Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

German U-Boat Crews 1914-45

Osprey Military Elite Series, No. 60

Williamson, Gordon


1996, Reed International Books Ltd.
ISBN 1855325454
64 pages, color photos

Type. Reference
Pros. Profusely illustrated, black & white and colour of all U-boat crews' uniforms; some badges, insignia. Valuable for identifying uniforms in other sources.
Cons. A fairly light weight coverage of a much larger subject. Almost nothing on rank insignia or trade badges.
Rating.

As an adjunct to a naval library, this is a useful little book, No. 60 in the Osprey Military books "Elite Series." The text is by Williamson, the drawings in colour, 12 plus the cover, by Pavlovic. In the first 13 pages, Williamson summarises the developments, successes and eventual problems and defeat of the U-boat arms of the World War I Kaiserliche Marine, the inter-war period, and the War War II Kriegsmarine. Included are two partial tables of tonnages sunk and U-boat Flotille assignments, plus Commanders who received the U-boat war badge with diamonds.

But the meat of the book is in the detailed descriptions and illustrations of all the uniforms, officers, petty officers and men: dress, working, sea and shore variants. The 10 pages of coloured drawings of uniforms have three men per page. These include the jackets, official and unofficial items, full dress and at-sea operational semi-uniforms, caps, foul weather gear and even photos of some strictly from-home items. Also included are some descriptions of the various Knights' Crosses, the swords and dress daggers, a partial selection of Flotille and individual boat emblems, and a page of senior officers' flags and pennants. There are 52 photographs, individuals and groups, famous and unidentified, World War I to 1945, with useful commentary on the variants in uniforms, medals, and rank insignia that are thus illustrated.

It will be a useful guide to identifying uniform items appearing in sales, such as the various U-Boat War Badges, which are still being manufactured! Williamson notes that with some items there are a multitude of variations, and that U-boat crews, particularly at sea, could wear many wild mixtures of the official and unofficial. As mentioned, it would have been more useful as a guide if men's and officers' rank and appointment tables had been included, and a trade badge table, since after all we are talking of uniforms. These could have replaced the Flotille badge and the Admirals' flag pages more valuably. Presumably there were constraints by Osprey on the number of pages allowed. An interesting addition at the back is a French and a German version of the descriptions of the coloured illustration pages.

In general a useful book to have on the shelf. At $12.95 for my Canadian copy, that's not too much of an investment.

Review written by CDR Fraser M. McKee, Ontario, Canada.

Published on 10 Aug 2001.

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