Wednesday, September 11

Read n' Reviewed: Uboot Im Focus #17 from Luftfahrtverlag-Start

"U-boot Im Focus" #17 has been released to the public - and we are sure that the U-boat community would be happy to see another volume, but what is inside this issue and how does it measure up to the others in the series? See what we thought after we read it in our review...

Read n' Reviewed: Uboot Im Focus #17
From Luftfahrtverlag-Start
By Axel Urbanke
50 pages
Softcover, A4 Portrait format
51 photos (1 in colour),
3 coloured emblems,1 document in colour, 2 coloured conning tower views, 4 coloured maps
Price: 19,60 €
ISBN: 978-3-941437-41-8
Product Link on the Luftfahrtverlag-Start website
Available from the luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or from their resellers worldwide in subscription or as single issues

It is a happy time for this reader when we get to see another "U-Boot im Focus" arrive on our doorstep from the team at Luftfahrtverlag-Start in Germany. This series of books focussed on the U-boats of WWII mirrors the aircraft focussed series called "Luftwaffe im Focus". Both of thee series has a close community of readers who eagerly await new editions, with previously unseen photographs with supporting text to give the stories behind the images. The U-boat community especially love these books as there is often so little known about the top-secret voyages of these men in their sleek machines. I would Imagine finding the information after all of this time would be even more difficult, but the author Axel Urbanke seems to keep on finding new subjects, new stories and secrets to uncover to their readers.

The book in its physical form:
Each of these books follows an identical format, one that mirrors the Luftwaffe im Focus series also - that of a glossy softcover book, portrait A4 format, with about fifty pages inside, this one has fifty pages with fifty-one photographs of mostly a large format size, added to with one document in colour, four coloured maps to support the stories being told and the artwork by Juanita Franzi of three coloured emblems and two coloured conning tower profiles.

The main subject in this issue include:
• Commander: Kptlt. Friedrich Guggenberger, Kptlt. Helmut Rosenbaum, Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder, Cpt. Fritz Frauenheim, Kptlt. Werner Kraus, Oblt. (Ing.) Erich Zürn (picture directly below)
• Reader Forum: The Spanish Cross for U-BoatsU-393 and the Pilot Boat of the Trial Group "Sultan"
• Background: "Wind force 11 - we connect to the convoy!"
• Towers: U-67 - an early Type IX C boat with a rare camouflage scheme
• Boat in Focus: With the "Heart Lady" on an enemy journey - An outline of the companies of the early Type IX C boat U-126
• Unusual: The submarine war badge on the pullover
• Documents: The "Dairy Cow" commander asks for a table
• fates: Twice dropped without enemy action - The fate of the hapless boat U-1234
• Underground tanker: doctor comes aboard as well as other single photos of boats (U-59 and U-108) and further information

Now you know what is promised in this issue I thought I would take you through the book as I read it and illustrate the contents a little...

The book is full of photographs, with each of them fleshed out with both German and English text by the author, sometimes even quotes from the sailors themselves from the time. Some of these pictures, like in the first section of the book, show individual pictures of vessels or sailors, some in a pair or series that highlight one instance. These are highlighted in the first part of the book where we look at a Typ IIC and Type IXB boats in the harbour, a little of their story is told also. These two pictures follow the usual reader's forum. In every issue, the author Mr Urbanke speaks about not only this volume but includes submissions, additions and corrections from readers who have sent in either pictures or evidence to add to, support or question the previous stories told in the series. I love it that the publishers are happy for the real story to be told about these men and machines, even at the cost of their own pride. The community really does seem to buy into this method of fact sharing and as a result, everyone is truly rewarded for the openness of the author in their approach to sharing their readers' submissions.

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 and one of these boats on the sheet (U-126) is featured heavily in this book.
The first, longer story of the book is next, with "Background" which tells the story of navigation on these boats. Accompanied by several pictures of men using location finding equipment and filling out charts, taking wind and weather readings. The methods of celestial navigation and dead reckoning are explained, with pictures to accompany the block text and why the recording of the environment was important to not only the boat but HQ and the rest of the fleet in an interesting passage of five pages. 

The "Turm" or Conning tower is the feature of the next four pages. In this section, we look at the emblem on the conning tower of U-67 that featured the Kyffhäuser Monument from near the Kapitan's home. This was the lesser-known first emblem of the boat, unknown to many readers  -  and it is featured in three pictures, with one of these in colour showing the shades of the boat and markings, and two drawings by the talented Juanita Franzi. Juanita provides a profile of the conning tower and marking artwork in isolation also. This adds an air of relatability to these black and white shots, colour is something that brings the reader closer to the subject in these old images.

