Marine-torpedodienst 1875-2000

Title Marine-torpedodienst 1875-2000
Rating Good
Author J.M. Mohrmann
Publisher De Bataafsche Leeuw
Year first published 2000
Series -
Binding Hardcover
Content 176 pages, illustrations, photographs (black & white, colour), tables, notes, index

In his introduction, Engineering Commodore D. Van Dord tells readers that this book is neither a history book nor a text book for a Torpedo Artificer. Rather, its principal purpose is to pay homage to the Royal Netherlands Navy (KM) Technical Personnel and to honour their dedication and achievements in the naval torpedo service in times of peace and war between 1875 and 2000.

It achieves this aim admirably, supported by extensive illustrations, sketches, drawings and photographs. The bibliography reveals that there are only about a dozen obscure books written about torpedoes since its inception as a naval weapon. This factor influenced the author to make his coverage of the torpedo as a weapon system so comprehensive and international in scope.

The book opens with a section on the origin and early development of torpedoes. This section covers the famous Whitehead Torpedo, the installation of torpedoes as the principal weapon system in submarines, and mating torpedoes to aircraft and surface ships. It also reviews the phenomenal German success with submarine-launched torpedoes in World War I against naval and merchant ships. The author contends that, despite these results, the Royal Netherlands Navy's strategic thinking in the inter-war years considered gun systems supreme and torpedoes a secondary attack weapon. As a result, and despite the fact that excellent analogue computers for gunnery fire control were produced for surface ships in the Netherlands (Hazemeijer HSA), KM submarines were not fitted with torpedo-firing computers at the outset of World War II. This created a significant impediment, limiting firing ranges to a thousand meters. The chapter also touches on the role of Japanese long-range torpedoes in the attack on Pearl Harbour and in the Battle of the Java Sea, in which most of the Allied ships were destroyed by torpedoes. The author then turns his attention to "Personnel Organization," in which the human factor is analyzed. Because the early torpedoes were very complicated and mechanical in construction, torpedo performance depended very much on highly trained and skilled technicians. The advent of electronic/ electrical technology in modern torpedoes negated the requirement for a dedicated torpedo service and caused its responsibilities to be passed to the weapons technical service. Included here are layouts and details of torpedo workshops in Den Helder, Amsterdam and Soerabaja (Java) as well as the torpedo school and the evolution of torpedo training.

The third chapter provides a thorough examination of the development of the torpedo and its components. It describes the firing pistols, trim components, and so on with the support of many photographs seen for the first time. The development of the MK44 and MK46 anti-submarine torpedoes with ever improving self-target-seeking capabilities is explained in detail.

The KM also built a number of special-purpose vessels used to support testing, controlling and transporting torpedoes. These are treated in a separate chapter. The most famous of these is the Mercuur, a floating torpedo workshop, which can pick up torpedoes, prep them and analyze the firing results.

One appendix is devoted to an inventory of all torpedoes procured for the KM, giving a seldom-found insight in such activities. Another is dedicated to Torpedo Launching Systems in surface ships, helicopters, submarines and fixed-wing aircraft.

Mohrmann develops three themes in his concluding remarks about the KM experiences with torpedoes. Under "Maritime Politics" he maintains that the strident manner in which the Dutch maintained their neutrality prior to World War II served to isolate the Dutch navy, resulting in the almost total absence of any exchange of information on new technical and tactical developments. This would have a detrimental effect on operations in the early years of the war. Under "Technology" we learn that the KM had attempted to maintain a standardization with German submarines, resulting in longer torpedo launching tubes. This proved beneficial when torpedoes were in short supply and captured German G 7 A torpedoes could be utilized. Finally, Mohrmann comments on "Operations." Although he refrains from measuring operational torpedo performance in World War II, he does emphasize that tactical skill in firing torpedoes was poor at the onset of the war, owing to the fact that only the oldest torpedoes were sporadically fired in the interwar years.

To conclude, the author has compiled a most interesting book with the concurrence of the Royal Netherlands Navy (KM) and presents a forthright narration of the development of the torpedo as a weapon system through the years. One is left with a deep respect and appreciation of the technical competence of the Torpedo Service. It is hoped that this book will be translated into English in due time, so that a wider audience may appreciate its achievement.

Review by Fred Herrndorf, June, 2002.

This review was first published on the website (no longer existent).

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