U-Boat Pens of the Atlantic Battle...


...a Building for Battle title, from Pen and Sword


Title: U-Boat Pens of the Atlantic Battle

Author: Philip Kaplan

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52670-544-0

A new addition to the Pen and Sword series of Building for Battle, looking at the battle of the Atlantic, the U-Boat war, and the role of those huge concrete pens that were built on the French and Norwegian coasts.  It splits the story across 9 chapters, starting with The Beginning, looking back at WW1 when pens were first used to protect the German U-boats in port, though facing only the small bombs used in WW1, they were much less impressive constructions.  When it came to WW2 the lessons had not been forgotten, though the changes in the technology, the bombing threat, the new pens were massive reinforced concrete structures, built to withstand heavy attacks.  Then it moves on to Early Days; The Type VII; Brittany Bases; Captains; U-Boat Routine; Bundles for Britain; Under Attack; and The Last Act.

The book gives a good view of the importance to the U-Boat arm of the French coast.  It significantly shortened their journey from port to the Atlantic battleground.  The huge concrete pens provided protection to the boats themselves, along with workshops, weapons stores and accommodation for crews and maintenance workers.  Alongside the importance of the pens to the crews, the books tells us about three of the most famous U-Boat aces, and their different fates.  It's also about the allied anti-submarine campaign and how the success against U-Boats at sea had to be considered against bombing the pens, and the impact of collateral damage to the French civilians in the areas around them.

Throughout the book there are a lot of photos.  Not just wartime archive shots, but also modern colour pictures of the huge concrete pens that remain in place to this day.  Modern French submarines can be seen in one, while private yachts are sheltered in another.  Dry docks are still there and even the huge Dombunkers and turntable at Lorient.  It makes for a fascinating story and focuses on an element which you can still see in place today if you are to visit those French ports at Bordeaux, Lorient and St.Nazaire.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.