Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

U-boat War Patrol

The Hidden Photographic Diary of U564

Paterson, Lawrence


2004, Greenhill Publishing
ISBN 185367575X
Hardcover, over 250 photos

Type. General History
Pros. A gold mine of unpublished photos; complete story of one patrol.
Cons. None to speak of.
Rating.

This is the story of one war patrol of U-564 under the command of Reinhard 'Teddy' Suhren, richly illustrated with photographs taken by the war correspondent who accompanied the boat on her mission. For more than half a century, these photographs had been in the private possession of a Royal Navy diver, who had discovered them while clearing debris from the harbor at Brest after its evacuation by the Germans, and had carried them home with him after the war. Almost all previously unpublished, these photographs provide a fresh and intimate view of life on patrol in the summer of 1942, before the war at sea had turned against the U-boats.

Readers of Paterson's previous books (First U-Boat Flotilla and Second U-boat Flotilla) already know him as a masterful writer who can spin a seamless narrative, full of fascinating detail, while unobtrusively including all the necessary background information. Here Paterson keeps to his high standard, providing basic information for any newcomers to the subject while managing to keep it quite interesting for long-time readers of U-boat literature. Paterson is adept at capturing both the dramatic and the humorous moments which cropped up in every war patrol to punctuate the tedious monotone which was the normal pattern of life at sea.

The Introduction provides a biographical sketch of Suhren, famous as a maverick in the U-boat service. Chapter 1: Outbound eases the reader into the patrol by exploring the crew's cramped home belowdecks and the routines of life aboard. Chapter 2 details the attack on Convoy OS 34, in which the boat sank the SS Empire Hawksbill (loaded with explosives) and the MV Lavington Court, and herself fell prey to an onboard fire. Chapter 3: Survival, Rendezvous recounts a brush with HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney, a rendezvous with U-203, and a meeting with U-654. Subsequent chapters cover a rendezvous with a U-Tanker (U-463), a successful hunt off the Antilles, and the return to port. An epilogue relates Suhren's adventures during the remainder of the war and in the postwar period.

The many black and white photographs document just about every aspect of life on board, from routine tasks such as engine maintenance, navigation, message decoding, and standing watch; transfers at sea of torpedoes, fuel, and sick personnel between U-boats; to matters of personal hygiene (U-564 was equipped with a rather ingenious shower); and plenty of relaxing moments, such as guests on board from other boats, a celebration tea complete with whipped cream and cake, swimming breaks and sunbathing; not to mention Suhren in his pajamas, an outfit complete with headgear which bears a close resemblance to a suit of surgical scrubs. The stop and search of a neutral is also documented, as well as attacks on enemy ships.

As in Paterson's previous books, a glossary and list of abbreviations is included, as well as a table of ranks, and a reproduction of the Atlantic Grid. Includes two appendices: The Crew of U564, and Torpedoes Fired by U564; a bibliography, notes and index.

This book is highly recommended.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 30 Mar 2004.

This title is highly recommended.

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