Now let us talk about life aboard a U-Boat, well it was crowded and living conditions poor, each war patrol could take anywhere between 3 weeks to 6 months. During this time the crew were not able to bathe, shave or change their clothes. So the smell would have been terrible as well.
The crew as made up of specialists and seamen, they needed a radioman, a torpedo man and a machine man these men were responsible for the operation and maintenance of the equipment. Then there were the general duty tasks such as loading the torpedoes, standing watch on the bridge and operating the deck guns. There days were divided into three 8 hour shifts, one for sleeping, one for regular duties and one for other tasks.
The specialist crew had three 4 hour shifts between 8am and 8pm and two 6 hour shifts during the night. One of the worst duties was standing watch during a storm as the harsh North Atlantic environment meant that icy waves constantly swept over the conning tower completely submerging the boat at times. The crewman was secured by a safety line to prevent them being washed overboard.
Of course there was no privacy on board only the captain had any privacy with a simple curtain separating his quarters.
Food aboard a U-Boat was another interesting topic, at the start of a mission as much food as possible was cramped into every nook and cranny, including one of the toilets. They would have the best foods available to them including fresh meat, sausages, bead, fresh vegetables & fruit. However, because they only had a small refrigerators the food would spoil quickly especially in the damp environment.
The bread would sprout white fungi, which the crews nicknamed as “rabbits” due to the white fuzzy appearance. Canned goods supplemented by a soy based filler called Bratlingspulver, was issued by the military for U-Boat crews, the crew referred to it as diesel food due to the constant exposure of diesel exhaust which of course affected the taste.
Going to the toilet was no simple task, there was only one toilet until the food stored in the other was used up, and there was between forty to fifty crews sharing the only toilet. The flush system consisted of a hand pump where the contents of the waste was hand pumped into the ocean after each use. Using the toilet was prohibited when stalking an enemy as it was feared that the noise of clanking metal of floating debris would alert the enemy to the presence of a U-Boat.
The time spent on the submarines took its psychological toll with many crews painting a vision of emptiness. Months would pass and there were no trees, no hills and no landfill where one could place his feet, except on the deck of the U-Boat. The only excitement was when they were hunting an enemy ship, or when they were being hunted themselves, crews passed time by listening to a record-player built into the boat or by playing cards and organising some weird games to keep their minds occupied.
By the end of the war patrol, crews would emerge with long beards, soiled uniforms and an array of other obnoxious physical characteristic. It was after seeing the men returning from months of sea, Donitz when seeing his men returning said he knew what life aboard a U-Boat was like. As if I feel unless a person was there they really had no idea what life on a U-Boat was like.