8 December 2011

Neither Sharks Nor Wolves - The Men of Nazi Germany's U-boat Arm 1939-1945

Although countless books have been written about the U-boat war in the Atlantic, precious few facts have come to light about the men who served in the submarines that wrought such havoc on Allied ships. Eager to get beyond the stereotypes perpetuated in movies and novels and find out who these elusive sailors really were, archivist Timothy Mulligan started searching official records.

Eventually he went straight to the source, conducting a survey of more than a thousand U-boat officers and enlisted men and interviewing a number of them personally. The result is this character study of the German submarine force that challenges traditional and revisionist views of the service.

Mulligan found striking similarities in the men's geographic and social origins, education, and previous occupations, particularly within the specialised engineering and radio branches of the submarine force. The information he gathered establishes quantifiable patterns in age, length of service and experience, as well as the organisation's overall recruitment policies and training standards. The numbers and losses of U-boat personnel are also fully examined.

Beyond these objective characteristics, this study lists such subjective factors as morale, treatment of enemy ship survivors and the relationship of the submariners to the Nazi regime, confirming a serious crisis in morale in late 1943. Mulligan concludes that the U-boat arm quickly evolved from a handpicked elite to a more representative sample of the German navy at large but continued to be treated as an elite force.

Available from:
Casemate (UK)
Naval Institute Press

6 December 2011

The Casualties Were Small - Wartime Poetry and Diaries of a Lincolnshire Seaside Villager May Hill

May Hill began to keep a Diary not long after the outbreak of the Second World War. The strategically important East Coast area of Lincolnshire around Skegness had been transformed from a bustling holiday centre to an armed encampment. Butlins became ‘HMS Royal Arthur’ a huge Royal Navy training centre, RAF air bases sprang up throughout ‘Bomber County’ and soldiers were billeted in the villages including May’s Chapel St Leonards.

May’s son Ron volunteered for the RAF and May started to express her thoughts and prayers in verse. The poem “The Casualties Were Small” reveals her worst fears as his exposure to danger increased even before being posted abroad.

As the War continued, May maintained her eloquent record of family and village life as well as the events of the War itself – including the sad loss of three nephews and an early hint of victory with the ‘D-Day’ landings.

The selection of Diary entries in this compilation was chosen to include those which reveal the specific experiences and events which inspired over twenty poems. May’s own writing is supported by additional explanatory notes and illustrated by over thirty photographs from the collections of the family and others from her village

Detailed information and diary entries can be read on the May Hill's Diary blog.

Available from:
Ambridge Books

Terror in the Arctic - A True Story from Foreign Occupied Norway in World War II

Terror in the Arctic is an autobiography set in World War II in Kirkenes, a small mining town in the north east of Norway, strategically important because of its proximity to the border with Russia. The story follows Bjarnhild Tulloch, who was 5 when the war started, as she tried to make sense of the change to her family life. As the war escalated, conflicts in her family deepened. Her oldest sister fell in love with a German officer and bore his children.

The tale mixes the bleak and horrific with humour and humanity, tragedy with daring and heroism, as well as funny and sometimes hilarious episodes. It covers a part of World War II little known to international readers, perhaps most notably the forcible evacuation of civilians from northern Norway by the retreating German Army.

Through it all, children learned the basics of survival and continued to play outside while listening for air raid warnings. They smuggled food parcels to the Russian prisoners and got little toys in return.

As Kirkenes was bombed to destruction, Bjarnhild and her family fled to the countryside. On her tenth birthday, in the path of the oncoming Russian Army, they escaped across a fjord in a rowing boat with a Russian plan in pursuit. They sat out the final battle, sheltering in a dug-out in a nearby hillside, until they were liberated by the Russian Army.

A tale that will strike resonance with a lot of people today and reveal the bleak conditions imposed on many people during the Second World War, Terror in the Arctic will appeal to fans of autobiography and Second World War history.

Available from:
Troubador Publishing