This book looks at the battle against the German U-boat in the two World Wars, and in particular the two battles of the Atlantic, both of which threatened to cut Britain's oceanic lifelines.
Terraine does an excellent job of showing just how complex the battle against the U-boats was, with success or failure dependent on an interlocking balance of technical, intelligence and human factors.
A central theme of the book is the importance of intelligence - not just the impressive code breaking achievements on both sides, but also the key role played by operational intelligence - combining the information from decodes, intercepts, radio direction finding and simple sightings at sea to provide as accurate a picture as possible of the positions of Allied convoys or German U-boats.
This brings us to the importance of a number of key individuals on both sides, most famously Admiral Donitz on the German side, the man who dominated U-boat operations from the first to last days of the war. Less well known, but perhaps equally important was Rodger Winn, head of the British Submarine Tracking Room, the master of operational intelligence and the man who made sure that Britain made good use of the Ultra intelligence.
Terraine's work is detailed and comprehensive, while remaining coherent and readable. The inclusion of the First World War battle provides an essential background to the more famous Second World War battles, as well as demonstrating how quickly the military forgot the lessons of 1917-18 in the interwar period. This is a classic work of military history, and an essential study of the U-boat campaigns.
Part I: The First Round
1 Free from All Scruples
2 The Most Formidable Thing
3 Engage The Enemy More Closely
4 Convoy Acted Like A Spell
5 Slack Water
6 Foiled Rather Than Defeated
7 Small Advantages
8 The Battle Done
Part II: The Interval
The Insidious Submarine
Part III: The Second Round
1 Dearth of U-Boats
2 Nothing of Major Importance
3/i The Steep Atlantick
3/ii The Very Nadir of British Fortunes
3/iii As Though The Defence Had Won
4 By The Narrowest Margin
5 A Roll Of Drums
6 The Heartbeat Of The Battle
7 We Had Lost The Battle
8 Unconditional Surrender
A British, American and German Naval Ranks
B The German U-Boats of World War I
C Gross Tonnage of Merchant Shipping Lost Through Enemy Action to 11 November 1918
D Shipping and U-Boat Losses 1939-45, yearly and monthly
E U-boat Deployment in the Biscay Bases (July, 1943)
F Shipping Losses in British Home Waters, 1939-45
G Analysis of U-Boat Losses 1914-45
Author: John Terraine
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2009 edition of 1989 original