The Battle of the Atlantic

Brian G Turner

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Lindybeige posted a video about the Battle of the Atlantic - which although at nearly an hour in length, remains educational and entertaining throughout:


Aside from having watched Das Boot, I find this especially interesting as the first WWII biography I read was about U-boat captain Wolgang Luth - one of the most decorated serving soldiers under the Nazis.
 

Toby Frost

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Have you ever read The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat? It's a really good novel about a submarine hunter - pretty grueling and frank for its time. The film's good, too, although comparatively sanitised. I also once read a memoir called U-Boat Killer, which did what it said on the cover.
 

BAYLOR

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The Germans had a very tiny surface fleet compared to the Royal Navy which, at that time the best and most powerful navy in the world. The Boat did slot dammam but in end what killed them was development in Sonar, new tactics to combat them.
 

Foxbat

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The British had the largest surface fleet (their policy a the time was to have a fleet larger than the next two navies combined) but it was far from the best. Most of their battleships were antiquated or not particularly good. The Rodney (a design result of the Washington treaty) leaked like a seive, for example.

The Washington treaty, which limited the tonnage and number of ships that could be built had a particularly bad effect on the RN (who had to get rid of some ships) but actually was beneficial to navies that were busy rebuilding because in the end their ships were much more up to date than much of the British Fleet. Even it's best known ship The Hood, was built in 1916, whereas the Bismark and Tirpitz took advantage of the latest build techniques.

Pocket Battleships like the Graf Spee pushed the treaty limitations to the most extreme and effective way of inerperting the intentions. Even newer British ships like King George V (built after the Washington treaty was abandoned) was no match on its own to the likes of Bismark. Britain had to rely on sheer force of numbers to gain victories. Even in the later parts of the war like the Battle Of North Cape (the last ever big gun duel between Britain and Germany), it took the Duke Of York with the cruisers Norfolk, Sheffield, Belfast and Jamaica (along with a number of destroyers) to defeat the Scharnhorst and five destroyers.

Churchill said that the Battle of the Atlantic was the only theatre of war that filled him with fear. It could have been much worse if the Versailles and Washington treaties hadn't delayed rebuilding of the kreigsmarine. Just imagine if Britain had to face ten Bismark class ships as well as the wolfpacks...
 

The Ace

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Hitler did lay down an ambitious programme for a surface fleet to take part in a projected war beginning in 1942-43, but despite this over-ambitious (or insane) plan to build a complete fleet in less than five years, not even he contemplated ten Bismarck-class battleships (his projected total of four was hopelessly over-optimistic, and the two he got was a near-miracle).

The loss of 10 destroyers at Narvik was catastrophic for the Kriegsmarine, whose surface elements never really recovered, and the sole mission of the Bismarck - as a commerce-raider - was an expensive and dangerous folly.

What got me about the Battle of the Atlantic was the use of the, "Flower," - class corvettes. Tiny ships with an open bridge and laughable armament, which actually made a difference in what turned out to be the longest battle of WW2.
 

BAYLOR

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The British had the largest surface fleet (their policy a the time was to have a fleet larger than the next two navies combined) but it was far from the best. Most of their battleships were antiquated or not particularly good. The Rodney (a design result of the Washington treaty) leaked like a seive, for example.

The Washington treaty, which limited the tonnage and number of ships that could be built had a particularly bad effect on the RN (who had to get rid of some ships) but actually was beneficial to navies that were busy rebuilding because in the end their ships were much more up to date than much of the British Fleet. Even it's best known ship The Hood, was built in 1916, whereas the Bismark and Tirpitz took advantage of the latest build techniques.

Pocket Battleships like the Graf Spee pushed the treaty limitations to the most extreme and effective way of inerperting the intentions. Even newer British ships like King George V (built after the Washington treaty was abandoned) was no match on its own to the likes of Bismark. Britain had to rely on sheer force of numbers to gain victories. Even in the later parts of the war like the Battle Of North Cape (the last ever big gun duel between Britain and Germany), it took the Duke Of York with the cruisers Norfolk, Sheffield, Belfast and Jamaica (along with a number of destroyers) to defeat the Scharnhorst and five destroyers.

Churchill said that the Battle of the Atlantic was the only theatre of war that filled him with fear. It could have been much worse if the Versailles and Washington treaties hadn't delayed rebuilding of the kreigsmarine. Just imagine if Britain had to face ten Bismark class ships as well as the wolfpacks...
If Hiter had been able to implement his navel building program the way he wanted. The results would have been dire for the Royal and US Navy.
 

The Ace

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If Hiter had been able to implement his navel building program the way he wanted. The results would have been dire for the Royal and US Navy.
True, but the project was so resource-intensive, expensive and impractical that its implementation would've been near impossible - even without the outbreak of war in 1939
 

BAYLOR

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True, but the project was so resource-intensive, expensive and impractical that its implementation would've been near impossible - even without the outbreak of war in 1939
Germany had very limited resources to work with of which the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe tended to get the most of even that wasn't enough for them. . Combine that with the fact hat by the Nazi economy was on the verge of economic collapse because the bills for rearmament were past due. Everybody talks about how mechanized the German army was, not really . They were still using horses and a fail amount of their tanks and weapons came from the takeover of Czechoslovakia. Getting hold of that countries financial resources and industries like the Skoda factory made ups for some the short fall.
 
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Tirellan

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Also significant that Hitler lost faith in his surface fleet, and concentrated on submarines
 

BAYLOR

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Also significant that Hitler lost faith in his surface fleet, and concentrated on submarines
Had the Germans been able to produce and deploy the type 21 Uboat in large numbers , that could have presented a problem to both the Royal and the US Navies and merchant shipping. . But again lack of resources came into play .
 

BigBadBob141

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It's interesting how the tech and tactics changed as the war went on.
I highly recommend "Aircraft Versus Submarine" by Dr Alfred Price.
 

BigBadBob141

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Early on in the war the u-boats had it all their way, it was so, so easy for them, like shooting fish in a barrel, but it was a very different story by the end.
Thanks to cracking the four rotor enigma (thank you Bletchley Park) , hunter killer groups, escort carriers, use of airfields on Iceland, better sonar and tactics, long range aircraft such as the Liberator and Sunderland, rocket carrying Mosquitos, airborne radar, acoustic torpedoes, Liegh light, huf-duf, hedgehog, and last but by no means least Western Approaches WATU ( thank you WREN J. Laidlaw), if you don't know what I mean look up the film by Lindybiege on YouTube about war gamers!!!)), with all this lot the poor b*****s never stood a chance!
Which is why four out of five German submarines never went home, that's an 80% mortality rate, which must be the highest in the war for any military or naval branch!
P.S. I wish someone had shot the american Admiral King early on in the war, it would have saved a hell of a lot of ships and lives!!!
 
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