Correspondences between Gerhard Stamer and Lord Mountbatten seem to be missing, since Gerhard Stamer visited Lord Mountbatten in London in 1959.

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, 23 July 1969 (Content: Lord Mountbatten's visit to Germany, 30th anniversary of Lord Mountbatten's visit of the U-35 crew in the Tower of London, 10th anniversary of Stamer's visit in London at Lord Mountbatten's invitation, planned visit by Reverend Herbert)

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, 24 April 1974 (Content: Visit to the site of the Battle of Solferino, in which Lord Mountbatten's grandfather played a role as a General in the Austrian Army, note of Henry Dunant's founding of the International Red Cross, mention of upcoming U-35 reunion) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 03 May 1974 (acknowledgement of Solferino brochure which will be added to his grandfather's archives, invitation to make contact during Lord Mountbatten's upcoming visit to Germany, note of HMS KELLY reunion which the Price of Wales will attend).


CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, 17 June 1974 (Content: birthday greetings from the crew of U-35; thanks for the meeting in Germany; Lord Mountbatten's wish to receive recollections has been forwarded to Werner Lott and Heinz Erchen, noting their dinner at Scott's Restaurant as POWs, escorted by Commander Halahan, RN; inclusion of photos from "Die Wehrmacht", 25 October 1939) Also included were the reminiscences of Gerhard Stamer (Sinking of U-35 by HMS KINGSTON, HMS KASHMIR and HMS ICARUS, during Naval operations involving the German battleships GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST; rescue of entire crew; exceptional treatment, especially by Lieutenant Scatchard; Stamer's entry into HMS KASHMIR logbook was second, noting the first was that of the King; transfer to the Tower of London; visit by Lord Mountbatten and discussions of opposing outlooks on outcome of war; transfer to Canada in 1940 and back to England in 1946; unsuccessful screening by Lieutenant Edelstone, who had been treated poorly in Germany; positive effect of Lord Mountbatten's letter; post-war employment by German subsidiary of British Petroleum; lunch with Mountbattens at Wilton Crescent in August 1959; discussion of Battle of Solferino).
Lord Mountbatten's reply on 1 July 1974 (thanks for the birthday greetings and reminiscences, to be placed in his archives; on board HMS KINGSTONWerner Lott noted the name and address of Lieutenant Commander Somerville's mother so that she could be properly looked after when Hitler invaded England; in the Tower of London, discussion with Werner Lott of Mountbatten's view of the outcome of the war).


CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Werner Lott to Lord Mountbatten on July 10, 1974 (Content: reminiscences of Tower of London and advice from Somerville in 1939, visit to Kenya and Halahan residence in 1963; later visit to London and Scott's Restaurant and Tower of London) to which Lord Mountbatten replied, with copy to Gerhard Stamer, on 25 July 1974 (reminiscences of conversation in Tower of London in 1939; mention of role in planning invasion of Normandy; request to confirm identity of Commander Halahan; request for description of treatment on board KINGSTON and KASHMIR, as well as in Tower of London after visit)

CLICK TO VIEW  Werner Lott replied to Lord Mountbatten on 9 September 1974 (Content: Confirmation of conversation in Tower of London with minor correction and addition; mention of travel to Canada to visit former U-35 crewmates; purchased Mountbatten biography; reminiscences of pre-war maneuvers for Hitler, Raeder and Dönitz, followed by lunch on board the Aviso Grille at which Lott posed an interesting question to Raeder; mention of extraordinarily good treatment on board KINGSTON and KASHMIR; train trip to London during which Stamer arranged for a bottle of beer to celebrate Lott's birthday, Scottish guards sang "Happy Birthday"; post-war experiences of Captain Halahan) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 18 Sep 1974 (interest in hearing account of meeting Hitler before the war, and about Halahan after the war; letter will be placed in archives)

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, June 1975 (Content: 75th Birthday greetings from the U-35 crew; inclusion of card from 1900) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 18 July 1975 (thanks for birthday wishes and card from 1900; completion of U-35 file for Royal Submarine Museum)

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, June 1977 (Contents: Reunion of U-35 crew; plans to visit England; 77th birthday wishes) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 29 June 1977 (thanks for birthday wishes; cannot meet during visit to England)

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, August 1977 (Contents: Historical connection between Hessen and the Mountbatten family; copy of Mountbatten family photos shown in Germany; visit to Polesden Lacey while in England) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 06 September 1977 (thanks for photos; Polesden Lacey significance; U-35 file sent to Royal Submarine Museum)

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, September 1977 (Story related to U-35: As cadet on the cruiser Köln in 1933, on which Werner Lott was also present, met Miss Lucile Douglas-Steffens in Australia at the Fraser family home; she came to Germany in 1939; sent letter to her through an officer on the Diamantis; she saved newspaper clippings of the Diamantis incident; met her again after the war; she married the author John Moore; special request to send congratulations to Werner Lott on his 70th birthday) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 30 September 1977 (thanks for the newspaper clippings, noting the generous and brave behavior of U-35 during the Diamantis incident; will add these documents to the U-35 at the Royal Submarine Museum; includes letter of birthday congratulations to Werner Lott (see below)).

