Atlantic Convoys: the War at Sea

Discussion in 'History' started by scouse, Aug 30, 2009.

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  1. Channel 4 at 1845 tonight, a 4 part documentary: in the course of 4years 100,000 people died and 2,600 Ships were sunk
  2. Caught the first part, recorded the rest and will watch later. I was quite impressed with the section that I saw and will definitely be following the series. Seems to be a genuine documentary without the usual channel 4/5
    breathless commentary. Some excellent colour shots of rusty corvettes bouncing around in the Atlantic.

  3. I thought it was excellent…told it as it was with some good footage….

  4. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Facinating footage that I'd never seen before - slightly marred by hamfisted, wooden dramatisation of Donitz in his HQ with his rank yo-yoing about & the German sleeve lace done wrong anyway.

    Curious interview at the beginning where a Kraut says he had sworn his allegiance 'to the Fatherland and the Military'. I think he had actually sworn to his Fuhrer and is dodging his then determination, along with the rest of his disgusting nation, to plunge the entire world into a thousand-year Nazi night.
  5. witsend

    witsend War Hero Book Reviewer

    Caught this 10-15mins in and quite enjoyed it. Just checked on the old sky, next part Sunday 7pm.
  6. As a keen military historian I have watched most of these programmes and although a lot of this particulary subject has been mentioned before on previous documentaries, I took offence at several points in last night edition. Firstly "when the americans succesfully invaded Sicily" and constant references to American idea of hunter killer groups searching for U Boats. Did not Capt J Walker's HMS Starling pioneer this tactic? There was a very strong N American theme through out last night edition. I would imagine any veterans watching would be very unhappy.
  7. It was indeed Captain Walker who pioneered the concept of hunter killer groups. The Sonar training blocks in HMS VERNON were named after him,
    i believe they were Creasy East and Creasy South blocks.
    The two destroyers/frigates who sank the U-boat in the channel were clearing E-boats from the channel when they tracked and destroyed the U-boat. One of the ships involved was HMS Stayner, a lend lease vessel. My father was a gunnery POGI onboard. Worth a google to get the full story. Had to get him three parts to the wind before he would talk about it!
  8. Funny how the septics claim everything as their idea. If they had adopted the convoy system (as we advised them to) as soon as they entered the war the u-boats wouldn't have had their second "happy time".

    My paternal Grandad was MN in WW2 on tankers and had 2 ships sunk under him by u-boats.

    We never dared tell him I'd joined boats, up until he died he thought I was still GS.
  9. I agree a lot of important stuff was missed out, like the breaking of Enigma by the UK, the development of the deep creep attack by Walker, the developmeent of HF/DF by the Brits etc etc.

    The could equally have done without the silly reprentation of Doenitz but they did have a lot of archive fooage I hadn't seen before.

    Some good stuff, but yet another septic attempt to take over the Atlantic war which was in fact run by the Canadians on the West side of the pond

  10. Oh yes well big surprises there then, did the American takeover creep up on you.? 8O
    The breaking of enigma was mentioned, it was such an important event, one interviewee stated, "Washington had broken the code".
    The Enigma affair is always as I see it passed over, its all,..." Poles supplies a machine"..., Bletchley broke the code, etc.
    What about Grazier and Fasson who lost their lives recovering the machine, the one that was never superseded, and allowed the eavesdropping to be realised.
    I keep resurecting his name into these threads as I do not think he gets anywhere near the recognition he deserves, and as he is one of our local legends I have studied him well.
    This is his monument in Tamworth his home town.

