Rabbit Hole Two: U-Boat Cuisine

Just a quick note since nothing may come of this in the end: The Technik-Museum in Speyer has an actual submarine you can visit. It’s a type 205 West German U-Boot built in the late 1960s for patrolling the Baltic, and the interior has been restored to resemble its original state as much as possible. Trying to imagine what it would be like living in there with 22 people for an extended period of time is difficult. The experience is unsettling enough just passing through it as a visitor.

U-9 galley. I apologise for the poor picture quality
NCO mess. The cook’s berth is top left

Of course what interested me is the kitchen, sorry, galley. The Germans would call it Kombüse. It’s a tiny nook, not even standing height for me, with a three-burner electric stove, a small oven, and a single sink. Just down the walkway is the bridge, and across it lies the NCO mess.

Sink, refrigerator and storage units

The cook, an NCO, was expected to produce three meals a day plus unlimited coffee for the crew as well as bake fresh bread daily while the boat was at sea. It must have been quite challenging and very hard work, and it fascinates me. This setup was designed by people who had personal memories of submarine warfare in WWII and was considered optimal and somewhat luxurious in the mid-1960s.

I have contacted the U-Boot memorial and the navy museum in Wilhelmshaven, and apparently there are no surviving recipes or instructions for cooking on submarines. It surprises me a little since there is almost nothing the German military did not produce a Dienstanweisung on, but it leaves me curious enough to do some digging. Tracing the development of submarine cuisine could be interesting. I am just not sure I’d be willing to wade through the reams of self-aggrandising U-Boot-Fahrer reminiscences that made it into print in the postwar years to sort fact from fiction. I will update if I find something interesting, though.

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