Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Review of
Hitler’s Navy – A Reference Guide to the Kriegsmarine 1935-1945
By Jak P Mallmann Showell
Seaforth Publishing (
ISBN 9781848320208
RRP £35


The author of this book has produced a first class publication on the history and structure of Hitler’s Navy which was called the Kriegsmarine. As a reference book on the Kriegsmarine I doubt if the quality of it will be surpassed in many years to come. It is an excellent and outstanding guide to Hitler’s Navy.

The main chapters are on the history of the German Navy, the organisation of the Kriegsmarine and the German Fleet, the ships of the German Fleet and U-Boats, technical data on the ships / boats of the Kriegsmarine and rank, uniforms awards and insignia of the Kriegsmarine. The “Appendices” cover the Chronology of the German Navy, notes on the Naval Enigma machine, flags of the Kriegsmarine, German Naval charts, a Glossary of German Naval terms and a Bibliography of key / famous personnel of the Kriegsmarine.

The opening chapter recounts how the Kriegsmarine came to be formed. It was “born” in the era of Imperial Germany and was originally termed the Kaiserliche Marine. Later it was re-named the Reichsmarine before becoming Hitler’s Navy – the Kriegsmarine. The book describes how the post-World War 1 restrictions on German naval power affected the development of the Kriegsmarine, its Naval Air Arm, its surface ships and submarines. Other issues such as the development of wartime technology (in World War 2) are also noted.

There is a highly detailed chapter on the Organisation of the Kriegsmarine and this chapter gives an excellent breakdown of the structure of the Kriegsmarine. It covers the Fleets’ (High Seas and U-Boats etc) organisation, the training of recruits, reserves and coastal defences etc. The component ships of the German Fleet such as Battleships, Battlecruisers, Pocket Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers etc are described and technical data on them is presented.

The final chapter was sub-authored by Gordon Williamson who is a well known and respected authority on German militaria. This section covers the rank system, the uniforms and awards / insignia utilised by the Kriegsmarine. There are superb descriptions of the Kriegsmarine’s complicated ranking system and its insignia, trade badges, clothing, war badges (these are similar to medals) and equipment. Of note are the sections on Coastal Police, awards for Units and the Naval Hitler Youth.

In summary, if you are a military historian or just interested in the Kriegsmarine then this book deserves serious space on your bookshelf. I sincerely believe that this is an outstanding reference book for this subject and it will serve well for research into Hitler’s Navy. Given the price of the book it represents excellent value for money.

March 2011