Causes and effects of U Boat war

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the submarine forces of the Kriegsmarine.
Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 22 Feb 2011 20:28

'But booing does not a tipping point make'.


I am only going to develop one point here. Churchill was an imperialist right-wing Tory hated in many, if not most regions of Britain beyond London and the south east (he was burned in effigy in 1941 in Walker on Tyneside just outside the gates of a dedicated Naval Shipyard. My father was a witness). Several British submarines were sabotaged by shipyard workers with communist sympathies. I could go on but you can take it or leave it - Check out 'Untamed' or read ADM 1/15478 at Kew wherein British shipyard workers were (wrongly as it happens) suspected of fatally sabotaging a British submarine. I only make the point that 1941 mirrored 1917 in that the British people were fast becoming disenchanted with the war. Do not make the mistake of swallowing the propaganda message that a homogeneous ideology prevailed in British cities c 1941 becaused it did not. Whether the Hitler regime possessed the sophistication to exploit these differences is rather open to question but I have not the slightest doubt that Britain could not have withstood a prolonged hunger blockade.In 1941 the Axis did not have the means of effecting a hunger blockade a le Blum, against Britain. Had resources been directed into the U-bootwaffe from 1934 onwards, the war-winning equation would have been in place (in my opinion).

For what it is worth, I think there is more reasoned, materially valid argument on this single thread than in the entire U-boatnet site.
Last edited by Clio13 on 22 Feb 2011 21:40, edited 1 time in total.
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ljadw
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by ljadw » 22 Feb 2011 21:27

I forgot a 5th point:Several people have argued (and I agree) that the German surfacefleet -especially the "big ones":Tirpitz,Scharnhorst,Bismarck,a.o.- only was a waste of money,resources,...,but ,I don't think one can go that far to say:the Bismarck =the crew of 50 submarines and the resources of 100 submarines(Tooze is giving the price of a UBoat as something between 2 and 4 million RM and the price of the Bismarck as 200 million RM),thus,no Bismarck =50 UBoats more ,because I doubt that the firm(s) who were making the Bismarck could make 50 UBoats .
Also from Tooze (P 399) :in october 1939,Raeder presented Hitler a plan for the construction of 658 UBoats,but this plan would require a tripling in the navy's allocation of rubber .

Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 22 Feb 2011 21:51

On first glance I would agree that the big ships were a waste of men, money and resources that could otherwise have been directed towards the U-bootwaffe. On the other hand I do know from my research of British records that the big ships certainly tied up a lot of Royal Navy resources in the years 1939-43, particularly submarines. I honestly can't make my mind up decisively on this one. I would be interested in what others think.
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RichTO90
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by RichTO90 » 22 Feb 2011 22:20

Clio13 wrote:'But booing does not a tipping point make'.


I am only going to develop one point here. Churchill was an imperialist right-wing Tory hated in many, if not most regions of Britain beyond London and the south east (he was burned in effigy in 1941 in Walker on Tyneside just outside the gates of a dedicated Naval Shipyard. My father was a witness). Several British submarines were sabotaged by shipyard workers with communist sympathies. I could go on but you can take it or leave it - Check out 'Untamed' or read ADM 1/15478 at Kew wherein British shipyard workers were (wrongly as it happens) suspected of fatally sabotaging a British submarine. I only make the point that 1941 mirrored 1917 in that the British people were fast becoming disenchanted with the war.
Sorry, but I did take the point...wasn't that clear? Nevertheless booing still does not a tipping point make. As late as June 1944 measures had to be taken to ensure that slipshod and discontented dockyard workers didn't bollix NEPTUNE by knocking craft operational availability into a cocked hat. British - and I should add for fairness, American as well - labor activism was a problematic issue thoughout the war that was strongly related to discontent with leadership. Political and popular discontent with wartime measures is also not much of a revelation and was, as I noted, very well mirrored in the States as well. Churchill barely weathered a vote of confidence in 1942 and it may be fortunate that there wasn't a US Presidential election at about the same time. Some of the polling on attitudes regarding the war at that time in the States are quite interesting.
Do not make the mistake of swallowing the propaganda message that a homogeneous ideology prevailed in British cities c 1941 becaused it did not.
I don't, so please stop trying to erect the strawman that I do.
Whether the Hitler regime possessed the sophistication to exploit these differences is rather open to question but I have not the slightest doubt that Britain could not have withstood a prolonged hunger blockade.In 1941 the Axis did not have the means of effecting a hunger blockade a le Blum, against Britain. Had resources been directed into the U-bootwaffe from 1934 onwards, the war-winning equation would have been in place (in my opinion).
I rather doubt that any navy at that time had the sophistication and all more or less for the same reasons. The US Navy, with a much more robust capability and a much less robust opponent, only was able to do so quite late and for some of the same reasons - poor pre-war doctrinal and tactical notions, faulty designs, shoddy workmanship, institutional resistance, and the like.

