Sunday, August 20

Read & Reviewed: U-boat Im focus Issue 14 from

Time for us to “dive” into the newest issue of “U-boat Im Focus” for more unpublished photos, stories and memories of history in issue no# 14 from Luftfahrtverlag-Start. We have read the book, so see what we thought about issue in our review…

U-boat Im Focus No#14

By Axel Urbanke
Published by: luftfahrtverlag-start
Softcover 54 pages, 52 Black and white/colour photos, coloured map & coloured profiles included.
A4 Portrait Format (9 x 12 inches)
Dual English/German text
ISBN: 978-3-941437-33-3
Available from the luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or from their resellers worldwide in subscription or as single issues

The latest edition of Uboot im Focus sees us fourteen issues in to this much-loved series of books. Those unfamiliar with this series, but maybe familiar with the cousin “Luftwaffe im Focus” might know a little more about what to expect. Uboot im Focus is a dual language, softcover book that features not only the U-boats in the title, but the people, places and stories that came from these sailor's lives through them, and more recently, their relatives who have passed these onto the author Axel Urbanke.

By taking you through this book section by section you will soon be accustomed to it, and I suppose it will tell you if you are interested in it, so that's what I will do in this review. First a physical description and then a walk through.

Physically these books are of an A4 portrait form, with a soft, glossy cover which is adorned with a photo and a stripe down the side in a dark blue theme in keeping with the others in this nautical series. The book opens up to the thick pages with mostly black and white pictures to illustrate it, but often a few coloured pages and profile illustrations are inside to better show what is being talked about.
About every three months or so the Luftfahrtverlag-start team bring out a new “U-Boot Im Focus”. This issue is pretty much the same size as the others in the series, weighing in at fifty-two pages, with the text in dual German and English languages and a large format picture, sometimes two, on each page. There are also maps to support the stories and text as well as illustrations and photographs of newly surfaced artefacts that are exclusive to this book.

Speaking of exclusive, the stories and the photos you find in these books are also not ever before published. Recently as mentioned in the editorial, the Author has had to leave a slight watermark (no pun intended seeing its a book about U-Boats) and so as a matter of respect to that, some of the pictures here are on some oblique angles to prevent more picture grabbing by unscrupulous dudes wanting to pass them on as their own. Sorry about the Dutch angles, but the worth of these photos in every one of these titles is one of their main selling points.

The other part of the book that makes the admission price is the interesting stories and pictures' accompanying text. The author enlightens us too much of what is going on, and more of the story behind the scenes from these pictures. The stories about the soldiers are as compelling as the photos and artefacts on hand.
Enough talking ABOUT the book and look more at the contents in a walkthrough of the contents of U.I.F.#14…

Contents of Issue #14 of U-boot Im Focus
Type II B Boats: U-9 (1942)
Type VII C Boats: U-97 (1942), U-81 (1942), U-423 (1943), U-270 (1943), U-429 (1943/44)
Type IX C Boats: U-68 -IX C-, (1941), U-107 -IX B- (1942)
•Conning Towers. Segmented Camouflage.
•Colour Photos. The coastline.
•Pennants. Aircraft shot down in the Bay of Biscay.
•Boat in Focus. U-481 in the eastern Baltic
•Documents. Depth Control Master Diploma
•Fates. Complaints to the Luftwaffe
•Photos with a story. Collision of U-322 and U-1009
•Scenery. Kiel Harbour.
•Unusual. Turkish Fez hats.

In the regular “Editorial & Readers Forum” section at the start of this and every issue always makes me smile, and this one is no different. The reason I like it so is the two-way communication between author and readers often starts here. I love the feedback that is not only accepted from readers but encouraged by the author. Readers are encouraged to contribute to, and correct if necessary, the stories in the former issues of the book. Often little gems will be uncovered after the book is published by the authors or the readers.
We start the book proper in 1942 by looking at U-9, a Type II B Boats and hearing about its interesting story of an unconventional voyage on its side and disassembled. We then look at several Type VII C Boats from 1942 to 1944, we see these five U-Boats U-97 (1942), U-81 (1942), U-423 (1943), U-270 (1943), U-429 (1943/44) and see crew on the watch ( in shorts with oilskins in the Mediterranian) loading a torpedo in two nice shots that show plenty of detail. We see one of if not the unluckiest boats of the war in U-423, which we see the first of the colour illustrations of the “Peterle” emblem and hear about the sad story of its short service life and crew's fate.

We also look at two more Type VII C Boats, U-429 which was taken back from Italy after the surrender by her navy, and the conning tower and some text on U-270 – with the mast of a small tree and all.
We next look at some Type IX C Boats in 1941 and 1942. U-68-IXC- with the cameraman obviously dangling over the side of the boat in a shat I have not seen anything like before from that angle, as well as U-107-IX B- with its interesting conning tower playing card emblem.

Speaking of conning towers, the next section of the book is a good expose on one of the more colourful examples. The segmented camouflage on the Type VII C with the only two photos of this boat, and accompanied nicely by Juanita Franzi's colour profile of the “turm” which fleshes these colours of the photos, and the boat's story out a little.
Colour photos from this time, on a U-Boat and from German sources are pretty rare, so any shots like this that are previously unpublished are print gold. These photos show the coastline of Norway in the distance and reflect on the life of these sailors as the “happy time” led to the struggle just to return home as the Allies air power, radar and anti-submarine technology became more powerful. These two excellent pictures serve as a poignard reminder to the human face of this U-Boat war.
After a short story about pennants showing a sign of the victory of U-415 over a Wellington bomber into something much more substantial, the “Boat in Focus” section. This part of the book is a large section of this issue at twenty of the fifty-two total pages. A lot more text accompanies the subject of this next section and so I settled in for a nice read.

