Although perhaps not as well known outside coastal forces aficionados as the Kriegsmarine’s U Boat and battleship forces, the Schnellboot force fought a long, successful and distinguished war against the Allies throughout the Second World War, earning a well-deserved reputation for excellence and dedication. Books on coastal forces are rare and, when covering the German perspective, have tended to concentrate on the boats themselves rather than the operational side. This innovative new book from Seaforth that I have just finished reading redresses the balance, offering detailed operational histories of the various Schnellboot flotillas in the Channel, Norway, the Baltic, The Mediterranean and Adriatic, and in the Black Sea.
Looking from an operational view the coverage is necessarily high level, but particular operations of interest are covered in detail and this makes for a number of gripping stories, many almost completely unknown in English. Notable amongst these are the gun engagement of a surfaced Russian submarine carrying evacuees from the Baltic States, the blockade of Tobruk and the interception of ships and craft escaping the capture of the port by the Afrika Korps, and a mission to torpedo the wreck of the battlecruiser Gneisenau in Gotenhafen whilst it was being used as an artillery observation post by the Russians.
Detail on the boats themselves is brief, but easy to supplement with the many technical books that are available. An interesting aspect covered in this book however are the progress of developments, refits and tactics that were developed as the war progressed.
Covering as it does an aspect of naval operations not previously covered in an accessible form this book is an important addition to the body of coastal forces literature, and should be essential reading for anyone interested in the wars of the “Narrow Seas”. It is also particularly well written for an operational history and is quite gripping – difficult to put down once you have started!