Battle of the Atlantic
Battle of the Atlantic, phrase used 6 Mar 1941 by British PM Winston Churchill to describe efforts to defeat attacks by the German navy on Allied shipping between America and Europe during the SECOND WORLD WAR. By that time German forces had sunk some 61.
Battle of the Atlantic, phrase used 6 Mar 1941 by British PM Winston Churchill to describe efforts to defeat attacks by the German navy on Allied shipping between America and Europe during the Second World War. By that time German forces had sunk some 61.2 million tons, of which only a third could be replaced. In May 1941 British cryptographers solved the German naval Enigma code, giving Britain the advantage in the E Atlantic. After June, Allied naval escorts provided continual convoy protection, and in Sept American forces were committed to the task.
Terrible losses continued, but by Nov 1942 ship construction overtook sinkings. Tactical skill and air cover eventually drove U-boats into mid-Atlantic, beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. Further cryptographic breakthroughs in Dec 1942 and Mar 1943, roving support groups, and very long-range and carrier-borne aircraft closed the gap. In the first 3 weeks of May 1943 escorts sank 31 U-boats, forcing Germany to abandon the N Atlantic convoy routes; an attempted comeback in Sept failed.
Canada provided about half the naval escorts, primarily corvettes to protect shipping convoys, in the Newfoundland (later Mid Ocean) and Western Local Escort Forces. The tiny corvettes carried a single 4-inch cannon and minimal gear for finding and destroying a submarine. They were cramped and "rolled in a heavy dew" but they were all that could be supplied in such a short time. Most of the land-based air coverage came from Newfoundland and the Maritimes, and 7 RCAF squadrons used elsewhere by Britain's Coastal Command. Desperately short of equipment and training, Canadian forces eventually reached adequate operational standards, winning responsibility for the new Canadian Northwest Atlantic theatre. By war's end 25 421 convoyed merchant ships had crossed the Atlantic successfully, and the RCN and RCAF received credit for 47 of the 788 U-boats and 2 Italian submarines that had been destroyed.
See also U-Boat Operations.