From potential war-winning weapon, to hunted target, the U-Boat service promised so much. The author provides an absorbing presentation of the progress of war for the German U-Boat Service with an interesting photograph selection in support. – Highly Recommended.
NAME: From Hunter to Hunted, The U-Boat War in the Atlantic, 1939-1943 FILE: R3179 AUTHOR: Bernard Edwards PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £19.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Nazi State, WWII, World War II, World War 2, World War Two, Second World War, war at sea, submarines, anti-submarine, convoy escort, maritime reconnaissance, merchant ships, sinkings, tonnage sunk, Atlantic bridge, The Gap, hunter-killer groups, wolf packs, submariners, logistics, bases, torpedo, depth bomb, depth charge, Hedgehog, code breaking, intelligence, sabotage ISBN: 1-52676-359-1 PAGES: 200 IMAGE: B3179.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/ycmtqe9j LINKS: DESCRIPTION: From potential war-winning weapon, to hunted target, the U-Boat service promised so much. The author provides an absorbing presentation of the progress of war for the German U-Boat Service with an interesting photograph selection in support. – Highly Recommended.
The German U-Boats presented a very serious potential threat to Britain and her Allies during WWI. The threat failed to become terminal for the vital flow of cargoes to Britain from the furthest reaches of Empire. This was because the Royal Navy responded to the challenge with innovative and effective anti-submarine measures, including escorted convoys, new weapons and new detection systems. After WWI the Royal Navy suffered the desire of politicians to spend the peace dividend and the move rapidly into appeasement policies. From an unassailed position of naval dominance, the Royal Navy was cut back and the series of Naval Treaties seriously weakened the RN. The result was that in 1939 the Royal Navy no longer had the ships to cover the huge distances that were represented by the trade routes of Empire. Not only was there a pressing need for a rapidly expanding war production, a recruitment drive and development of new tactics, but there was a desperate need to quickly relearn forgotten lessons from WWI.
As if the Royal Navy did not have enough challenges, the Fall of France compounded them by giving German U-Boats new bases on the Atlantic Coast of France. From every direction, the Germans were presented with new advantages that they lacked in the Great War. Fortunately, the Germans were initially unable to maintain more than a handful of U-Boats at sea at any one time. As the German building program expanded, the British were closing off so many of the initial advantages presented to the Germans.
In 1918, the RAF had been formed and the RN was robbed of its critical naval aviation. This led to a continuing political battle that was largely won by the RN in 1938 when it regained control of the Fleet Air Arm from the RAF. It was not complete victory because the RAF retained maritime aircraft that operated as seaplanes from shore bases and land planes flying from aerodromes. Although aircrews and sailors tried hard to help each other, the senior RAF commanders were significantly less co-operative with those RN commanders running the convoy protection. That was made more difficult because the RAF had to give priority to building a modern monoplane interceptor force and the most advanced command and control system yet devised. That took much of their available funding and manufacturing capacity for aircraft construction. The bomber force was also in most urgent need of modernization and expansion. This had two effects on the RAF Coastal Command that was so vital to naval operations in the Atlantic. Those obsolescent bombers, that could not be replaced by better aircraft, soldiered on with Bomber Command. By the time they could be released many were seriously obsolescent if not obsolete. The heavy bombers that could have provided immediate naval relief in the war against the U-Boats were sent to bomber command, keeping the very dangerous Air Gap in the Atlantic where convoys were completely without air support.
From 1939, the Germans did not stand still. They increased the number of U-Boats available, making wolf pack tactics possible and this rapidly increased the tonnage lost each month by the Allies in the Atlantic. Priority was given to the U-Boat service demand for resources and particularly for new recruits. Submarine technology was advancing and early torpedo problems resolved.
However, the RN moved faster and began to enjoy much improved RAF co-operation. Convoy tactics were sharpened and new escort vessels designed and built, including the escort carriers which provided close support for convoys in the dangerous Air Gap and provided the means of defence against German long range maritime patrol aircraft. Weapons and detection systems saw major development. Radar became so effective at sea that the U-Boats were forced to spend more time submerged which cost them visual horizon and speed. As Allied war production dramatically expanded, the RN and the USN were able to form hunter-killer groups with aircraft and anti-submarine vessels to go looking for the U-Boats, turning them into the prey. All of this being made more effective because British code breakers managed to crack German radio codes and continue to break new German code, while the Germans believed their code was unbreakable.
The author has told the story well and shown how the U-Boats changed from potentially being the elite battle-winning weapon into a hunted prey that cost huge loss of German life and scare war materials and production resources.