Sunday, April 21

Read n' Reviewed: U-boat Im Focus #16 from Luftfahrtverlag-Start

The U-boat community is a small, but parochial part of the modelling scene with a great crossover into armour and other genres of model making. For this reason we always feature the "U-Boot Im Focus series of books here on TMN. The Other reason is that they are published by Axel Urbanke's Luftfahrtverlag-Start. See our review of their latest -  #16 in the series in today's review...

Read n' Reviewed: U-boat Im Focus #16
By Axel Urbanke
Published by: Luftfahrtverlag-Start
Softcover 50 pages, 66 Black and white/ 10 colour photos, 1 document in colour, 1 coloured conning tower view, 2 coloured maps included.
A4 Portrait Format (9 x 12 inches)
Dual English/ German text

ISBN: 978-3-941437-37-1
Price (domestic in Germany): 19,60 €
Available from the luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or from their resellers worldwide in subscription or as single issues

"U-boot im Focus" turns sweet sixteen with this, the latest issue of the publication from Axel Urbanke and his publishing house Luftfahrtverlag-Start.

UBIF#16 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 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 66 photos, 10 of these are in colour, add to this one coloured document, a coloured conning tower side view profile, two coloured maps with the text from those maps in German language only. and you have a small form but full issue.
Speaking of contents, in this issue there are similar stories and features that regular readers will well know:

UBIF #16 Contents:
• Introduction & Readers forum
• Single images of boats (U-387, U-19, U-576, U-37 and U-168)
• Boat in Focus: Addendum to the use of U-481 in the Gulf of Finland
• Unusual: The signs for smokers and Frischluftschnapper
• Photos with history: U-995 - then and now What about the originality of the museum boat in Laboe?
• Scenery: Escort in the coastal apron
• Boat in focus: U-393 - The test boat of the test group " Sultan "
• Unusual: Submariners' bath while driving
• Documents: The role card of a submarine rider
• Colour photographs: Italian submarine with Reichskriegsflagge

The large-format photographs in the book are all of the previously unpublished nature, some of them single shots and some in a series of pictures that tell a story. They are in varying quality but all of them I can say add some interest to the story - here told in dual English and German languages.  These images and stories are often from the U-boot community of enthusiasts, sometimes from surviving family members. It never fails to suprise me that these new stories and images can come from so long ago in the past and be made into a story about the people and machines we can relate to today. 

There are other things we will talk about as we run through the pages now from front to back of the book. Interestingly the Publisher's note this time talks about the wealth of material still to come in the next two volumes. These will feature the Type IXC U-boats to stand alongside Revell's new kits coming this year. A brand new decal sheet (which I will review separately) is also on the way from the Publisher to match the books and Revell's new kit.

I always enjoy the reader's forum, which again is full of knowledge from the community about past books and boats. Monuments captured during the war and in restricted areas, faces on emblems on conning towers, alternate pictures of previously featured boats are what has been added by readers in words and pictures to the knowledge base here. I love it that the publishers encourage their own readership to challenge the written facts and gladly publish anything that corrects or enhances the stories brought forward in their publications. Bravo to them.

The first few pages feature the regular section where we look at several boats in one or two images each. A Type IIB &Type II C sub, a Type VII C boat heading out to a war cruise as well as two Type IX boats - one A and one C, both with a coloured artwork plate to replicate the artwork on their conning towers. The text, in German and English, tells as much of the story as is known to the reader.

"Boot Im Focus" is a nine-page story that follows the men of U-481 in a follow-up story to the one featured in Issue #14 in a text and photo supplement to that mission of the U-boat on its operations in the Gulf of Finland. I do remember reading this story, and the setting was one which was pretty unique, so this is a bonus. The new pictures and accompanying paragraphs were scanned from a crewmember's collection, and while they do not add any alternate facts or different history to the bulk of the story you may have already read, they do flesh out the voyages and show us a lot more of the crew in everyday scenarios in those times.

We see the crew from U-481 on their venture out of Konningsberg harbour in several shots of her crew, then a series of pictures showing the boat attacking three ships ferrying supplies for the Soviets. The three sinking actions are covered in this part of the book that adds as a great supplement to the original story (which I just re-read) ­čśâ. The story ends with the return to Danzig port with the crew, lots of parts of the boat are highlighted, including the unusual camouflage and excellent emblem lampooning Stalin.

After some torpedo testing, a very interesting mishap of one of the AA guns when firing at an enemy bomber at close range while in port and another mishap - this time of a burning turban at the anniversary of the commissioning of the boat the story of the boat and her crew keeps developing.  Speaking of Turbans - the conning tower mascot of a sultan is shown in pictures and by a coloured illustration by the talented Juanita Franzi, the first of her two colour illustrations in the book. These add to the black and white greatly, especially for modellers.

As the days of the war rolled on and seasons passed we hear more tales of further training with other subs and surface ships in the Sultan group, of a very weird way of sabotaging the U-Boat, along with several pictures of the conning tower and anti-aircraft weaponry (and the crew having beers in front of it) are of interest. The unfortunate news about the fate of "Schnapps" and the voyages under a new captain are explored also. As the British advanced to overrun the sub's base at Kiel in May 1945 and the evacuation of the base is discussed (- along with a mission to rescue the Captain's cats from the base) The escape of the base to the eventual fate of the boat (and several others) a few days later is told. Importantly during this last track and earlier two maps are supplied by the publishers to show you the context of the place names told of int he excellent story text and accompanying pictures.

An original document that is not often seen is the "role card" that ever sailor carried expressing their exact duties on board and even where they slept. Precious few of these cards remain as they were made from cardboard so this was a rare find.

The Italians are next - with a colour and a black and white brace of photos showing Italian subs captured by the Germans on Sicily during "Operation Axis". We also get a picture of the most precarious shower ever with the story behind the submariners hanging over the sides of the moving boat to bathe. 

The next story sixteen pages tell the story of U-boot 393 "in Focus" from the circumstances of a dramatic launch at Keil harbour in July 1943 and commissioned soon after by Capitan Alfred Radermacher (of U-96 fame). We see several pictures of the boat being built, the crew in dress uniforms on deck before propper sea training began. A speed measurement, an operation where the sub had a calamitous collision with another ship before a refit. The story of how the boat got her name as the "Egg Steamer" and the new crewmember called "Schnapps" who had babies (?), went for "walks" and did "number 2's" on other ships when the boat made port is just as interesting.

Two pictures on two pages illustrating the escorting of U-Boats in and out of port at speed and the changing regulations around these operations are discussed. Our last five pages see us pay a visit to the still surviving living museum U-995 in Loboe near Kiel. The text and pictures show some of the changes that have had to occur to the boat due to it's service life with the Norwegians after the war, the wear and replacement of several small and larger parts of the equipment, the 37mm AA gun and the whole front of the sub due to preservation or the lack of replacements.

The last two pictures on the back page show us some supply actions under heavy seas.

Well that is it for this issue - as usual, I think the publishers have done a wonderful job in finding this information, writing the stories and exposing yet more of us to the lives of these men (and dog) on the high seas during WWII

Issue #16 of "U-Boot Im Focus" is an excellent issue that is due to be well received by U-Boot fans and modellers alike.

Adam Norenberg

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