    Colin Grazier

    Birth Name Colin Grazier
    Date of Birth May 7, 1920
    Place of Birth Tamworth, Staffs, England
    Died October 30, 1942
    He played a significant part in the cracking of the Enigma code that helped turn the tide of the war.Colin Grazier was born in Two Gates on May 7th 1920 and grew up in the family home on Watling Street. The son of Colin and Margaret Grazier.Colin Grazier married a girl from Kingsbury called Olive. Enlisting in the Royal Navy, he served on HMS Petard, a Class P Destroyer that was launched on March 27th 1941.
    By the time HMS Petard had taken to the sea, heavy losses to the merchant fleet had been reduced through the strategic use of information garnered from electronic messages sent from German transmitters. With Polish secret agents supplying three M3 Enigma machines, the British had successfully deciphered messages sent through these devices. However, in February 1942 the German Navy upgraded to the M4 Enigma which utilised a Umkehrwalze and a set of eight rotors, three of which were fitted in the Enigma at any one time. The impact on the codebreakers at Bletchley Park was the equivalent of radio silence and German U-Boats were able to move around the seas virtually undetected.
    A breakthrough came in October 1942, when a reconnaissance flight by a Sunderland Flying Boat from RAF 47 Squadron reported visual contact with a German submarine in the Mediterranean. Royal Navy destroyers, including HMS Petard, went after the U-Boat and, following a sustained depth charge attack, forced U-559 to the surface north of Port Said. The German submarine crew under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hans Heidtmann surrendered as the stricken U-559 was on the verge of sinking.
    After a request for volunteers on HMS Petard, Lieutenant Anthony Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier swam across to the submarine in a bid to capture anything that would be invaluable to the war effort. They were followed by Tommy Brown, a 16 year old canteen assistant, who was in a small craft. After climbing down the U-Boat’s conning tower, Fasson and Grazier were amazed to find that Kapitänleutnant Hans Heidtmann had not thrown the submarine’s M4 Enigma machine into the sea. Moreover, the pair – by now knee-deep in water – also found the accompanying codebook which was printed with water-soluble ink on water-soluble paper.
    Fasson and Grazier brought the spoils to the surface and handed them to Tommy Brown before returning below deck in search of further vital documents. However, the vessel suddenly listed and, despite the warning cries from Tommy Brown, the gallant mariners failed to climb out before the U-Boat plunged beneath the waves.
    The M4 Enigma machine and documents retrieved from U-559 were taken to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park who, in December 1942, successfully cracked the cipher. As a direct result of the actions of Anthony Fasson, Colin Grazier and Tommy Brown, millions of tons of Allied shipping and thousands of Allied lives were saved. Moreover, the successful code breaking is thought to have brought an earlier end to the war.
    Resolute bureaucratic regulations meant that Lieutenant Anthony Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier were barred from receiving the Victoria Cross award on the grounds that their actions did not take place under enemy fire. However, it is thought that such an award would have alerted German Intelligence to the magnitude of their brave undertaking. Fasson and Grazier were however posthumously awarded the George Cross. Tommy Brown was awarded the George Medal but he died tragically in 1945 when attempting to rescue his sisters from a house fire.
    Colin Grazier Memorial standing in the Church Square in Tamworth. Colin was responsible, along with others, for recovering the codes used to decipher the Enigma code machine in WW2. Detailed text of the memorial here:

    Colin Grazier, 1920-1942
    This memorial is dedicated to Able Seaman Colin Grazier of Two Gates, Tamworth, who gave his life recovering vital Enigma Codes from a sinking German U-boat.
    His extraordinary bravery, together with that of Lt Tony Fasson and Tommy Brown, all of HMS Petard, changed the course of WWII, saving countless lives worldwide.
    While undoubtedly one of the World’s greatest war heroes, Grazier was also one of the least known. Details of his actions remained secret for decades depriving him of the true recognition he so richly deserved.
    A tribute was erected in the year 2002 following a campaign in the Tamworth Herald which attracted worldwide interest.
    It was made possible with the support of local ex-service and civic organisations.
    Erected in memory of all Tamworth people who died for their country.

    :cry: :cry:
  11. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Also, airborne centimetric radar .. but I thought the main points were well made in spite of ham-fisted scripting and idiotic shots of 'Donitz' charging about or putting his own pins on the wall chart (I don't think!). I thought the token historian made a good point about what a Nazi D was - how we failed to hang him I can't think.

    The point about the US H/K groups was really the use of escort carriers so that, unlike similar efforts using only surfsce ships, a large area of sea could be covered by aerial reconnaissance. Of course the escort carrier was essentially a British einvention but there you go ..

    Walker and other H/K groups were, mercifully, not just wandering aimlessly about the oggin like those on WW1 before convoys were introduced, but were pointed at locations either identified by Enigma or where the U-boats had shown their hand by an attack.
  12. The USNs use of Escort Carriers was in no way unique, as they ware used equally by the RN and RCN. Also if I remember correctly the RCN had more ships fighting in the battle of the Atlantic then the USN and was far mor effective.

    I agree it made many good points but once you start the distortions of reality to suit the market, you end up with crap history, an bit like Braveheart, a real story of heroism and patriotism destroyed by the avarice of film makers.
  13. Additionally could they not find any Royal Navy to interview, I accept the RCN did a sterling job, but honestly, it was like we were airbrushed out of history.

