The Sinking Of The Laconia
- A Tragedy In The Battle Of The Atlantic
The Laconia was a Cunard liner, built in Newcastle in 1922 and stationed at Liverpool for most of her working life. Requisitioned for war service, in 1942 she was torpedoed and sunk by a U-Boat in the middle of the south Atlantic while carrying nearly three thousand people, including some 1800 Italian prisoners of war. There then followed one of the most remarkable events of the war: the U-Boat launched a major attempt to rescue survivors. The Germans sent three submarines to help. The Italians sent another. The French, under risk of Allied attack, sent three warships from Dakar. The British could do nothing, and the Americans, from a secret base on Ascension Island, sent a Liberator Bomber to attack the rescuing submarines. Afterwards, Admiral Dönitz issued what has now become known as `The Laconia Order': no attempts to pick up any survivors in further U-Boat attacks, making this the last incident in which a submarine tried to help its own victims. This gripping read is constructed from survivors' own accounts and official documents and contains a generous 91 illustrations (some of the actual rescue attempt). The author has had a life-long interest in the incident because his father served on the ship (though he transferred to another ship just before the Laconia's last voyage). There is also a full index. It is difficult to imagine an incident of equal importance which has been almost universally neglected by naval historians. This is the first examination of it by a British historian and the only previous book-length account was that by the French historian Peillard, in U-Boats to the Rescue, published as long ago as 1963 and leaving unanswered many questions such as the identity of the attacking aeroplane.
SUBJECT CATEGORY: SECOND-WORLD WAR / MARITIME. 256 pages. 91 illustrations. 252 x 193 mm. Special edition: 200 copies only, signed and numbered by the author, bound in real cloth with a dust-wrapper. ISBN 1 871615 72 0. £29.95.
Ordinary edition: hard-cased. ISBN 1 871615 68 2. £14.95