U-Boat Attack Logs - A Complete Record of Warship Sinkings from Original Sources 1939-1945
By Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor
Seaforth Publishing (www.seaforthpublishing.com)
RRP GBP £45.00
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The German Third Reich’s Navy (called the Kriegsmarine) operated a highly successful submarine service. These submarines were termed U-Boats (in English) and their exploits during World War 2 are the “stuff” that legends are made from. The U-Boat arm was initially very successful during the Battle of the Atlantic but gradually the tide turned against them and their losses became heavy.
The German U-Boats targeted both Allied Merchant Shipping and their warships. It is the latter that this book considers and it lists the (approx) 250 Allied warships that were sunk by U-Boats. This ground breaking work lays testament to the careful analysis of every sinking for which primary source material from both the Allied and German sides have survived. This produced a shortlist of some 110 ships for which very detailed treatment is possible and the remainder are included in an extensive appendix.
The authors have conducted their own study of warship losses to submarines and in doing so have closed a substantial gap in the previous documentation relating to these operations. By using archive material that is now available to researchers in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and other Allied nations new ground has been broken. They have collated a huge amount of data on warship losses to U-Boats and they have translated into English the appropriate sections of U-Boat War Diaries.
The results of the authors’ studies have produced this highly detailed account of attacks on warships. All the appropriate technical data, the background of the attack and the sinking of each vessel is noted. They have not only included the “dry” features of the historical records but also the emotive testimony of the survivors. Every entry has a list of the sources of information and supplementary literature on that sinking.
The book’s listings start with the sinking of the British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous (17th September 1939) and the battleship HMS Royal Oak (14th October 1939). These were major capital ship losses very early in the war and they indicated the potency of the danger the U-Boats presented. Twenty losses were recorded for 1940 and 23 losses in 1941. Thirty six sinkings are mentioned for 1942 and they cover a variety of the Allies. Fourteen warships were sent to the bottom in 1943 and 1944 saw a further 5. The body of the work ends with the sinking of the British frigate HMS Bullen on 9th December 1944.
The inclusion of a vessel and its sinking in the main body of the work depends primarily upon the survival of the U-Boat War Diary for the U-Boat(s) concerned. These U-Boat War Diaries are often lacking for those U-Boats in operation towards the end of the war or when the U-Boat itself was lost at sea during the same cruise. Also, the warship has to meet the criteria of size and type. The main body does not cover all warship losses to U-Boats and those not included in the main body are listed in a Gazetteer. For these vessels and those damaged by U-Boat but not sunk the field therefore remains open. Likewise the warship losses due to Finnish, Italian and Japanese submarines are not included.
Irrespective of its exclusions it is a very comprehensive and well documented volume with excellent source material references and it represents a major addition to the available literature. It also contains a number of important corrections to existing publications such as the loss of HMS Gladiolus. The outstanding work of the authors needs recognition and an extended “Thank you” should go to all the other contributors.