About 15.40 hours on 3 Oct, 1939, the Diamantis was torpedoed by U-35 and sank 40 miles west of the Scilly Islands. Because the lifeboats were not suited for use in the bad weather, Lott decided to take all crew members aboard and landed them the next day at Dingle, Co Kerry.
On a stormy evening in October 1939 the realities of World War II reached the shores of the Dingle Peninsula. A crowd of local people were amazed that evening when they saw a German submarine coming within 10 yards of the shore at Ventry. What they didn’t know at the time was that they were witnessing a most humane and unwarlike act by the German captain on board the submarine.
Twenty-eight Greek sailors whose ship had been sunk by the Germans were landed at Ventry – two at a time in a small lifeboat. The submarine pulled away, none of the German crew having set foot on neutral Irish soil. In 1984, the captain of that German Sub-marine U 35, Werner F. R. Lott, made a nostalgic first trip to Dingle and even met Jim Fenton of Ballymore, one of the locals who had witnessed the drama of that night.
“I was about 11 at the time and I remember we had just come home from school when the excitement began. I had to run about a quarter of a mile to the harbour when I spotted the sub. I think the first person there was a local customs man called Browne.”
After all this time the German captain heard this week how grateful the Greeks were to him. “Their English was bad but they kept saying ‘German gut man’,” said Jimmy. The Greeks were brought to a local farmhouse owned by Thomas Cleary and his mother Joan.
In a major interview, Captain Lott who was reared in an African colony where his father was one of the first white doctors, described how he came so close to Dingle shore during World War II, how he was shortly afterwards taken prisoner himself and how a life long friendship with Lord Louis Mountbatten began.
Photo: Cleary’s farmhouse in Ballymore, Ventry, Co Kerry, where a Greek crew found refuge during World War II. Pictured with Sean Cleary is Werner Lott, the captain of a German submarine which breached Irish neutrality to land the Greeks and in so doing saved their lives.