Das Boot

Patrick O’Brian

  • The U-Boat War in the Atlantic 1939-1945 by Günter Hessler and introduced by Andrew Withers
    HMSO, 396 pp, £30.00, October 1989, ISBN 0 11 772603 6
  • Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars, 1916-1945 by John Terraine
    Leo Cooper, 841 pp, £19.50, September 1989, ISBN 0 85052 760 0

The first of these books is of a kind that rarely comes into the hands of a general reader: it is a highly-detailed account of the submarine war seen from the German side and it was written by a Kriegsmarine officer after the war at the request of the Admiralty and the United States Navy Department. Fregatenkapitän Hessler commanded a U-boat in 1940 and 1941; he then served on the staff of the Flag Officer, Submarines; and for the purpose of writing this book he and the German naval officers who helped him were given access to the War Diaries and the primary sources of the Kriegsmarine. Hessler was also Dönitz’s son-in-law. Few men could have been better-informed; and as he was methodical, conscientious, untiring, he and his assistants produced a work in three volumes, abundantly illustrated with charts and diagrams, of the first importance for anyone interested not only in the strategy, tactics and technology of submarine war as it was then fought and the impact of intelligence upon it, but also in the day-to-day running of a U-boat and life aboard.

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