Expert Comment: Battle of the Atlantic 70th AnniversaryWednesday 29 May 2013
As Liverpool marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, Dr Bryce Evans looks at the campaign's ongoing significance.
Last week, Liverpool hosted a series of events to commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic. 'The Battle of the Atlantic' is a typically misleading Churchillism: it was not a single battle but the longest continuous military campaign of the Second World War. Quite simply, Allied triumph in this prolonged conflict ensured that the people of Britain did not starve to death in their hundreds of thousands as they did elsewhere in Europe. Victory in the BoA also enabled the Allies to keep up their offensive against Nazism. In keeping open the supply route between America and the UK across the North Atlantic, Liverpool was Britain's most important port.
That is why, last week, you might have witnessed large groups of sailors in foreign uniforms traipsing around Liverpool city centre. A fleet of warships from different nations were in port for the celebration - Polish, Canadian, Russian, Australian to name but a few - bringing back memories of the wartime convoy escorts that braved U-boat attacks. But the commemoration was less about triumphalism than marking human endeavour in a spirit of peace. Sitting down to a commemorative dinner in regional naval headquarters on Brunswick Dock last Thursday, I was pleased to find myself seated beside two officers of the Deutsche Marine. Similarly, at Sunday's cathedral service, a senior German naval officer spoke.
The anniversary also provides a timely reminder of the continuing dependency of Britain's supply of food and other resources on shipped trade. Ninety five per cent of the UK’s daily requirements still move by sea trade: the survival of island nations will always be intricately linked to the sea. Therefore, the BoA is best remembered not as a Boy's Own tale of swashbuckling submarine warfare (German naval warfare was not as efficiently run as you might think) but rather as a high anxiety tonnage war of slow attrition and tremendous human sacrifice.