Endgame: The U-boat Inshore Campaign

Author: Dr. John White (Stiebler at SUBSIM)
The History Press
Year: 2008
Reviewer: Neal Stevens

The distinct phases of the U-boat war of 1939-1945 are familiar to all submarine history buffs. From the early skirmishes to the fall of France in June 1940 which provided the U-boat arm with bases from which they could range far out into the Atlantic; the Happy Times and Operation Drumbeat where the U-boats, aided with resupply Milk Cow U-boats, crippled convoys headed to the British Isles; and finally the Allied advances in technology, tactics, and intelligence with led to the crushing defeats from 1943 until the end of the war. By mid-1944, the Germans were so beaten they had to pull back and focus on the coastal waters around Britain.

 Dr. John White’s Endgame explores this Inshore Campaign and the surrounding factors in appreciable detail. The book highlights the great nemesis of the U-boat--rapidly improved radar systems that allowed escorts and planes to see U-boats in the dark.  With their surfaced stealth capabilities rendered useless, U-boats were forced to "crawl around at one or two knots", thereby reducing their effectiveness greatly. The Germans adopted the snorkel to allow boats to cruise submerged but the tactics of hunter-killer groups meant that U-boat patrols were quickly becoming suicide missions.

Shortening the routes to closer patrol zones around England was intended to give snorkel-fitted U-boats a fresh advantage. The Allies responded by stepping up air raids on construction yards and bases. The resulted in delays and supply problems that would affect the U-boat arm throughout, including the deployment of the critically needed new sub types.

Endgame includes a good look at the Type XXI and Type XXIII "Electro-boots", the advanced design German subs that featured streamlined hulls and massive battery banks for enhanced underwater performance. Of the many U-boat books Iíve read, Endgame does an admirable job of shining new light on the subs that could have turned the war around for the Third Reich, had they been developed earlier.

One of the strengths of Endgame is the source material. Dr. White explains that most war diaries from U-boats were intentionally destroyed as the end of the war drew close. White turned to decrypted wireless messages and uncovered new U-boat war diaries in his quest to chronicle the Inshore Campaign in greater detail than before. He lays in a solid background on the state of the U-boat arm and its weapons as the campaign unfolds. The book progresses from there to a series of individual accounts by U-boats. Each episode frames the situation the U-boat commanders faced as the odds against them grew to staggering proportions.

The experienced boat U 714 (KptLt H-J. Schwebcke), returning to service from Germany, likewise departed from Kristians and on her tenth war cruise on 3 March. U 714 patrolled off the east coast of Scotland, further south than U 778, and was given freedom of operation between the British declared mine area and the east coast from Dundee to Hull by U-boat Command on the 8th. On the 10th she sank the small Norwegian auxiliary minesweeper, Nordhav II (425 tons) near Dundee. Moving south, U 714 sank the steamship Magne (1,226 tons) on the 14th, close to the coast north of Berwick. But this time warships sent after her managed to locate the U-boat. Depth-charges from the South African frigate Natal sank U 714 shortly afterwards. There were no survivors.

Given that the war and surrounding events occurred over 60 years ago, it becomes increasingly difficult for there to be anything new to say about it. Fortunately, determined historians such as Dr. White are adding to our knowledge of the Battle of the Atlantic with substantiated works such as Endgame.

We are proud to include Dr. White as a member here at Subsim, his book should be on the top shelf of your submarine library.



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