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GORDON WILLIAMSON, illustrated by IAN PALMER
Moving away from the bow, there was an angled torpedo loading hatch leading from the outer deck to the pressure hull. This allowed the torpedo to be taken into the boat nose first, facing the tube into which it would be loaded. Beyond the torpedo loading hatch was a watertight storage container with a small amount of ammunition for the deck gun. This allowed the gun to be brought into action swiftly, while the remainder of the ammunition was brought up through the boat from the ammunition storage under the deck plating on the Zentral.
On outer decking itself at the forward point some early boats still had the serrated net cutter fitted to First World War boats, but by the outbreak of the Second World War most of these had been removed. Retractable bollards were fitted near the bow and stern, with additional pairs, port and starboard approximately mid-way between the bow/stern and the conning tower. A retractable capstan winch and retractable hydrophone array were also mounted on the foredeck.
The conning tower, as has already been discussed, was one of the areas in which considerable differences may be found from boat to boat and at different stages throughout the war. In general, the front and sides of the tower were screened up to a height of some 1.5 m to give the crew some measure of protection against the elements. The rear of the bridge was open, leading onto die aft platform which was surrounded by a safety railing. On the bridge itself were the mounts that supported the periscopes, a pedestal mount for the UZO (Uberwasserzieloptik) torpedo aiming device, a binnacle and, on the starboard wall of the tower, a slot to house the retractable direction-finding loop. Later examples of the Type MI had the snorkel fitting mounted on the port side of the tower.
The diving planes controls in the Zentral of a Type VII U-boat. The large dial just to left of centre is the depth gauge.
The afterdeck was relatively featureless. Apart from the small stern torpedo loading hatch, the space under the rear decking was devoted almost entirely to trunking. The trunking, which passed through the free-flooding area under the afterdeck, led up through the conning tower casing to the rear outer tower wall. Types MIA and MIB had large trunking running up the outside face of the tower, but by the VIIC model this was contained within the tower casing,
A single thick antenna cable ran from the most forward point of the bow to just before the conning tower, where it split, one fork running to a locating point either side of the top of the tower wall. From here, one antenna cable ran down to an anchor point on each side near the stern.
VIIA U-27 to U-32 - 6 boats
VIIA U-33 to U-36 - 4 boats
VIIB U-73 to U-76 - 4 boats
VIIC U-77 to U-82 - 6 boats
VIIC U-401 to U-430 - 30 boats
VIIB U-83 to U-87 - 5 boats
VIIC U-331 to U-350 - 20 boats
VIIC U-351 to U-370 - 20 boats