Battle of the Atlantic
IN May 2013 the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA 70) will be commemorated with a series of events centred around the cities of Liverpool, London and Derry-Londonderry.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War 2, at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943. The BOA demonstrated the enduring importance of control of the sea to provide a highway for the transport of raw materials, munitions, and men, to maintain the nation’s security and to project power across the globe. The Battle of the Atlantic was pivotal to the success of the allied side in World War 2. After the fall of Europe, the main supply route for the continued prosecution of the war was between north America and the UK across the North Atlantic. Ultimately it was the successful protection of this vital sea corridor by British and allied ships from the German surface and U-boat threat that led to success in North Africa, at D-Day and ultimately resulted in the fall of Germany.
- 1939-40Outbreak of War
- 1940-41The U-Boat Menace
- 1941The War Widens
- 1942Attacks in US Waters
- 1942-43The Fight Back
- 1943Black May
- 1943-44U-Boats Checked
- 1944-45Invasion of Europe
Outbreak of War
September 1939 - May 1940The Battle of the Atlantic raged across the years of World War 2; the North Atlantic was an essential route for trade vessels and warships to support the Allies
The Convoy SystemBy October 1939 the convoy system was fully in force
HMS CourageousAircraft Carrier sunk by U-Boat off south west Ireland
- 17 SepSunk
HMS Royal OakThe Mighty Oak was sunk by U-Boat in Scapa Flow
- 14 Oct1939
Invasion of NorwayU-Boats withdrawn from Atlantic to focus on Norwegian Campaign
SS AtheniaFirst British ship sunk by U-Boat in World War 2
- 3 Sep1939
U-12 and U-40U-Boats sunk by the Dover Barrage in October 1939
- U-12 Sunk
- U-40 Sunk
U-Boat BuildingGermany begins large scale U-Boat building programme
30,000 merchant seaman lost757 u-boats sunk or destroyed
28,000 u-boat sailors lost5,000 cargo vessels sunk
35,000 allied sailors lost6,000 RAF aircrew killed
Eye Witness Accounts
Charles Erswell joined the Royal Navy as a gunner. After completing his training at Gunnery School, he was sent to join one of the Fleet's latest destroyers. He recalls his experiences escorting convoys during World War 2.View all
We have sunk more U-Boats and in several cases a large number of U-boats succeeded in concentrating on a convoy, but failed to attack.
ArchiveView all stories
Convoy sails to run U-boat gauntlet
A convoy of nearly four dozen merchant ships protected by nearly 20 Royal Navy warships has sailed for the New World – running the gauntlet of more than 100 U-boats. Convoy ONS5 – Outbound North (Slow) 5 – mustered off the west coast of Scotland yesterday as groups
of merchant ships from south Wales, Liverpool and Scotland joined forces. They are heading for ports in North and South America – most to pick up cargoes to bring back to the United Kingdom to support our war effort, some to deliver coal.
Now and then
A nation dependent on the sea
Island Nation 1943
Serious losses of merchant ships put a strain on the Allied war effort. While the British population was never actually starved of food, nor her industries of raw materials, her armies of men, equipment or munitions - the shortage of shipping curtailed ambition and deterred the more offensive planning aspirations.
Island Nation 2013
With 95 per cent of the UK’s daily requirements still moving by sea and the future of resources and energy supply so dependent on the freedom to use the sea as a highway for trade, our prosperity as a nation is intricately linked to the sea and the role of the Royal Navy.
D-class destroyer HMS Duncan served with renown escorting convoys in the Mediterranean and West Africa. She joined the North Atlantic escort ships in May 1943, as the Senior Officer Escort for two key convoys ONS 5 and SC 130.
The type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan, the sixth and final of the new sophisticated class of air defence destroyers, arrived at her home base of Portsmouth in March 2013.
Date: 24th - 28th May
Liverpool was the national focus for the 70th anniversary commemorations and events
Date: 9th - 13th May
Events held in London to mark the 70th anniversary
Date: 10th - 12th May
Events held in Derry~Londonderry to mark the 70th anniversary
'Imports into the United Kingdom', Table 161, in the Central Statistical Office, Statistical Digest of the War (London: HMSO, 1951) - Scale in 100's of Tonnes
|Date||Stocks thousands of tonnes||Notes|
|Food||Raw materials||Total Oil|
|January 1941||10.94||12.77||5.41||U-boat menace grows|
|March 1941||9.15||12.02||8.42||Western Approaches Command formed in Liverpool|
|May 1941||13.31||13.69||11.86||Engima device captured by HMS Bulldog|
|June 1941||15.57||11.5||12.08||U-boat presence increases North and East Atlantic|
|December 1941||13.2||12.79||12.59||USA enters the war|
|January 1942||9.84||9.6||10.37||U-Boats target shipping off US East coast|
|March 1942||10.15||8.70||7.24||First sighting of U-boat using HF/DF|
|May 1942||11.62||9.89||6.23||U-boats target trans-atlantic routes|
|June 1942||10.47||9.7||7.74||RAF target U-boats|
|July 1942||9.58||11.28||9.88||Convoy system reduces shipping losses|
|August 1942||6.74||11.8||9.16||U-boats return to North Atlantic|
|October 1942||7.23||12.17||9.42||Operation Torch|
|November 1942||6.02||6.36||9.03||U-boat attacks intensify|
|January 1943||5.31||5.98||8.57||RAF bomb U-boat bases|
|February 1943||6.33||5.51||8.95||North Atlantic air gap closed|
|March 1943||8.74||10.17||9.96||Heavy u-boat attacks increase|
|May 1943||10.22||8.74||12.81||Black May: Battle reaches climax|
|June 1943||11.73||13.12||14.67||U-boats withdraw from North Atlantic|
- Food imports
- Raw material imports
- Oil imports
Crucial Convoy Air Cover
Flying from the pitching decks of escort carriers and hastily converted MAC ships (Merchant Aircraft Carriers), Royal Navy aircraft and their aircrews played a vital role in protecting the convoys and hunting U-Boats.
Captain 'Johnnie' Walker
If any individual could claim to have turned the tide against the U-boat, then it would be Captain 'Johnnie' Walker, a man who destroyed more U-boats than any other. Walker had spent much of the inter-war years specialising in anti-submarine warfare.