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GORDON WILLIAMSON, illustrated by IAN PALMER
KRIEGSMARINE U-BOATS 1939-45

Meanwhile, the Unterseebootsabwehrschule continued with its theoretical training for future U-boat crews, and design work on other models also progressed. An improved version of the MVBII, the MVBIIB was designed, with a lengthened hull to provide additional fuel bunkerage and thus extended endurance. With three approved designs, it was clear that Deutsche Werke alone could not build sufficient numbers rapidly enough to meet demands, and the decision was taken to distribute the various types to additional shipbuilders. Deutsche Werke at Kiel would build the MVBII A, Deschimag-AG Weser the MVBIA and Germaniawerft the MVBIIB. By the autumn of 1934 sufficient materials and components had been stockpiled for construction to begin, but still Hitler held back, not approving the commencement of work until 1 February 1935.

Close-up of the conning tower of U-9. The Iron Cross emblem was removed on the outbreak of war. The horseshoe-shaped object just above the Iron Cross is, in fact, a life preserver.

Further models had been considered, including the MVBIII, a large development of the MVBIA, which would serve as a minelayer as well as earning two motor torpedo boats; the MVBIV, which would be a seagoing workshop/supply/repair submarine serving the main combat units of the U-boat fleet; the MVBV, which was to have a new propulsion system designed by Walter; and finally the MVBVI, which was to have a new design of steam-driven engine. All of these types were ultimately rejected in favour of the MVBVII, a medium 500-ton design destined to become the Type VII, the backbone of the U-boat fleet during the Second World War. Once again, this latest model was to be based upon the successful UBIII design of the First World Wan Although the MVBII was subsequently further developed to produce the IIC and IID variants, its further development potential was limited. The MVBVII, basically an enlarged MVBII, was a far more versatile design and was further transformed into a bewildering number of variants and sub-variants through the course of the Second World War. The first orders for the building of the MVBVII type were issued in January 1935, just two months before Hitler formally repudiated the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and rearmament began in earnest. Around this time the 'MVB' prefix was dropped.

THE TYPE I

One of the least successful of U-boat designs, only two Type IAs were ever built. Constructed by the Deschimag yard, U-25 and U-26 were to be the only boats of their type, though this model was a direct forebear of the later, much more successful Type IX.

SPECIFICATIONS

Length - 72.4 m

Beam - 6.2 m

Draft - 4.3 m

Displacement - 862 tons surfaced, 983 tons submerged

Speed - 17.8 knots surfaced, 8.3 knots submerged

Endurance - 6,700 nautical miles surfaced, 78 nautical miles submerges

Powerplant - 2 × 1,540 bhp MAN diesels coupled with 2 × 500 bhc electric motors

Armament - 6 torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern), 14 torpedoes 1 × 10.5 cm gun; 1 × 2 cm gun

Crew - 43

Operational Use

The two boats of this type were used predominantly on training duties until 1940 when the general shortage of available boats required their use in combat. In fact, both boats were relatively successful in terms of their combat successes.

A pre-war photo, dating from around 1936, of U-25, the first of the Type IA boats. Note the very pale grey paint scheme used post-war. The net cutter at the bow of most U-boats was removed prior to the outbreak of war. Normally, the jump wire was attached to the top point of the net cutter where this was fitted, but in this case has been attached to the decking near to the bow. The safety railings were normally only fitted when in port.

Type IIAs with their crews mustered on deck in their best blues as the new war flag of the navy, the Reichskriegsflagge, is ceremoniously raised for the first time on 7 November 1935. Note the dark-painted portion of the hull side near the stern. The round hole at the forward end of this is the diesel exhaust vent. The dark-painted area was to disguise unsightly exhaust staining to the pale grey hull.

U-25 carried out a total of five war cruises, sinking eight enemy ships totalling some 50,250 tons. Her first (pre-war) commander was Korvettenkapitän Eberhardt Godt who was eventually to become Commander-in-Chief U-boat Operations in the late stages of the war. His successor as commander was Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze, who would become one of Germany's top U-boat 'aces' with a total of 35 ships (180,000 tons) sunk. Passing through a recently laid enemy minefield on 3 August 1940, she struck one of the mines and sank with all hands.

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