 

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Lord Mountbatten to Werner Lott, 1977 (Contents: Congratulations on 70th birthday; note of bottle of beer provided by guards on train in December 1939 to celebrate birthday; belated congratulations on magnanimous behavior during the DIAMANTIS incident) to which Werner Lott replied on 19 Dec 1977 (thanks for the birthday wishes; note that the German version of the DIAMANTIS incident is considerably different from the newspaper clippings, which reflect the Greek captain's version; note that Commander Somerville had to lower a cutter to rescue me since my fingers were too stiff to hold a rope)


CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, December 1977 (Contents: Christmas greetings; your letter made Werner Lott very happy; we gave him a special porcelain vase with the crew names inscribed; one of crew is a master at Rosenthal) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 22 December 1977 (Happy to hear that birthday wishes were well received; Captain and curator of Royal Submarine Museum are most grateful for U-35 file)

CLICK TO VIEW Letter from Gerhard Stamer to Lord Mountbatten, beginning of June 1978 (Contents: recent U-35 reunion in Wilhelmshaven, which for many was the first visit to the city since the departure on the last war patrol in November 1939; visited grave of Richard Friedrich Lüneburg; English sailor was invited but was unable to attend - he provided a copy of a sketch of U-35 drawn by Heinz Pfeifer and given to a crewmember of HMS KINGSTON; visited the frigate Lübeck on which nephew Michael Kempf serves; visit to England will probably not include a stop at the Royal Submarine Museum; 78th birthday wishes; P.S. was able to visit Royal Submarine Museum after all) to which Lord Mountbatten replied on 23 June 1978 (thanks for birthday wishes; glad to hear of visit to Royal Submarine Museum; plans to move the museum alongside the submarine ALLIANCE; thanks for copy of sketch drawn by Heinz Pfeifer)

SUMMARY written by Captain (D)5 - then Lord Louis Mountbatten for the Royal Submarine Museum at Gosport:

On 8th December 1939 after the KELLY had been mined in the Humber I reported to the Admiralty and took the opportunity of visiting the C.O., Officers and Ship’s Company of the German submarine "U.35" which had been sunk by two of my Flotilla, KASHMIR and KINGSTON in the North Sea on 28th November 1939.

They were, I believe, our first prisoners-of-war and were confined in the Tower of London, guarded by a Detachment of the Scots Guards in rather deplorable conditions.

I was taken round, in the dark, somewhat dramatically by a Guardsman carrying a candle lantern, a Sergeant and a young Officer. I visited each of the "calls" in turn and spoke briefly to the officers and men in German. I asked for the Captain and was told he was in solitary confinement in the old Dungeons (I believe) and insisted on being conducted to his cell. There was no furniture except one decrepit old bedstead on which we both sat talking for sometime. I invited the officer and later his C.O. to remain present, though he understood no German, and the Captain, Lieutenant Commander Werner Lott, spoke no English at that time.

Lott confirms in his letter to me of 9th September 1974 the conversation I had quoted in my letter to him of 25th July 1974. I am glad of this otherwise my forecast of the way the war would be won by us might be thought to have been re-written with hind sight.

I have made translations of Stamer’s German letter and Reminiscences and have put them together with Lott’s and my letters in a file which I promised to prepare for the Submarine Museum of H.M.S. DOLPHIN at Fort Blockhouse.

Incidentally, Lott refers in the 2nd paragraph of his letter of 9th September 1974 to my telling him of a visit to Germany in general, and to Laboe in particular, which I had paid shortly before the war.

I have looked this up in my Diary and cannot find a reference to LABOE but I did visit the new Petty Officers’ Training School at Plön on the 6th August, 1938.

I made a report on this visit and followed it up with a personal visit to the Second Sea Lord urging we should introduce a Petty Officers’ Training School ourselves. This was set up at Corsham in Wiltshire shortly after the war "H.M.S. ROYAL ARTHUR".        

[note: correct date of U-35 sinking is 29 November 1939; crew of U-35 were not the first POWs - that distinction belongs to crew of U 39]


Epilogue: Lord Mountbatten was assassinated in 1979.

 

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