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Convoy SC122 & HX229: Climax of the Battle of the Atlantic, March 1943

Convoy SC122 & HX229: Climax of the Battle of the Atlantic, March 1943

by Martin Middlebrook

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The author of The First Day on the Somme details a naval skirmish that became a turning point for the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.

Winston Churchill wrote, “The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.” Had the convoy link between North America and Britain been broken, the course of World War II would have been different. There was a period during the winter of 1942-43 when the Germans almost cut the North Atlantic lifeline. In the first twenty days of March, 1943, the Germans sank ninety-seven Allied merchant ships—twice the rate of replacement. During the same period, seven U-boats were lost and fourteen put in service. No wonder Churchill was worried.

Early in March, 1943, Convoys SC122 and HX229 sailed from New York harbor for England, and Admiral Doenitz deployed forty-two U-boats to entrap them. Twenty-one merchant ships were sunk in the ensuing battle. The Germans called it “the greatest convoy battle of all time.”

This book documents the convoys, every maneuver of the merchant ships, their escort vessels, the long-range aircraft cover, and the attacking U-boats in a powerful narrative reminiscent of Nicholas Monsarrat’s bestselling novel The Cruel Sea. In many ways, this book could be the story of any of the hundreds of convoys that sailed the ocean during the war. Middlebrook also elucidates three controversial aspects of the Battle of the Atlantic: why there was an “Air Gap” long after full air cover could have been provided, why the convoys had to sail with dangerously weak naval escorts, and how the Allied outwitted the Germans in the radio decoding war.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781844687183
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Limited
Publication date: 07/12/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 707,179
File size: 11 MB
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About the Author

Martin Middlebrook has written many other books that deal with important turning-points in the two world wars, including The First Day on the Somme, Kaiser's Battle, The Peenemünde Raid, The Somme Battlefields (with Mary Middlebrook) and The Nuremberg Raid 30–31st March 1944 (all republished and in print with Pen and Sword).

Martin Middlebrook is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives near Boston, Lincolnshire

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps 7

Introduction 9

1 The Battle for Merchant Shipping 11

2 The Convoy Men 26

3 The Germans 58

4 New York 76

5 The Early Voyage 98

6 The Approach to Danger 119

7 The Shadowing 143

8 The Battle of St Patrick's Day 156

9 The Wild Donkey 179

10 Review at Dawn of 17 March 185

11 Six Hearses Bearing 180 Degrees 194

12 The Second Round 215

13 The Final Stage 235

14 Distant Operations 255

15 The Aftermath 262

16 An Analysis 276

17 The Years That Followed 294

Appendix 1 The Merchant Ships of Convoys SC.122, HX.229 and HX.229A 304

Appendix 2 Local Escort Groups 312

Appendix 3 Ocean Escort Groups 314

Appendix 4 U-boats Involved in the SC.122/HX.229 Operations 316

Appendix 5 The Roll of Honour 323

Appendix 6 German U-boats Destroyed September 1939-May 1945 330

Acknowledgements 332

Bibliography 338

Index 339

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