Chief Engineer (Leitender Ingenieur)

Where did the Chief Engineer work in the boat?

The approximate location of the zentrale (LI workstation). Type VIIC.

The Chief Engineering Officer was usually known as the LI (for Leitender Ingenieur). He was a rank officer who was often of the same rank as the commander himself. They had (Ing.) added to their ranks. Example of this would be Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Helmut Rohweder who served on U-514 under command of Kapitänleutnant Hans-Jürgen Auffermann for four patrols. He then went onto U-673 where he outranked his commanders - that was however more uncommon.

After the commander the Chief Engineer was possibly the most important man on the boat.

The duty of the Chief Engineer

He was a highly experienced officer, he was responsible for the maintenance of the U-boat's mechanics, which included the engines, motors, batteries, and other mechanical systems. The LI also set the demolition charges in the event the boat had to be scuttled. This also meant that many LIs went down with the boat, some of them deliberately.

The Chief Engineering officer was responsible for training technical crew members. (others?)

Construction of new U-boats
When new boats were being built the Chief Engineer to be assigned to that boat upon commission was on site for the last 12 weeks of the construction to be as familiar with the technical layout as possible. About 3 weeks before commissioning the LI, along the commander and Central Machinist, conducted the "Yard trim examinations". He then would help conduct several acceptance tests, including eight hour full speed test run.

The Chief Engineer on the several types

There was only one Chief Engineer no matter the type of the boat.

Knights Cross winners

There were several highly decorated Chief Engineering Officers. Below are the Knights Cross winners. It took a very special act of bravery or resolvement for these men to be awarded the Knights Cross (as they were not as obvious as, for example, successful commander). + means the man perished in the war.

Chief Engineering Officer U-boats
Bielig, Gerhard U-177
Krey, Heinz  + U-703, U-752
König, Reinhard U-123
Landfermann, Karl-August U-181
Lechtenbörger, Willi  + U-201, U-847
Lichtenberg, Philipp U-516
Limbach, Johann U-181
Olschewski, Georg U-66
Panknin, Herbert U-57 & U-106
Rohweder, Helmut U-514
Suhren, Gerd U-37
Wessels, Johann-Friedrich U-47
Wiebe, Karl-Heinz U-178
Z?rn, Erich U-48

Recommended books on Chief Engineers

Werner Hirschmann was the LI of U-190 and his book is highly recommended. It is one of the few books that show this perspective.

Selected media links

Another Place, Another Time

Hirschmann, Werner (2011)
(£ 20.69)


German Submarine Crew Training During Construction, Outfitting, and Commissioning of U-boats Document captured on U-505.

The U-boat Crew