NUMBER OF BOOKS have been published about British submarines during
the Second World War, but nearly all of them have been personal
accounts by individuals and are concerned with the exploits of
a single boat. The only overall account is contained in the Naval
Staff History of the Second World War and this was completed in
three volumes in 1953-7. These volumes were published confidentially
as CB 3306(1), (2) and (3) 'for the use of officers generally
who may require to be acquainted with its contents in the course
of their duties'. It was subsequently downgraded to a Book of
Reference and eventually became available for all in the Public
Record Office under the thirty-year rule.
no way wishing to disparage the work of its authors, it was a
number of deficiencies in this account that encouraged me to undertake
this work. The first deficiency was that it was written by at
least three different authors and its style, scope and detail
vary substantially throughout the three volumes. These volumes
deal individually with the campaigns in Home Waters, the Mediterranean
and in the Far East and there is little comment on the strategic
inter-relation between these areas. The work seems in general
to be mainly a precis of the British patrol reports handed in
by the submarines rather than an over-view of the campaigns themselves.
In any case there is a tendency in these Staff Histories to concentrate
on the successes and not to talk about occasions in which nothing
happens or in which the operations fail. It is, however, important
to study the failures in submarine warfare as carefully as the
successes when the torpedoes hit and this I have tried to do.
It is true
that the monologues were completed soon after the end of the war
and before most of the official campaign histories had been written.
Although the authors caught a glimpse of the draft of Captain
Roskills War at Sea, the Staff Histories lack
information on how submarine operations fitted into the overall
strategy of the campaigns. The early completion of the work also
meant that security, notably Ultra cryptography, which
was a major feature in the submarine campaigns, was not allowed
to be mentioned, It was also inevitable that many mysteries of
the war would be revealed with time and that the Staff History
should have been misled about them. Many of the individual accounts
have also been published since the Naval Staff History that would
have been enriched
by a study of them. Nevertheless the bibliography included in
CB 3306 (1) shows that the monograph used a wide and authoritative
base and is consequently of great value.
also a number of other important works which have been published
since the Naval Staff History and were consequently not available
to its authors. These include Captain Bragadins The
Italian Navy in World War II; Admiral Ruges Der
Seekrieg; Theodore Roscoes United States Submarine
Operations in World War II; Rohwer and Hammelchens
Chronology of the War at Sea, 19391945 and Professor
FN Hinsleys British Intelligence in World War II.
Above all in importance for compiling this account is a complete
manuscript list of British and Allied submarine patrols made during
the war, and another manuscript list of all the British and Allied
torpedo attacks made. From these papers every patrol is recorded
in the form of what I call Patrolgrams and every submarine
torpedo attack, whether it resulted in a hit or a miss, is mentioned
in the text. Another document of great interest is the treatise
written by Admiral Weichold, the German Admiraltys representative
in Rome during the war and now also in the Public Record Office.
In this the enemy side of the campaign in the Mediterranean is
clearly set out. Another interesting document, also in the Public
Record Office, is the analysis of submarine operations by the
Director of Operational Research of the Admiralty.
written fifty years after the Second World War, I hope that the
fact that I served in submarines for practically the whole of
it, with five years in command, will add some authority as well
as a personal touch to the narrative. Also I hope that my time
as Flag Officer (Submarines)
after the war will have helped to bring some knowledge of naval
strategy to the account
I wish to thank Commander Jeff Tall OBE RN, the Director of the
Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport, and his staff for their
helpful criticisms and their proof reading of the draft. My thanks
are also due to the Naval Historical Section in the Ministry of
Defence for their help.
First published in the United Kingdom in 2001 by The Royal
Navy Submarine Museum ISBN number 0 952669 61 7
Produced by Enigma Publishing, Huddersfield.
Text Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet KBE CB DSO* DSC
© Photographs The Royal Navy Submarine Museum