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Battle Of Britain During The Second World War History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

In my Extended Project, I will be undertaking a dissertation about which battle was more important to Britain, was it the Battle of the Atlantic or the Battle of Britain? I will discuss both battles in depth and highlight most of the important parts of each battle that are recognised and this will allow me to evaluate which battle played a more important part during the Second World War. I have chosen this topic as I am interested in History, specifically the Second World War, and by evaluating this I am hoping to get a better insight to how the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic had such importance to the Second World War for Britain. By doing research from various sources such as the internet, books and watching programmes such as the History of the Second World War, I am hoping to gain skills such as time management, communication, goal setting skills and also study skills.

The Second World War lasted from 1939- 1945 and the main countries involved for the allies where Britain, France, United States and Russia against the Axis, which where Germany, Italy and Japan. An estimated 50-70 million people died during the Second World War and the two of the many important battles in this war where the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic, which I will be discussing. Hitler, the leader of Germany, felt the Treaty of Versailles which was a peace treaty from the end of the First World War unfair and put Germany into a lot of debt and it also hindered Germany’s military and constricted its territory. It also built up hatred within the German community and they wanted revenge. The War began with Britain and France declaring war on Germany for invading Poland. With the United States and Russia following a couple of years later to aid Britain in their fight against Nazi Germany and its allies, this is when it became a World War. Germany would continue to invade the east and occupy many countries and in the process committing mass murder and crimes against humanity especially discriminating against the Jewish people. The Second World War Ended for Britain in May 1945, while fighting was continuing in the Far East, it never ended until August 1945 with the Americans dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki and forcing Japan to surrender.

Although there where many battles in the Second World War, I will be specifically looking at these two battles that where especially important to Britain and the outcome of the war. The Battle of the Atlantic and The Battle of Britain where battles fought on the sea and in the air.

There will be several ways in which I will be conducting research for my project, the main one will be the internet, many sites such as Wikipedia.com, history channel.com and bbc.com to name a few will all aid me into collecting the information I need for this project. However the internet may not always be a reliable source of information so an alternative way in which I will be conducting research is by reading books, such as AQA GCSE Modern World History Revision Guide, The History of the Second World War and Battle of Britain: The Greatest Air Battle of World War II, these will give me a better understanding and more concrete information to use. Also there are other ways such as watching the many documentaries like; World War 2 The complete History and The World at War.

The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945

The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the biggest and longest battles of the Second World War running from 1939 through to 1945 and is considered by historians to be one of the most important of World War Two. Most people think that the Battle of the Atlantic may have decided the Second World War’s outcome. The Battle of the Atlantic was a violent and destructive battle, with many people losing their lives in this battle. New technology was one of the major factors in the Allies winning the crucial Battle of the Atlantic. Just at the beginning immediately, the Battle of the Atlantic began when the British Royal Navy began a blockade on German boats on the 3rd September 1939. Germany ordered a counter-blockage of the Allies on the 11th September 1939 in which they hoped to stop war supplies and food to France and Britain.

(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle of the Atlantic)

The North Atlantic Ocean was the vital link that brought supplies from Canada and the United States to Britain. Without it this lifeline, Britain could not have carried on the war. The United States did not join the war until December 1941 but it played an important role before that. I November 1940 the United States supplied vast amounts of food, fuel and equipment to help the British war effort. Once the United States did join the War, it would supply Europe with equipment and millions of troops but this would be worthless if they could not cross the Atlantic to fight the Axis. It was this that made the Atlantic such an important battle ground. (Ben Walsh Modern World)

With the fall of France this allowed U-Boats to operate far into the Atlantic from French ports. Nazi shipyards produced about 20 new U-boats a month and British merchant shipping losses grew. Four months into the war, German U-boats combined with mines and air support destroyed more than 215 merchant ships and two of Britain’s largest warships. During this time over 1,500 people had lost their lives. Hitler’s plan to defeat the Allies with U-boats was looking very good. While Hitler was in control, it looked like the Axis powers were going to defeat the Allies and win the Battle of the Atlantic. With Britain trying to hold the Germans off, the United States decides to send war aid to Britain. The United States exchanged with the British fifty old American destroyers for Atlantic naval bases near Canada. Also Britain could not produce enough food to feed its population and also the raw materials needed to run its industries. So Britain where provided with these from abroad. If the merchant Navy could not bring these things into Britain by sea, the war would be lost.

