by: Bill Cross [ ]
The company Caraktère Presse et Éditions has been releasing a series of magazines with the odd title (in German) of "Los!" ("fire" as when discharging a cannon or a torpedo). The series bills itself as le magazine de la guerre navale, aéronavale et sous-marine ("the magazine about naval warfare, naval aviation and submarines"), and devotes each issue to some specific topic on, above or under the sea. "Los! Nr. 8" hits all three as it deals with the convoy battles during the Battle of the Atlantic.
In magazine format comprising 114 pages of glossy color (though most of the photos understandably are black & white).
Let's tackle the elephant in the room: the magazine is IN FRENCH. If you can't read French, you may want to think carefully before purchasing. Don't say I didn't warn you.
On the other hand, the profusion of photos is luxurious, and if you aren't planning on investing in a series of photo books about the Battle of the Atlantic, this might be a good alternative. It is also packed with invaluable details about things like anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics.
The contents are divided into five sections:
Defence notice refers to the German declaration during the First World War about using unrestricted submarine warfare. This controversial decision was some argue forced on Germany by the US flouting its status as a neutral by covertly supporting Britain and France through trade both belligerent and food stuffs.
The section is a geek's delight, since it breaks down the administration of the convoy war. Ships didn't just form up and depart, but were organized into groups with designations and pre-set routes. All this required enormous effort and coordination, and this section helps to set out some of that complexity.
Intelligence covers the Allies' efforts to locate and either avoid or sink packs of German U-boats. The singular most-important event in the Battle of the Atlantic wasn't tactics or materiel but the deciphering of the German Enigma codes. Perhaps because of recent films like "The Imitation Game" about how the Enigma code was cracked, there is too much emphasis on codes and not enough on the nuts & bolts of the intelligence issue. Prior to cracking Enigma, the Allies did a great deal of detective work with air searches. And we should not overlook the good fortune of seizing Enigma machines from several crippled U-boats, including U-505.
This section is the heart of why I like this publication: detailed maps and accounts of how ASW ops were conducted during convoys. We assume that destroyers and corvettes were simply sweeping the seas as the freighters and oilers slid forward to their destination, but intricate search patterns were executed, especially since many convoys sailed with inadequate escort vessels.
The section is also valuable for aircraft modelers who are looking for color profiles of both Allied sub hunter craft and German recce and anti-ship planes like the Blohm & Voss BV 138 C-1 float plane.
This section continues with some good aircraft color plates, but focuses more on the ships of the convoy battles. This includes the famous "Liberty Ships" that were assembled in pre-fab components that completed in just days instead of months for conventional shipbuilding. The other detailed computer-generated plates show & identify the features of the corvette, best represented by the "Flower" class corvettes. Named for flowers and adapted from a pre-war whaling design, these workhorses did much of the dirty work of taking convoys across dangerous seas often filled with hostile craft. There are other gems, too, like a list of convoy escorting Royal Navy aircraft carriers (the role of carriers in ASW is not sufficiently emphasized).
Again, lest no one be confused, the magazine is in French with no dual-language translations. If that dissuades you, then so be it. But the profusion of detail is great, and a little effort with a dictionary or online translation program might make it worth your while.
Thanks to Caraktère Presse et Éditions for providing this review copy. Be sure to say you saw it reviewed on Model Shipwrights when ordering yours.