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Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars 1916-1945 (Wordsworth Military Library) Paperback – February 1, 1999
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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The book opens with Germany imposing a naval blockade of British Isles.Suddenly Britain was engulfed by a crisis of stunning dimensions andAdmiralty in London despaired.Had no idea how to combat menace.But the serious nature of the threat aroused latent dynamism of the British.Flurry of inventions ensued such as hydrophones,depth charges,underwater location devices.The most important being the emergence of the of convoy.Convoy helped English to penetrate the German blockade.German campaign foundered because naval command failed to evolve suitable tactics to negate the success of allied convoy system.
Sadly during interwar years the Admiralty became complacent about ASW .Meanwhile Nazis came to power in Germany.Hitler was determined to reverse the outcome of World War I.Simultaneously the U boat arm had a new competent ,dynamic leader Adm Karl Doenitz who honed U boats into a formidable offensive weapon and hurled it to assail Britain's sea line of communications.As a antidote to the convoy Doenitz evolved the tactics of wolfpack.U boats were spread out across probable path of convoy.When a convoy was sighted sub sent a sighting report to shore-based HQs while continuing to shadow the convoy.HQs in turn directed other U boats lurking in the vicinity towards the convoy. U boats now coming from different directions converging towards target thus formed a pack.This constituted an effective tactical riposte to the convoy: concentration of defending force vis a vis corresponding concentration of attacking forces.Advances in the field of W/T made this manoeuvre feasible.
Despite the novelty of the system often convoys sneaked through U boat cordon.A fact which symbolises the im mensity of the ocean.Thus Adm Doenitz tactical problem was intercepting convoys.It was precisely here that radio intelligence came in.Radio intelligence helped the U boat command pin-point the position of the convoys. Immedietly U boats were put across its track.From early 1942 many of pack attacks came to be guided by Sigint.
But during the early phase of the war attacks took palace in and around British isles where bulk of shipping Britain's overseas empire converged.Pack attacks launched on the surface during nights caught British defences napping.Since Asdic could not detect surfaced U boat.However since U boats mostly operated on the surface it gave scope for radar detection.As author says the outcome of the campaign was influenced by technical innovations.Most important being ASV III radar fitted into coastal command aircraft which started patrolling sealanes.
Radar robbed U boats of its invisibility and pack attacks became difficult whenever convoys came under the range of aircover.Often U boat had to submerge thus losing contact with the convoy. From autumn 1942 onwards most of the escort groups had one vessel which carried automatic high frequency direction finder FH4 which can intercept the first contact signal of U boat.Then a destroyer homed in onthe bearing forcing U boat to submerge and lose contact with convoy.
Mention should also be made of role played by OIC of Admiralty in foiling pack attacks.Author has rightly dubbed it as nerve centre of anti U boat war.British penetration of German naval enigma cipher made posible evasive routing of convoys.In short ,Doenitz U boat packs were mastered by superior technology :combination of airpower ,radar, HF-DF cryptanalysis,improved depth charges better escorting techniques etc.
By May 1943 U boats were defeated but struggle for establishing technological dominance continued as Doenitz again planned to hurl his favourite weapon against AngloAmerican supply lines after making them invisible to Allied air and surface escorts.Snorkelled U boats which appeared by Jan 1944 to a great extent helped evade radar detection .By early 1945 submarines emerged . This marked the beginning of a new era U boat war since it rendered all Allied ASW techniques obsolete.
Author has termed the phenomenon as'unappealing lanscape of square one'.To sum up,considering the level of technology prevalent at that time war against U boats was immensely complex ,sophisticated campaign.This book impecabbly researched,and I consider best available on the subject.
Erudite and lavisly detailed;brimming with statistics on U boat war also contain tables on U boat losses.