This book covers a gap in the coverage of German naval activities during the Second World War. I've ready plenty of books about the larger ships - the destroyers, cruisers and famous capital ships, and plenty about the smaller fast boats (known as the 'E-boats' in English), but none on the sizable group of ships that fall between them. This book helps to fill that gap, and in the process covers an impressively wide range of topics.
We begin with a history of the various types of ships involved, normally starting with the First World War versions and moving through the inter-war and wartime designs. This includes minesweepers, minelayers, patrol boats, larger minesweepers known as 'sperr brecher' or barrage breakers (carrying paravane minesweeping gear, anti-torpedo nets and normal minesweeping gear) and fleet escort ships (later we meet some other types, including Army and Luftwaffe amphibious warfare ships. Some of the larger of these ships almost approached destroyers in size and firepower, and they posed a real threat to the Royal Navy and the Soviet fleet (and later to the US Navy). However just as with the rest of the German war effort, this part of the navy soon suffered the affects of Germany's strategic overreach, and had to fight a series of desperate defensive battles against increasingly powerful enemy forces.
After this we move onto a topic by topic account of the campaigns these ships took part in, starting in German home waters and expanding outwards - into the Channel, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, Baltic, Black Seas and Norwegian Waters. These smaller ships operated in almost every area that saw German naval activities (other than the Far East, where only the U-boats reached).
This is a well written book, with a good balance between background information, a good narrative framework of events and stories of individual incidents. While the topic is too big for a single book to cover every detail, this is an excellent study of a key part of the German Navy's war effort.
1 - Development of Naval Mine Warfare and Auxiliary Ships in the Kaiser's Navy
2 - Defending Germany's Coasts: Minesweepers, Vorpostenboote and U-Jäger of the Kriegsmarine, 1939-1940
3 - Expanding Horizons: German Pyrrhic Victory in Norway and the Fall of France, 1940
4 - Establishing the Security Divisions, 1941
5 - Sun and Steel: The Security Forces move into North Africa and the Soviet Union, 1941-1942
6 - War in the North and the West: The Security Flotillas in Western, Europe, the Baltic and Norway, 1942-1943
7 - War in Southern Russia: The Security Forces in the Black Sea, July 1942-1944
8 - The 'Inland Seas': The Security Forces in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Tyrrhenian Seas, June 1942-December 1943
9 - The Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean, January 1944-May 1945
10 - Elimination: Allied Forces mount Operations against the Security Forces, 1944-45
Author: Lawrence Paterson