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

U-26 carried out eight war cruises. On her first cruise, she was employed on minelaying duties, and was rewarded by the sinking of three merchant ships and the damaging of one British warship by mines laid by her. On her second cruise she became the first U-boat of the war to enter the Mediterranean, though the remainder of the cruise was uneventful. Her third cruise saw her add a further three merchant ships to her score in a brief sortie into the Atlantic. The fourth cruise saw her being used for transport duties during the Norwegian Campaign, though she sank a 5,200-ton merchantman during her return trip from one of her transport sorties. After three more uneventful patrols, U-26 set off on her eighth war cruise on 20 June 1940. Three merchantmen were sunk on 30 June, and on the next day an attack damaged a further merchant ship. The attack was followed by a severe depth-charging from two British warships that forced U-26 to the surface where she was bombed by a Sunderland flying boat. The crew were forced to scuttle her, die majority being rescued by their attackers.

Despite both boats having relatively successful, if short, combat careers, they were technically not particularly good sea boats, especially when considering that they were intended as oceangoing rather than coastal vessels. Their stability was poor, their diving speed slow, and their manoeuvrability under water not impressive. Nevertheless, with 13 war cruises and 18 ships sunk between them, the Type IAs had acquitted themselves well.

One of the diminutive Type IIB boats being lowered into the water by crane. Their light weight and small size permitted this style of launching, as compared to the larger boats which were normally built on a slipway in a manner similar to conventional craft.

THE TYPE II

The Type II was a natural enough progression from the UB coastal types of the Kaiserliche Marine in the First World War. Small, cheap and easy to build, they could be produced in a remarkably short time. Based on the CV-707 export design produced for Finland between the wars, the Type II made excellent training vessels, but due to their small size and tendency to roll heavily when on the surface they were rather contemptuously referred to as Einbäume or 'canoes' by the Germans. Nevertheless, several of this type acquitted themselves well in combat operations as well as in training, and a number of variant types were produced. All carried just three bow torpedo tubes in an unusual inverted triangle arrangement with one each to port and starboard and a third below them on the boat's centre line.

Type IIA

A total of just six Type IIAs were built.

SPECIFICATIONS

Length - 40.9 m

Beam - 4.1 m

Draft - 3.8 m

Displacement - 254 tons surfaced, 301 tons submerged

Speed - 13 knots surfaced, 6.9 knots submerged

Endurance - 2,000 nautical miles surfaced, 71 nautical miles submerged

Powerplant - 2 × 350 bhp MWM diesels coupled with 2 × 180 bhp electric motors

Armament - 3 bow torpedo tubes, 6 torpedoes carried, 1 × 2 cm flak gun

Crew - 25

Type IIB

The Type IIB was basically a lengthened version of the IIA, the additional hull capacity allowing a greater fuel load to be carried, thus enhancing the boat's endurance. Five seconds were also shaved off the critical time taken to dive the boat, a reduction from 35 to 30 seconds. A total of 20 Type IIBs were built, the largest number of any sub-type.

SPECIFICATIONS

Length - 42.7 m

Beam '- 4.1 m

Draft - 3.9 m

Displacement - 279 tons surfaced, 329 tons submerged

Speed - 13 knots surfaced, 7 knots submerged

Endurance - 3,900 nautical miles surfaced, 71 nautical miles submerged

Powerplant 2 × 350 bhp MWM diesels coupled with 2 × 180 bhp electric motors

Armament - 3 bow torpedo tubes, 6 torpedoes carried, 1 × 2 cm flak gun

Crew - 25

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