Entered the German Navy as a cadet in 1913, and was trained on the protected cruiser Victoria Louise just before the outbreak of the First World War. During the war he put in service on torpedo boats and cruisers and was promoted to Lieutenant, and in the inter-war period he commanded a torpedo boat as well as an assignment from 1919 to 1923 on the Baltic coastal defences, maintaining law and order in Germany itself and putting down Communist uprisings. He also joined the Abwehr's Foreign Department at the Reich Defence Ministry from 1929 to 1931 and from 1935 onwards (with a break to command two ships and for a role at the Naval School at Muerwick).
By 1939 he was a staff-officer of the Hamburg Kriegsmarine Service Centre (one of the other Kriegsmarinedienststellen, which were responsible for troop movements and the use of merchant shipping for the war office), and later moved to the Boulogne Service Centre. He remained in the area as commander of the Boulogne's coastal defences, from 26 January 1941 onwards. From 16 December 1941 to 28 October 1944, he took over command of the defences of the whole Pas de Calais, though these were non-existent by 15 September 1944, when he was moved to command the Fortress of Dunkirk (Festung Duenkirchen). He was in command of German forces there throughout its long siege in 1944-45 (being promoted to Vice Admiral on September 30, 1944), and signed its unconditional surrender at the end of the war. He was held as a POW at Island Farm, the Special Camp 11 at Bridgend, from then until his release on 6 October 1947.
Awards and decorations
- Iron Cross (1914) 2nd and 1st Class
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class
- German Cross in Gold (16 September 1944)
- Patzwall Scherzer 2001, p. 124.