This entry in Osprey's Elite series looks at the tactics used by Germany's U-boat fleet during the Second World War, both in the Battle of the Atlantic and further afield. Williamson covers three main areas - offensive tactics (from the early single boat attacks to the eventual 'wolf pack tactics', defensive tactics (including methods used to escape from surface ships and the brief attempt to 'fight it out' against Allied aircraft and equipment (including some surprising attempts as stealth technology).
Williamson has produced a very well focused book, making very good use of the available space. A very brief summary of the progress of the U-boat war is provided - enough to put the changes in tactics in some context but no more. Allied anti-submarine tactics and technology are covered to the extent required to make sense of the changes in U-boat tactics,
The text is supported by some well chosen photographs, including a number showing the cramped interior of the U-boats and others showing the offensive and defensive equipment under discussion (in particular the various guns carried and some rare pictures of the Bachstelze gyrocopter that was used in an attempt to improve the range at which a U-boat could spot targets or enemy warships).
There are also some good illustrations, including two that show the development of Allied convoy escorts during the war, comparing an early war convoy protected by six escort vessels with a later convoy with three times as many escorts including an escort carrier. Inevitably the increase in Allied sea and air power took a toll on the U-boats - of the 55,000 U-boat crew to go to sea during the war around 27,940 were killed, a loss rate of 50%, only matched by RAF Bomber Command. The changing balance of power is also reflected in the startling statistic that only one in four U-boats ever sank an Allied ship, with the most successful boats being the ones commanded by more experienced pre-war officers.
Convoy Night Surface Attacks
Author: Gordon Williamson