The text flows well and is very well supported by a fine selection of illustrations in the form of photographs and drawings. The author has provided a thorough and concise review of German coastal forces vessels. He shows why they presented a threat and how they differed from their British counterparts. Highly recommended.
NAME: The E-Boat Threat
AUTHOR: Bryan Cooper
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: German Navy, WWII, World War Two, Second World War, naval actions, coastal forces, S-Boats, E-Boats, fast patrol boats, diesel, mosquito craft.
DESCRIPTION: The text flows well and is very well supported by a fine selection of illustrations in the form of photographs and drawings. The author has provided a thorough and concise review of German coastal forces vessels. He shows why they presented a threat and how they differed from their British counterparts. Highly recommended.
When WWII broke out, both the British and the Germans had existing coastal forces vessels and were building more. But there was a difference in approach that reflected how the vessels could be employed. Initially, the Germans expected to fight a similar sea war to that of WWI, without having the fleet to re-enact the Battle of Jutland. This meant operating from Baltic and North Sea ports where the Germans were restricted in the courses they could follow and the targets they could seek. That changed in 1940 when Germany controlled a huge coastline from North Cape in Arctic Norway down to the Atlantic coast of France to the border with Spain. Instead of operations confined largely to the North Sea, the Germans faced all of the British East Coast with the two battle lines being only 21 miles apart at the English Channel. However, the coastal forces vessels had been designed for the North Sea environment.
Britain started from a different point and its coastal forces expected a repeat of WWI with a concentration around and to either side of the Channel. There was also a need to rapidly expand the coastal fleet at the same time as naval shipyards were engaged on major construction and refit work for the larger warships.
The Germans built two classes of fast patrol boat that combined the roles of motor torpedo boat and motor gun boat. They selected high speed diesel engines as the primary power plants and although they used the planing hull format, they used metal framing and faired two torpedo tubes into the hull. The guns were dual purpose canon for anti-ship and anti-aircraft use. The result was a vessel that could achieve high speed, stand up to conditions in the North Sea, and resist enemy fire with the low flammability of the diesel fuel being an important factor. The British described these vessels as E (enemy)-Boats and the Germans described them as S (fast)-Boats.
In contrast, the British built several classes of motor torpedo boats and several classes of motor gun boats. The Vosper private prototype, MTB 102 was demonstrated before WWII and quickly bought into service by the Admiralty. At 68 ft she was slightly shorter than the main wartime production and initially had a single faired in torpedo tube exiting the bows on the centre line. She also had a 20 mm pintel mounted canon aft for anti-aircraft use , but able to fire broadside and to stern against surface targets. British Power Boats began building smaller MTBs and MGBs to a broadly similar layout but with two deck mounted torpedo tubes and machine guns for the MTBs. MGBs had an all-gun armament. Hundreds of these vessels were built, often in small yards that had been commercial yacht builders pre-war. The hulls of the craft were double diagonal teak planks on wooden frames and the power was provided by marinized versions of the Merlin engines developed for the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter aircraft.
As the war continued, larger versions of the similar MTB and MGB designs were developed, but they were only slightly larger, of the same construction and with petrol engines for power. The two deck-mounted torpedo tubes became standard and even MTB 102 was re-equipped with two deck tubes. Most craft carried at least one 20mm canon and some carried more, including twin gun mounts. The MGBs, often carried heavier deck guns. Rifle calibre machine guns were carried usually in twin mounts and most craft carried four of these guns. It also became common for the craft to carry two or four depth charges.
As these craft were being constructed, the Fairmile design bureau produced a series of designs, initially employing round bilge keels. Components were manufactured all over Britain in small factories and blacksmith shops before being brought together and issued to small yacht building yards scattered around the British coast and inland up rivers. These were much larger vessels of more than 100 ft and intended primarily for convoy escort and other tasks normally undertaken by larger warships. These craft were very heavily armed, carried mine sweeping equipment, sonar and radar. The bilge keel models were able to achieve only half the speed of the smaller MTBs and MGBs but they could handle rougher weather and had longer endurance. However, they still used petrol engines and wooden construction. The Fairmile D then introduced planing hulls to the design portfolio and achieved similar speeds to the smaller boats, but with four torpedo tubes, depth charges, mine sweeping kit and some even carried two 4.5 in guns in power operated mounts.
The result was that the Royal Navy built up a much larger fleet of coastal craft than the Germans and included much more heavily armed craft that were as fast and included sonar and radar equipment. However, all shared the weakness of petrol and wood which made them vulnerable to enemy fire.
Both navies included larger vessels in their coastal fleets, including minesweepers, corvettes and destroyers. The author has done a very good job in reviewing the nature of the E-Boat threat and covered the missions required of these vessels.