Attack and Sink; The Battle of the Atlantic 1941

The Battle of the Atlantic
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Nor was protection sufficient to prevent heavy losses. There were too few naval vessels and maritime patrol aircraft available, and a severe lack of technical modernization, and training. German submarines concentrated at weak points in the naval defences of the Allies, and began attacking merchant ships much farther west with new long-range submarines and from new bases in the Bay of Biscay.

Ships were lost because their escorts had reached the limits of their endurance and had to turn back. As spring approached, the enemy stepped up the scale of attack and shipping losses reached grave proportions. In June alone, over , tons of shipping were lost to U-boats. To counteract this menace new types of vessels were constructed and scientists worked desperately to design new methods of locating and destroying the submarine. Canada's fleet was augmented by several new types of vessels of which the corvette was perhaps the most famous. Designed on the pattern of a whaler, it could be produced quickly and cheaply and had the ability to outmanoeuvre a submarine as well as long endurance.

However, corvettes were known as "wet ships. They were intolerably crowded and living conditions on board for a crew of some 60 men were terrible.

Attack & Sink: The Battle of the Atlantic Summer 1941

Nevertheless, these small ships, the first 14 of which were completed by the end of , were invaluable in the anti-U-boat war. As enemy U-boats began to probe farther west, the British countered by establishing new bases for ships and aircraft in Iceland and Newfoundland. The Newfoundland bases were made a Canadian responsibility. On May 31, , Commodore L. A few days later the first Canadian corvettes joined his command. In June Canadian destroyers in British home waters returned to serve with the Newfoundland force.

By July the Newfoundland Escort Force totalled 12 groups, and was escorting convoys as far as 35 degrees west. The RCAF , meanwhile, had been flying patrols from Newfoundland since and the first maritime patrol squadron had been stationed at Gander since It now provided air support to the Newfoundland Escort Force. Thus flying from both sides of the Atlantic and from Iceland, aircraft patrolled the entire route except for a gap of about miles in mid-ocean. The sea battle raged on. New construction could not keep pace with shipping losses, escorts were nearly always outnumbered by the wolf-pack concentrations of U-boats and it became evident that the war could well be lost at sea.

Meanwhile, although officially neutral, the United States had become increasingly involved in the war at sea. In September Canadian naval forces came under American co-ordinating supervision.

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This arrangement replaced control by the British Commander-in-Chief, based in England, with an American commander who would be much closer to the situation. However, when the United States officially entered the war in December following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many of the American ships were withdrawn to the Pacific to meet the new threat. This, unfortunately, weakened the Atlantic anti-submarine defences. Early in the Battle of the Atlantic shifted to the North American seaboard. The enemy destroyed coastal shipping from the Caribbean to Halifax, and even penetrated the Gulf of St.

The German attacks were devastatingly successful and more than ships, mostly tankers, were sunk within ten miles of the Canadian or American coastlines. The benefits of convoys were acknowledged by U. The Canadian naval service, with warships and 16, men serving at sea, now provided nearly half the surface escorts for convoys from North America to Britain. The RCAF , with eight maritime patrol squadrons and 78 aircraft on the Atlantic seaboard, carried out increased air surveillance of the Northwest Atlantic. Support for convoys remained insufficient for the task.

The winter of was desperate. Free to operate from bases in the Bay of Biscay, German submarine strength grew and attacks increased. While Canadian ships were able to register four victories in the summer of , nothing that winter could curb the staggering loss of convoy tonnage. Canadians were acutely aware of serious problems in their operations.

Norwegian bases threatened northern Britain. By occupying the Low Countries of Holland and Belgium, and northern France, the south and east coasts of England were now in the front line. The British occupation of Iceland took on a new and vital importance.

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These ships immediately attacked British and of war—in breach of her orders not to sink. Attack & Sink has 6 ratings and 0 reviews. This convoy must not get through U- boats pursue, attack and sink. This was the signal that Admiral Dnitz sent.

The lack of bases in Eire became more evident. In addition, the majority of French possessions on the Atlantic seaboards of Africa and the Americas were under the control of Vichy France, and thus denied to British forces. Worse still was the danger of their occupation by the Axis powers.

