In 1894, at age 17, Hermann began working at AG Weser, an immense place where tall cranes, heavy steel and sweaty men made mighty ships. The yard was more than 50 years old even before Hermann began working there; it was born on a cold November day in 1843 on the banks of the wide Weser River, about 125 kilometers south from its flow into the North Sea.
The old yard was like home to him with its constant crackle of welding torches and huge cranes swinging in the fog with their heavy loads. Railroad cars stood next to dry docks waiting patiently for their bellies to be unloaded, and compressed air hoses slithered on the ground like snakes waiting to entangle any unwary worker. The immense shipyard held a multitude of workshops for everything that went into U-boats from periscopes to artillery and torpedoes, and workers ranged from welders, mechanics, carpenters, and smithies to tool and die experts.
The noise at AG Weser was deafening but the smell of the yard—a combination of oil, paint, rust, and strong acids never seemed to leave him. Those odors mixed with his own sweat came home in his clothing. Only a great deal of scrubbing by his dear wife, Luise, could take the odors and sweat out, but not without her bitter complaints.
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