The Significance of the Battle of the Atlantic

Contrary to what many people believe, the longest battle in WW2 did not take place on land. The truth is, it was fought by troops across the Atlantic Ocean from 1939 until the end of the war in 1945. 

You might be wondering what instigated it, the role it played in WW2, and how it ended. Let’s discover more about this military campaign, which eventually changed the course of history forever.

The Spark that Ignited WW2

The Battle of the Atlantic was ignited when a German submarine sank a British ship called SS Athenia in western Ireland on 3 September 1939. The passenger ship, which was bound to Montréal, had 1,400 passengers and crew members on board. A total of 118 people lost their lives, including four Canadians.

During WWII, several countries such as Britain were dependent on North America for vital war supplies. These included combat gear, bullets, uniforms, helmets, military watches, and other equipment. Each one of them is sealed in a box and transported across the Atlantic Ocean through merchant ships. However, this shipment was a complete sacrifice for the goods of the customer counties. German submarines were waiting at the Atlantic Ocean to attack the merchant ships, steal the goods, and even slaughter the ship workers.

The Strategy

Shipment couriers came up with a brilliant idea to combat this threat. They divided each merchant ship into groups with convoys that assisted them through the ocean. These envoys included aircraft and warships to preserve the safety of the shipment. The first Atlantic convoy was assisted while sailing at the Atlantic Ocean on 2 September 2 1939.

This solution wasn’t easy. Before a successful operation, shipment workers committed blunders. Some merchant ships got lost outside the tracker. This led to the fall of France in 1940, in which U-boats were given to the Atlantic bases. With these opportunities, the Germans gained more submarines that they called ‘wolf packs’.

Winston Churchill

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came up with the phrase ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ in an effort to put a spotlight on the essence of the Battle of Britain. The turning point of the war was when the British navy sank the famous German battleship, Bismarck. The death toll in the German naval forces was over 2,000.

With this massive milestone, the Allies began extending their convoy system to the Atlantic waters. This enabled them to establish route convoys with the help of intelligence units, ensuring safety from shipment loss and casualties. 

Following the entrance of the United States in December 1941, almost 500 unescorted German ships sank off the east coast of the US until the introduction of American convoys in 1942

How Crucial was the Battle of the Atlantic?

This military campaign was an enormous strategic victory for the Allied forces. All resources and supplies came to Britain via the Atlantic, without which the nation would have fallen apart. If the British forces lost in the war, they wouldn’t have had sufficient weapons nor the capacity to produce them. Moreover, US troops wouldn’t have been able to reach Normandy for D-Day and liberate Europe from the occupation of the Nazis.