For various reasons, such as sharing terrible conditions from time to
time and having the odds of survival stacked against them, U-boat men -
indeed all submariners - could be a flamboyant lot when they wanted to.
Similar traits were displayed by members of the United States Eighth Air
Force, for similar reasons.
It was therefore not uncommon for this to manifest itself in the bold
display of talismans and "lucky" symbols on the conning towers of their
boats - regardless of any regulations to the contrary.
One of the most colourful examples of this display was surely that of
Fregattenkapitän Erich Topp; the well recognised "Red Devil" of U-552
In this modest canvas, which I have painted quite "loosely", I simply
depict a view of U-552's conning tower in heavy seas, trying to show the
famous "Red Devils" to their best advantage. (I kept it simple, because I
was getting very wet and cold leaning against the breech of the deck gun
whilst painting this ....)
Topp (who is warmly below decks in this painting) joined the Navy in 1934
and embarked upon an illustrious career during which he became the third
most successful U-Boat commander of the war, went on to become an architect,
worked in the U.S. for NATO and finally retired from the new German Navy
with the rank of Konteradmiral. He finally passed away as recently as