Thursday, June 30

Read n' reviewed: U-boot Im Focus #20 from Luftfahrtverlag-Start

With carefully researched never before seen photographs, stories and artwork - "U-Boot Im Focus" has its fair share of fans around the world and for a great reason. We love these books, and we get excited when a new book is released. We have read Issue#20 - see what we thought about it in our review...

Read n' reviewed: U-boot Im Focus #20
From Luftfahrtverlag-Start
By Axel Urbanke
51 pages
Softcover, A4 Portrait format
62 photos (17(!) in colour),
1 coloured conning tower profile, 1 coloured document, 2 coloured maps.
Price: 22€
Available from the Luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or from their resellers worldwide in subscription or as single issues
Time today to look at the 20th edition of "U-Boot Im Focus" from Author Axel Urbanke and his hard-working team at Luftfahrtverlag-Start. For those who are unfamiliar with this series of books, this issue is fifty-one pages in a glossy softcovered,A4 size book, filled with the best in U-Boat and naval stories and images from the era. Most of the stories and photographs are previously unpublished with new stories to captivate the readers of the series and anyone interested in history itself. 

U-Boot im Focus Edition No #20 at a glance:
51 pages
62 photos (- thereof 17 in colour)
1 coloured conning tower profile, 
coloured document
2 coloured maps 
reader’s forum
Eight exclusive, never before seen articles
Issue #20 Contents:
•Commanders: Kptlt. Robert Gysae (U-177)
•Editorial & Reader's forum
•The Story of a Conning Tower Inscription and the Manipulation of a Photograph
•Photos with a story: U-592 - The Boat with the Saving Doctor
•Documents: The Polar Baptism Letter – The Counterpart to the Crossing the Equator Certificate
•Background: Good cooking - helps to win! - The Difficult Life of a Ship’s Cook on a U-Boat
•Technical Equipment: “Please Transmit Direction Finding Signals!” A Report on the U-
Boat 280 S Rotating Loop Antenna Radio Direction Finding System
•Scenery: “Attack – Close – Sink” – The 1st U-Boat Flotillas' Dining Hall
•Fates: Failed Attempt to Enter the Mediterranean The Fate of U-761 on Its Second War Cruise
•U-Tanker: Photos from the Fourth War Cruise by the Supply Boat U-460

We will now look at this edition from front to back, with a brief description of what is inside before I sum it all up...

Page by Page:
The book starts with a short article about how the sea, combat and living onboard a U-Boat can affect a sailor's look. We see pictures of the same sailor before and after a mission. One can understand how so many errors are easy to make when identifying sailors, especially from photos of seventy-five years ago.
Speaking of errors and addendum, the Reader's Forum is always a great section to look at. Kudos to the Author for correcting their previous mistakes and adding to their releases with more information and photographs when needed. Speaking of the author, there is some news from Axel Urbanke in this issue about future releases of UBIF (U-Boot im Focus) in there.

The first large section of the book is around thirteen pages, a regular section, "Photos with a Story". It features the lesser known travels of Doctors on U-boats during the latter parts of WWII especially. The article describes in detail just why more doctors were needed, and the voyage of one sub, U-592, and the journey from what looked like a warm weather Atlantic cruise, into a mercy dash into the North Atlantic on two different occasions.
From the start of the story, talking about how vessels were censored in the press, to the explanation of why the crew anticipated a south Atlantic cruise, to their route, why several boats were delayed in returning to their patrols. The sailor's full journey is carefully shown on one of the two large full colour maps in the book. We follow the travels of the sailors and their doctor. We read how he was transferred to the other boats, and the perils that faced them in doing their jobs. Already, by the first article, I am taken away to a time in the past, and the atmosphere of the story places my thoughts with these sailors int he North Atlantic in the rough seas and midnight sun conditions at the time of this cruise.

Again in this book we have the pleasure of seeing a conning tower profile drawing by the talented Juanita Franzi which brings colour to the subject.
In "Documents: The Polar Baptism Letter – The Counterpart to the Crossing the Equator Certificate" we learn about (and see in colour) the alternative to the Equator crossing certificate that sailors in the South Atlantic received. This one was for crossing the other line, the Artic Circle. Another long article of a massive twenty-two pages is next, with the story of the "Smutje" or the cooks about the U-Boats. 
Called "Background: Good cooking - helps to win! - The Difficult Life of a Ship’s Cook on a U-Boat" this is a quite diverting story. We normally do not see much of the "other" jobs on the boat apart from fighting, but most of us will be familiar with U-boats and docks strewn with food, crates and provisions for the many trips these boats and their sailors undertook. This story takes us through the career of a fledgling U-Boat cook in training, using the standard equipment, how these men were selected, the preparations for each cruise and some of the strange peculiarities of being a cook underwater trying to save two pans of soup and meat in a 20/30 degree dive underwater!
A few things to note about this article. there is a nice section showing the provisions on a deck of a U-Boat and then the coloured photos and descriptions of the contents. The wealth of photos (some in excellent colour), showing the successes and failures (sometimes fallen on the floor) of the cooks. This story had me laughing out loud at some of the men's names for cooks and their works. A great article that I got my wife to read as she loves cooking. She loved it, as did I.
An article of six pages is next "Technical Equipment: Please Transmit Direction Finding Signals!” A Report on the U-Boat 280 S Rotating Loop Antenna Radio Direction Finding System" describes the make up and functionality of these direction finding loops and some of the auxiliary equipment needed to use them and how they could be used. Several good photos, including a nice colour photo of a boat with the device is included here.

In “Attack – Close – Sink – The 1st U-Boat Flotillas' Dining Hall" you see the inside and outside of the famous dining hall under the French Naval Academy. Lastly, my favourite part of these books - "Fates". Often a grim or harrowing tale, this one features the failed attempt to enter the Mediterranean and the fate of U-761 on its second war cruise. Two pages, combined with a map and a photo of U-761 accompany the story of the boat and her crew's fate. This was a little short for me, and although still interesting, I do wish there was more to be revealed about this boat and her crew. 

The final page has two good photos to accompany the "Suppliers of the Grey Wolves" book about submarine tankers.

And that was all they wrote.

SO, this issue, a few things of note. Firstly, my post office delivery driver was a DICK! He bent my copy. This has nothing to do with the publishers, but it did hamper my review of the book as I spent a month trying to straighten it out. A factor a lot of modellers will know now after international postage delays and losses. Totally not Luftfahrtverlag-Start's fault, they always send them securely & this has never happened before. My postman is an idiot. Sorry for getting this review out later than I expected!

The next, I am not getting any younger, but the printed letters could be made just a little larger. It would help, especially on the English language text which is in italics to differentiate it from the German text.

Third, this book seemed a little short on human stories, but what it DID have was a LOT of exposition about how these U-boats worked. A lot of information about the engines of the boats, the doctors, the chefs and equipment - even the place the sailers came to when they returned from a patrol. This book taught me a lot and made me think about the workings of U-Boats a lot more than most of the other issues. I think this is a great thing.

I do hope that this series keeps going strong. There is plenty more to explore about the men and machines of the unterseeboots of the Kriegsmarine during WWII. 

I loved this issue.

Adam Norenberg

Issue no #20 is now available directly from the Luftfahrtverlag-start webpage or their resellers worldwide. Thanks to them for sending the book to TMN to read and to review...