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The U-boats

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Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II, stated himself that U-boats were one of his biggest worries.  With the U-boats' successes during World War I, including the massive sinking of the passenger liner "Lusitania", WWII brought whole new inovations to the U-boat force.  While the sinking tolls elevated on both sides of the Atlantic, it was the Allies' heavily armed convoy system, which eventually eliminated the treat.
-What is a U-boat?
The term U-boat comes from the German word Unterseeboot meaning "submarine".  While it is fair to say that a U-boat is in fact a submarine, the term has been exclusively reserved for German submarines, even today. 
-U-boat Types
There were various U-boat types made during the war, the most famous ones include the type VII U-boats who fought distinctively in the Atlantic, and the type XXI U-boats or "Elektro boats" which were more sophiscated crafts with quite advanced technology onboard.  Below is a small collection of drawings that I sketched to show the main differences, they are not to be taken for modelling reference!

Type II
Types A-D


The type II U-boat is a small, conventional sub used to protect coastal waters.  Most of the type II U-boats were armed with only 3 torpedo tubes at the bow, maximum torpedo carriage is 5.  Some of the type II U-boats do have a 22mm gun on the forward deck for surface defence.    

Type VII
Types A-D and F


This is probably the most famous type of U-boat ever made, they were ocean going U-boats that conquered the Atlantic.  If you had ever seen a U-boat shown in a war movie, it was probably one of this type.  The type VII has two of the most successful U-boat classes in the fleet, the type VIIc, which was mass-produced in numbers (one of the famus ones, the U-96, was featured in the movie Das Boot), and the type VIIb, which contains probably the most successful U-boats, the U-48, U-47, and the U-100.  
These U-boats are armed with four bow torpedo tubes and one torpedo tube at the stern.  For surface defense aganst warships, an additional deckgun (located at the bow) was provided.

U-boat Type IX
Types IXA- D


The type IX U-boats were much larger versions of the type VII U-boats, they could travel and stay submerged longer than most of their predecessors.  Patrols and battles eventually revealed the type IX U-boats to be of the most victorious kind, U-boats like the U-107, and U-123 were among the successors.  
The type IX U-boats are armed with a total of six torpedo tubes, 4 forward tubes, 2 at the stern.                 

Later U-boats, the "Elektro" boats- later arrivals into the war....
When the war was near its end, the Allied convoy system were outnumbering the U-boat forces.  Sometimes, because of complications and design flaws, targets were hard to get a hit on.  A new system of torpedo loading also had to be invented, these new features were incorporated into a new class of U-boats called the Elektro boats.  Two types of these boats were built, the type XXI and XXIII.
Type XXI
Large ocean-going U-boats, they were much more advanced and had longer battery storage.  Their streamlined design made escaping destroyer runs a snap  The type XXIs also had a cruising range of 15000 miles, good enough for it to be able to reach Asia.
Sister type of the type XXIs, these boats were mainly used in coastal defenses, the type XXIIIs had very small working spaces inside.  In addition, the dual torpedoes at the bow had to be loaded externally, once used or launched, no reloading was possible until return to port.  Most of these boats were either scuttled or lost in action.  

Next page: Click here to learn more about the weapons used on various U-boats!

Article written by Xiao He.