The scene is the Gulf of Finland in 1944, and this story was before unknown to the public, and unpublished in any books. The story tells of the action in that gulf, from 1941 onwards till the time of our story in 1944 in the six-mile-wide “Sea Urchin Minefield”. A prologue about the efforts of the Soviets to clear it from air and sea while the Germans tried to hem the Russians inside it. As the fortunes of war changed and the Russians became stronger, we see U-481 arrive on this scene in June 1944. At this point, a large map (sorry I don't have a picture here) shows the land and seascape that the action took place in the Gulf of Finland.

What I DO have a picture of is the three-page gatefold illustration of the profile of U-481, in full colour and again illustrated by Juanita Franzi. It looks just as good as the other drawings I have seen in this series and it is nice to have the subject of the story shown in colour. We also see a close-up drawing (and a photo) of the conning tower and the emblem of a large picture of Stalin getting beaten on by a hammer. Brilliant, un-PC stuff.
After a long journey and no real night to help them being so far north, the recorded dices with patrol boats, the bottom of the Gulf, a seam marker and a tree, with badly chartered maps, a rogue submarine, many aircraft flying overhead, it seems with the midnight sun and constant sea and air activity, the U-481 could not be effective.

However they were capable of doing their duty, and U-841's actions with two sinkings and a crippling of the enemy minesweepers is described, as well as a lucky escape from two of its own Fw 200's who must have thought the boat to be an enemy and another when the sub collided with a boat full of Estonian refugees in fog. Also, the sinking of three Finish sailing vessels is mentioned and shown in a dramatic picture of the U-Boat ramming one of the ships.

Several other U-Boats were active in the gulf at that time and they are shown in pictures and mentioned in the texts, as were the actions against some enemy ships in convoys, and the problems the ship seemed to be having with their torpedos at the time.
The story also tells of both a close-range encounter with torpedo boats in the fog and a successful mission to judge the worth of finding a way through the mines and the Walrus net barrier to attack Soviet shipping on the eastern side. It must have been a butt-clenching mission though they say it was easy here.

The last operations of U-481 before leaving the Gulf are charted, a highly decorated cook, then a fateful rendezvous with U-958 is recorded before we end the article with a small table of the losses in the Gulf of Finland from 1944 till the end of the war.

We look at some training scenes next, of men training on U-704 and the amusing “Depth Control Master Diploma” given to successful students after their training had concluded. The joviality is soon ended for another always interesting section of the book - “Fates”, where we talk about the service life and usually the death of the boat crews.

This issue “Fates” is titled “Complaints to the Luftwaffe” and it concerns mainly a friendly fire incident between the sailors of U-334 and the attacking planes of the Luftwaffe (Luftflottle 5) during the time of the famous Convoy PQ-17 (of Tirpitz fame).
The story explains of the drama that unfolded after the sinking of a merchantman by U-334, and the following circumstances when the Boat came to the surface to watch from a safe distance as KG 30's Ju-88 aircraft attacked the sinking vessel. The complaint lodged to the Luftwaffe command is shown here in an insert of a photograph, and translated into German and Eglish for the reader. This gives a narrative of the Commander's point of view in the letter. The authors also point out that some creative writing might have covered over the guilty party's “ill-disciplined” act.

We are winding down now, but not before the regular section “Photos with a story” This time we look at a rare instance of a U-boat to U-Boat collision, with U-322 and U-1009 coming together whilst U-1009 was submerged. The story of how this boat recovered after such brutal damage to its conning tower and the aftermath and investigation of the incident is an interesting account.

In the regular section "Scenery" we look at some Kiel Harbour. where U-237 was launched and later met its fate, the story includes the emblem of the boat in an illustration. These next few pages also include a short passage on the "Spanish Cross" for sailors who served with the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War, as well as two pictures on the rear cover and some text about sailors wearing the Turkish "Fez" hats
OK, so that is it for this issue. As usual, you can probably tell that there is a lot in these relatively thin pages of the book. The pictures are as always interesting and the text, illustrations and maps to support these stories are excellent.

The amount of new information, pictures and insight that is brought up into the eyes of the public is as always astounding to me. I don't know how they come up with this material so regularly. We are lucky to have publishers like this who are finding and showing us this history which otherwise would be lost.

Another great issue that was a wonderful read.

Adam Norenberg

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

Funny enough - just before I publish this - I see that the next issue of U-Boot Im FOcus is on the way - here is the cover and some of the subjects in this book - if they are anything like this one - I would invest :-)

U-Boot Im Focus Edition No# 15
58 pages with 63 photos(of which 13 in
a document in colour, A coloured conning tower illustration, two coloured  Graphs, three maps, & reader's forum
Price (domestic in Germany): 18,80 € 
incl. 7% sales tax. And shipping
Price abroad: Link to the website
ISBN: 978-3-941437-35-7

U-Boot im Focus 15 has been printed. It starts shipping on Monday, 29th of August. Make sure you have a look at their homepage: It has just been updated with all new books, and now you can see all the new books that they are working on. 

Contents of UBIF #15
•Unusual: The Commander  Hand on
• Focus on the boat: U-84 - the story  A boat: missions before Newfoundland,  America and the Caribbean
• Documents: The "Knight Cross Certificate"  Of Krupp Germaniawerft AG
• Towers: U-431 - Individual camouflage paint  in the Mediterranean Sea
• Fate: The last photos and the  Last ride from Kptlt. Schepke (U-100)
• Photos with story: U-boat deck names  In the bases of St. Nazaire and  La Pallice
• Scenery: A view of the tower
• Hat Badge: The Great "Whale"  Hat badge of U-50
• Interior shot: U-109
• As well as further individual recordings of
 Boats (U-437, U-561, U-65, U-237) and
 Further information