Tuesday, January 9

U-Boot im Focus Edition No 15 from Luftfahrtverlag-Start Read n’ Reviewed

We recently read the latest “U-Boot Im Focus” from Axel Urbanke at Luftfahrtverlag-start. Fifteen issues in these guys are still coming up with new and never before seen stories and pictures of these boats and their crews in action and at rest. See what we found in our book review...

Read n' Reviewed: U-boat Im Focus #15
By Axel Urbanke
Published by: luftfahrtverlag-start
Softcover 58 pages, 63 Black and white/ 13 colour photos, coloured map & coloured profiles included.
A4 Portrait Format (9 x 12 inches)
Dual English/ German text

ISBN: 978-3-941437-35-7
Price (domestic in Germany): 18,80 €
Available from the luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or from their resellers worldwide in subscription or as single issues

Every few months we see a new edition of U-Boot im Focus written by Axel Urbanke and published by his company (who also make the “Luftwaffe im Focus “series Luftfahrtverlag-start. We are no already at issue fifteen of this series dedicated to U-boats and their crews, and this fifteenth issue is the subject of the review today.

These books feature a bunch of regular articles that are woven together into a neat little package. The books feature usually all new and before unpublished stories and photographs that have been sourced or donated from several different veterans, and more often than not their descendants who have discovered these and want to share their stories. This is a robust community of two-way feedback which brings to us, the readers, new stories and images that otherwise would have been lost to the rest of the world. The books are well regarded, so it’s always a pleasure to see one of these books come through the post.

UBIF#15 in physical form:
This book follows all of the others in the series in shape and form, the A4 Portrait format book has a dark blue softcover in glossy card stock that features this time a black and white image on the cover. The page count this time is fifty-eight pages and inside that is featured the dual language German and English text – the English text is in Italics. In this particular issue, there are 63 photos, 13 of these are in colour, with one coloured document, a coloured conning tower side view profile, two coloured Profiles and three maps with the text from those maps in German language only.

In this issue there are the similar stories that regular readers will well know - UBIF #15 Contents:
- Editorial & Readers Comments
- Typ VIIB/ VIIC boats
- Typ XI boat/  Typ XI B boat
- Conning Towers: U 431
- Documents: The Krupp Germaniawerft AG’s Knight’s Cross Certificate
- Boat in Focus: U-84 – The Story of a Boat Patrols off Newfoundland, America and in the Caribbean
- Conning Towers: U-431 – One-Off Camouflage Scheme in the Mediterranean
- Fates: The Last Photos and the Last Voyage of Kptlt. Schepke (U-100)
- Photos with a Story: U-Boat Code Names in the Bases at St. Nazaire and La Pallice
- Scenery: A Look into the Conning Tower
- Cap Badges: U-50’s Big “Whale” Cap Badge
- Interior Shots: U-109
- photos of U-437, U-561, U-65, U-237 and further information

The difference in this issue, as hinted at by the author in his editorial, is that this issue’s contents will be largely dominated by three larger stories this time. The stories and pictures being too important to be cut down or left out. We like the larger, more fleshed out articles, so we were interested in that premise.

We will now take you from the start to the end of the book, showing you what we found and relaying a few of our thoughts about the book along the way.

The regular Editorial gives way to the reader's forum. One of the nicer and engaging parts of these books.  It is in this section that readers are actually ENCOURAGED to provide feedback and corrections with material if they have them. This is a very egalitarian way of finding the real path to the truth behind many of these stories and artifacts presented in the book. It is such a smart move by the authors because it not only provides feedback, it builds a community and it fosters new relationships with potential new sources of information for future projects. Most importantly it is an engaging and interesting section of the book.
We look at two fore-deck photos of two different boats, a Typ VIIB/VIIC and a Typ XI / XI B boat showing some close-ups of the crew and front self-defence gun. quite quickly we go to looking at the conning tower of U-431 and this one-off camouflage scheme used int he Meditteranean. Unusual in its use of stripes and mottling, we not only get a few pictures at different periods showing the evolution of the camouflage and a breakdown of the usage of the boat in the Med, but an illustrated colour profile illustration of the conning tower from the very capable Juanita Franzi. We will see more of her work throughout this book.
In a one page look at a document from the time we look at the Krupp Germaniawerft AG’s Knight’s Cross Certificate for the captain of Kptlt Fritz Frauenheim's feats in duty. An interesting document with an illustration of the Krupp shipyards. Next we "dive" into one of the larger stories of the book "Boat in Focus: U-84 – The Story of a Boat Patrols off Newfoundland, America and in the Caribbean" does what it says on the contents, with a larger article of twenty pages covering the journeys  and fate of the boat and her crew.

We look at three patrols of U-84, stories of the voyages are interwoven with maps (with text in German only) that show you just where the boat was as the story unfolds. This is a text-heavy start to the article, and I can say I am happy for this, the story really quickly draws you in to the action. The story gives us a brief overview of the situation of the boat's first cruise in August  1941, a time of turning tides in the U-boat war, before we launch right into the story of sightings and sinkings.

