Captain Macintyre was a distinguished participant on one of the most critical battles of WWII. This book can be regarded as a primary source and the author pulls no punches. The scale of the battle as it raged for much of WWII is unlikely to ever be adequately covered by a single book. This book demands a place in any library of the subject and provides an unparalleled account of the U-boat tactics and the way in which the Allies evolved their convoy tactics and then set up hunter-killer groups to take the war to the submarines.
NAME: The Battle of the Atlantic
AUTHOR: Donald Macintyre
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, war at seas, naval technology, convoys, single ships, naval aviation, submarine warfare, anti-submarine warfare
DESCRIPTION: Captain Macintyre was a distinguished participant on one of the most critical battles of WWII. This book can be regarded as a primary source and the author pulls no punches. The scale of the battle as it raged for much of WWII is unlikely to ever be adequately covered by a single book. This book demands a place in any library of the subject and provides an unparalleled account of the U-boat tactics and the way in which the Allies evolved their convoy tactics and then set up hunter-killer groups to take the war to the submarines.
There are a number of informative charts through the body of the book and a photo plate section with some rare images that support text that is already vivid, using quotes from German U-Boat commanders and Allied anti-submarine commanders.
It is difficult to place a specific proportional value on any individual battle, or even on campaigns. As Britain was dependent on external supplies of fuel, food and raw materials, the loss of the convoy battles would have had a serious and potentially mortal impact on the country and its ability to continue fighting. Churchill recognized the scale of the threat, but there were also other major threats, anyone of which might have brought the war to an end. However, the U-Boats had to completely halt all supply ships and seize or sink them to have any hope of reaching an unequivocal victory. That was unlikely because Canada and the US were beyond the U-Boat’s reach and could continue to build replacement merchant vessels, warships and maritime aircraft. Britain could also squeeze some extra food out of home production and further tighten rationing to buy time to come back and break the blockade. To an extent that happened several times during the war.
Germany however were on a losing streak from the outbreak of war because it also needed external supplies and was unable to fully break the Allied blockade, or the destruction of materials by continuous aerial bombardment of German stores and production. German naval losses were at least as severe as Allied bomber losses but the ability to replace losses diminished as the war continued, in a way that was not matched in Allied bomber losses. A U-Boat took significantly longer to build than a bomber and required some of the scarcest exotic materials. Where a heavy bomber might have a crew of up to twelve, many bombers required fewer crew. The Mosquito was one example of a twin engine fighter bomber that was very heavily armed, very fast, only required a crew of two, and was made largely of wood and other non-strategic materials, but still carried a bomb load to match US four engine heavy bombers. Against that, a U-Boat required a crew of some 60 men, many of whom required skills that took years to fully develop. The result was that in a war of attrition, which is what rapidly developed, the U-Boat service was infinitely more vulnerable than the Allied air and sea blockade.
The Germans had expected to postpone the war until 1944 or possibly 1948 and had planned production of weapon systems accordingly. When Britain and France drew the line in 1939, the part of German war production most affected was the naval production and particularly the submarine production. Allowing for submarines heading out on patrol, those returning, and those undergoing repairs and maintenance, the German navy was only able to operate a handful of submarines actually on war patrol and many of those were coastal vessels unsuited to lengthy patrols in the mid Atlantic where Allied convoy protection was weakest.
Although great efforts were made to increase production and allocate crew, the U-Boat service was never in a position to make the final breakthrough and then hold the balance of power. It may have come close on several occasions, but Allied escort and hunting warships always bounced back stronger than before as the might of Allied war production began to develop surpluses to cover any short term reverses. In particular, the Allies were able to build a unique aerial advantage, forcing U-Boats to submerge and lose convoys, and then keep them located and submerged until hunter killer groups could reach them and destroy the submarines.
The author has provided what is probably the finest account of the Atlantic battles available anywhere. This is essential reading for any enthusiast or professional.