One of my pet interests is the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII, more specifically the U-Boat war on Allied Merchant Shipping from 1939 to 1943 – the battle was pretty much won by the end of 1943, some might even say the end result was a foregone conclusion by May 1943. Germany failed to keep pace with Allied technological developments in Anti-Submarine warfare and consequently the U-Boat arm, the only really effective arm of the Bundesmarine, lost the element of surprise and hence their ability to perform surface night attacks.
The thing that stands out most during a study of this period is the sheer sacrifice made by the Allied merchant navy, efforts often unrewarded and largely unrecognised. Even to this day I fear these seamen are still the unsung heroes of a battle that nearly achieved its aims of forcing Britain to sue for peace and America to be isolated on a geo-political scale.
Another area that surprised me was how durable these merchant ships were, even during the worst sea conditions the North Atlantic could throw at them, especially during the winter months. Some of these ships were many years old. Had there not been a war, they would have surely been consigned to the scrap heap age’s ago. Yet these ships managed to face severe weather, a constant threat of torpedo attack and even some very inept strategic planning to ensure the supply lifelines, the veins of allied industry and war effort, flowed continuously.
I am greatly reassured by this knowledge, for when we embark on our sea passage to South Georgia and beyond, I am confident that the UV Ushuaia will ride out the worst the South Atlantic Sea will throw at us. So if we find ourselves pitching and rolling in gales and high seas, fear not, the ship will not sink, and neither will she founder….so just brace yourselves and enjoy the ride!