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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 has just been 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 the link to his obituary.
Webmaster and History Keeper of this website
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
“ 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
“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.
“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
“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.”
Paul was transferred to Canada until the war was over.
Contributor: Allan Burnett
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.