A German Sailor’s Story – Chapter One

Machine lance corporal Wilhelm Küllertz
Life stages or Fate cannot be planned

Created by Willi Küllertz in November 2018

Chapter One

Wilhelm Küllertz was born on June 6th, 1925. He was the second child of Johann Küllertz and Bernhardine Küllertz, née Nieländer. His family was living in Katscher which was in the district of Leobschütz in what was then the Imperial Province of Upper Silesia.

His father Johann Küllertz was employed as head master until his retirement by Davistan Krimmer-, Plüsch- und Teppichfabriken AG in Katscher. In the course of Aryanization, Davistan (a Jewish owner) was taken over by Scheffler. Finally, the company made Wehrmacht clothing instead of carpets or similar weaving products.

In 1935, Johann Küllertz with his wife Bernhardine moved into their new built house in Wiedenbrück, in Westphalia. After finishing elementary school, Wilhelm Küllertz worked as an apprenticeship on a precision mechanic for C. Ottens, a company making bicycles and sewing machines in Wiedenbrück.

After receiving a journeyman’s certificate he joined the navy His goal was as a year-long committed soldier to complete a technical study during his service in the German navy. He started on September 10th, 1942.

Wilhelm Küllertz

The proud sailor Wilhelm Küllertz
at the beginning of his service (Source: Family Fauré-Roux ).

Until 11 December 1942, he underwent basic military training in Stralsund. From December 12, 1942 to May 12, 1943, he completed his military training with a course about marine engine science for technical ship personnel in the 1. Ship machine training department. From 13 May 1943 he changed to 3. Training department for the new Type 39 torpedo boat.

Willi T-35
Type 39 torpedo boat
Photo of T35 similar to T24

Originally ordered as a Type 37 torpedo boat on 30 March 1939, the T24 was reordered on 10 November 1939 from Schichau. The boat was laid down on 21 September 1940 at their Elbing, East Prussia, shipyard as yard number 1483, launched on 13 September 1941 and commissioned on 17 October 1942 under the command of Captain Lieutenant Heinrich Hoffmann.

My father learned the knowledge of this ship type in Elbing by helping to build one of the new ones, still at Schichau Werft. After his training for this type of ship, he went directly aboard Flotilla torpedo boat T24.

There are two more things that I remember what my father told me. When a sailor like my father was asked on what type of ship he is on, the pride was bigger when the ship was bigger. The bigger the more pride. The first time I used to ask him he couldn’t explain me or I was not in the condition to understand. Then I asked him if it was a minesweeper and he answered “No”.

When I asked him if it was a chaser or an escort ship for protecting convoys he also answered “No”. Then I asked him if it is a destroyer and he said “No, it was much smaller!” Years later in another talk he said with a wink in his eyes: “They called it in the Kriegsmarine the ‘SECRET DESTROYER!’”

And years later I knew why: The Treaty of Versailles said Germany was only allowed to build so many ships of the specific classes. That’s why a Torpedoboot was named Flottentorpedoboot, officially a torpedoboat but the size of a destroyer. Not a big destroyer like nearly a light cruiser but indeed a destroyer. So that is the difference between theory and reality.

In a second conversation he explained to my brother that this ship had two exhaust pipes. One for the smoke and one for the steam, so black and white. Light years later when I saw an Elbing-class destroyer on a photograph in a book I remembered about this, I asked my brother once more, and then I knew that I was right as expected  because I realized how I had imagined the ship and how it really was.

Willi T-35.1

Photo of T35 similar to T24

Willi Postcards 1

Postcards of a proud young man to his family,
front and back, stamped in Berlin and Stralsund (private collection).

Willi Postcards 2

The last card from basic training. The choice of motif again allows you to be enthusiastic about the navy (private collection).

In the summer of 1944, the T24, belonging to the 4th Torpedoboots flotilla in Brest, was part of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla stationed in Bordeaux which was operating in the area of the Bay of Biscay.

During this time T24 was often used together with the Destroyer Z24. They were the last remaining larger units left in the Kriegsmarine in the West.