But I still fail to see how those resources might have been diverted? Financially the prewar mobilization was maxed out and there simply was no way that some form of surface fleet wasn't going to be created. But even if Bismarck and Tirpitz weren't laid down does that really ceate an environment where there is sufficient slipway space under prewar shipbuilding concepts to generate an additional 200-odd ocean going U-Boats between 1934 and 1939? The problem, as with most specualtion like this, is that there are so many points of departure.
For what it is worth, I think there is more reasoned, materially valid argument on this single thread than in the entire U-boatnet site.
They are an excellent resource for data, but, yes... :D

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

RichTO90
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by RichTO90 » 22 Feb 2011 22:30

Clio13 wrote:On first glance I would agree that the big ships were a waste of men, money and resources that could otherwise have been directed towards the U-bootwaffe. On the other hand I do know from my research of British records that the big ships certainly tied up a lot of Royal Navy resources in the years 1939-43, particularly submarines. I honestly can't make my mind up decisively on this one. I would be interested in what others think.
I think it all comes down to some discussion we had a while ago regarding shipbuilding capabilities of various nations, including Germany. The wartime conception developed for building the U-Boot was was very different from the prewar one, so it doesn't come down to just a matter of Reichsmarks and steel availability being redistributed, although they enter into it as well. I doubt though that a four to five-fold expansion in that one class was practical, especially given the prevailing naval mindset that operated in the world, let alone Germany.

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 22 Feb 2011 23:25

'But even if Bismarck and Tirpitz weren't laid down does that really ceate an environment where there is sufficient slipway space under prewar shipbuilding concepts to generate an additional 200-odd ocean going U-Boats between 1934 and 1939? The problem, as with most specualtion like this, is that there are so many points of departure.'

I couldn't agree more with you. Shipyard capacity is, in reality, the heart of the matter, just as it was in the First World War.
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RichTO90
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by RichTO90 » 22 Feb 2011 23:59

Clio13 wrote:I couldn't agree more with you. Shipyard capacity is, in reality, the heart of the matter, just as it was in the First World War.
You might find this site more interesting than U-Boat.net

http://www.u-boot-archiv.de/bau/werften/index-w.html

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

berrek
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by berrek » 23 Feb 2011 15:03

Clio13 wrote:The fact remains that Blum rightly pointed out that Britain was acutely vulnerable to commercial attrition and that there would inevitably come a tipping point. And yes, it was a report and it is incorrectly described as a 'memorandum' (either that or it is likely a problem of translation. The fact that Blum's superiors rejected it, reflects badly against them rather than Blum) Blum knew that a war of attrition would in turn directly impact upon the British civilian front. In 1917 Britain came very close to losing the war because there was significant unrest at home caused basically by food shortages as a direct result of the Handelskrieg.

Donitz and Godt sought to emulate these conditions in WW2 with a view to creating a set of circumstances in which the British people would lose their enthusiasm for prosecuting the war against Germany and replace pro-war politicians with the anti-war branch of the Conservative party (Chamberlain, Londonderry, Rothermere et al). Please be aware that there was a significant anti-war bloc in British politics. By 1941 this tipping point was close at hand. Sufficient to observe that Churchill was consistently being booed when he visited British cities beyond London in 1941 - though this was never reported by the press, I assure you it is a material fact.

The point I make is quite simple and straightforward. Had they been available by the end of 1941 I have not the slightest doubt that the Electroboote would have won the war for Germany. Take it or leave it but it is my considered opinion. Just imagine the consequences had the transatlantic (and PQ convoys) been erased. The British would have rapidly found some form of accommodation with Hitler. 'Tommy Atkins' does not fight well when 'Mary Anne in the kitchen' is starving.

The key of course would have been to convince Hitler, Raeder, and the rest of the "black shoe" Kriegsmarine that all the big shiny and impressive battleships, cruisers, and destroyers (not that there were so many of those either) were so much wasted tin. Tough sell I suspect.

I couldn't agree more with you and I suspect we are really advancing the same argument.

