Message Board

June 5, 2021

My father was on the Duke of York when it was engaged with the Scharnhorst. He sadly passed away 2009. I have a copy of the signatures of the survivors. I would be interested in in contacting relatives of the survivors. My father was keen to do this but unfortunately never did. He met survivors whilst on the Duke of York and was very moved by their plight. He was also very impressed with the lack of snobbery in the German navy compared to that of the British.

Darren Sussex

Jan. 16, 2021

I worked with Helmut Boekoff (later Harry), one of the survivors of the sinking, when he became Head Chef at the Great Western Hotel in Reading in the late 50's. He stayed in England on his release and lived in Berkshire for the rest of his life. I wonder if he has any family living in this country or Germany.

Bev Puxley

Reply 1
Jan. 18, 2021

Helmut Boekhoff worked as head chef at Port Stanley airport in the Falkland Islands. He worked and roomed with Mick Shircore 1985/1986 who spoke highly of him.

Lance Shippey

Reply 2
June 28, 2021

Came across your message board, and saw Bev Puxley's comment wondering about Helmut's family. I am Helmut Boekhoff's great granddaughter, with his son being my grandad's father on my mother's side. We don't know much about the rest of the family, but we are based in Manchester now, our family moved out of reading in the 1990s and we have been here since.

Kind regards,
Taelor Parry

Nov. 13, 2020

I am writing a book about my grandfather, John Merrikin, who was on the HMS Acasta the ship that hit the Scharnhorst when they sunk all three British ships 1940. I would like some stories about their family who served on Scharnhorst and the Genisenau. It's been hard writing this book, but it was war 80 years ago and I have forgiven the men on the Scharnhorst for killing Grandad and I forgive them and know that families of them are upset if their relative was killed . But it's a good way to do something positive especially at this point of time forgive forge friendships and talk about what happened in a positive way. I would also like any info about the 8th June as possible if they had any prisoners of war.

God bless,
Elaine Waterfield

May 12, 2019

My Father is the John Merkle written about so many times regarding the German Scharnhorst sinking. Although he has past, I remember vivid stories he told of his life, the German Navy, his POW experience including his escape. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Linda "Merkle" Tocci
Daughter of John Merkle

Dec. 3, 2018

I recently received interesting information regarding Battleship Scharnhorst, in answer to a question l submitted on a German forum. It refers to a survivor of "Scharnhorst" Wilhelm Kruse. In the estate of Juergen Richter [Deceased] is a fragment of correspondence between Juergen Richter and Wilhelm Kruse, survivor of Scharnhorst, dated Summer 1951. Regarding the time he spent on board, and the time as POW. 

"Before Scharnhorst. On board Tirpitz [1943] as staff of the BdK. [Board Commander] Long time there, Involved in Spitzbergen, also X-Craft attack on 22nd Sep 1943.
25.12.1943. Staff, and Understaff [Junior Staff] with Rear Admiral  Bey changed over from Tirpitz to Sharnhorst on board destroyer Z-31 [?] Total 51. [11x Officers, 30x Under officers [Junior officers] 6x Sailors, 4x Superior staff [NCO]

26.12.1943 In the 1st battle, early hit on the battle mast Duke of York brought "Indescribable devastation" on deck. Vital facilities  were less damaged. Light and medium flack, aircraft hanger  burning, Afternoon battle, Aircraft destroyed, No start because of sea swell. Turret Anton flew into the air. Turrets Bruno and Caesar hit. Before 1st torpedo hit, speed was 31kts. After hit speed to to 29kts. Of the crew of 2050, there were a lot of Cadets doing there apprenticeships  [ Wilhelm Kruse, the only survivor from the battle mast, that did not jump. but stayed at his station until he lay in the water. 

26.12.1043  19.40hrs. Scharnhorst sank 60 nm north of North Cape. Rescued were 4x Junior Officers, and 32 x crew. Wilhelm Kruse is the only member of the Commanders staff to be rescued. He was  picked up by HMS Scorpion.

27.12.1943. Arrived in Murmansk and transferred to "Duke of York". 28.12.1943. Sailed to Scapa Flow.

01.01.1944. Arrival at Scapa Flow Treated like "Knights", Good Food, Good Clothes, and No Thefts.

01.01.1943  Transferred to "Iron Duke" for one nights stay.

02.01.1943 All prisoners to Camp 1 London. Food and accommodation good Interrogation, "Unbelievably bad, sometimes horrible. All prisoners sent to Canada, and USA.

12.11.1944. An interpreter with a cotton farmer on the Mississippi, who had interest in the German Navy, brought the news at his breakfast talk, about the Loss of the Tirpitz.

00.00.1947. Going home during this year."

There were 35,046 POW's in Canada, 6,000 of them wanted to remain in Canada after the war, however, they would return to Great Britain, to work for a short term. on Farms, Brick Works, or Camps. This period was also considered at "Re-education" before being sent back to their homeland. Some of the POW's having come from the Eastern states of Germany, now occupied by the Soviets, showed reluctance to having to return there.

Survivors from Scharnorst would, it would appear have passed away. Some details are;
Johann Kastenholz, born 18.03.1917 Eifel, died 00.00.1993 Eifel.
Wilhelm Goedde, born 10.12.1910 Osnabruck, died 13.12.1995 Osnabruck.
Helmut Boekhoff born 06.04.1924, died 00-00-1997 Berkshire, G.B.
Johann Merkle born 04.10.1923 Yugoslavia, died 00.00.2000 Florida USA
Wilhelm Ahlsen born 27.22.1923 Duisberg, died 00.00.2012 Duisberg
Horst Zaubitzer born 02.04.1924, died 00.00.2017 Cologne.

