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My friend Paul Karl Mengelberg

Paul Karl served in the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) during World War II

He was onboard U-26 when captured by HMS Rochester on 1 July 1940

He spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp in Ontario

He returned to Canada after the war

He was an active Ham Radio Operator under call sign VE3IKS


I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Mengelberg in 1998 at a meeting of the Submariners Association of Canada in Ottawa. Paul and I were both former submariners and members of the association. Paul was also a Ham Radio Operator, a hobby which we both shared. Paul operated under call sign VE3IKS.


Paul served as a submariner in the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) before and during the Second World War. He was onboard U-26 when it was captured by HMS Rochester off the coast of Ireland on 1 July 1940. Paul spent the rest of the war at a prisoner-of-war camp in Ontario, Canada.


It was so captivating to listen to Paul when he talked about his adventures. We also had long discussions about the Enigma Cipher machine used by the Germans during WWII. Especially fascinating were the many attempts by the British to break the Enigma machine used by the German Navy. Unlike the Enigma machine used by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), the Enigma machine used by the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) generally withstood British codebreaking for the first two years of the war. It was not until the British captured key documents from German warships that they were able to break the naval Enigma continuously.


I used a similar crypto machine in the late 60s while serving in submarines of the Royal Canadian Navy. It was called the KL-7 and it was a descendant of the German Enigma. I spent many hours on the KL-7 manually decoding 5-letter groups into plain language text, or the reverse. It was an arduous task when compared to on-line real-time crypto equipment beginning to be used in the 1960s.


I received a special gift in July 2001 from Paul. He gave me a copy of the book by David Kahn titled: "SEIZING THE ENIGMA - The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes 1939-1943". The book is autographed by Paul and has a special place in my library.


A new movie was recently released, called "THE IMITATION GAME", which tells the story during World War II of mathematician Alan Turing trying to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians. I wish Paul was still with us so we could watch the movie together.


Paul passed away in October 2013. He will be missed. Farewell Paul. Rest in peace.


Scroll down this page to see photos of Paul as a Kriegsmariner in the 1930s and to read about the capture of U-26, in Paul's own words. Scroll down to the bottom of the page if you want to see his obituary.


Donald Courcy, VE1CG

15 January 2015


The Capture of U-26

by Paul Mengelberg


This is the story of a German U-Boat submariner who was taken prisoner of war off the coast of Ireland during World War II. Paul Mengelberg joined the crew of U-26 in the mid-1930s. Paul describes the dramatic capture of U-26 by a British destroyer in the summer of 1940.


U-Boats were German submarines. They played a vital role in the German war effort. The German navy was known as the Kriegsmarine. This picture on the left shows U-26 at Bremen, Germany, before the war. It was captured on 1 July 1940 off the coast of Ireland by HMS Rochester. The crew of U-26 were interrogated and then taken Prisoners of War. Their POW camp was at Duff House, Banff.



Paul Mengelberg was born in Koln, or Cologne, in 1916. Paul joined the German Kriegsmarine when he was seventeen years old. After being taken prisoner into Duff House he was moved to England and then Canada. After the war Paul returned to Germany, but only briefly. He went back to Canada to work as an electrical and mechanical engineer. He settled down in Ontario.


The capture of U-26
“ I was taken prisoner in 1940, July 1st. We were picked up by HMS Rochester. We were hunted for almost six hours, and we were [at a depth of] almost two hundred and thirty metres. We had water in the stern. The boat was lain in the water silent, completely silent. The lights were out, just emergency lights on. It was really eerie inside. We knew that the destroyer was waiting up there, and he was playing the same game. Absolute silent. You couldn’t hear a thing.”

After six hours the U-Boat was forced to the surface and boarded. Paul and the crew were interrogated in London.

“ From the interrogation we were shipped up to Scotland, to Banff, into Duff House. [It] had a wire fence all around it. Everything was green, like grass pastures and so on. A wonderful location. There was one big wire fence. I would say it was eight feet high, ja. And it had guards patrolling outside. They were all Scots from the Scottish regiments. We had a sergeant major there and we called him the ‘neck shooter’. He was a real ram-rod in a way, with a strong neck like a wrestler has. And he looked after us.”

