Churchill's Greatest Fear : The Battle of the Atlantic 3 September 1939 to 7 May 1945
The Battle of the Atlantic (Churchill's term) was arguably the pivotal campaign of the Second World War - it was certainly the longest starting with the sinking of RMS Athenia on 3 September 1939 and ending with the torpedoing of SS Avon Dale on 7 May 1945. This superbly researched work covers all the major aspects of The Battle, balancing the initial advantages of Admiral Doenitz's U-Boat force, the introduction of the convoy system, the role of the opposing surface fleets and air forces, relative strengths and the all important technical developments. Intelligence particularly the Bletchley Park intercepts played an increasingly important part in the final outcome.
The author concludes that May 1943 was the moment when the Allies seized the initiative and, despite desperate German efforts, never lost their advantage. Using official records, personal accounts and a wealth of historical research, this work gives the reader a splendidly concise yet broad account of the course of the campaign, the men who fought it on both sides and the critical moments and analysis of the outcome.
Richard Doherty, recognised as Ireland's leading military history author has written more than twenty books on British and Irish military history. The Battle of the Atlantic is a well-written and researched book. The Introduction ends with the words: '"The Battle of the Atlantic" was coined by Winston Churchill for what became the longest campaign of the Second World War, and for which he established a special government committee, such was the level of concern about the battle, especially the U-boat threat, his greatest fear.'
Despite the title, the book does cover the period prior to 1939 with general background information such as the origins of the title of the Merchant Navy, the development of the submarine, the need to track and defend against the affects of submarine warfare; the cut backs to the Royal Navy and despite the developments made during the First World War, the lack of 'urgency to develop operational doctrine, weaponry, tactics or detection equipment' from the 1920s onwards. Included in the book are details of the tactics used by the Allied convoys to protect and defend themselves, the cooperation between the Allied countries and services in the struggle to deliver the supplies needed; the development of the German U boat the successes, tactics and final downfall. The author provides the reader with information on the people, personalities and politics involved and the decisions made, with opinion and justification for the conclusions drawn.
The Introduction outlines the basis of the book and the acknowledgements are detailed and a good source for anyone wishing to know more about the research undertaken. The book includes maps, photos and sketches which enhance the readers understanding of the text. The Index is split into Warships, Persons, etc. and the bibliography includes a list of useful websites. There is a useful notes section.
Winston Churchill dominates the front cover, which is dark and reflects the mood of the time and the problem that had to be managed at all costs. The reverse of the book is lighter and shows the frontline crews involved in the Battle of the Atlantic. Despite the many acronyms used, the book is easy to read and would suit a newcomer to the subject as well as those well read in the subject.
The Pen and Sword website states, with apologies that 'due to an unforeseen printing error' this edition may have pages 273-275 blank. If you are one of the unfortunate ones, copies of the pages can be obtained from the publishers.
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