Memorial Register 22, The Tower Hill Memorial Introduction to the Register, names of those of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who fell during WW2

methods of defcnce and the increased rate of shipbuilding greatly reduced the pro­portion of losses and by September 1943 the adverse balance from war losses to allied shipping was cancelled thereafter the tonnage available increased steadily till the end of the war. The losses of British Allied and neutral merchant ships between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945 amounted to 4786 ships totalling 21194000 gross tons. The Battle o f the Atlantic The Atlantic was the chief battleground of the long contest in the most disastrous year 1942 four-fifths of the total merchant ship losses occurred in the North and South Atlantic and although that proportion declined rapidly in the last eighteen months of the war the proportion of losses in the Atlantic over the whole of the war years was a little over one half of the total losses. Sir Winston Churchill described the Battle of the Adantic as“ a war of groping and drowning of ambuscade and stratagem of science and seamanship ”and declared that the U-boats in 1942 “almost brought us to the disaster of an indefinite prolongation of the war.” The U-boats, in fact were responsible for seven-tenths of the total tonnage lost during the war. The convoy system was put into operation as soon as possible after the war started. The first convoy westwards from the United Kingdom sailed on 7th September 1939, and the first one eastward-bound from Halifax on 16th September. This system fully justified itself and losses of ships sailing in convoy were far smaller proportionately than those of ships sailing independently or forced for whatever reason to fallout of convoy. The arming of the merchant ships too was begun immediately war broke out, and by the end of 1939 some 1500 ships had been fitted with at least anti-submarine guns though at first the shortage of anti-aircraft weapons was acute. By the end of 19403400 ships had been fitted with low-angle or high-angle/low-angle guns and light machine-guns were provided against aircraft. By m id-1942 Oerlikon anti­aircraft guns were becoming plentiful and proved a severe deterrent against air attack. Rockets and kite-balloons were also in use. During the first months of the war the activities of the U-boats were chiefly in the North Sea to the north of Scotland and Ireland and in the south-western approaches. Improved defensive measures gradually drove them farther out to operate beyond the range of aircraft based on Britain. By May 1941 the range of air escort and offensive patrols had been extended to 400 miles from the coasts of Great Britain and of Iceland, and submarines were reduced to operating in the central Atlantic and off the coast of West Africa. The entry of the United States into the war at the end of 1941 gave them
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