Sailor whose grandads fought at sea during war...one for Britain, the other for Germany
A ROYAL Navy recruit was inspired to sign up after learning about his two grandfathers who fought in the Second World War – on opposite sides.
Ben Hoffmeister, 23, is continuing a family tradition, more than 75 years after one grandparent fought for the Allies and the other for the Nazis.
Ernest Hoffmeister had served in the Royal Navy in the Atlantic and Arctic, determined to keep the UK’s sea lanes open.
At the same time, Ben’s maternal grandpa Erwin Menzel was crewing a German U-boat determined to sink Allied ships.
Both fought in the bitter Battle of the Atlantic, which finally ended in 1945.
Sub Lieutenant Ben this week sets sail aboard new patrol ship HMS Trent.
Ben, of Oxford, said: “They got on incredibly well when they eventually met.
“It seemed 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 take away from their story.”
Ernest died when Ben was just 10.
The young sailor said: “One of the few stories I remember him talking about was having to climb up the mainmast during the convoys to chip off ice that had accumulated and risked capsizing the vessel.”
As for grandad Erwin, Ben said he was “instrumental in raising my interest to join the Navy”.
The submariner was awarded the coveted Iron Cross for his wartime heroics, but was later taken prisoner before he emigrated to Britain where he settled down.
Ben added: “By the time he died, when
I was 17, I
had already decided I was going to join the Royal Navy.”
It is unlikely, given where their vessels served and when, that the grandfathers faced each other in the Atlantic or Arctic.
But Ben said his parents were still nervous when the two men met for the first time.
Fittingly, Ben will now serve on a ship that is set to work alongside the German Navy during Nato duties.
Lieutenant Commander David Webber said: “It’s an interesting story of how far Europe has come, with Ben now serving in the Navy on a ship that will work alongside the Deutsche Marine.”