GÇ£During the war only one thing ever frightened me GÇô the U boat peril. Battles might be won or lost but our power to fight and keep ourselves alive rested on our struggle to keep control of the Atlantic.GÇ¥ Sir Winston Churchill By May 1940, Britain was an isolated nation, cut off from the rest of Europe. The NaziGÇÖs controlled France and Norway, posing a deadly threat to our southern and eastern shores. Cornered by Hitler, BritainGÇÖs only hope for survival was to import food, raw materials, and munitions from America. Merchant ships sailing the Atlantic in convoys became the nationGÇÖs crucial lifeline, one that the NaziGÇÖs were determined to break. The story of the Convoys is a tale of compelling drama, full of bravery and tragedy. It takes us into the lives of hundreds of thousands of unheralded men whose incredible everyday courage, played out in the cruel seas and cold skies of the North Atlantic changed the course of the war. At the outset of war Britain relied on imports for all its oil needs, most of its raw materials and 50% of the countryGÇÖs food requirements GÇô nearly 1 million tons a week was required. The merchant navy consisted of ships from around the Commonwealth manned by over 190,000 seamen. Both sides were acutely aware that whatever other battles were fought, the most decisive of all would be fought at sea, in the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. The unarmed merchant ships were escorted across the Atlantic in convoys of between 30 GÇô 70 ships protected by the Royal Navy escorts. Underneath the icy waters lurked an invisible, silent and deadly enemy. The slow moving convoys, which were often 6 miles long and 6 miles wide, were sitting ducks to the German wolf packs. Thus began the longest and bloodiest campaign of WW2. Over 4 years, 100,000 people died and 2,500 ships were sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic. It brought Britain to the brink of defeat. From the eastern seaboard of the U.S.A. to the west coast of Africa, those who died had no graves GÇô only their names carved on memorials. This series unpacks the critical moments in the biggest naval campaign of the 20th Century. Powerful interviews with those who fought in the battle combined with dramatic archive colour footage bring the horrors of the Atlantic war to a new generation. This recently acquired colour footage breathes new life into this crucial piece of history, revealing never before seen moments of drama and the harrowing battles on the high seas of the Atlantic. The series is driven by compelling interviews with members of the Merchant Navy, U-boat crews and Royal Navy who fought in the battle. We speak to merchant seaman Albert Becker who survived 46 days at sea in a life raft; Richard Hardegan the commander of U-123 who sank 8 ships in a single night; and navy officers who were forced to steam past victims of the sinkings. The series also includes code-breakers from Bletchley Park, scientists who devised the technology to beat the U-Boats, and Dockers from Liverpool, the Clyde, the Tyne and other Merchant ports who worked endlessly to build, repair and keep the Convoys afloat. Newly emerged colour archive film reinforces their stories. Both the British and German naval powers were meticulous in recording their exploits. U-boat crews diving and launching attacks, Royal Navy battleships dropping depth charges on top of the submarines GÇô there is powerful footage of a huge amount of action. The archive reveals how this mammoth campaign was lived and endured by those caught up in it. The interviews and archive are woven together giving us a strong visual identity. Every crucial event is covered, from the opening salvo when a U-Boat snuck into Scapa Flow and sunk HMS Royal Oak, to the GÇÿHappy TimeGÇÖ of German U-Boat dominance and the final months of the battle where the U-Boats were driven out of the Atlantic.
The story of the longest battle of the Second World War