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GORDON WILLIAMSON, illustrated by IAN PALMER
Of the eight Type IIC boats that were built, only one (U-63) was lost to enemy action. All of the others eventually returned to training duties after the type had completed a total of 56 war cruises and sunk 57 enemy ships, including three warships.
An early pre-war photo of a Type IIB, possibly U-9, shows the extremely narrow hull which gave these boats their nickname of 'canoes'.
A total of 16 Type IIDs were produced, many of which went directly into the training flotillas and saw no action whatsoever Those that did participate in combat sorties completed a total of 36 war cruises, resulting in 27 enemy ships being sunk, including three warships. One was lost to a depth-charge attack by enemy destroyers and one was sunk by an enemy submarine. The others all served out the war in the various training flotillas.
The Type VII was a single-hulled boat, the pressure hull in places forming the outer hull of the boat. It differed principally from earlier designs in that its bunkerage was contained within the pressure hull rather than in saddle tanks, giving additional protection to the precious fuel. A single central ballast tank was provided, together with bow and stern ballast tanks out with the pressure hull, and two large saddle tanks on either side of the hull. Outside the pressure hull was a streamlined external casing, the area between the two being free-flooding. Between the deck and the top of the pressure hull a considerable amount of ducting and trunking was fitted, as well as the mounting for the deck gun, ready-ammunition locker for the deck gun, a small dinghy and, ultimately, storage for spare torpedoes. All could be accessed via hatches or by removal of deck plating. An 8.8 cm naval gun was fitted on the foredeck just in front of the conning tower and a 2 cm flak gun just aft.
The first variant to be produced was the Type VIIA, of which ten were completed. These were allocated the numbers U-27 through to U-36. Four were built by Germaniawerft and six by AG Weser. Construction began in February 1935 with the first boat (U-33) of the type launched on 11 June 1936.
One of the most instantly recognisable visual characteristics of the Type VIIA was the hump of the external stern torpedo tube, clearly visible oil the aft decking.
Length - 64.5 m
Beam - 5.8 m
Draft - 4.4 m
Displacement 626 tons surfaced, 745 tons submerged
Speed - 16 knots surfaced, 8 knots submerged
Endurance - 4,300 nautical miles surfaced, 90 nautical miles submerged
Powerplant - 2 × 1,160 bhp diesels coupled with 2 × 375 bhp electric motors
Armament - 5 torpedo tubes (4 bow, 1 stern), 1 × 8.8 cm gun, 1 × 2 cm gun
Crew - 44
The gun crew of a Type VIIC go through their loading drills whilst in port. Just in front of and to the left of the gun can be seen the white interior of the raised ready-ammunition locker hatch. This provided a small supply of readily accessible ammunition for the 8.8 cm deck gun whilst further supplies were brought up from the boat's magazine.
The Type VIIB was a marked improvement over the initial variant. It was given twin rather than single rudders to improve its turning circle, and the external stern torpedo tube of the VIIA was brought inside the pressure hull, firing out between the two rudders. The boat was given an increase in length of two metres to provide additional bunkerage, and additional fuel was now also carried in special fuel cells within the saddle tanks. These cells were self-compensating - as fuel was drawn from the top of the tank, sea water entered at the bottom, compensating for the loss in weight. Compensating tanks were also installed to help prevent the boat rolling when on the surface. Finally, turbochargers were fitted to the diesel engines to provide a modest increase in speed. All of these changes increased the size and weight of the boat significantly.
A total of 24 Type VIIBs were built: the first seven (U-45 to U-51) by Germaniawerft, a second tranche of four, also from Germaniawerft, and a third tranche consisting of four boats each from Germaniawerft, Vulcan, with five from Flenderwerft.
Length - 66.5 m
Beam - 6.2 m
Draft - 4.7 m
Displacement - 753 tons surfaced, 857 tons submerged
Speed - 17.2 knots surfaced, 8 knots submerged
Endurance - 6,500 nautical miles surfaced, 90 nautical miles submerged
Powerplant - 2 × 1,400 bhp diesels coupled with 2 × 375 bhp electric motors
Armament - 5 torpedo tubes (4 bow, 1 stern), 1 × 8.8 cm gun, 1 × 2 cm gun, 15 mines
Crew - 44