B the end of 1943 the German submarine war on Atlantic convoys was all but defeated; beaten by superior technology, code-breaking and air power. With losses mounting, Dönitz withdrew the wolfpacks, but in a surprise change of strategy, following the D-Day landings in June 1944, he sent his U-boats into British coastal waters, closer to home thus nullifying long transit voyages and where they could harass the crucial Allied supply lines to the new European bridgehead.
Caught unawares, the British and American navies struggled to cope with a novel predicament – in shallow waters U-boats could lie undetectable on the bottom, and given operational freedom, they rarely needed to make signals thus neutralising the Allied advantages of decryption and radio direction-finding. Behind this unpleasant shock lay an even greater threat, of radically new submarine types known to be nearing service. Dönitz saw these as war-winning weapons and gambled that his inshore campaign would hold up the Allied advance long enough to allow these faster and quieter boats to be deployed in large numbers.
The offensive was perhaps Germany’s last chance to turn the tide, yet, surprisingly, such an important story has never been told in detail before. That it did not succeed masks its full significance: the threat of quiet submarines, operating singly in shallow water, was never really mastered and in the Cold War that followed, the massive Soviet submarine fleet, built on captured German technology and tactical experience, became a very real menace to Western sea power. In the way Dönitz’s last gamble set the course for post-war anti-submarine warfare development.
Originally published by Seaforth Publishing, 2008.
ISBN 978 1 84415 714
Available from the Pen & Sword website and other book outlets.
The author clearly knows his subject well.
This is a fascinating account.
Nautilus UK Telegraph
Fleet Air Arm Officers Association – May 2009
Work Boat World – Dec 2010