Note: ‘The Battle of the Atlantic’: A legend deconstructed
The ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ is a powerful legend. Throughout the war, it is said, a ‘battle’ raged as the Germans mounted a near decisive attack on the shipping that lay at the heart of the Allied war effort. The U-boat was the chief instrument. Convoys were consistently attacked with heavy losses inflicted by U-boat wolf packs. In 1942 vital code-breaking capability was lost with near disastrous results. Disasters rose to a peak in the spring of 1943 and the Germans came close to victory. Then suddenly the tide turned and Allied victory became possible. Nevertheless the battle had to be kept up until the war’s end to safeguard supplies. This was the only campaign that seriously worried Churchill. The only thing true in this legend is the vital importance of shipping and sea communications, the decisive factor in victory in the Second World War.