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The Battle of the Atlantic
Transcript of The Battle of the Atlantic
The trade ships carried foods and were very slow, making them easy targets for the German U-Boats
The Germans' intention was to win the battle by denying the UK of any resources.
The Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest running campaign in WWII
It lasted from September 1939 until the defeat of the Germans.
The main objective was to control the Atlantic Shipping Routes.
About the Battle
1939 : 222 ships sunk (114 by submarine)
1940 : 1059 ships sunk (471 by submarine)
1941 : 1328 ships sunk (432 by submarine)
1942 : 1661 ships sunk (1159 by submarine)
1943 : 597 ships sunk (463 by submarine)
1944 : 247 ships sunk (132 by submarine)
1945 : 105 ships sunk (56 by submarine)
Impact of German U-Boat
New ships were developed called corvettes which were very lightly armoured which made them much faster but very heavily armed with depth charges and also with ASDIC which enabled all corvettes to hear submarines underwater.
Ironically bad weather helped us as submarines could not shoot torpedoes when there was a heavy swell and thus the merchant ships were safer during storms.
The invention of new ‘planes such as the Short Sunderland helped as it gave convoys valuable air cover and a submarine has to be near the surface to use torpedoes and as such becomes a sitting target for ‘planes guarding a convoy.
How did the British Survive
Britain had the largest fleet in the world - 3,000 ocean-going vessels and 1,000 large coastal ships.The German navy was in poor condition following World War One and initially the Germans underestimated the role the U-boat might play - only 46 vessels were in operation, intended for surface attacks.
In the summer of 1940 the U-boat menace began to grow. Britain faced problems - the air gap in the Western Atlantic meant that the RAF could not fully patrol U-boats. The Allied occupation of Iceland was an advantage, but long-range aircraft had to be developed before the air gap could be conquered. The Canadian navy eventually assisted Britain in covering this gap.
"There was a stir about 7:15 a.m. when the first person climbed from his hammock. There was no need to dress, as we slept in our clothes. The first one to rise made the tea. The bread, biscuits and jam was a help-yourself arrangement. The bread had to be vigorously shaken to be rid of the cockroaches.
During the morning those on duty went on watch, other cleaned the mess (living area) and prepared the midday meal. Into a large pot was put tinned stewing steak, peas, beans and fresh potatoes and water. Those who were off duty caught up on lost sleep, as we very seldom had more than four hours at a stretch. Others sat around talking in undertones. If the weather was fine it was time to get some fresh air on the upper deck. This was also the time for washing - there were no baths or showers.
Supper was taken at 6:00 p.m. This was usually herrings or baked beans and bread."
R.T. Brown who served on the "Volunteer".
What was it like to serve on a convoy ?
"Narvia" was torpedoed with an ear-shattering roar and the deck bucked and heaved violently under my feet. A huge tower of black smoke, tons of water and debris was flung into the air just forward of the bridge.
The ship was taking water fast, the deck soon awash. The order was given to abandon ship and the lifeboats were launched.
We pulled away from the ship, but then saw another lifeboat released with a splash into the water and several men jump after it, where they clung desperately and shouted for help. We saw the raft drift slowly forward along the ship’s side, and, to our horror, we watched helplessly as a great in-rush of water sucked the raft and its occupants into the hole blasted into the ship’s side by the torpedo. Even now I can still hear the screams of the men inside the hull. But then they were swept out again, by which time we were much closer and could drag men to safety in our boat. One of them, as if in gratitude, became violently sick all over me."
An officer who was on duty on the "Narvia" when she was hit and sank.
By April 1943 the U-boats were clearly struggling to make an impact and Allied destruction of German submarines began to escalate
They put a halt to U-boat operations on 23 May 1943. If the Germans had succeeded in producing their new types of submarines the outcome of the war could have been drastically different.