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This is third volume in P.Armstrong & R.Young meticulous trilogy of the submarine wrecks around the British Isles. These secretive, sinister and sleek submersibles have lain around our shores since the earliest days of WW1, through to the final days of WW2. Yet bar for the famous/infamous there story has been but a brief sentence within a larger narrative. However in Armstrongs & Youngs latest offering, they get the spotlight treatment, and what is revealed is as engaging, exciting and evocative as any of their celebrated brethren.
The geographic area covered in this volume stretches from the foreboding north Cornish cliffs, along the varied coast of western Wales, to the wider Mersey estuary and the great port of Liverpool beyond. During both wars this body of water was the last leg of the Atlantic challenge, in which merchant ships and men fought both the elements and the U-Boat threat. Within sight of safety many a German U-Boat waited as the convoys and stragglers approached the great ports of Bristol & Liverpool. Sadly many would perish upon that final leg, however the U-Boats themselves suffered heavy losses and this is a chronicle of their mission, action and fate. In addition the book also details in the same meticulous way the loss of Allied submarines, and also re-visits the famous loss of HMS Thetis in June 1939.
The research carried by the authors for this book is remarkable but also very readable. Not a dry read full of facts and statistics, but also the all too human facet. The ability to rise up to the challenges, acknowledging the fears and realities that they faced, in a manner that the average ready can only but empathise, despite being ‘enemies’.
My own slight criticism of the book is the coverage of the Thetis tragedy. Its right that the Thetis should be covered, but I feel the authors have fallen between two stools with its inclusion. There are several specific books on this matter, and though the authors given a sizeable chunk of this book over to the subject it can’t match the specific Thetis books I mentioned earlier. As I stated earlier this book gives much needed oxygen to the lesser submarine losses, and the Thetis reduces this by some margin.
However after saying that, if you’re at all interested in U-Boats and their actions/fate upon their final patrol around our coast, then this book deserves shelf space and the opening of your wallet. Some 223pages long with numerous B/W photographs and plenty of maps to help set the scene being described. There are some 5 appendices covering general information help understand the context of the specifics mentioned elsewhere in the book.
4stars out of 5