I agree with you that too much capacity was utterly wasted in building surface ship gun fodder in the critical years.

It is so refreshing to find a forum where people actually know what they are talking about. Thanks.
This is an interesting point of view. Although the statement about the bigger ships is a little bit over the top.

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mescal
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by mescal » 23 Feb 2011 15:56

RichTO90 wrote: For 1939 the monthly average arrival of foreign trade into the UK was 8,742,000 tons. But, curiously enough, for the first eight months of 1939, before war broke out, the average was 10,257,000 tons per month, while in September it was 5,904,000 tons while in October-December it averaged 5,648,000 tons. So it nearly halved before any significant attrition occurred. It did fall then to a low of 2,254,000 tons per month in the 1st quarter of 1942. However, it only rose to a high of 7,323,000 tons per month in the 3rd quarter of 1944 and never exceeded an average of 4,096,000 tons per month from the 3rd quarter of 1943 through the end of the 2nd quarter of 1945. And, in July and August 1945, after the end of the war in Europe and two years after the supposed "crisis" and defeat of the U-Boot, only an average of 4,850,000 tons per month arrived.
Thank you for postingthose figures Rich.
If I may ask : what is your source ?

I've not found anything synthetic on this topic (although I vaguely remember to have seen monthly figures in number of ships - perhaps in Blair), and I feared that reconstructing the totals from the listings of convoys would be a bit too large an enterprise for my spare time ;-)

Anyway, the important point is that if the losses are relatively well known, their importance cannot be assessed without the figures of what went through.
Olivier

RichTO90
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by RichTO90 » 23 Feb 2011 16:34

mescal wrote:Thank you for postingthose figures Rich.
If I may ask : what is your source ?
Your welcome. The sources is Fighting With Figures http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Figures- ... 0116207191, which is an HMSO reprint of a postwar report by the British Central Statistical Office. Most data it contains are quarterly consolidations, unlike the American and German data I have access to, which are monthly, but that is merely a matter of doing your own consolidations.
I've not found anything synthetic on this topic (although I vaguely remember to have seen monthly figures in number of ships - perhaps in Blair), and I feared that reconstructing the totals from the listings of convoys would be a bit too large an enterprise for my spare time ;-)
Yes, Blair gives monthly data on U-Boats operational, lost, and retired, and Allied merchant shipping lost. Data on starting merchant navy strengths can also be extrpolated from various sources, along with construction figures. I have the US Merchant Marine construction statistics from July 1940 to August 1945 as given by the government reports and have extrapolated the construction for 1 September 1939-30 June 1940 from shipyard records to complete the series. British construction figures for 1 September 1939-31 December 1939 are more difficult, but can be estimated. Overall, the result is a graph of merchant ships on hand by quarter versus those sunk by U-Boats and totals. The result is rather remarkable - sinkings are a barely descernable almost flat line at the bottom with the merchant ships operational another essentially flat line considerably above it. In fact, it almost looks like a graph of ocean depths. :lol:

It is still very rough, but I would be happy to email you the draft version if you PM me.
Anyway, the important point is that if the losses are relatively well known, their importance cannot be assessed without the figures of what went through.
Exactly. And what is most striking is that what went through was so reduced -about halved - even before the loss of ships entered into the equation. Then what got through later in the worst times of 1941 and early 1942 was also about a halving, but there is little indication that it had a real effect? I want to extract the arrival of foodstuffs, which is probably the most important item, and see what that shows, but haven't had the time yet (I have a final exam in one class and a thesis in another coming up).

BTW, it is always refreshing to have a conversation with a poster that is not more interested in obfustication, prevarication, and other shenanigans, such as the irrepressible berrek/butgen/general g/mellernthin/westerhagen, but is instead only interested in developing conclusions based upon in depth analysis of what actually occurred. Drawing conclusions from the facts is always more interesting than hammering facts into shape to fit cookie-cutter conclusions.

Cheers!

Edited to correct formatting error.
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

berrek
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by berrek » 23 Feb 2011 18:57

Clio13 wrote:On first glance I would agree that the big ships were a waste of men, money and resources that could otherwise have been directed towards the U-bootwaffe. On the other hand I do know from my research of British records that the big ships certainly tied up a lot of Royal Navy resources in the years 1939-43, particularly submarines. I honestly can't make my mind up decisively on this one. I would be interested in what others think.
The big ships certainly had their use and it is never good to put all your eggs in one basket.
Howevermore effort should certainly have been put into submarines in a strategy wherin Brittain would be defeated first.