The Other World War II Battle of the Atlantic Everyone Forgets About

The naval situation was similarly transformed. Not only was the French fleet denied to the Allies, but the great fear was that it would be seized by the German and Italian navies and totally alter the naval balance of power. Radar - A British scientific mission to the United States carried details of many important developments. Amongst these was the recently invented cavity magnetron, vital for short wavelength radar and the eventual defeat of conventional U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.

As well as spotting for U-boats they attacked and sank many ships, and continued to be a major threat until the introduction of ship-borne aircraft in late started to counteract them. Monthly Loss Summary - 39 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 2 armed merchant cruisers, 1 sloop - 1 German U-boat.

The first of the "flushdeckers" arrived in Britain towards the end of the month. Her place was taken by Australian heavy cruiser "Australia". They included battleships "Barham" and "Resolution", carrier "Ark Royal", three heavy cruisers and other smaller ships including Free French. Naval forces at Dakar included the unfinished battleship "Richelieu" and two cruisers recently arrived from Toulon see below. Attempts to negotiate on the 23rd soon failed and as Vichy French ships tried to leave harbour, shore batteries opened fire, damaging heavy cruiser "Cumberland" and two destroyers.

A Free French landing was beaten off. Next day, on the 24th , Dakar was bombarded by the warships and "Richelieu" attacked by "Ark Royal's" aircraft. The bombardment continued on the 25th , but battleship "Resolution" was now torpedoed and badly damaged by submarine "Beveziers" and "Barham" hit by "Richelieu's" 15in gunfire.

At this point the operation was abandoned and the Anglo-Free French forces withdrew. Battle of the Atlantic - Early in the month the first wolf-pack attacks were directed by Adm Doenitz against convoy SC2. Five of the 53 ships were sunk. A similar operation was mounted two weeks later against the 40 ships of HX The U-boats present included those commanded by the aces Kretschmer, Preen and Schepke.

Eleven ships were lost, seven to Schepke's "U" in one night. The German B-Service was instrumental in directing U-boats to the convoys, where they held the advantage as they manoeuvred on the surface between the merchantmen and escorts. Radar was urgently needed so the escorts could detect the U-boats, force them to dive and lose their speed advantage before hunting them with ASDIC.

Monthly Loss Summary - 53 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 2 escorts - no German losses. Battle of the Atlantic - Focke-W ulf Kondor bombers continued to range the waters off Ireland and on the 26th, bombed and damaged the "Empress of Britain", later sunk "U" above. The Luftwaffe's long-range aircraft were now flying from bases in Norway as well as France.

Inter-service rivalry between the Luftwaffe and Navy meant the Kondor would never be fully integrated into the Gerrnan effort in the Battle of the Atlantic. Escort limits were only now pushed out to 19W. Fortunately, a number of measures were being taken to ease the dire situation and provide some of the foundations from which Britain and her Allies could go on to hold the U-boat threat in check: But there was still a long way to go, and vast areas of the Atlantic were without air or sea anti-submarine cover. Monthly Loss Summary - 56 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 1 destroyer - 1 German U-boat.

In both cases the circumstances were uncertain, but "U" was claimed by corvette "Rhododendron" and the Italian by destroyer "Havelock". By the end of the month they had 26 submarines operating out of Bordeaux, but were never as successful as their ally. Important steps were taken in the air war when an RAF Sunderland equipped with 1. This was the first success of its kind with a system that was mainly effective by day; contact was lost within two miles of the target.

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It was the addition of the Leigh light that turned it into a powerful night-time weapon as well. Monthly Loss Summary - 38 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 3 armed merchant cruisers - 2 German and 1 Italian U-boats.

Monthly Loss Summary - 42 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 1 armed merchant cruiser - 1 Italian U-boat. U-boats and now long-range aircraft had taken a heavy toll of British, Allied and neutral shipping in the Atlantic , mainly in the North Western Approaches to the British Isles. Further afield surface raiders had sunk, captured and disrupted shipping as far away as the Pacific. U-boats had also operated with success off West Africa.

