- Gordon, John
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1989 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Munday was handed over to the German prisoner of war authorities when the submarine returned to Bordeaux and must have been somehow persuaded to make a broadcast from Berlin radio early in 1943. This was the first authentic news of the fate of the Ceramic that the British had received. It made them very angry and they broadcast to Germany that if they captured that submarine commander they would try him as a war criminal and if he was found guilty he would be hanged. Of course he heard of this and apparently it worried him.
In 1944 the USS Guadalcanal an escort carrier sank a submarine in the Atlantic west of the Azores. The submarine’s commander and most of his crew were captured. The commander was Henke although the ‘Guadalcanal’s’ captain had never heard of him. Henke was somewhat arrogant, several times complaining about his ‘prison cell’ and citing the Geneva Convention, which conduct did not endear him to the Guadalcanal’s captain.
The Master-at-Arms of the Guadalcanal spoke German, of course a number of Americans did, and had wormed his way into Henke’s confidence with one of the oldest tricks in the book, by telling him that the captain of the Guadalcanal was a so and so martinet and the crew would like to push him overboard!! None of which of course was true. Henke fell for it and told the Master-at-Arms that he had sunk the Ceramic. This meant nothing to the Americans who had never heard of the incident but now they knew what Henke’s fate could be and what was worrying him.
Next time he complained he was told that as the ship was going to Gibraltar in a few days for fuel, ammunition etc, he and his crew would be handed over to the British who would be able to accommodate him in accordance with his rank. He then withdrew all complaints!!
Actually the ship was not going in to Gibraltar at all and even if it had the Americans did not have to hand Henke and his crew over to the British, he was their prisoner, not the British.
Eventually he was taken to the USA and imprisoned in a POW camp there. Came the end of the war and soon rumours were flying as to who was being charged as a war criminal.
This proved too much for Henke who one afternoon made a run for the barbed wire fence surrounding the POW compound. The guard called on him to stop, he ignored it, and the guard shot him dead as he was climbing the wire.