Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

So, what is the big deal about snorkels?

Discussion in 'Germany at Sea!' started by Toller, Mar 23, 2017.

  1. Toller

    Toller New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2016
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Anything I have read about Uboats says that snorkels were a major innovation that might have changed the war if they were introduced earlier.

    But I just read in Wikepedia that they were first used in 1916, but it was thought that the drawbacks outweighed the advantages.

    So, did the Germans have something new in 1943 that made them brilliant?
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2008
    Messages:
    9,329
    Likes Received:
    1,336
    The 1916 diesels weren't all that great on the surface.
     
  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,228
    Likes Received:
    2,029
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think the original snorkels were simply tubes that fed air directly to the engines. They had a tendency to allow water in as well. In the 30s the Dutch experimented with some valves that only allowed air in. The Germans adapted that technology but instead of directing air to the diesels, the snorkels brought air into the whole sub, including the living spaces. Therefore, an air bubble was created that gave air to the crew as well as the engine. At least, that's my understanding.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    7,334
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    We must be reading different U-Boat books then...

    The German Schnorchel was a response to the improvements that the British were making in their radar sets, namely the cavity magnetron and centimetric radar, and the increasing numbers of Allied ASW warships and aircraft. Early in the war, the British lacked these things, and the U-Boats could recharge their batteries and run on the surface practically undisturbed. By mid-war this had changed to the detriment of the Germans. Hence the advent of the schnorchel to allow the U-Boats to recharge their batteries with a reduced chance of detection.


    Actually, The USS Alligator(1862) used a primitive form of a schnorchel to provide her crew with breathable air while submerged - as did the various Confederate submarines. US submarine inventor, Simon Lake, also used a primitive schnorchel to provide air for the gasoline engine he used for propulsion. IIRC, John Holland also used primitive schnorchels on his early submarines.

    However, in the case of these early submarines & the World War I boats, the many drawbacks did outweigh the few advantages. Even in early World War II, this still held true.


    The Germans refined the Dutch design, however, it was not these refinements that made it "brilliant," it was the advances made in ASW warfare that made the schnorkle not only "brilliant", but "necessary."
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    7,334
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Your understanding is mostly correct. However, the air bubble was not intended for the crew, but as an air reserve for the diesel engine to draw on until the float disengaged(hopefully this occurred before causing the crew to much pain).
     
  6. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,228
    Likes Received:
    2,029
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Thanks for the expansion. My understanding is shallow, to say the least. I probably could use a better schnorkel. :rolleyes:
     
  7. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2000
    Messages:
    8,270
    Likes Received:
    817
    Location:
    Jefferson, OH
    What about the exhaust from the diesel engines? Would that not be piped out through the snorkel as well?
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    7,334
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Yes.
     
    PzJgr likes this.
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    344
    Location:
    London UK
    My cousin an ex submariner told me that travelling under diesel with a schnorkel can be an unpleseant experience. Waves splashing over the inlet valve cause the valve to close while the diesels are sucking air out of the bubble.

    WW2 submarines were really submersible torpedo boats. They could only catch ships on the surface, as has been pointed out the snorkel allows the submarine to avoid detection. What the snorkel enables the electrirc batteries to recharge and is a preciondtion for subm,arines desined to operate mostly submerged e.g. Type XXI submarine - Wikipedia
     
  10. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,319
    Likes Received:
    167
    Brilliant or not, all my reading gives me the impression that by late 1943, if a U-Boat didn't have a snorkel it didn't survive! This device, while imperfect, gave a sub some reasonable chance to evade destruction. Of course, by remaining underwater it compromised its ability to find Allied shipping.

    My question has always been that after 1943 why did the KM even let a boat out without one?

    And another question while we're on this topic, why did they continue with making Type VIIs and IXs with net cutters and deck guns? It seems to me that these things gave more water resistance so removing them would have made the boat at least somewhat faster underwater, plus the space saved by not having the deck gun ammo could have meant some more battery space.
     

Share This Page