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Werner Fürbringer

Werner Fürbringer

German World War I U-boat commander
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German World War I U-boat commander
Occupations Korvettenkapitän Submariner
Gender male
Birth January 1, 1888 (Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, Germany)
Death February 8, 1982 (Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, Germany)
The details

Werner "Fips" Fürbringer (2 October 1888 – 8 February 1982) was a successful German U-boat commander in the Kaiserliche Marine during World War I, sinking 101 ships. He was later promoted to the rank of Konteradmiral during World War II.

Early years

Fürbringer was born in Braunschweig and entered the Imperial German Navy as a Seekadett on 3 April 1907. Subsequently, he attended the Basic-Training and was assigned on Board of the School-Ship SMS Charlotte. He also attended the Naval-School and the other Special-Briefings and was promoted to the rank of Fähnrich zur See (Officer candidate).

He then spent some time aboard the cruiser SMS Roon, sailing in the East Asia within the High Seas Fleet, before being transferred to the Heavy cruiser SMS Scharnhorst. During the time of his transfer, Fürbringer was promoted to the rank of Leutnant zur See on 28 September 1910.

Spending another two years in Asia, Fürbringer returned home in November 1912 and subsequently he was selected for the U-Boat training.

World War I

He served aboard U-20, but left prior to the U-20's sinking of RMS Lusitania in 1915. He exclusively commanded small, coastal U-boats, starting with UB-2 in February 1915. He went on to command six subsequent UB and UC-type boats, during which time he was awarded the Iron Cross, Second and First class. His last command was UB-110, which was depth-charged and rammed by HMS Garry on 19 July 1918. The Garry 's commanding officer, was Lieutenant Commander Charles Lightoller. In his postwar memoirs, Fürbringer accused Lightoller's crew of opening fire with revolvers and machine guns on the unarmed survivors after the sinking of UB-110. During the ensuing massacre, Fürbringer watched the skull of an 18-year old member of his crew being split open by a lump of coal hurled by a Royal Navy sailor. When Fürbringer attempted to help a wounded officer to swim, he was told, "Let me die in peace. The swine are going to murder us anyhow." The shooting only ceased when the convoy the destroyer had been escorting and which contained many neutral-flagged ships, arrived on scene. He later recalled, "As if by magic the British now let down some life boats into the water." If Fürbringer's accusations were true, the Garry's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Lightoller, committed a war crime under the Hague Convention of 1907, which explicitly forbade any killing of unarmed shipwreck survivors.

21 out of 34 crew members were killed during the sinking and alleged masscre, and Fürbringer was captured. He spent the rest of the war as a British prisoner of war.


  • Iron Cross (1914) 1st and 2nd Class
  • Knight of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (27 August 1916)
  • U-boat War Badge (1918)
  • The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 with Swords
  • War Merit Cross (1939) 1st and 2nd Class with Swords
  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award


  • Werner (Fips) Fürbringer: Alarm! Tauchen!! U-Boot in Kampf und Sturm, Ullstein, Berlin 1933, ISBN 978-0023535338. English translation: Fips: Legendary U-Boat Commander, 1915-1918, Naval Institute Press, 2000, ISBN 978-1557502865.
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