70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic
I was pleased to see that a number of events took place across the British Isles in late May to commemorate the 70TH Anniversary of The Battle of the Atlantic, in particular in London, Liverpool and Derry-Londonderry.
This was the longest continuous military campaign of World War Two and pitted the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the allied Merchant fleet against the might of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) with its surface ships but in particular its U-boat fleet. In simple terms, this was a battle to keep the supply lines to Britain open. Had Britain and its allies lost the Battle of The Atlantic then eventual victory in WW2 could not have been achieved. The power of the German Navy was also increased upon the entry of Italy into the war as a key ally in 1940.
The battle of the Atlantic was a brutal one, with losses of merchant ships and seafarers at an appalling level. Most of the losses were inflicted by the U-boats, especially when they hunted in packs, but later these U-boats and their crews also suffered heavy losses. Gradually, the balance of power swung as a result of many factors: an emergency shipbuilding programme (especially in America and Canada), more efficient convoy systems and protection, increasing provision of longer range air cover, the breaking of German codes, the improvement of radar technology and, of course, the contribution of ships and aircraft of the USA from 1941 onwards. Eventually in 1943 it was considered that the Battle of the Atlantic had been won, although some losses of merchant ships from U-boat attacks continued until the end of the war.
Winston Churchill was moved to say that “The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war. Never for one moment could we forget that everything that happened elsewhere – on land, sea or air – depended ultimately on its outcome”.
These commemorations of the Battle of the Atlantic – seven decades on – are very fitting and give due regard to the huge sacrifice made by the ships and seafarers of the Royal and Merchant Navies. I am sure they will also heighten the awareness and recognition of the vital role that the Merchant Navy has played in the life of this maritime nation, a contribution that is sometimes overlooked and undervalued.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR