Royal Navy sailor set to sail on Portsmouth ship HMS Trent inspired by grandfathers who fought on opposing sides

A YOUNG officer preparing to sail to the Mediterranean on new patrol ship HMS Trent was inspired to join the Royal Navy by his grandparents’ wartime exploits.

Saturday, 27th March 2021, 12:00 am
Updated Saturday, 27th March 2021, 11:51 am
Sub Lieutenant Ben Hoffmeister, with his grandfathers Ernest Hoffmeister, top, and Erwin Menzel, bottom, who fought on opposing sides in the Second World War. Sub Lt Hoffermeister will sail on Portsmouth-based ship HMS Trent next week.

Sub lieutenant Ben Hoffmeister, 23, is set to take part in HMS Trent’s next mission when the ship will leave her homeport in Portsmouth next week.

Ben, who is from Oxford, was brought up on stories of his grandfathers’ lives at sea during the Second World War.

They fought in the Battle of the Atlantic on opposing sides, with Ernest Hoffmeister serving in the Atlantic and Arctic to keep the UK’s sea lanes open.

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HMS Trent in Portsmouth. Picture: Shaun Roster

Ben’s maternal grandfather, Erwin Menzel, crewed a U-boat determined to strangle Britain’s lifelines.

These tales sowed the seeds of a naval career for Ben.

He said his grandad Erwin was ‘instrumental in raising my interest to join the navy’.

‘By the time he died, when I was 17, I had already decided I was going to join the Royal Navy.’

Sub Lieutenant Ben Hoffmeister.

Ernest, who was assigned to the Royal Naval Patrol Service after completing his training as a coder, passed away when Ben was 10 years old.

Ben said: ‘One of the few stories I remember him talking about was having to climb up the mainmast during the convoys to chip off ice that had accumulated and risked capsizing the vessel.’

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It is unlikely that Ben’s grandfathers ever faced each other in battle.

Erwin Menzel

Ben added: ‘They got on incredibly well when they eventually met.

‘It seemed the shared experience of the battle of the Atlantic was more important to them than which side of the war they had fought it on.

‘That legacy is perhaps the most important aspect to take away from their story.’

HMS Trent will work alongside the German Navy on Nato duties on Operation Sea Guardian, the alliance’s counter terrorism mission in the Mediterranean.

Ernest Hoffmeister

Lieutenant commander David Webber, in charge of Trent’s marine engineering department, said: ‘It’s an interesting story from the perspective of how far Europe has come, with Ben now serving in the Royal Navy on a ship that will work alongside the modern Deutsche Marine.’

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