Whilst being under interrogation by C.S.D.I.C.  [MI 19] at Larimer House, prisoners were usually sharing a cell of two Johann Kastenholz shared for a time with Wilhelm Goedde. both were "Acting petty officers" Kastenholz was also with Wilhelm Kruse for a while, Kruse was "Navigator yeoman" and on Bey's staff. Theses three men were the highest ranks of those  rescued. The cells were bugged, and the more information MI 19 thought they could collect, usually the longer the time at Latimer House.  Canadian Camps were becoming full, so, because of the USA needing help with harvesting cotton, and on lumber farms, the POW's were to be sent to the USA.  Many to the Mississippi basin.

Lance Shippey

Reply 1
Feb. 12, 2019

First off thank you guys for all the hard work. My question is about a William Kruse. I am a distant family member. I was wondering if you know what POW camps in Canada and USA he might have been in. Also looking for a photo of him in uniform. My dad and one of my uncles told me about him. (Both have passed). But no real details. So I'm working on finding out the info myself.

Thank you again,
Donald Kruse

July 21, 2017

Since doing further research on my Father's history as Royal Marine on-board  HMS Duke of York [Frank Shippey] during the sinking of battleship Scharnhorst. l have been in receipt of letters from the families of two of the survivors. One in the U.S.A., and the other in Germany. Concerning answers to my questions on the events after the sinking of the Scharnhorst. It would appear that all survivors have now passed away, however a diary was kept by one of the survivors, giving a very interesting timeline.

27.12.43 Arrived in Murmansk.
28.12.43 10.00hrs Disembarkation
01.01.44 11.00hrs Arrived in Scapa Flow
02.02.44 Disembarkation Kirkwall-Wick
03.01.44 Arrived London "Camp 1"
06.01.44 P.O.W. Camp "London district"
12.01.44 Stammlager 9 Stalag camp "7" Winter quarters camp Ascot Windsor
01.02.44 12.30hrs Departed for Glasgow, Greenock, Scotland
02.02.44 Boarded S.S. isle de France
05.02.44 00.05hrs Departed Greenock
12.02.44 16.30hrs Arrived Halifax Canada
12,02.44 22.00hrs Deptarted via Montreal /Smith Falls/Renfrew
14.02.44 13.00hrs Arrived Petanawa P.O.W. camp 130 Kms NNW of Ottawa
11.10.44 Start logging and tree felling at GILLICH P.O.W. Camp
14.03.45 Continued logging until this date
06.03.46 13.00hrs Patanawa Camp closes. via Chalk river to Halifax
08.03.46 05.00hrs Boarded S.S. Aquitania sailed at 07.00hrs
13.03.46 17.00hrs Arrived at Southampton
14.03.46 04.30hrs Disembarkation 04.30hrs to camp "183" Quondon, Leics
23.03.46 Worked in Factory
27.03.46 Ended work in Factory
19.03.46 Sent to base camp "Kings Cliffe" nr Peterborough, worked as mechanic at camp "702" RAF Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire
12.09.46 Training course for vulcanising in tyre company
16.09.46 Moved to RAF Hixon, nr. Stafford, worked in Motor Transport unit
20.08.47 Departed for camp "175" Flaxley Green, Rugeley
26.08,47 Departed for Scotland Car to Dundee, Nr63 Balhery estate camp
11.10.47 departed for Happendon camp Douglas, Lanarkshire
16.10.47 moved to camp "19" a pre release camp
22.10.47 Moved to camp "4" Scraptoft, Thornby, Leicestershire
07.11.47 06.00hrs to Harwich to board ship to Hook of Holland
08.11.47 On way Home

This diary was kept by one of the 8 survivors sent to Canada as P.O.W.'s 27 survivors were sent to the U.S.A. and 1 survivor swapped via the Red Cross. All the survivors were interrogated at Latimer House, near Amersham. My father FRANK SHIPPEY  was tasked with escorting the survivors from the HMS Duke of York to London, Where he was asked by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, what the survivors had been given to eat, during their time on-board the Duke of York.

l would like to hear from anyone who may have had a relative on-board the Duke of York. also tasked with escorting the survivors, who may be able to throw some light of the meeting of my father with the Prime Minister.

Naval Historian, and author Derek Nudd, has been compiling information, soon to published in book "Castaways of the Kriegesmarine" about some of the interrogations of the survivors at Latimer House. Derek's grandfather was head of naval intelligence at Latimer House. He has also been kind enough to assist in trying to shed some light of my fathers meeting, but as yet, l am still in the dark.

There were 8 survivors sent to Canada as PoW's, 7 of them were: Gunther Bohle, Wilhelm Goedde, Hans Trzebiatowski, Gunther Lorke, Johann Wiest, Johann Merkle and Horst Zaubitzer. I Would be interested to know the 8th.

Lance Shippey

Jan. 4, 2013

Chief Engineering Officer Otto König (DKM Scharnhorst 26.12.1943) was my grandfather. His daughter, Elena Dorothea König Willow is my mother. Is there anything more that you could tell me about him (the man), and the final battle?

Mark Allan Willow
Reno, Nevada (U.S.A.)

Otto König seen on his wedding day.

Otto König and his wife.

Otto König and his children, Michael and Elena.

Otto Friedrich August König.

Mar. 2, 2011

Chief Engineering Officer Otto König (DKM Scharnhorst 26.12.1943). He was a wonderful engineer and was valid in the battle wonderfully.

Thank you,
Zoltan Csorba

Apr. 15, 2009

My father served on the Scharnhorst from aprox 1940-43 and was transferred about three weeks before it was sunk. I have been scouring the net to find a crew list with his name on it, but without success. I was wondering if you might be able to suggest a website that might this information. 

With thanks,
Heinz Roedder

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