Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

His Majesty's U-boat

Reeman, Douglas

1973, Putnam
ISBN 0515078638
Paperback, 292 pages

Type. Novel

This novel is loosely based on the incident of the HMS Graph. In 1941, U-570, manned by a green crew, surrendered to a British aircraft in the Atlantic south of Iceland. This unprecedented event was fully exploited by the British, who studied the U-boat intensively and put her to sea as the HMS Graph (so named because of the mountains of paper generated by the thorough analysis of the boat). Under British command but still to all outward appearances a German boat, she was well-placed to take other U-boats and German vessels by surprise, and is believed to have fired torpedoes at Cremer in U-333, only narrowly missing her target.

Similarly, in the novel a U-boat is captured by the British, studied and fitted out for an English-speaking crew, and used for secret missions. Obviously a captured submarine represents an excellent means of infiltrating the enemy and wreaking maximum havoc before being discovered. The British crew's first mission in their new boat puts them to the test immediately when the appearance of a genuine U-boat threatens both to spoil their chances of success and to blow their cover.

The perils and strains of this first mission pale in comparison to the second, which takes the British in their U-boat to the Mediterranean on an assignment of vital importance. The difficulties of infiltration and assumed identity are of even greater moment in these confining waters. Every vessel encountered is either hunter or prey; there are no friends and no allies. In fact, the infiltrator's worst enemy is his own navy.

In addition to these tensions, each man on board naturally bears his own personal wartime burdens. To top it off, a serious conflict between two of the officers is constantly boiling just below the surface. The action is fast-paced, and the characters are well enough developed to be interesting.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 1 Dec 2000.

Return to our main review page.