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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5
4.6 out of 5 stars

on 29 January 2001
This book documents just one of the many conflicts in what was to become the longest battle of World War II - the Battle of the Atlantic, waged between the Nazi U-boats and the Allied shipping. Eminently readable, Middlebrook's authoritative style manages to bring to life the battle for convoys SC.122 and HX.229. Churchill is quoted as saying that the Battle of the Atlantic was 'the only thing that really frightened me' during the darkest hours of the war. The two convoys documented in this book set out from North America with vital supplies during the low point for allied shipping, when the U-boat threat was at its height.
As the reader gets further in to the book, the battle comes alive with a sheer sense of the desperate immediacy of the nature of the conflict. The maps in the book are stylised, but clear, and are spaced out within the narrative depicting the state of the battle at key points. A section with some thirty-five carefully chosen black and white photos adds to the feel of the book. This is not a sterile encounter between ships, but a battle with dedicated, brave fighters on both sides.
Clearly written and thoroughly researched, this book is a must for anyone interested in Maritime History or the History of World War II.
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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2011
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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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2011
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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on 12 March 2015
Martin Middlebrook's famous account of these 2 Eastbound North Atlantic convoys HX229 and SC122 needs no introduction from myself. Just read it.
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on 14 January 2016
Good book
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