Letter from Werner Lott to Lord Mountbatten on July 10, 1974:
|Some reflections 35 years after.
It so happened that I was escorted into the Tower of London on my 32nd birthday, the 3rd of December 1939. Heavily guarded by the Scotch Guards I was put into a prison cell down in the basement with a rusty bedstead as its only furniture. It was a cold winter and there was a fireplace, but with no fire in it. And a piece of paper pinned to the wall contained the regulations of the Geneva Convention in broken German: Please your holding power and do what they say!
I asked to see an officer with the only result that a sergeant would appear with the monotonous answer: I'll see what I can do for you. Thereupon I decided to go on hunger strike until I came to see an officer - with very little effect, I must say. But I was lucky. As I was slowly beginning to doubt the wisdom of my decision, there was suddenly a commotion in front of my cell and when the door opened no lesser a person appeared than Lord Louis Mountbatten - flotilla chief of the destroyers that sunk our submarine. I shall never forget the expression on your face and the four words to the sergeant: Where is the commandant?
It did not take long until a rather red-faced major from the Scotch Guards appeared and explained that it was all a horrible misunderstanding and that I would soon be moved into comfortable quarters. This really happened and I was most grateful for the turn events had taken - thanks to your initiative, sir.
I was also allowed to see my officers who had made the same experience and I kept thinking of Lt. Commander Sommerville's advice when I left his ship: treatment by the army will be different, but do not take it as bad will - it is lack of experience. A very sound advice that I have followed throughout the long years of prisonership, very likely to everybody's benefit. And when we were invited by the Admiralty to our parole dinner where Commander Halahan acted as host I could not help thinking: Why are we fighting each other? And when I as the leader of the German Mobile Exhibition Central and East Africa met the prosperous farmer Halahan and his family on the slopes of Mount Elgon in Kenya 25 years later we had a memorable celebration - and we asked each other the same question.
On this same trip through East Africa I had to give many addresses to Rotary Clubs still very much alive in those days. And almost invariably I was toasted by the local President as a "guest of honour we all envy for one privilege he has enjoyed: he was H.M.S. guest in the Tower of London".
When I participated in a conference of the European Training Institute in Paris which was hold in London several years ago I entertained my wife to dinner in Scotts Restaurant and also visited the Tower of London under a Beefeaterís guide. When the tour was over and question time opened I asked our guide whether one of the beefeaters had ever shown around somebody who had actually sat in the Tower as a prisoner. "Oh no", he said, "these times are long past." And he was quite astounded when I told him afterwards about my stay in the Tower.
So much on some reflections I had when my chief engineer told me that you had encouraged him to write down our experiences in those days. I have just touched on some stories that might be written, but before I do this in a longer story I would be grateful for a little more information what our distinguished captor would like to know.
|Thank you so much for your fascinating letter of the 10th July which
you kindly wrote at the request of Gerhard Stamer
whom I saw during my
recent visit to Germany.
I remember my visit to the Tower of London very well and my displeasure at the way you were being looked after. Particularly after my Flotilla had looked after you much better.
I would be grateful if you could enlarge on my own memories about our conversation; and please use your own words as my memory may be at fault.
I think our talk went something like this:
YOU: "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 his own cabin.
Finding he was unmarried I obtained the name and address of his mother so that I could see she was properly looked after."
ME: "She is a free woman living in a free country. You are a prisoner-of-war in our hands. I donít see what you can do to help her?"
YOU: "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."
ME: "I am afraid you donít 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."
Now please remember that these words are only my recollection of what I think passed between us and it is really important that you should write it exactly how you think it went, irrespective of what I have written.
I think I also mentioned that the Second World War would last longer than the First World War but the end result would be the same because of our command of the sea.
I thought you took my remarks in very good part and I hope you subsequently felt that I was right.
It is a curious thought that it was I who was sent for by Winston Churchill to prepare for the invasion and that I made the original plane and arrangements for the landings in Normandy, but at that time I had been sent out to South East Asia as Supreme Allied Commander and didn't take part.
One question about Commander Halahan. Was he F.C.Halahan? If so he was in my Term when we entered the Navy together and was born in 1900 and a very old friend.
When you reply I would be grateful if you would describe the way that you and your men were treated onboard the KINGSTON and KASHMIR and how you were finally treated in the Tower of London after my visit.
Lord Mountbatten simultaneously sent the following letter to Gerhard Stamer:
|25th July 1974
Thank you so much for having written to your former Captain, Werner Lott.
I enclose a copy of his letter to me and a copy of my reply to him.
I do not know whether you have anything to add to our exchange of letters, which would be helpful, but I would be glad for more of your own experiences both when you were in my ships and later on when you were in the Tower of London.
Courtesy of the Mountbatten Archives, Hartley Library, University of Southampton.