The next part of the book is the largest section, with "U-Boot im Focus" this time being the U-126 early-type IX C boat, captained by Kplt Bauer and launched in March 1941. This boat featured the "Herz-Dame" or Queen of Hearts (with an interesting animal on her shoulder) for her six war tours. After a mishap with a target boat in its infancy, we hear of the U-126 going to war joining other boats on patrol, and the long nocturnal pursuit of a Canadian freighter and attacks using the deck gun and torpedos makes for a fascinating insight into a one on one battle between freighter and U-boat.

Co-operating with Fw 200 Condors and other boats in the pack we hear how the U-126 tried to engage a heavily escorted convoy, whose alert patrols kept on styming all but the strongest attacks before the boat scored success. The cruise continues, with the avoidance of escort vessels, encounters with neutral vessels and an English steamer, and even a fellow Axis submarine whilst attacking the same target! We see the attacks on a map provided by the author which all movements from the 5th of July until the 24th of august are denoted with the grid squares described in the story and the notations of serious events on those squares.

The second patrol saw the U-126 on duty in the mid-Atlantic amongst exotic places off the coast of West Africa, all the while attacking and sinking several ships and avoiding their escort's attacks. We learn more about the Subs and the enemies tactics through the telling of the story of everyday events. while pictures show such interesting subjects like the "crossing of the line" ceremony and the rescue of survivors from the German Cruiser "Atlantic" are shown and described in pictures and text. We also see another conning tower profile in full colour from Juanita Franzi that gives you an idea of the colours of the boat - a great addition for modellers or U-boat enthusiasts these profiles are, and very handy if you want to emulate this boat's endeavours with the new decal sheet from the publishers!

The third cruise of the U-126 from 2nd Feb till 29th of March 1942 is described in a rather more reduced fashion. The enemies sunk by U-126 are listed and actions are described only over a block text on a few pages here, with a map included showing the 51-day cruise in the Caribbean. We have a few interesting pictures to go along with this - of the captain's awarding of the Knight's Cross presentation the boat, while the conning towers' numbers are shown in a picture to match the artwork as we are told why those numbers were chosen.

The fourth operation of U-126 took off on the 25th of April 1942 and covered the coast of Brazil & Trinidad & Tobago. The story of the voyage is somewhat truncated again, we note the successful sinkings of Captain Bauer and his crew, while the significant incidents of the trip are told in a more perfunctory way in points rather than regular text. Again we see a map and several pictures to support the events told in text.
The same goes for the fifth voyage of U-126. This time sailing from September 19th 1942 and patrolling in the waters off the West coast of Africa again. Bauer's ship's successes are documented and again we see the patrols significant incidents told in date and time points, this time a little more flushed out. The depth charging and lucky escape, a confrontation with natives around the Gold Coast, a meeting with a tanker sub and a Catalina attack are amongst the details of note on this cruise that finished in January 1943.

The sixth and final cruise of the boat 's story begins with a new commander,  (Oblt.z.S Siegfried Kietz on 20th March 1943. After a brief action we hear how the U-126 was discovered to be damaged, and after attack from the air at night while on its way back to base the fate of the boat was sealed. Although there is a lot to take in over the twenty-two pages covering this boat's war record, the fleshing out of the story I have briefly described is well worth the read, and it is a standout part of this book.

Next under the title of "Unusual: The U-boat War Badge on the underwear pullover" describes and shows the unusual dress standards that passed for suitable in the more casual surrounds of the base in Salamis in Greece. We also see two pages showing a document and two pictures with text under the heading "Documents: The rather fancy paper invitation from the Commander of a "Milk Cow""  to the commissioning ceremony of the new U-Boat U-462. The story of the commander and his actions and the politics around his actions is an interesting little read.

The last section of this issue is under the "Fates" heading - "Sunk twice for reasons other than enemy action" covers the fate of the hapless boat U-1234. After a collision with a tugboat, we hear about the vessel's rapid sinking, the rescue of some of the crew before weak tapping on the hydrophones of the rescuers revealed there were more crew trapped in the boat underwater. The story tells of the rescue efforts that succeeded and failed and the eventual second sinking of the boat after its repair, along with this we see some of the survivors of the sinking in photos. 

The last two pages show a doctor boarding U-460's in a dinghy over heavy seas while the text explained why the doctors from the supply ships did this, what happened to the wounded men they treated and who replaced them. Something I had never before contemplated.

Well that was it for issue #17

The large section of the book that focussed on the voyages of U-126 focussed this book around a mainly single narrative and as the story of the voyages was an interesting one, it made the book even more engaging to me. There was still plenty of small pointers with smaller articles and single photos for those interested in short bits, but these larger stories of the boats and their crews are all the more engaging. The photos, maps and illustrations again that supported the text (or is it the other way around?) were again without peer in this class of books.

I don't know how the Author finds all of this information and story, but I sure am glad he does. This is another great effort from the UBIF team at Luftfahrtverlag-Start and well worth your time.

Adam Norenberg

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