Book Review: Deep Sea Hunters by Martin W. Bowman

My review of this book was originally posted on ARRSE ( and appears here with their kind permission.

One of the major British concerns during the Second World War was maintaining sufficient imports of food and materiel for the population to avoid starvation and be able to fight.  The German U Boat campaign threatened to win the war.  Its ultimate failure to do so was caused by a combination of improving convoy escorts and in particular improved airborne anti-submarine warfare.  This book seeks to tell the story of the latter.

It should be a rich tale.  The crews were routinely flying long endurance missions (often over 15 hours), sweeping their search area at low level.  If they spotted a surfaced U Boat they had to be able to deliver their ordnance before the U Boat crash dived, and that required flying straight at the target and over it.  Never easy, buy the end of the war U Boats had an armament equivalent to that of a ZSU 23-4.  Few modern combat pilots would relish the prospect of taking that on in a plane the size of a Hercules, but slower.

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 Unfortunately the book’s slovenly approach does not do its subject justice.  The first problem is in the editing.  There are repeated passages, incomplete sentences and little consistency in terms. The paragraphing is a disaster; one moment the reader is finding out about an attack in the Bay of Biscay.  The next sentence could be an operation in the North Sea.

The structure of the book is essentially a cut and paste job from other works (particularly those by Hector Bolitho and David Masters), BBC broadcasts and combat reports.  These are cobbled together and expanded upon by Bowman.  His additional information, gleaned from other works, includes details some of the pilots’ careers and of the U-Boat commander’s track history.  Unfortunately these details combine with Bowman’s unfortunate preference for the passive voice to remove interest and obscure meanings.  He also uses strange phrasing – for example “ship of war” in place of “warship” – and his prose is overly florid.  The appalling punctuation and typesetting does not always make it clear whether a piece of test is a quotation or Bowman’s work.

There is no separate description of the development of technology form mark one eyeball to radar, sonar and magnetic anomaly detection.  There are no maps so readers may need an atlas to hand.  There is no real explanation of the development of tactics, nor aircraft types.  In fact it is hard to discern any real structure to the book at all.  Bowman’s introduction is cursory and there is no conclusion.  The book just stops.

This is a ghastly book with low production values, incompetent editing and no real theme.  It seems that the production team were determined to knock out a book of a certain length with the minimum investment in time or original thought, and the book is one of two just released by Bowman.  The cover features a picture of a torpedo armed Beaufighter, which is odd as that aeroplane type is not mentioned in the text.

I rate it 0.5 out of 5, and that is for the aircrew recollections.