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Democracy at War: The Collection of World War II Newspaper Articles  
Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War
Introduction Canada and the War Battles and Operations The Holocaust
History of World War 2 Battles
  - The Invasion of Poland, 1939
  - The Battle of the Atlantic
  - The German Invasion of Western Europe
  - The Battle of Britain
  - The Invasion of the Balkans
  - The Bomber Offensive
  - North African Campaigns
  - War in China, 1937-1945
  - Hong Kong, December 1941
  - Dieppe Raid, 1942
  - The Aleutian Campaign
  - The Burma Campaigns, 1941-1945
  - The Sicilian and Italian Campaigns, 1943-1945
  - The North West Europe Campaign, 1944-1945
  - D-Day and the Normandy Campaign
  - The Liberation of the Netherlands
 
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World War 2 Battles and Military Operations
Battle of the Atlantic - Torpedo damage to Dutch tanker S.S. Corilla, Halifax, N.S., February 1942 - Photo : DND RCN H-2402, CWM Reference Photo Collection - AN 19910238-805
Torpedo damage to Dutch tanker S.S. Corilla, Halifax, N.S., February 1942
Photo : Royal Canadian Navy

The Battle of the Atlantic

The Battle of the Atlantic was the struggle between the Allied and Axis powers for control of the sea routes between the Americas and Europe and Africa. It began on the first day of the war in Europe in September 1939 and continued until May 1945. It was the longest campaign of the Second World War, an extremely bloody one, and the single battle on which the whole outcome of the war depended. Only with delivery of massive North American resources to Britain and Europe could the Allies defeat Hitler's Germany, the most powerful of the Axis nations.

Britain always depended upon ship-carried imports of oil, food, and industrial products from the Americas, and especially the United States and Canada. ( see Agriculture ) German naval and maritime air forces, later with help from Italy, attempted to break this vital supply line. Britain's large fleet of surface warships defeated Germany's powerful, but not numerous, surface warships. Allied defences against submarines, by contrast, were not well developed. Britain sailed merchant ships in groups ("convoys") between Britain and Canada's east coast ports under the protection of anti-submarine warships. Germany's rapidly expanding "U-boat" fleet, however, was able to overwhelm the small number of anti-submarine warships available in the first years of the war. Canada assisted greatly by expanding its own navy with large numbers of Canadian-built anti-submarine warships ( see Shipping and Shipbuilding ), and also expanding its air force with long-range anti-submarine aircraft. With this help, and with further assistance from the United States, in May 1943 Britain was able to concentrate its most powerful anti-submarine warships and aircraft to force the Germans away from the principal convoys. This turning point was crucial. It allowed the buildup of US and Canadian supplies, armies and air forces in Britain for the liberation of Europe. Nevertheless, U-boats, with new equipment, were able to evade Allied forces and inflict shipping losses right until the defeat of Germany in May 1945.

During the six years of the Battle of the Atlantic, the Axis powers lost over 700 U-boats and 32,000 seamen, and the Allied powers lost more than 3,000 ships, and 40,000 seamen. The vast majority of the Allied losses were merchant ships and the civilian seamen and passengers who sailed in them.

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    Date created: September 19, 2003 | Last updated: October 22, 2009