For the British, the Battle of the Atlantic was a fight for survival, as they depended entirely upon the safe transit of hundreds of convoys of merchant ships laden with food, raw materials and munitions from America to feed the country and to keep the war effort going. The ultimate success of these convoys is much more than the triumph of one side's naval technology over the other, or of the revelations of the enemy's encoded orders assiduously teased out by the brilliant young decrypters at Bletchley Park; it is more too than the simple assertion that victory went to the Allies because they built more ships and therefore shipped more cargoes, than the Germans could sink.
A national decline had left Great Britain desperately vulnerable in 1939, when she had to mobilise her civilian ships and revive the notion of a 'merchant navy'. It was this disparate collection of private vessels which endured the onslaught of the German U-boat offensive until Allied superiority overwhelmed the enemy. In this important, moving and exciting book, drawing extensively on first-hand sources, acclaimed historian Richard Woodman establishes the importance of the British, and Allied merchant fleets to the war effort, elevating the heroic civilians who manned them to their rightful place in the history of the Second World War.