    Additionally, I know it was about the Atlantic Convoys but what about the Russian and Malta Convoys, very much poor relations in the general history of such matters.
  14. In episode 2 they showed an interview with David Balme who was a Sub Lieutenant at the time that HMS BULLDOG captured U110 in 1941. He went in first to see if he could get anything. He explained how you couldn't get down the conning tower ladder and hold a service revolver at the same time so if anyone had been waiting he wouldn't have stood a chance of defending himself. As it was, the U boat was deserted and they got lots of crypto items that helped keep Bletchley Park going until the Enigma change mentioned earlier. He was told by King George VI when he was given the DSC that he should have had a far higher decoration but the same security issues applied.
  15. There ar no poor relations as far as the convoy men are concerned be Russia Atlantic Malta .
    They all did a very comendable dangerous job .They all deserve everything that is wrote or screened about them
  16. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    At the end of the war the RCN was the world's third largest navy, built up from hardly anything in 1939. And all-volunteer; as I understand it Canada never resorted to conscription in WW2.
  17. A Yankee ‘quicky’ certainly cannot cover a daily Battle that started on Sept 3rd ; the Longest War. The Royal Navy was involved every day of that war; the RCN who did a great job, also the USN who brought much equipment, were really in from 1942 on.

    The Battle of the Atlantic had many layers; it nearly brought Britain down several times. Intransigence of USN Admiral over convoys was more than matched by AM Harris over VLR aircraft. It was a dirty war; women and little children dying, drowning freezing, were all par for the course, let alone tanker men burning in flaming water.

    My first encounter with the ‘German Blockade’ was when our unescorted passenger –cargo liner was bombed by a Condor; survivors left the burning listing ship in lifeboats wondering just how that plane had sneaked up on us, blasting our AA defence first.
    Years later as naval crew of an old steamer we ran the gauntlet in the Bay of Biscay; first seeing our escorting USN Liberator being shot down, then later being ‘rescued’ from U boat attack by a RCN Support Group. Safe in Liverpool our cargo of Rice, Jute, Hemp and one whole month’s Tea Ration was quickly unloaded almost before we got off . (Our Reward back at base for food delivery was 2 weeks FSL rather than normal 4 weeks).
    What a shock seeing England again, the brave defiance of 1940 replaced by dogged lets hope it only ends soon routine. Above all the pallor and shrunken faces of the older people showing how the tight rations caused by U boat sinkings had affected them.
    Those U boats were the ones we feared most; swinging in your hammock you’d hear a thump in distance, prob escort dropping charges, but you never knew. On May 10th in Scapa we lined up on carrier deck to see the U boats come in, surrendering; due to feelings there were two Marine sharpshooters in fighting top –get any who broke ranks.

    What got me to write this lengthy dit (apologies for those who get bored with it) was mention of Enigma and code breaking; there are layers again to that story. Brave and clever people on our side and similar on theirs, so not all the successes were ours. It has taken many years for the truth behind the Battle of the Atlantic to come out.
    – Recently I read ‘The Interrogator’, by Andrew Williams published in 2009 by John Murray. It’s a fictionalized account of the secret war behind the Battle of the Atlantic, sympathetic to those on the sharp end, not so to those in high places ashore.
    It’s hero, if we can call him that, is half-German who, after his ship is sunk, interrogates U-boat officers; he suspects codes are being broken but is told to shut up, then threatened. The book as far as I can see gives fair treatment to both sides.

    At the end of his book was the Quote below…

    "In the autumn of 1945 Commander Tighe of the Admiralty Signals Division submitted a report on German code breaking efforts during the Second World War to the Director of Naval Intelligence.
    The report was considered `So disturbing and important' that only three copies were made. In it, Tighe detailed the success of German cryptographers in repeatedly breaking both Royal and Merchant Navy codes and suggested that their efforts were responsible for many of the U-boat's greatest successes in the Battle of the Atlantic. Royal Navy codes were changed a number of times but the German B-Dienst was able to break into them again and again, often within a few weeks. Admiralty was slow to recognise and interpret evidence that its codes were compromised and carry out the necessary investigation.
    After the war, the success of the cryptographers at Bletchlev Park in breaking the German Enigma ciphers helped to shield the Royal Navy from critical scrutiny over the failure of its own codes.
    In his report, Commander Tighe concluded that British code security was so disastrously lax that it cost the country dearly in men and ships and `Very nearly lost us the war'..â€

    My Comment:
    How many men and even worse women and children, died horribly in a series of blunders – which were kept secret; covered up for so many years after the war.

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