In UK waters , attacks by aircraft and E-boats had added to the continuous threat from mines. Over half the ships and 40 percent of tonnage had been lost close to home. Vital as the Battle of the Atlantic may have been, there could be no let up in the equally important battle for the coastal convoy routes once the ships reached UK waters. Only heavily escorted transports would use the Mediterranean until The monthly loss rate in these months was twice the first seven months of the war, and each form of attack required a different technical and operational response from the Royal Navy and its Allies.

The patterns of assault against the trade routes continued throughout , although the U-boats would move further out into the Atlantic. By year's end they reached the coasts of America. Battle of the Atlantic - For the next few months the U-boat's 'Happy Time' continued in the Western Approaches against the poorly defended convoys. Bad weather in January and February fortunately kept the level of sinkings down.

Approximately 22 U-boats were operational out of the 90 in commission, and long-range aircraft including the Focke Wulf Kondors still roamed the waters off Ireland spotting for U-boats and sinking ships. Britain and her Allies would be able to receive American arms and supplies without immediate payment. Battle of the Atlantic - On 6th March 1 , faced with the mortal threat of the German U-boat and aircraft offensive in the Atlantic, Winston Churchill issued his famous Battle of the Atlantic directive.

Wolf Packs

Support for convoys remained insufficient for the task. Her American-built Martlet fighters shot down the first Kondor to fall victim to an escort carrier, but U-boats still managed to sink five merchantmen. Steps were immediately taken to extend protection and HX sailing at the end of the month was the first of the UK-bound convoys to receive regular and continuous cover. The War at Sea — At sea, the situation was saved by aggressive anti-submarine tactics, by new technology - better weapons and radio, the long-range aircraft Liberator being equipped with centimetric radar - and, eventually, by a revived Ultra intelligence.

Catapult armed merchantmen CAM were to be fitted out, merchant ships equipped with AA weapons as a first priority, and more Coastal Command squadrons formed and fitted with radar. Port and dockyard congestion was to be dealt with and the defence of ports greatly improved. These and numerous other matters were to be dealt with as a matter of the very highest priority. The survival of Britain depended on them.

Overall direction was to be exercised by a Battle of the Atlantic Committee chaired by the Prime Minister himself. Monthly Loss Summary - 63 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes - 5 German U-boats-including three of the most experienced commanders. German Aircraft Attacks - In April , aircraft sank ships of , tons in the Atlantic, off Europe and in the Mediterranean, the highest rate for any month of the whole war.

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In the first six months of alone the losses totalled ships of , tons. These were not only due to the long-range aircraft operating off Ireland from bases in France and Norway, but to attacks in coastal waters where the defences were still weak. More AA weapons were needed for merchantmen, more and better controlled shore-based fighters in coastal areas, and ship-borne aircraft were vital out at sea. The needs were recognised as the Battle of the Atlantic Directive made clear, but would take many months to meet. Battle of the Atlantic - Ove r the next few months a number of long awaited ship types and weapons started to be introduced.

These would contribute significantly to the eventual defeat of the U-boat. They shot do wn their first Kondor in August. HMS Audacity, converted from a German prize, had a short life, but proved the great value of these vessels. In May the first high definition, 10cm radar Type was installed in a corvette.

It was many months before either system was widely in service, and not until did they claim their first U-boats. Monthly Loss Summary - 48 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 3 armed merchant cruisers - 2 German U-boats. This month included a breakthrough in the capture of German Enigma coding material from "U", the hunt for and sinking of the "Bismarck", the fearful Royal Navy losses off Crete, continuing confirmation that Russia was about to be attacked by Germany, and further deterioration in relations with Japan.

One can only imagine the thoughts and feelings of Prime Minister Churchill and his senior advisers as they responded day-by-day to these momentous developments. Battle of the Atlantic - Total U-boat strength was now over with 30 operational and the rest undergoing training or trials. Most were active in the North Atlantic, but a small number were concentrated against the weakly-defended shipping off Freetown, Sierra Leone and between there and the Canary Islands to the north. In this area "U" Lt-Cdr Hessler sank 14 ships of 87, tons on one patrol. Other U-boats did almost as well.

However, continuous escort across the Atlantic was not yet available. Steps were immediately taken to extend protection and HX sailing at the end of the month was the first of the UK-bound convoys to receive regular and continuous cover. Monthly Loss Summary - 60 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 1 battlecruiser, 1 destroyer, 1 armed merchant cruiser - German battleship "Bismarck" and "U". In 20 days, six tankers and three other ships were sunk or captured in the North and South Atlantic.

