Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

First U-Boat Flotilla

Paterson, Lawrence

2002, United States Naval Inst.
ISBN 1557502951
Hardcover, 298 pages, 37 photographs, maps

Type. General History
Pros. Excellent research, vivid writing style
Cons. Numerous typographic and spelling errors (see below for details)

Using the unit’s own War Diary as a basis, Lawrence Paterson tells here the complete operational history of the First U-boat Flotilla, providing many fascinating details concerning patrols, successes, failures, and notable incidents. While concentrating on the fortunes of this Flotilla, the author also includes highlights from other Flotillas as well as general historical background to provide perspective.

The book covers the period 1935 to the end of 1944. The ebb and flow of the fortunes of the U-boat arm as a whole are mirrored in the experience of this Flotilla; as noted in the Foreword, as the narrative progresses, the word "Vermisst" (missing) occurs more and more frequently, its very repetition illustrating better than bare statistics the many losses suffered by the arm.

One of the strengths of the book is the way Paterson brings to life the content of the written KTB. He finds a way to vary descriptions so that repeated accounts of departures, arrivals, successes and losses do not become monotonous. At the same time, he manages to slip in a lot of useful general information without disturbing the smoothness of the narrative. The result is that by the end of the book, even a novice reader has gained a lot of information, circumstantially yet vividly presented, as to the construction of the U-boats, their weapons and tactics, the living conditions on board, etc.

Also covered are details of patrols; weapons failures; mistaken claims of sinkings; and glimpses into tragedy, such as messages which were sent to the relatives of crews lost at sea. One useful feature of the book is the greater than usual insight provided into the shore-based aspects of the U-boat war - repair and recreation facilities; the constant struggle to obtain materiel and technicians in competition with other services arms, and the post-invasion situation.

The only negative aspect of this book is the large number of typographical and spelling errors, caused by a proofreading snafu which was not noted until after the book was printed. It is really a shame that such a well-researched and well-written book should be plagued by so many misspellings of English words, German words, commander names, ship names, etc. The good news is that the author intends to release a corrected edition sometime in the future.

In spite of this problem, which is really more of an annoyance to the reader than a serious defect, this book is well worth the read and will make an excellent addition to any bookshelf as both a reference and a reading book. Paterson’s next effort, a history of the 2nd U-boat Flotilla, will be eagerly anticipated by all readers of this book.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 30 Jul 2002.

This title is highly recommended.

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