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The British Submarine service in WWII,
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This review is from: Sea Wolves: The Extraordinary Story of Britain's WW2 Submarines (Hardcover)
Sea Wolves is a look at British submarines in WWII and the days before, noting that the experience of the British was vastly different to that of the German U-Boats, or even the Americans engaged in the Pacific war. For the Germans, the submarine war was largely a thing of the deep Atlantic, harassing convoys and being resupplied at sea. For the Brits, it was a mixture of home defence and actions in the Meditterranean, largely against Italian merchant shipping, with a little Far East action in the Indian Ocean towards the war's end. Clayton points this out towards the end of the book, and notes that while submarine service was dangerous for Brits - on a par with flying bombers over the Reich every night - it was deadly for the Germans.
The first 100 pages of this taut 400 page book is focused on the pre-war sub stations and men. The Far East appears exotic and entrancing in the 1930's, while with hindsight we can see the pall hanging over China and Hong Kong admidst the bright lights and painted ladies. Then the war begins, and the focus is on Europe and specifically the Norwegian campaign, which was stupid and bloody on both sides, at least for the navies involved. There is a fair bit about this - and I had forgotten that Norway was still going on even after Dunkirk - and it is all interesting.
The heart of the book is about the campaign in the Med, based out of Malta, where the British were commerce raiders, doing to the Afrika Korp was the Kriegsmarine was trying to do to Britain: cut off its supplies. There is also the actions against the Italian fleet, as well as the various "special forces" type of action the subs were often sent out to do.
The book then ends with smaller sections on the minisubs attacks on the Tirpitz, and on the Indian Ocean sub force based out of Trincomalee and Perth. This is an often-forgotten side of the "Pacific" war, and its noteworthy that the British subs were hot and humid in the tropics, having been largely designed for the cold of the North Sea. There is a final summing up of the "was it worth it" kind, with some pretty good analysis: it deftly makes the point that submarines were not designed as special forces insertion vehicles, but they were the least worst option for the job, so they got it, even at the cost of other operational benefits.
All up, this is well written and easy to read, romping along without ever shying away from showing the horrible things that happen in wartime. Excellent work, if you like that sort of thing.