From then on, distant water U-boats had to be supplied by U-boat 'Milchcows' although the first purpose-built ones would not be ready until Iceland - US forces landed in Iceland to take over the defence of the island and surrounding seas from Britain. Three new convoys were introduced: It was in this area, some miles long that the U-boats were now concentrating. Between January and June , North Atlantic merchant shipping losses had averaged , tons per month.

From July to December they were considerably down at an average level of , tons. Losses due to German aircraft were also well down as many were transferred to the Russian front. Monthly Loss Summary 23 British, Allied and neutral ships of 98, tons in the Atlantic from all causes. Together they drafted the Atlantic Charter setting out their aims for war and peace. Discussion also took place on US Navy involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic, which would initially revolve around the supply of US forces in Iceland.

Monthly Loss Summary - 25 British, Allied and neutral ships of 84, tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 3 escorts - 3 German and 1 Italian U-boats.

A German U boat attacks a British ship and it sinks in the Atlantic Ocean. HD Stock Footage

Her American-built Martlet fighters shot down the first Kondor to fall victim to an escort carrier, but U-boats still managed to sink five merchantmen. Five US destroyers began on the 17th with HX 50 ships. Earlier on the 4th, the first incident occurred when US destroyer "Greer" on passage to Iceland was in action with "U". There was no damage or loss to either ship.

The increased number of U-boats available to Adm Doenitz approaching with 30 operational allowed him to establish patrol lines in the Atlantic. It was into these that the two SC convoys 42 and 44 above , had stumbled with such heavy losses. Convoys SL87 and HG73 also lost badly and the four convoys between them saw a total of 36 merchant ships went down. Monthly Loss Summary - 53 British, Allied and neutral ships of , tons in the Atlantic from all causes, and 1 escort - 2 German and 2 Italian U-boats.

RN ships based in Iceland then took over until the convoys were met by Western Approaches escorts operating out of Londonderry, Northern Ireland and the Clyde, Scotland. The mid-Atlantic air-gap was narrowing. Battle of the Atlantic - There was a considerable drop in U-boat sinkings in the North Atlantic in the last two months of the year; again the reas ons were varied - the increasing number of escorts, the help given by the US Navy, and the increasing effectiveness of land-based aircraft.

Escort carrier "Audacity" was also proving her worth. The Allies were also helped by Hitler's orders to Adm Doenitz to transfer large numbers of U-boats to the Mediterranean. These were needed to shore up the Italians and help secure the supply lines to the Axis armies in North Africa. Monthly Loss Summary - 11 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55, tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 cruiser - 1 German raider, 1 German U-boat and 1 Italian cause unknown.

It proved beyond any doubt the value of escort carrier aircraft against the submarine - as well as the patrolling Focke Wulf Kondors, two of which were shot down. Monthly Loss Summary - 11 British, Allied and neutral ships of 57, tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 escort carrier and 2 escorts - 5 German U-boats plus two transferring to the Mediterranean. Battle of the Atlantic - U-boat s trength was up to with 90 operational.

Two-thirds were spread across the Atlantic, nearly a quarter in the Mediterranean, and a few on patrol in the Arctic for Russian convoys. It was at this time that Adm Doenitz, with never more than 10 or 12 U-boats at a time, launched Operation' Paukenschlag' 'Drumroll' off the coasts of America. The U-boat commanders enjoyed their second 'Happy Time', especially against the unescorted ships sailing in virtually peace-time conditions off the United States. Warship patrols were started, but the USN found it hard to accept the long, hard-fought lessons of the Royal Navy and established convoys immediately.

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Atlantic convoys still started and ended at Nova Scotia, so the first U-boats operated off the Canadian coast south of there. Over 40 merchantmen were lost in this area alone in January and February.

By this time U-boats were also sinking many ships off the US east coast. Its first success did not come until late in the Battle of the Atlantic - U-boat s extended Operation 'Paukenschlag' as far south as the Caribbean and started by shelling installations and sinking tankers off Aruba, Curacoa, Trinidad and other oil ports.