The prisoners enter Duff House

“We used the staircases, when [we] got in the building, on the left hand side. They were not direct but the spiral type, you know? You go up then there’s a little landing, you go up again then there’s a little landing, and you go up again, ja. On the left hand side, way up on top, there are two small windows. That was where we were. There were some fellows from Norway, and in the next room there was a lazarette, a sick bay.


Food and drink for the prisoners

“In the morning we had one slice of bread and jam, you know, in the typical army tin plates. [The] jam was watered down so what we had to – I mean, only pigs eat like this but we did – [was to put] a little bit of jam on the plate. And all we did was put a slice of bread down on one side and then turn it over to the other side, and then try to get everything out with a spoon. So that was our breakfast. And tea, tea galore.

The bombing of Duff House - July 22, 1940
“In the morning at nine o’clock the klaxon went. We were all lined up outside. We heard an aircraft and he came pretty low. He must have been coming out from Norway or somewhere [like that]. Before we witnessed that it was over, the bombs fell. Two went into the elevetor shaft as duds, they never blew up. But two guards outside, they were killed through the bombs.

“There was a fellow by the name of Hans Houk. He had his back to the window when the bombs blew up outside. And he got all the glass into his back. His whole back was just plastered with glass slivers, so they put him in the hospital and they took all the slivers out.


“Miraculously, I wasn’t hit by anything. I high-tailed it right into the building and, while I was going in there the door came down [upon me] and the window of this door fell right neatly over me, without the glass in it, ja. So all I had to do was step out of that hole and into the building. Why I did it I don’t know, but it was all over quick, ja.”

The bomber (a Heinkel 111) fled, only to be shot down by Spitfires from RAF Dyce. Casualties were treated on site initially, as the alarm was raised.

“There was one fellow by the name of Ackerman, and his torso was ripped into two. There was a captain, he was a Jewish person, a captain of the [British] Army. He tended to [Ackerman]. As long as [Ackerman] was living, he was completely sane and clear-thinking, even though he was only half a person, so to speak. And then all of a sudden, bingo: he died, ja. Six of my crew members perished. They got out of the submarine sound and safe and then a German bomber comes and kills them. That is hard to take.”

Why did the Luftwaffe bomb German POWs?
“I think it was a reconaissance aircraft. They are loaded with bombs too, ja. I think he was on a reconaissance mission to explore northern Scotland, and he saw this camp down there. He saw the tents of the guards up on the hill, and he saw this building there with people outside and thought, ‘let’s give them a lesson,’ so to speak.”

Paul was transferred to Canada until the war was over.


Contributor: Allan Burnett


Obituary  -  Avis de décès

Paul Karl Mengelberg

February 5, 1916 - October 11, 2013


It is with great sadness that we announce Paul’s passing on October 11th, 2013 in Birchwood Terrace Nursing Home far from his beloved home of over 60 years in Longlac, yet closer to his immediate family in Kenora.


Dad had a long and fulfilling life till the last six months when his pain and suffering began in earnest. He was known and adored by many as a loving and proud husband to wife Agnes of 62 years – his Moesch or ‘ma p’tite grise’ – father to Doris (Gordon Taylor) and Norman (Paivi), Opa to Maxine and Nigel Mengelberg, Ohm (Onkel) Paul to nieces and nephews in Germany. He cared for, and saw the merits and potentials in all of them.


Dad’s colourful and long life began in Koeln-Kalk, Germany. He was serving in the German navy when World War II broke out, and as a submariner was captured in the English Channel. His internment as POW began at Camp Angler on Lake Superior, which included his working in a bush camp near Longlac. After his repatriation to war-torn Germany, he returned to Canada and then two years later to Longlac with wife and young daughter.


Dad got his diesel mechanic qualifications, and worked for Kimberley Clark of Canada till retirement. After retirement he spent a few years working with the OPP. He was loved by everyone for his quick wit, captivating stories, and his warmth and humour, which were graciously reciprocated.


We wish to extend a special thank you to all neighbours and friends in Longlac who loved him. As per Dad’s wishes, there will be no funeral service. More fittingly a celebration of life will be scheduled in the spring of 2014 when we bring Dad 'home'. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to a charity of your choice.


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