BOOK REVIEW | Schnellboote – A Complete Operational History

This is a fascinating and very valuable history for anyone interested in the smaller end of the warship world and for those interested in the development of speed at sea. It contains much of interest for designers, builders, owners and operators of modern high speed craft whether they be commercial, military or leisure. The design, engineering and construction developments of the S-Boots have led to great progress in the wider maritime world.

The Schnellebootes, of course, were the very impressive German fast torpedo boats cum minelayers cum gunboats that provided an effective counter to Britain’s Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor Gun Boats in World War II. They averaged around 33 metres in LOA, were of composite wood and aluminium construction and, very importantly, were diesel powered and capable of around 40 knots. While they suffered horrifying attrition, they were still impressively effective. Their torpedoes and mines sank many Allied vessels in all the European/North African theatres of the war.

The book is certainly as complete and comprehensive as its sub-title proclaims. The author’s research borders on the obsessive. There cannot be much S- Boot history that he has omitted. There are plenty of very good and well-captioned photographs and vast amounts of fleet data. The only annoying omissions are with the maps, where some important place names are absent, and with the complete absence of general arrangement drawings and full technical specifications of the various iterations of these fascinating craft. With those included, and adding only a few pages, the book would have been perfect.

Schnellbootes were very impressive craft and, as this history shows so well, many of them were very effectively directed, commanded and manned. They certainly more than pulled their weight. In the overall scheme of things, they were notably more effective than the Nazis’ capital ships and really quite comparable with the U-Boots, particularly on a cost benefit basis.

Sadly, as in so much of Axis naval history, despite their excellent boats, ships and equipment, their brave sailors were very badly led at the political level. Wars are about much more than just materiel. The cause must be just. Another aspect of this fine book is the relentless recording of tragically wasteful extinction of young lives. Modern sailors should choose their political leaders very carefully.

Author: Lawrence Paterson

Available from Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, UK.


Neil Baird

Co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Baird Maritime and Work Boat World magazine, Neil has travelled the length and breadth of this planet in over 40 years in the business. He knows the global work boat industry better than anyone.