JULY 2013 ISSUE
The 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic was marked in May with a series of events centred around the cities of Liverpool, London and Derry-Londonderry. In this issue we pay our own tribute to the convoys that played such a key role during the battle with an excellent article by Nick Hall, which looks in detail at some of the key events that turned the Battle in the Allies’ favour.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, and was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943. The Battle of the Atlantic showed how important control of the seas was, as this provided the only means to transport the raw materials, munitions and men needed to maintain the country’s security and continue with the war.
While the Royal Navy might have led the war, the merchant navy felt the brunt of the losses, and it should not be forgotten that, although 175 Allied warships were sunk, an incredible 5,000 merchant ships were destroyed as a result of enemy action. In addition, more than 66,000 Allied merchant seamen, sailors and airmen lost their lives as they tried to maintain Britain’s supply lines from America.
The length of the battle, and its relative lack of a specific focus, has meant that its significance has been somewhat diluted in the public arena. The Battle of Britain is far better known, yet it could be argued that the Battle of the Atlantic was more significant in the long struggle against the Nazis.
And while May might seem like something of an arbitrary date for the commemoration, it was in May 1943 that the turning point came, with the withdrawal of many German U-boats, and this was seen as the climax of the Battle. Ultimately it was the successful protection of the sea corridor by British and allied ships that led to success in North Africa and at D-Day, ultimately resulting in the fall of Germany.