Special Bond between the Bismarck and the U-556
|There was a very special
bond between the battleship Bismarck and the submarine
U-556. Both ships were built at Blohm & Voss
in Hamburg and in the summer of 1940 they were
often neighbors on the ways. When the U-556 was
commissioned, the mighty bow of the Bismarck towered
over her. Herbert Wohlfahrt (the captain on the
U-556), who was known in naval circles as "Sir
Parsifal," decided that the commissioning
ceremony would not be complete without a band and,
since a U-boat certainly did not carry one, he
would ask the big neighbor, which as Fleet Flagship
had a band, called the Fleet Band, to provide the
music. Accordingly, he went to see Ernst Lindemann
(the captain on the Bismarck), but he did not go
empty-handed. In exchange, he offered the Bismarck
the Patentschaft (Sponsorship) of his ship. Ernst
Lindemann readily accepted. Herbert Wohlfahrt got
his band and thereafter his artistically designed
Patentschafts Urkunde (Certificate of Sponsorship)
hung in the Bismarck.
Lindemann and Wohlfahrt became friends. At the beginning of 1941 the Bismarck
and the U-556 were together during gunnery exercises in the Baltic, and
once even used the same target. The U-556, which Lindemann had allowed
to precede him, damaged the target so badly with ten hits that the Bismarck
could not use it that day. Lindemann, however, did not take it amiss and
soon dispelled Wohlfahrt's fear that he would be greeted with an ill-humored
reaction, "I do not begrudge you that in the least. I wish that you
may have as much and rapid success in the Atlantic and win the Knight's
Cross for it." Relieved, Wohlfahrt replied, "I hope we both receive
the Knight's Cross in the common struggle in the Atlantic."
Urkunde (Certificate of Sponsorship)
Patentschafts Urkunde of the U-556 for the Bismarck.
(Courtesy of Herbert Wohlfahrt)
first sketch on the certificate shows "Sir
Parsifal" (Herbert Wohlfahrt) warding off
aircraft attacking the Bismarck with a sword
in his right hand and stopping torpedoes coming
towards her with his left thumb.
text translated to English
the U-556 (500 tons), hereby declare before Neptune,
the ruler of the oceans, lakes, seas, rivers,
brooks, ponds and rills, that we will stand beside
our big brother, the battleship Bismarck (42,000
tons), whatever may befall her on water, land
or in the air. Hamburg, 28 January 1941. The
captain and crew of the U-556."
second sketch on the certificate shows the Bismarck
being towed by the U-556.
seemed as though Herbert Wohlfahrt had the gift
of prophecy when he prepared that certificate
Help against aircraft and torpedoes, and then a tow. That was exactly what
the Bismarck needed, and he of all people, Godfather Wohlfahrt, was near
her. But he was powerless to help her.