The treaty of Versailles had left the German army severely handicapped, especially when it came to naval warfare. When Hitler was voted to power and formed the government he was aware that the biggest weakness of his country’s military lied in the surface ships when it came to tackling the British Navy. They were also forbidden to build large ships of more than 10,000 tons dead weight.
That’s when Hitler called in the best engineers and designers in the country to uphold the clauses of the treaty and still give the German navy that edge over the allied forces. That is how one of the most important of world war weapons- German U-Boat, came into being. These German submarines caused havoc in World War Two during the Battle of the Atlantic. The U-boats were so damaging that Winston Churchill commented that it was the only time in the War that he thought Britain would have to contemplate surrendering!
But to understand the actual scale of damage that these weapons of war created, we must first understand why the Battle of Atlantic was one of the most significant battles in history. It all began in 1939 when the merchant ships traveling to the United Kingdom and Russia used to deliver war materials and equipment, critical for their army’s survival. To cut off this lifeline of the British army, the Germans perfected the tactics of submarines operating in groups which came to be popularly referred to as ‘wolf packs’.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of the Second World War and possibly the most decisive of the conflict. The merchant vessels were shelled and sunk by German U-Boats. Thousands of tones of allied shipping were sent to the bottom of the sea in the Atlantic. Winston Churchill wrote that, ‘… the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril’. The Atlantic lifeline was Britain’s ‘centre of gravity’ – the loss of which would probably have led to wholesale defeat in the war.
If Germany had prevented merchant ships from carrying food, raw materials, troops and their equipment from North America to Britain, the outcome of World War Two could have been radically different. Britain might have been starved into submission, and her armies would not have been equipped with American-built tanks and vehicles. Such was the effect of World War 2 German submarines! The Battle of Atlantic was a fight for Britain’s very survival.
It took everything that the allied forces had to finally get the upper-hand in the battle and that too at a huge cost with more than 3,500 merchant ships and 175 war ships lost at sea. Germany also suffered severely with more than 783 U-boats lost. The Battle of the Atlantic lasted until the end of the war making it the longest running campaign in World War 2.
Germany’s best hope of defeating Britain lay in winning the Battle of the Atlantic and with their submarines, they really could have changed the entire course of world history!
Mathias Tonnesson is War documentary enthusiasts and editor of the soon the released Weapons of War Video Magazine series (www.weaponsofwarmagazine.com) for your iPad, Android or Kindle Fire tablet. He has been a war documentary enthusiast for over a decade and has always been very fascinated about military hardware, weapons system and the history of warfare. In his latest project he combines his technical knowhow and his hobby to create a great reader experience on your iPad or tablet.