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

Convoy SC122 and HX229: Climax of the Battle of the Atlantic, March 1943 [Kindle Edition]

Martin Middlebrook
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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An excellent record of a vital period of naval history. Ausmarine

Product Description


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. As it was, there was a period during the winter of 1942-43 when the Germans came close to cutting 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.

Convoys SC122 and HX229 sailed from New York harbor for England early in March 1943. Admiral Doenitz deployed forty-two U-boats to trap those two convoys. Twenty-one merchant ships were sunk in the ensuing battle. The Germans called it “the greatest convoy battle of all time.” It was a major turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.

In Convoy, every maneuver of the merchant ships, their escort vessels, the long range aircraft cover, and the attacking U-boats is documented in a powerful narrative that will recall for many readers Nicholas Monsarrat’s best-selling 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. One important chapter throws new light on 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 Allies outwitted the Germans in the radio decoding war.


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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The book: In February 1943, 63 merchant ships were sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic, and 19 U-boats. Britain was losing 700,000 tons more imports than were arriving, and reserves would be exhausted in April; while Germany was losing half the number of U-boats compared to new ones being built. This was the crisis of the battle of the Atlantic. At this time, convoys SC.122 (slow) and HX.229 (fast) set out from New York, with a third HX.229A split off due to the sheer number of freighters and tankers: 141 ships carrying 920,000 tons of vital cargo (fuel, meat and other food, timber, minerals, steel, gunpowder, lorries, locomotives, invasion barges, aircraft, tanks...) and 1,000 passengers. Twenty escorts crossed with them, mostly elderly Flower class corvettes, a few destroyers, frigates, trawlers and sloops. German naval intelligence was reading most Admiralty ciphers, and 45 U-boats were on their way to sink as many as possible. This book is the story of this part of the battle.

My opinion: Middlebrook dovetails UK, US and German sources with personal accounts, and does it well. He combines strategic overview with personal drama, and it all forms a fascinating and harrowing whole. He interviewed Donitz as well, plus 39 U-boat men, in additions to scores of Allied merchant sailors and Navy personnel.
A fascinating portrait of the crisis of the Battle of the Atlantic, while the Air Gap was still open...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feels Like your There 20 April 2013
By Vgjb
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Again Martin Middlebrook has written a stormer of a book, getting to the nitty gritty without being prejudiced on one side or the other.

I was so engrossed in this book as the convoys sailed out of New York Harbour and down the Hudson River that when I looked up I was surprised to discover I was still in the supermarket car park and the stories of the convoys and U boat wolf packs just gets more and more enthralling. These books just totally capture my imagination.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if somewhat rambling 28 April 2014
By mark e
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An interesting account and worth the effort to read. Part of our history and heroic endeavours that that shouldn't be forgotten
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good old fashioned military history 18 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's been a while since I read anything from Mr Middlebrook and this reminds me of just what a great military historian he has been.

Just the right blend of tactics, personalities and technical details.

The book dates from the 70's and therefore details of the impact of Bletchley Park and the ultra code breakers was a bit thin on the ground but apart from this I cannot fault this book (except for the poor map reproduction in the Kindle edition which is hardly his fault.

I particularly like the way he explains the context of the battle as he goes without front end loading the book with a detIled preamble which bogs down so many other books of this type. This is really the story of three separate convoys but he describes the actions of each, the activities of the U boats and the allied and German commanders very clearly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great storytelling. 9 Feb 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Martin Middlebrook is my favorite military history author. Wonderfully written telling the story of the height of a battle that few people have paid much attention too. First Class as are all of his books. You will not be disappointed.
5.0 out of 5 stars Submarine Warfare 10 Dec 2013
By David Hollingsworth - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An accurately depicted overview, shown from the perspectives of both the Axis and Allied sides of the perils of WWII Submarine warfare that was waged against the convoys.
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