Battle of the Atlantic - Can anyone recommend a book?

Boldnotold

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
My Bro-in-Law has asked for a book on the subject of the Battle of the Atlantic for his Christmas Present. I've read a few, but they tend to have concentrated on a particular convoy, or the submarine war, or other specific topic.

Can anyone recommend a book that gives an 'overview'?

Many thanks
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#2
I know it is fiction, but The Cruel Sea is a great book, covering the whole of the Battle of the Atlantic period, albeit from one ship's viewpoint. Well, two ships, but the main characters remain.

You have probably found this but here is a website dedicated to the BotA/ Battle of the Atlantic Bookstore
 
#3
My Bro-in-Law has asked for a book on the subject of the Battle of the Atlantic for his Christmas Present. I've read a few, but they tend to have concentrated on a particular convoy, or the submarine war, or other specific topic.

Can anyone recommend a book that gives an 'overview'?

Many thanks
Too be honest, their isnt really one id call gives a good overview besides one by Andrew Williams, ive over 40 books on different convoys and recollections of Merchant ships and seamen, all which are good but on their specific convoys.

So id say give Williams book to him, along with say Middlebrooks
 

Boldnotold

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
Thanks, Guys. I hadn't found that bookstore, and I hadn't thought about 'The Cruel Sea', which is a great book.

Looks like it's the Williams book for Christmas and another for his birthday which follows soon afterwards.
 
#5
Get the book the The Cruel Sea retold, its about the 3 convoys Monsarrat was on, and used in his book the cruel sea.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#6
If you can get it, 'Business in Great Waters: U-boat Wars, 1916-45' by John Terraine is a good book.

Slightly more unusual: 'Defeat of the Enemy Attack on Shipping' (edited Eric Grove) is a reprint of the Royal Navy's original staff study on the Battle of the Atlantic.

I'd recommend either.

Wordsmith.
 
#7
Battle of the Atlantic is a big subject. The Andrew Williams book is an OK general history, but the real devil is in the detail. I quite liked Black May by Michael Gannon, that is a good account of the turning point of the battle in 1943.
 
#8
Yankee RN Covers the war from a volunteers perspective, the illustrations are grim.

Nicholas Monserrat wrote these books

Three Corvettes (1945 and 1953)
H M Frigate (1946)
H.M.S. Marlborough Will Enter Harbour (1949)

Buy your brother in Law both the novel and Dvd of The Cruel Sea he will thank you for it.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#9
'The Cruel Sea' is absolutely the tops for this. It is also a sort of war memorial to the people who fought the longest battle in the history of war, and gained a victory so esential that without it we should have starved. The other Monsarrat stories are quite short and were published and republished at different times in different packages. JPW Mallalieu's 'Very Ordinary Seaman' also has much to commend it.

As to an overview, that is going to be difficult as there are so many strands to it - the types of ship, the weather, radar, air support, and all manner of innovations such as centimetric radar, escort carriers, ahead-throwing weapons, a revolution in ship building methods in the US, ULTRA, etc etc etc and the story needs a retrospective on the earlier development of ASDIC and depth charges. To say nothing of how we found and trained the necessary people to do four-on, four-off (if they were lucky), knackered, soaked, frozen and in almost continuous motion for weeks on end.
 

Boldnotold

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
Yankee RN Covers the war from a volunteers perspective, the illustrations are grim.

Nicholas Monserrat wrote these books

Three Corvettes (1945 and 1953)
H M Frigate (1946)
H.M.S. Marlborough Will Enter Harbour (1949)

Buy your brother in Law both the novel and Dvd of The Cruel Sea he will thank you for it.
I have the DVD of The Cruel Sea, and have to agree with you!
 

Boldnotold

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
To say nothing of how we found and trained the necessary people to do four-on, four-off (if they were lucky), knackered, soaked, frozen and in almost continuous motion for weeks on end.
My late Uncle had some interesting stories about life on the Arctic Convoys, delivering goods to Russia, and being made welcome in Norway when all was over over there. He was a quiet man, and it's hard to believe the conditions he endured.
 
#12
For a more academic read, Clay Blair's pair of monumental books about the Battle of The Atlantic: "Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939-1942 (Volume 1)" and "Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted 1942-45 (Volume 2)" are well worth investigating.
 
