When I Took Orders from a U-Boat Kapitan


I had the misfortune to wind up in a dodgy (seedy?) highschool in southern Ontario in the 60s. When I returned to begin grade 11, there was a new sheriff in town in the form of principal Wolfgang E. Franke.

A strict disciplinarian, he was always happy to speak with students. One day, Herr Franke and I talked about the war. For a couple of years he commanded a U-boat before being assigned to develop  a chain of radar emplacements in the eastern Med and Balkans. He knew all the U-boat legends, guys like Gunther Prien and Otto Kretschmer. At war's end he was swept up and sent to a Communist prisoner of war camp in Yugoslavia from where, he said, many never returned.

I decided to see if I could find any trace of Herr Franke and, sure enough, Google had a link to his obituary. I don't think they make highschool principals like that any longer.


  1. It’s good to mention these people who truly influenced us and, at the very least, kept us literate.

    1. A friend's post yesterday about the ineptitude of the faculty and board that led to the Oxford High School shootings in Michigan brought W.E. Franke back to mind. He would have dealt with that sort of thing rather differently and very, very decisively.

      As a young fellow I collected Canadian and British army cap badges and insignia. One of my dad's fellows was Bruce MacDonald, a lawyer turned infantry captain. After the German surrender he was a junior prosecutor in the war crimes trials. Mr. MacDonald gave me his collection of German/Nazi memorabilia he scrounged back then. Much of it I had no idea about until I mentioned it to Mr. Franke. He invited me to bring it in and he explained the nature and significance of every piece, most of which were pretty ordinary. Nonetheless I wrote it all down. There was one gem - a hand-stitched, gold-thread eagle/swastika that Bruce MacDonald filched from Grand Admiral Doenitz' greatcoat.

      As for that school, he did turn it around in a hurry.


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