Marking the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic this series vividly recounts the tale of the longest, most bitterly fought campaign of World War II.
From 1939 until 1942, Hitler’s U-Boats – his ‘grey wolves’ – threatened to do what his air force couldn’t and starve Britain into submission. The result was arguably the most complex naval battle in history. Battles might be won or lost, Winston Churchill wrote, but Britain’s power to fight on – to keep itself alive – depended above all, on the outcome of the war fought in the waters of the North Atlantic. The U-boats’ attack on the country’s sea highways was, he said, “the only thing that ever frightened me during the war.”
During the course of five bloody and uncertain years, Britain and her Allies lost more than 50,000 seamen and over 15 million tons of shipping in an effort to protect this lifeline, and on the Home Front, enforced rationing became a part of everyday life.
At the most desperate hour, the capture of an Enigma machine and the invention of radar would prove instrumental in turning the battle, and therefore the war, around.
This three-part TV production was the first documentary series devoted exclusively to the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest and costliest sea battle of WWII, one which ultimately claimed 30,000 lives. It includes eyewitness accounts from former U-boat crew members and fascinating images of U-boats in action, along with dramatic reconstruction, to bring this crucial struggle for control of the “saltwater highways” into focus.
With exclusive interviews with U-boat crews, series paints a compelling picture of the uncomfortable, claustrophobic and dangerous life on board the ‘Iron Coffins’ and looks at the making of the elite ‘brotherhood’ that manned them. First-hand accounts from the British and American navy reveal tales of enormous personal courage and horrific losses.
A BBC, The History Channel and NDR Co-Production
Part 1: The Grey Wolves
An examination of the campaign fought by German U-boats to sever Britain’s seaborne supply routes between 1939 and 1942. At the beginning of the war, the ‘U-boat peril’ did not seem to be a huge threat, yet within eighteen months the campaign across the Atlantic threatened to starve Britain into submission.
Part 2: Keeping Secrets
During the first eighteen months of conflict, German U-boats were to sink more than three million tons of shipping off the American coast, severely damaging the Allied war effort. But by 1941, a vital source of naval intelligence promised to transform the war in the Atlantic, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Allied intelligence was greatly helped by the capture of cipher material and an Enigma code machine.
Part 3: The Hunted
In the first three years of war, German U-boats threatened to starve Britain into submission, but by the spring of 1943 the tide had turned and the hunter had become the hunted. Eyewitness testimony, archive film and reconstructions illuminate the remarkable story of how, in just months, the Allies destroyed the U-boat fleet.