This is a well written account of the capture of the German submarine U-110 on May 1941. This was possibly one of the most important naval actions of the battle of the Atlantic, with far reaching results. Although U-110 sank on tow, its precious Enigma machine had been extracted and its secrets helped to inform British naval intelligence of German U Boat movements and route convoys to avoid them.
The book was originally written in 1959, to rebut the claims of Rear-Admiral Daniel V. Gallery USN that his capture of U -505 in June 1944 was unique. In the official history “The War At Sea.” Roskill had downplayed the capture of U Boats. U110 merited only a single line with the statement that it had been sunk. The first third of the The Secret Capture tells the story of the other submarine captures of the Second World War. The rest of the book is a fine account of convoy OB318, its encounters with U Boats and the capture of U110 by the 3rd Escort Group under Captain Addison Joe Baker-Creswell, to whom the book is dedicated. There could be no mention of Enigma, but there are references to books, codes and enough “secret material” to fill two crates.
It is a very readable account which covers the human story of the war at sea from the point of view of officers and men from the Royal Navy and merchant marine. Roskill went to some length to track down ex sailors and merchant seamen ten years after the events. He is a good writer and spins a good dit.
The book has 167 pages, and sixteen black and white photographs. There are six charts and two diagrams to explain the movements and convoy formations. These are clear and helpful.
This edition includes a new foreword by Baker-Crewsell’s son Charles, with more biographical information. Professor Barry Gough has written a short new introduction that explains the context and importance of the recovery of the Enigma machine.
There are two reservations about the work. The book doesn’t quite do what it says on the cover. I would have expected to have read more about the exploitation of the Enigma machine. The 2011 edition seems overpriced with at RRP of £16.99, though you will not need to pay that to obtain it online, and the 1959 edition can be obtained for £0.80
This is a good historic tale, told well.