A helpful feature that I liked in this long section was the references to the positions of the boats being able to be put to positions on a map. These actions are associated with reference points that correlate with the sectors on the three maps in this chapter covering the patrols that are discussed. This helps you visualize where the action took place a lot easier and this was a great help to me, I was flicking back and forth to see exactly where we were reading about. 

 The story of Oblt. Horst Uphoff and his crew are drawn a lot from the war diary which describes succinctly the day to day encounters, conditions and incidents experienced on each cruise. Meetings with other U-boats, enemy escorts and their convoys, tales of evasion of depth charges and the regular operations and the difficulties even time differences brought about are all discussed here. The second patrol from October 16th in 1941 through till November 18th had a similar, but not an amazing result, with a lot of evading the enemy detailed with chance meetings and other orders.

The third and fourth cruises were as frustrating and not so successful like their previous trips, these cruises again went as far as the coast of Newfoundland, with a lot of the time spent avoiding air cover. An encounter with a steamer who nearly rammed the boat being an interesting highlight, as was the tale of an attack on a steamer full of iron ore and the vents that came from that. This highlights (and foreshadows the next cruise) the story here showing the harsh reality of the war at sea for the crews who took part.

Pictures of the boat and its crew are are a good counterpoint to the action at sea.

 June 10th  1942 and the boat is already on its fifth cruise. The trip was more successful with four enemy boats being sent to the bottom. This voyage features a double page map showing the route taken to the Carribean. Several more meetings with U-boat tankers and sunken ship's crews are punctuated with notes (from Allied sources) not included in the official account of the boat to avoid any accusations of collusion or supporting the enemy was an interesting side-bit amongst the shadowing and attacking convoys, crash diving and dodging aerial patrols.

The sixth patrol is documented next. With the operations in the North Atlantic South of Greenland with the "Panther Group" of thirty-four boats is detailed. Convoys were attacked with several enemy ships sunk. The unusual enemy practice of using open channels to communicate evasive actions that were overheard by the chasing U-boats is an interesting insight into the war at sea.

The seventh patrol started on Feb 17th, 1943, and its hunting ground of the North Atlantic had similar results to the mission before with mixed success and a lot of evasion of the enemy, weather conditions affecting refuelling and other details in the story to be read. Operating in heavy seas and icebergs, the hunting of enemy ships was hazardous without aircraft and ASDIC hunting escorts to deal with. 

The eight patrol of the boat is again supported with a small map this time detailing the journey. This section of the story of the boat has a 3/4th of a width of the page(s) wide profile of the centre deck and conning tower with the boat from Juanita Franzi again. This showed the alteration of another AA gun in the "Wintergarten" set up to combat the increasingly dangerous threat from allied aircraft. After some of the usual anti-ship and refuelling action in the Carribean, the story ends oh so abruptly with the immediacy of the crew's fate - shots were taken of the scene by the enemy putting a full stop on a story that really drew me into it.

We next look at the life and the last photos of the Last Voyage of Kptlt. Schepke (U-100). This story had already been partially covered in issue #12 of UBIF, but several new photos of the life of the Kapitan and his wife while he was on leave. Until now it was not known that a photographer had accompanied not only Schepke, but his wife and crew (who came along) on their skiing trip holiday in Rupholding. 

The correspondent Ernest Baumann's pictures are here often in colour, and they bring about an intimate portrait of the Kapitian, his wife and crew (and their dates) at a certain time while on retreat on their leave. There are also pictures here of the visits to the docks by the Kapitain in Keil where the photographer and several others joined them in trial runs of U-100 that are shown in the book. A great account in images in this very picture-driven part of the book, the wealth of material here gives the reader great insight into the crew and a high profile sailor's life at the time.

 Next we have another large section in this book "Photos with a Story: U-Boat Code Names in the Bases at St. Nazaire and La Pallice", a chapter devoted to the use of code names for U-boats and the efforts to hide these names from the allies and the prying eyes of the underground spies that kept a watch on these boats in port.

The story breaks new ground in the research given to us, showing the examination of several sources and their findings of what boat had which name in the St. Nazaire and La Pallice bases. Evidence on photographs, illustrations and the findings in a recent paint shop of the nameplates of several of the ships, carvings and illustrations on the walls and lastly lists uncovered which places a lot of these boats against their number makes for great reading. 

In the regular "Scenery" page, we get a great shot of the insides of the conning tower of  a Type VII C boat, the next page features the Kapitan of the U-boat lending a hand in a precarious position to his crew member in rough seas, we have a picture of a crewman of U-50 sporting his whale badge on his cap, and rounding out the book we have two pictures of the Viking emblem of the 6th flotilla.

So that is it for this issue #15 of Uboot Im Focus. I can say I liked the larger stories, the depth of which the author has found in these stories and the photos to go along with it. For me, this book series is actually just about the stories of the men as it is about the photographs, and these accounts in this issue really do put my mind into that place of trying to understand these men and their lives at sea on these ships on these dangerous times.

Another great issue that should be popular with fans and history readers alike that gives you a deeper understanding of the subject that most other sources.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to the team for sending this - You can get this from the luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or their re-sellers worldwide

I know that Issue 16 is already about to be released - we will let you know what that is like if we can get to look at it also - it is available now at the link above.