In the early years of World War 2, the U Boats were hunter killers, domineering the sea, and sending thousands of tons of allied shipping to the bottom of the ocean. They were so successful, they almost achieved their aim of starving Britain into surrender.
As the war progressed, the U Boats no longer enjoyed command of the sea. Use of sound detection gear(sonar), the employment of long range anti submarine seaplanes and heavily protected convoys made life for the crews very perilous.
Herbert Werner was one of the very few U Boat men to survive, ending the war as a Captain. He tells of his life onboard a number of boats, the cramped conditions, the extreme cold and unbearable heat, the camaraderie and fear. The patrols Werner and his crew were involved in are covered in detail. The sinking of allied shipping, depth charge attacks, surface attacks from fighters, he makes you feel as though you were onboard.
Werner tells of the loss of his friends, and the uphill battle they were fighting, not only against the enemy, but also the Naval command. As the war enters its final stages, he struggles to get replacement parts for his boat, and realises that his superiors are under pressure to ensure that as many boats are at sea, even if they are not completely seaworthy. In the end it is clear that no more can be done, there are not enough U Boats left to carry on the fight.
As there were so few survivors, it is a rare treat to be able to read a first hand account of life onboard an 'Iron Coffin'. The U Boat service was recognised as being very dangerous, and life expectancy was much lower than in any other arm of the German military. Even though they were the enemy, you cannot help but admire their determination and courage. A highly recommended and engrossing read.