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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Jon G. » 24 Feb 2011 11:14

RichTO90 wrote:...British construction figures for 1 September 1939-31 December 1939 are more difficult, but can be estimated. Overall, the result is a graph of merchant ships on hand by quarter versus those sunk by U-Boats and totals. The result is rather remarkable - sinkings are a barely descernable almost flat line at the bottom with the merchant ships operational another essentially flat line considerably above it. In fact, it almost looks like a graph of ocean depths. :lol:...
There is a lot of info to be had from the HMSO publication I gave above. Behrens' book is littered with interesting appendices - clearly the most useful parts of the book, the narrative is somewhat rambling.

Behrens doesn't give any figures for British new builds from Sept to Dec 1939* but then such figures in isolation would only give a small part of the picture. There's shipping leaving the records because it's laid up (temporarily for repairs, or permanently) or sunk, and there is shipping entering the records as new builds, requisitionings, charterings (either as bareboat charters transferred to British flag or foreign-chartered ships chartered under their own flags) and, presumably, also ships returning from repairs. The overall picture is one of total merchant ship tonnage available being remarkably stable throughout the war - with a gentle drop from 2nd half 1942 to 1st half 1943, then rising above pre-war levels from 3rd quarter 1943 and on.

Specifically, she gives total dry-cargo tonnage of British-flagged merchant shipping above 1,600 GRT as 18,710,000 DWT as of Sept. 1 1939, and 18,418,000 DWT as of Dec. 31 1939; we can add 161,000 DWT of foreign-flagged chartered vessels to the latter figure.

Of course, that only tells half the story, if even that, because demand for shipping varied much, much more than the supply of it did. That is after all the main object of Behrens' book.

* I wonder if figures for British new builds during wartime are even available? Maybe from Admiralty records? Behrens does give figures for new builds from 1910 to 1938, but leaves out the war years 1914 to 1917.

I'll see if I can find a way to post some of Behrens' many tables to this thread.

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hagen
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by hagen » 24 Feb 2011 18:08

RichTO90 wrote:
hagen wrote:Fine. But I am planning to increase maritime AND AERIAL resources used to attack the convoys, so more than just the U-boat campaign.
That's nice, but in case you haven't noticed, this isn't a "what if" section of the forum.

Perhaps you should read the original OP.
RichTO90 wrote: The reality is that you would likely need to double the U-Boot effectiveness, along with the doubling the effect of the other causes of loss, to acheive the extreme of shipping limitations equivalent to "cutting off" the UK.
It was only by the narrowest of margins … the U-boat campaign failed to be decisive in 1941. [British Intelligence in the Second World War; Hinsley p169]

I suspect a divergence in views: a doubling and narrowest of margins do not seem to be similar.
RichTO90 wrote:However, to do so you need to increase allocations to military spending pre-war that already were having an excessive effect on the German economy. <…> What do you not build pre-war?
Yes, the German economy was under pressure. Hence the suggestion that the route to victory was through finishing the war in the west against Britain first before starting the war in the east against the Soviet Union. IMHO changing pre-war builds is not pertinent to the debate.

RichTO90
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by RichTO90 » 24 Feb 2011 19:21

hagen wrote:Perhaps you should read the original OP.
I did. This is a split from the original discussion, which also wasn't a what if. But the discussion has now moved into what if territory - deeply.
I suspect a divergence in views: a doubling and narrowest of margins do not seem to be similar.
Yep. Of course I'm not sure that their opinion was based upon the same examination of the evidence. :D I just wish there was some good way to paste in the chart I've put together, but I have never been able to figure that out here after ten years of trying. :oops:
Yes, the German economy was under pressure. Hence the suggestion that the route to victory was through finishing the war in the west against Britain first before starting the war in the east against the Soviet Union. IMHO changing pre-war builds is not pertinent to the debate.
All well and good, but how do you transform the average of 4.82 boats joining the operational fleet per month from 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941 to something high enough to generate the requisite 222 U-Boats postulated as neccessary sometime during that time period? To have that number available just ten months into the war requires that the monthly number joining needs to quadruple. How does that happen? Magic? Hand waving? :D

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

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LWD
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by LWD » 24 Feb 2011 19:42

berrek wrote: ... Howevermore effort should certainly have been put into submarines in a strategy wherin Brittain would be defeated first.
When? how much? What do you cut out?

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