This is the latest publication from ‘Start’ and continues with their high standards of publishing. The book is printed on high quality glossy paper and gives a comprehensive history of the Type XIV class of U-boats. The books is a mix of images and text, with the text being in both English and German. The English is written very well and I have not seen any errors so far. The book starts off with a history of U-boat tankers in the German Navy from the first ideas in WW1 to the development of the U-boat tankers. Then the book moves into a section on each of the 10 tankers which breaks further down into each cruise being covered in depth in its own chapter. This builds into a detailed history of what happened to each of the tankers, from their construction to their final destruction. The text is backed up with numerous photos of tankers and their operations. The photos are of a very high standard and are all captioned explaining what you can see in each one. Each image relates to the text that accompanies it, so the book is both a text history and a photo history. The cover photo of the book is the only know colour image of a Type XIV tanker. Let’s not forget the data CD that comes with the book. It contains details of every refuelling operation undertaken by a tanker and a complete index for the book.

Click here for a sample of the book on the publishers website.

There has been one other book on the Type XIV tankers, but that contained some inaccuracies and didn’t go into as much detail. This book is the reference book on Type XIV tankers. If you want to know all there is to know about this class of U-boats, this is the book to have. What follows is the text from inside the front cover of the book.

To the Allies they were target number one – the German submarine tankers. The Allied hunter-killer groups had express orders to sink the tankers first. The enemy knew that the German submarine tankers made it possible for U-boats to operate off the east coast of the United States, South Africa, the west coast of Africa and the Caribbean. Unlike conventional tankers, these large Type XIV submarines, also known as “milk cows”, could reach their areas of operation without being discovered. The submarine tankers carried sufficient fuel, provisions, torpedoes and spare parts for up to 24 U-boats, doubling or tripling their normal endurance. The “milk cows” also  carried a doctor who could treat sick or injured crewmen. 

In 1942 the submarine tankers were able to rendezvous with the combat submarines at prearranged locations largely undisturbed. In 1943, however, all this changed. From the beginning of the year, the Allies succeeded in decoding German radio transmissions and from these intercepts learned where the tankers and operational boats would be meeting. From then on the tankers were hunted down relentlessly. Wherever the “milk cows” surfaced, Allied anti-submarine groups were waiting. Rapid transfer of supplies, often in bad weather, rendezvous points changed at the last minute, and attacks by Allied ASW aircraft became a part of everyday life for the “milk cow” crews. They often worked to the limits of their physical and mental endurance to complete their mission. In the end, all of the submarine tankers were sunk by the Allies, the last in the summer of 1944. Hundreds of men went down with the submarines. 

The story of the ten German submarine tankers in the Second World War has never been thoroughly documented in words and pictures. This book describes the difficult submarine tanker operations and the war waged by the crews against the power of the sea and the Allied anti-submarine forces and thus fills a significant gap in the history of the German submarine arm. 

Large format 23.5 x 28 cm (9.25 x 11 inches) – 336 pages –

305 photos including 5 in colour – 33 colour maps – 9 colour profiles – Data CD with detailed supply data and a total index for the book

This book is very highly recommended to all.

Thanks to my wallet for the review book.

Update: this book is selling so well it is going to be reprinted shortly after the initial printing.


Paul Tosney

Paul has been with Model Builder International since almost the beginning. He started building models as a boy, and took a hiatus, but started building again a few years ago. He builds pretty much anything, but mostly WW2, with a smattering of modern and the occasional SciFi model.


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