#13
I would recommend "Iron Coffins" by Herbert Werner, a U-Boot captain. Admittedly its just the submarine aspect, but it covers WWII from beginning to the end and give a view from the other side.
 

Boldnotold

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
Looks like I'll be buying him a library! Thanks for all the advice, and I've noted a few for my own reading too.
 
#15
A late thought, have you asked the same question on Rum Ration? Some of their members were probably involved in the Battle of the Atlantic!
 
#16
If you can get it, 'Business in Great Waters: U-boat Wars, 1916-45' by John Terraine is a good book.

Slightly more unusual: 'Defeat of the Enemy Attack on Shipping' (edited Eric Grove) is a reprint of the Royal Navy's original staff study on the Battle of the Atlantic.
I'd echo both recommendations, especially Waters & Barley's "Defeat of the Enemy Attack on Shipping", reprinted by the Naval Records Society, which is the most complete thing on the topic you will find between two covers antwhere.

Donald MacIntyre's "The Battle of the Atlantic" is a good short overall account up to the turning point in 1943 by a man who served as a sucessful escort commander, and has been reprinted by Pen & Sword.

Because of their publication date, neither of the above books mention the Utra aspects, of course.

If you can find an old copy (published in 1976 by Purnell and not AFAIK re-printed), Anthony Watts' "The U-boat Hunters" follows Waters & Barley's eight phases of the battle, and is a good if more lightweight account.

For specific aspects of the battle, I'd recommend Alfred Price's "Aircraft versus Submarines" for the air aspect, Richard Woodman's "The Real Cruel Sea" for the experience of merchant sailors, and, for specific memoirs of participant commanders, Peter Gretton's "Convoy Escort Commander", Reginald Whinney's "The U-boat Peril", and Don Macintyre again with "U-boat Killer". Kenelm Creighton's "Convoy Commodore" is a personal account by one of that neglected breed to whom the country owes so much, and Mark Williams' "Captain Gilbert Roberts RN and the Anti-U-Boat School" is the only thing I have found with much depth on the development of escort tactics, short of getting hold of your own copy of "Western Approaches Convoy Insctructions". For the development of ASDIC in the RN, you need Willem Hackmann's "Seek and Strike", and for radar, Derek Howse's "Radar at Sea".

Chalmer's biography of Max Horton, "Max Horton and the Western Approaches", is worth reading, and you have three books to choose from on the life of "Johnnie" Walker: Wemyss' "Walker's Groups in the Western Approaches", reprinted by Pen & Sword as "Relentless Pursuit", Terence Robertson's "Walker RN", and most recently Alan Burn's "Fighting Captain".

There is of course absolutely no shortage of books from the U-boat side of things, but I think anyone who read all the abovementioned books would have developed a pretty fair idea of how the campaign developed.

All the best,

John.
 
#18
In order to give balance to the Dark Blue perspective, I can recommend:

Goulter, Christina JM "A Forgotten Offensive: Royal Air Force Coastal Command's Anti-Shipping Campaign 1940-1945". London: Frank Cass, 1995.

Isby, David C, ed "The Luftwaffe and the War at Sea, 1939-1945 as seen by officers of the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe". London: Chatham Press, 2005.

Franks, Norman "Dark Sky, Deep Water: First-Hand Reflections on the anti-U-Boat War in WWII". London:Grub Street, 1997.

Goulter is a good account of the technical and tactical developments of the battle, particularly the RAF/RN joint ops set-up. Isby and Franks both give the nitty gritty of eye-witness accounts of those long, cold days and nights; some terrifying stuff and some real derring-do.
 

Boldnotold

LE
Book Reviewer
#20
If you are investing in DVDs as well, check out "RAF Coastal Command" made in 1942 as a public information film.

RAF - Coastal Command [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: The War File: DVD

Great fun, in a 'chocks away, toodle-pip old bean,' sort of way. Note the skipper's fashion sense in holding his oilskin coat closed with bailer twine. Sheer class.
Ah, that would appeal to me, and I'll be looking for that with a recent Amazon voucher I received. Reminds me of an elderly gent I once knew who claimed that his sole contribution to the war effort was bombing a whale when newly appointed as a navigator...
 

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