Allen and Unwin Pty Ltd, 9 Atchison St. St.
Leooards, New South Wales, 2065 Australia
223 pages, 36 figures and photos
11 maps, appendices, notes and bibliography
ISBN 1 86448 267 2
Reviewed by Dr. Richard Thompson
In this splendid volume David Stevens, RAN(Ret.) tells the story of the operations of U-862 in the Indian Ocean, Far East, and around Australia in late 1944 and early 1945. By mid 1944 U-boats in the North Atlantic bad become the hunted instead of the hunters, lasting on average only eight weeks, and Admiral Doenitz decided to deploy a number of boats to the Indian Ocean where targets might be less wary and ASW escorts less skilled and plentiful. U-862 was a Type IXD2 U-boat designed to carry the war to distant theaters: she displaced 1804 tons submerged (twice that of the Type (VIIC) and had a capacity of 442 tons of fuel oil, giving her (theoretically) a range of 31,000 miles. Following seven months of acceptance trials and training in the Baltic, U-862 left Kiel in May under the command of Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Timm for Norway, ultimately breaking out into the Atlantic via the Denmark Strait at the end of June. In addition to her crew of 64 she carried 26 torpedoes and hundreds of steel flasks of mercury, vital to the Japanese war effort. Timm and U862 attacked several vessels in the vicinity of Madagascar before arriving at Penang, Malaysia, in the beginning of September. U862 made a cruise around Australia, sinking two more ships before returning to Jakarta. U-862 was unable to depart for Germany before the surrender in May, whereupon she was seized by the Japanese and renamed 1-502.
U-Boat Far From Home is really an outstanding example of military history, a fascinating story well told. Stevens gives us details of the training, manning, and organization of U-862; the status of anti-submarine warfare around Australia; the difficulties of supplying and directing the U-boat flotilla in the Indian Ocean; and the vital role of code breaking and direction finding in hunting U-boats in the Indian Ocean. The narrative is fast paced and never tedious. The maps are clear, properly scaled, and abundant; especially noteworthy were the inclusion of air search radars and direction finding fixes on maps illustrating the track of the U-boats. The photographs are almost all appearing for the first time, and are very germane to the text. The detailed operational summary of Uboats deployed to the Far East (Appendix 2) underscores the futility of Doenitz’s stratagem: of the 47 U-boats sent, 15 were sunk before reaching the theater and 13 more were sunk in the Indian Ocean and surrounding waters, having accounted for a total of 65 vessels; only five boats ever returned to the Reich. For those interested in the history of the submarine in World Warn, this is an excellent addition to your library; for those particularly interested in the U-bootswaffe, it is a must. I (and probably many others,) will be eagerly awaiting Mr. Stevens’ next book.