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GORDON WILLIAMSON, illustrated by IAN PALMER
The interior layout of the Type VII was fairly typical of German submarine design. At the bow end was the forward torpedo room, with its four tubes and accommodation for junior ratings. Storage space was also provided under the floor plates for additional torpedoes. At the roof of the after end of this compartment was an angled hatchway for loading fresh torpedoes into the compartment.
Through the bulkhead, moving aft, is the senior ranks' accommodation and captain's cabin, built over the forward battery stowage. Directly across the walkway from the captain's cabin were the radio and sound rooms. In the centre of the boat was the control room, containing the main helm, diving controls, navigator's table and the auxiliary bilge pumps. On the port side were the periscope motor, main vent controls, main bilge pump and a drinking water tank. In the centre of the compartment were the tubes into which the periscopes retracted.
Above the control room was the conning tower, in which was the commander's attack station. Within this tiny compartment were the optics for the attack periscope, the attack computer, the compass and the exit hatch to the exterior of the conning tower. Under the decking of this section were fitted ballast tanks and fuel bunkers.
Moving aft, the next compartment is the junior noncommissioned ranks' accommodation. Towards the rear of this compartment were the galley, the aft w.c. and the pantry. Under the deck plates of this area were the aft batteries.
The next bulkhead led through to the engine room containing the boat's two diesel engines on their massive founds, with only a narrow passageway in between. A further bulkhead allowed passage into the motor room in which were located the boat's two electric motors, coupled to the same shafts as the diesels. Also contained in this compartment were a compressor for the boat's modest refrigerated storage, the main electrical control panels and the stern torpedo tube, firing out between the boat's twin rudders. Beneath the deck plating in this area were the stern trim tanks.
1) Type VIIF. Only four examples of this extremely large type were completed. A 10.5 m 'plug' was inserted into the hull abaft the conning tower, allowing this version to carry 24 additional torpedoes. Externally, apart from the extreme length, this type bore a strong resemblance to the standard Type VIIC/41.
2) Early Type VIIC. This is the boat with which the Germans fought the first part of the war at sea. The basic Type VIIC has the 8.8 cm deck gun still fitted and a single 2 cm flak gun on the tower platform. This illustration shows Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock's famed U-96 with its laughing sawfish emblem.
One of the most important pieces of equipment on the bridge of a U-boat was the Uberwasserzieloptik, generally referred to as the UZO. A pair of special binoculars was attached to the top of this pedestal device and used to transmit target settings for the torpedoes. The IWO, Oberleutnant Pietschmann, rests his gloved hand on the UZO on the bridge of U-377, a Type VIIC. (Jak P. Mallmann-Showell)
3) The Type VIIA bridge as designed had a flush forward face, the spray deflector half-way up the tower berg a later addition to the design. Early towers had a simple flared upper edge to deflect spray and had no armament mounted on the upper platform.
4) The Type VIIB bridge was modified soon after introduction, to accommodate a large air intake trunk up the outside of the tower. Most Type VIIBs had the spray deflector fitted at the mid-point of the tower and this type also saw the 2 cm flak gun moved up from the afterdeck.
5) The standard early Type VIIC Turm 0 featured the basic armament configuration, known as 'Turm 0' with typical round platform and 2 cm flak gun. Most Type VIICs were retrofitted with a spray deflector lip rather than having the edge of the tower itself flared as in earlier models.
6) A few examples of the Type VIIC had the width of the platform between the rear 2 cm flak gun mount and the bridge widened to allow the fitting of two twin 2 cm flak guns.
7) The bridge of the Type VIIC Turm 2 conversion saw the addition of a second round platform, on a lower level, to the rear of the upper platform. It also carried a single 2 cm flak gun.
8) The Type VIIC Turm 4 was the bridge configuration found on most late-war Type VIIs. The wide upper platform featured two twin 2 cm flak guns side by side, whilst the lower, lengthened platform featured a single 3.7 cm flak gun or occasionally a quadruple 2 cm Flakvierling.
Although most late-war U-boats boasted a fairly formidable complement of anti-aircraft weaponry, the chances of a U-boat fighting off an air attack were very slim. It did, however, occasionally happen, and there are a number of recorded cases of U-boats successfully escaping after shooting down an attacking aircraft. But in most cases, the U-boat dared not risk placing itself in a position of defencelessness by recalling its gun crews in order to dive, and so was forced to remain on the surface if the aircraft's pilot was smart enough merely to stand off out of range of the U-boat's flak guns. The aircraft would simply call up reinforcements and wait until several could attack the boat at once. The few successful occasions where U-boats shot down enemy aircraft tended to be when the aircraft attacked alone before support arrived.
1) Type XIV. The U-boat tankers, as can be seen from this full-hull view of the Type XIV U-460, in comparison with the Type VIID which follows, had an enormous capacity. These boats performed excellent work in resupplying U-boats in distant waters but were tracked down one by one, predominantly through the interception of German coded radio signals.
2) Type VIID. The minelaying Type VIID was instantly recognisable by the raised decking abaft the conning tower, which contained the openings to the mine storage tubes. Only six were commissioned, of which five were lost in action. Only U-281 survived the war.
3) Flakboot. Seven basic Type VIIC vessels were converted for use as flak 'traps'. In the earlier days of their use, some Allied aircraft received a nasty surprise on attacking what they thought to be a normal U-boat, only to be met with the concentrated fire of eight 2 cm flak guns (two quadruple Flakvierlinge) and one 3.7 cm flak gun. The Allies, however, soon developed the tactic of standing off until support arrived and attacking the Flak Boat en masse. These boats were also very slow to dive and had poor handling characteristics because of the additional weight and drag when submerged. With their usefulness in doubt, in November 1943, all Flak Boats were re-converted to standard Type VIIC configuration.