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NAME: Vizeadmiral Helmuth Brinkmann

PW NO:         A938991
RANK:           Vizeadmiral
CAPTURED:  Northern Germany
DATE:            26th May 1945


DATE OF BIRTH:    12 March 1895


DATE OF DEATH:   26 September 1983

PLACE OF DEATH: Dießen / Bayern

NATIONALITY:       German

RELIGION:               Evangelist

OCCUPATION:        Naval Officer

HEIGHT:                   183cm

WEIGHT:                  180lbs

HAIR COLOUR:       Fair

EYE COLOUR:         Brown

NEXT OF KIN:         Else Brinkmann, Esslingen / Neckar (American Zone)



Commands & Assignments:

State yacht and fleet tender: Grille

Decorations & Awards:

As the first commander of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, Hellmuth Brinkmann took part in two of the most notable surface actions fought by the German Navy during World War II. On 18 May 1941, Brinkmann’s Prinz Eugen sortied from Gotenhafen with the new battleship Bismarck on “Rheinübung” (Rhine Exercise), a breakout into the Atlantic to conduct commerce raiding. On 24 May 1941, the German ships were intercepted in the Denmark Straight off Greenland by the British battlecruiser HMS Hood and battleship HMS Prince of Wales. In the action that followed, the Bismarck destroyed the Hood (1,338 killed, 3 survivors) and damaged the Prince of Wales. Shortly after the battle, Admiral Günther Lütjens, the Fleet Chief aboard the Bismarck, ordered the Prinz Eugen to break away from the battleship and operate independently. On 27 May 1941, the Royal Navy finally caught and sank the Bismarck by battleship gunfire and cruiser-launched torpedoes. The Prinz Eugen arrived safely at Brest, France on 1 June 1941.

This is a painting by Randall Wilson titled "Breakout." It depicts the battleship "Bismarck" (in foreground) and the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" departing Bergen, Norway at the start of their Atlantic breakout, May 1941.

By early 1942, the powerful German naval squadron based at Brest found itself increasingly vulnerable in the face of escalating British air attacks. To preserve the fleet for further operations in Norwegian waters, the German High Command ordered the squadron to return to Germany via the closest route: straight through the English Channel. On the night of 11 February 1942, Vizeadmiral Otto Ciliax, Commander of Battleships, led the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst (Kapitän zur See Kurt Caesar Hoffmann – with Ciliax aboard) and Gneisenau (Kapitän zur See Otto Fein), the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen (Kapitän zur See Helmuth Brinkmann), six destroyers, 14 torpedo boats and numerous smaller craft from Brest to begin their daring daylight dash— codenamed Operation “Cerebus”—through the English Channel. Protected by a heavy Luftwaffe fighter umbrella directed by Oberst Adolf Galland, the German ships successfully warded off determined British air and destroyer attacks. Although both the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were mined along the way, the squadron arrived in German waters on 13 February 1942.

Painting titled “Channel Dash” by Robert Taylor. Here we see the battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and Gneisenau” in the van followed by “Prinz Eugen” while overhead the Me 109s of the Luftwaffe provide air cover

However, as it turned out, only the “Scharnhorst” ever made it to Norway; the British quickly got their “revenge” on the other two major warships that made the Channel Dash! The “Gneisenau” was bombed by air attack while in dry dock at Kiel on the night of 26-27 February 1942. A bomb hit detonated and burned out the forward magazines, an explosion that wrecked the entire forecastle. Although she went to Gotenhafen for repair, it was never carried out. Her stripped down hulk was scuttled in Gotenhafen as a block ship in March 1945.

On 21 February 1942, the heavy cruisers Prinz Eugen (with Vizeadmiral Ciliax aboard) and Admiral Scheer (Kapitän zur See Wilhelm Meendsen-Bohlken) and five destroyers departed Germany for Operation “Sportpalast” (Sport Palace), a transfer of naval surface forces to Norway. On 23 February 1942, the British submarine HMS Trident torpedoed the Prinz Eugen off Norway nearly severing her stern. Brinkmann managed to get his badly damaged ship to Trondheim where she remained under temporary repair until May 1942. The Prinz Eugen then returned to Kiel where she remained under further repair until October 1942. 

Prinz Eugen (heavy cruiser)
Painting (artist/title unknown) showing British Swordfish torpedo aircraft
attacking the German fleet in the Straits of Dover during the "Channel Dash"

To find out more about the Prinz Eugen, as well as other information on the German ships,weapons and men of the Kriegsmarine, visit