Western Approaches, 6th June 1940
After failing to locate the first convoy reported, we have at last located another. We're waiting, submerged at 80 metres, ahead of its track, for the leading escort(s) to pass over...
... before coming up to periscope depth and attacking the merchantmen, who range from whale factory ships...
...to more conventional freighters, large...
In the event, the convoy approaches quite quickly and by the time I’m at periscope depth, there are merchantmen all around me, in several columns.
My immediate priority is establishing that none of the ships is a collision risk. That done, I start picking out targets, fore and aft. There are so many that I’m a bit overwhelmed. On top of that, some are a bit closer than I’d like...
...while others are within range, but still too far off for a high probability of a hit.
Above all else, experience tells me the heavy seas are going to mean that even shots that are accurate for line will have problems with the wildly undulating sea surface and the ships pitching up and down, on it.
But I'm here, and they're there, right in front of my torpedo tubes! I can't resist the urge to do something about it, here and now, while I can!
...to be continued!
U-105 off Freetown, Sierra Leone, September 1941
One of my favourite U-boat books is Robert C Stern's Battle Beneath the Waves (Cassell, 2002) which tells the stories of selected boats in both World Wars. He recounts that shortly before she was lost off West Africa after an unusual surface slugging match with USS Buckley in May 1944, Type IX boat U-66, harassed from the air, signalled to Befehlshaber der U-boote 'Central Atlantic Worse than Biscay'. The latter bay being traditionally where air power made life most difficult for U-boats by about 1942.
Well, that's how I felt, not long after my role-played Flotille Chef at the online Doenitz Elite Flotilla assigned us to return to the seas off Freetown for all of two weeks, for our second full patrol.
The full story of the first patrol, written in the form of illustrated extracts from U-105's Kreigstagebuch or war diary, you can find here: http://www.donitzeliteflotilla.com/forum/index.php?topic=3368.0 (this was recorded as two patrols as it involved a refuelling stop at a covert supply ship in the Canary Islands - all very hush-hush, or sehr Gekados if you like).
Second patrol, things started happily enough at Lorient. Crew on deck, we slipped out of our berth, to the accompaniment of the quayside band playing and the nurses throwing flowers.
Clear of port and with the open seas ahead, we bade farewell to our minesweeper escort.
There was nothing much to tell for the next ten days or so, as we ploughed our way southwards at economical cruising speed, increasing revolutions to transit the Bay of Biscay and the seas west of the big enemy naval and air base at Gibraltar. Sometimes the weather was good; other times, not so good.
Other times again, it was a bit of a mixture.
Our first encounter came en route and in darkness, when our alert bridge watch spotted a steamer showing no lights and sailing independently. She was unarmed, so we sank her with our 10.5cm deck gun.
A few days later, also in darkness, the tables were turned. We were surprised on the surface by two escorts, obviously radar-equipped, who drove us down and depth-charged us mercilessly. But fortunately without serious effect.
All we could do was track them on the hydrophones, while creeping away.
We escaped eventually, and ran into a second freighter a few days later. It didn't go well for her...
...and she slipped below the waves soon after desperately firing off some futile distress flares.
About the time we arrived in our patrol area SSW of Freetown, the weather finally improved again.
So, why 'worse than Biscay', then? Well, that'll come next!
...to be continued!
A new standalone mega-mod that brings all that's best to Silent Hunter 3
SH3 got justifiably rave reviews when first released in 2005. Arguably (and I'd be one of those arguing it) it's still far the best U-boat simulation. And can be much improved by the huge number of user-made mods available for it (many of which you can find in the Doentiz Elite Flotilla mediafire SH3 archive http://www.donitzeliteflotilla.com/forum/index.php?topic=1.0 ) .
Notably, as every SH3 aficionado will know, there's a number of mega-mods available which provide a single major overhaul, often with optional submods included. One such, and possibly the most popular, is the Grey Wolves Expansion 3 (aka GWX) whose Gold edition is what I've been playing until very recently.
Now available is a comprehensive further development of GWX - the OneAlex Edition. You can see the mod's intro video here - the download link is in its description: Silent Hunter 3 - GWX Onealex Edition - YouTube
This comes as a compressed file of just over three meg and unzips to under nine. While nominally a mod, it's self-contained and fully functional when unzipped - it doesn't need enabled or installed onto an existing installation. You may need to use a utility called Multi SH3 to create the dedicated subfolder it needs in 'My Documents' for career files but that can also be easily created manually eg 'My documents/SH3' if you unzip the mod to its default folder. Could hardly be simpler.
GWX OneAlex Edition comes with:
- the features of the GWX mod, including harbour traffic;
- the German U-Boat Compilation mod (GUC) which greatly improves the boats themselves, including enabling off-duty crew to be assembled on deck in harbour, the battle flag flown or taken down, and victory pennants to be flown from your periscope on return;
- many other improvements, including better crew and uniform textures;
- an already-inbuilt widescreen mod so it's 1920x1080 compatible out of the box;
- Jonesoft Generic Mod Enabler (JSGME), plus a set of submods including a range of skins for Type VII and IX U-boats;
- Silent Hunter 3 Commander (SH3C), optional but regarded by many as a must-have utility for the sim.
As an indication, this is a typical stock boat, a Type VII in this case -
Nice, but the skin is relatively low-resolution and some details are simplified, like the insulators and tensioners on the jumping wire
This is one of the OneAlex, GUC-based Type VIIs...
...and this shows the conning tower detail, albeit it's a larger Type IX...
Skins are higher resolution and detail is much better.
The next pics show the 'crew on deck' feature and harbour traffic, either moored like the destroyer...
...or moving like our minesweeper escort...
...which we will follow until we get into open water.
Another nice feature, shared with some other recent mods, is the addition of animated water streams from the holes in the boats' free-flooding casings.
The seas are often much less calm in SH3 and OneAlex Edition does a particularly good job of bringing them to life.
Bridge detail is excellent. A nice touch is that unlike in stock SH3, the UZO binocular sight is not permanently fixed to its mount (lower right in the pic below), and when you do fit it, the UZO is animated, and rotates.
Internal detail is also up to a high standard. In this control room view, you can just about see the open circular hatch (closed in stock SH3) into the commander's compartment...
...opposite which is the radio room.
I'm not sure but I think OneAlex deliberately left out the extended interiors made for the Type VII boats, which in the base GUC mod include engine rooms, crew accommodation and bow/stern torpedo rooms.
Torpedo impacts are also very well done, with debris flying and splashing into the sea.
Amongst the many included optional skins is this one for a late Type IX, which has the two-tier flak platform (but kept its deck gun as many Type IXs did) and GEMA 'rigid radar' on the upper front of the conning tower. Apparently it is likely that U-boats, unlike surface ships, always had dark grey, not red, anti-fouling paint below the waterline. But red certainly looks good!
GWX Onealex Edition also includes a fully-updated sound mod, which fans of the great movie 'Das Boot' will recognise!
What's not to like? So far my biggest gripe is that in the 'follow your boat' external ('Ship') camera (key <), mousewheel or tab zoom doesn't work, and can't be made to, it seems. You can move the camera closer but your perspective becomes exaggerated and less attractive the closer you get, unlike 'true' zoom'.
in action, the mod looks and feels great!
The author is still releasing updated versions (I'm at 1.46 at time of typing) in the light of experience and is obviously very committed. There are other good mega-mods out there, but this new effort really has a lot going for it already! Highly recommended, but somebody, please fix the Ship Camera mousewheel zoom!