Immortalised in the classic British war film Above Us the Waves (1955) starring John Mills, the X-class of midget submarines was specially built for the Royal Navy during 1943-44. Known individually as X-craft, the four-man submersibles were designed to be towed to their intended area of operations by a full-size 'mother' submarine, where they were cast off to carry out their missions. The weapons on the X-craft comprised two 'pannier' cargoes - explosive charges held on opposite sides of the hull, each filled with two tons of amatol high explosive. The technique was for the X-craft to detach these pannier charges on the sea bed underneath their target - usually an enemy warship - and then make good their escape. The charges were detonated by a time fuse.
X-craft were famously used to attack the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway, the Laksevag floating dock at Bergen, as well as playing a key part in the stealthy preparatory work for Operation 'Overlord', and subsequently as lightships to guide in the invasion fleet to the correct beaches on D-Day, 6 June 1944.
Centrepiece of this manual is the midget submarine, HMS X-24, preserved at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. She is the only remaining example of a British X-craft that saw service during the Second World War. X-24 and her crew of four took part in two operations to penetrate Bergen harbour, the most heavily defended of the occupied Norwegian ports. The target was the Laksevag floating dock, which was vitally important to the Germans because it was widely used by U-boats for repairs.
Author Bob Mealings, former curator at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum (RNSM), will look at the wartime X-craft construction programme, followed by a detailed examination of the anatomy of X-24, including its propulsion systems, ship handling machinery, weapons, crew living and fighting conditions, X-craft at war, and finally a look at the X-craft heritage legacy.
The author has identified several good sources of engineering drawings and archive photographs, together with a rich pool of memories and experiences from the X-craft submariners themselves. It will be possible to photograph X-24 inside and out for the anatomy chapter of this manual. In addition, there are also a number of X-craft artefacts in the RNSM collection, which will add interest and diversity to the illustrative content.
Publisher: Haynes Publishing Group
Number of pages: 160
Dimensions: 270 x 210 x 20 mm