There is no doubt that in the early years the Allied ships could not defend against the German U-boats and in 1940 Germany sank over 1,000 ships of Britain’s navy which was a quarter. This was due to Germany having a lot of U-boats at the time and the allied ships did not have the technology to be effective to defend against them. However a lot of Allied ships did get through, but this was due to good luck rather than tactics. The Allies needed to come up with an effective strategy and from 1941 Britain began to be more effective. Organizing their cargo ships into convoys, or groups for mutual protection was the Allies plan of action; this was called the convoy system. Air patrols helped protect convoys by covering much of their routes. (Ben Walsh GCSE Modern World)

This strategy would be problematic because the Allied ships where in a convoy; the German U-boats could sink them much easier and quicker. A new strategy that Hitler developed to help in the attack of the Allies convoy called “Wolf Packs.” The idea was to form a pack of U-boats, and to delay an attack until all boats were in position to conduct a massed organized attack. This would overwhelm the escorts as the sheer number and surprise of the attacking boats would throw the defence into disarray. With this tactic the Germans would attack the Allied ships in different directions using several U-boats. This tactic was effective, the U-boats sank about 217 between July and October 1940. An average of eight ships per month where sunk by each German U-boat; this was called “the Happy Time”.

In 1939 the Germans launched their most powerful battleship, the Bismarck. The Bismarck was nearly the most unsinkable ship of the Battle of the Atlantic. The British with its planes dropping ton after ton of shells and torpedoes into her, could not even sink her. In May of 1941 the Bismarck was hit with three torpedoes by the cruiser Dortcheshire and it finally sank. This attack was the turning point for the German forces in the Atlantic.

For the Battle of the Atlantic technology was a very important factor in the outcome of the battle. One of these technologies was narrow beam radar which aided in hunting the U-boats, which could find the smallest submarine on the surface. There was also a high frequency direction finder which could determine a U-boat’s position from the radio signals it sent. As well as new technology, air attacks where just as important, the Allies realized the importance of air attack in 1941 so to make it more difficult for the enemies to see the planes when flying in the sky, they painted the bottom side of the planes white. (Humble 13)

With many planes equipped with radar they became very effective against the U-boats. Britain’s most effective aerial weapons were three planes called the Sunderland amphibian, which carried bombs and depth chargers, the Swordfish biplane, which laid mines, and attacked with torpedoes; also the Hurricane fighter that strafed U-boats and ships and attacked German aircraft. In fact, the number of sunken ships by U-boats in the Atlantic in 1942 had risen alarmingly. German submarines sank a total of six hundred and eighty-one Allied ships in the first seven months of 1942 American radar and American planes came to the rescue. Sonar radar was installed in the battleships to improve tracking of the U-boats. “It worked by emitting an underwater ping which sends back an echo if a submarine is detected” (Humble 31).

The Battle of the Atlantic reached its climax in the spring of 1943. During this time the Germans had been producing U-boats at a very quick pace. Since the war began there hadn’t been more U-boats at sea than at any other time. In October of 1940 the Germans only had 27 U-boats ready for sea and by March 1943 there were 240 U-boats fit for sea (Humble 28)

What Germany lacked were trained submariners. With the U-boats Germany had produced, they thought they would win the Battle of the Atlantic. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated, “Our escorts are everywhere too thin, and the strain upon the British Navy is becoming intolerable”. For this the toughest part of the war for the Allies was the month of March 1943 was the most difficult month of the U-boat war. U-boats sank 82 merchant ships in this month. (Humble 28).

With the help of new technology the Allies were able to come away victorious against Germany in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the most important fights ever fought in all the annals of war. Plus with Churchill giving top priority to fighting the U-boat threat. The Allies sank 41 U-boats in May 1943 and in July 1943 over 1600 ships crossed the Atlantic without being attacked. Between June and December 1943 the Allies sank 141 U-boats, losing 57 ships whilst doing this. All in all the U-boats were being sunk at a faster rate than they were sinking enemy ships and in 1944, Admiral Donitz called off the U-boat campaign. The Battle of the Atlantic had been won for the Allies.

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