Why Britain was able to continue to hold out between June 1940 and the end of 1943
There are many different factors to consider when thinking about why Britain was able to continue to hold out between June 1940 and the end of 1943. There are many key events to consider when answering this question and I shall try to approach all of them in this essay. The battle of the Atlantic started properly in June 1940 after the fall of France. This is because the collapse of Western Europe provided the Kreigsmarine with and opportunity to possibly win the war; by severing the UK’s maritime communications.
Hitler’s strategy was to sink allied shipping using the German submarines or U-boats. Hitler put a lot of his resources into this battle because Britain is an island and therefore has to get most of its resources brought in by boat. Therefore if Germany stopped all of the convoys from getting to Britain she would have to surrender. Hitler did not put many of his resources into building battleships because he knew that Britain already had a great advantage over him in that area.
The German fleet was told to attack merchant ships in the north Atlantic, Hitler’s plan was to draw the British fleet up north, but after the Germans flag ship the ‘Graf Spee’ was sunk the German navy was weakened so Hitler devised a new plan which was unrestricted warfare. This meant that the Germans were going to sink every ship they saw. To try and combat this the British put all the merchant ships together in convoys with some protection from air and sea. But this still did not work so Churchill set up a battle of the Atlantic committee to try and find a solution to the problem.
The committee did their job and a solution was found. The first solution was to develop refueling stations in Iceland. This helped because this gave the convoys air support throughout the whole of their journey whereas before the were protected when they were near America and Britain but they were unprotected in the mid-Atlantic region until a refueling station was placed in Iceland. The second solution was to develop anti-submarine frigates that could be added to the convoys. These made the U-boats stay underwater which meant they were slower and they were much less effective.
They also developed some new weapons to combat the U-boats one of which is called depth charges, these could be dropped from the side of the boat and set to explode at a certain depths. They were meant to depressurize the submarines. They also developed the Asdic sonar, which meant that the allies knew where the U-boats were in the Atlantic and so more attacks could be mounted against them. Some of the merchant ships even had anti-aircraft guns to shoot down the long-range German bombers.
So by 1943 109 U-boats had been sunk and the German morale was low, even the U-boats which managed to make it back to the ports were destroyed by the RAF, leaving just a handful left in the Atlantic which virtually eliminated the threat. These meant that the convoys could get through and keep on helping Britain to hold out against the Germans. Another turning point in the battle of the Atlantic was the deciphering of the enigma code machine. Decoders at Bletchley Park decoded it and deciphering it meant that Britain could now predict the moves of the German U-boats and direct the warships towards them and the convoys away from them.
Another factor which helped Britain hold out was the fact that Hitler decided to attack the Russians in June 1941. This helped us greatly because it meant that we now had another ally – Russia also it meant that the German forces would no longer be concentrated on just Britain, they would now be spread out over Britain and Russia. If Russia had fallen to Hitler Britain would have been forced to surrender but luckily for us the Germans were slightly over confident. Hitler had boasted that the Russians would be defeated in just 6 weeks so they did not issue their army with winter uniforms.
This proved to be a dreadful mistake, because when the German army were within 12 miles of Moscow, the harsh Russian winter struck and without any winter uniform the German advance froze to a halt. As soon as the winter was over Hitler started his attack again but he was surprised to find that the Russians were now prepared and could protect themselves against the Germans blitzkrieg tactics. The resulting defeat meant that 200,000 German soldiers were captured or killed by the Russian army. The German defeat came as great news to the British and increased our morale greatly.
It was also the main turning point in the war. America’s intervention and help also had a great influence in Britain’s survival from 1940-43. The lend-lease act was a great help to Britain and the other countries fighting against Germany, Italy and eventually Japan. The lend-lease act was the programme by which the USA provided the bulk of its aid to the nations fighting against Germany, Italy and eventually Japan during the Second World War. The Greatest factor for Britain in winning the campaign in North Africa was having masses of tanks, which were provided by America.
Even though they were not as good as the German tanks the sheer superior numbers meant that we could defeat the Germans. The moment that Japan decided to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was a great moment for the British because it meant that the Americans would join the war. What was even better was that Germany supported Japan in this act and therefore the Germans were now at war with the Americans as well. Taking more of their troops away from the British. The Americans were now actively attacking the Germans and taking a lot of the pressure away from Britain and helping them even more actively.
Throughout the war we had a fantastic leader, Churchill. He lead us through the war fantastically and he kept morale high even when it was just Britain verses the rest with his stirring speeches and his victories. Even though Hitler a great military mind he made many blunders between 1940-43 which helped Britain to hold out during this period even though we were the only European country left fighting, for example when Hitler decided not to bomb the RAF targets, but to bomb the British cities instead.
Not putting Germany’s best equipment into North Africa meant that Germany could not fuel its army so easily. German invasion of Russia took the pressure off us and military planning and scientific skill meant that the German threat in the Atlantic was put to rest. The fact that Britain is an island made it a lot harder for the Germans to attack us, this aided us greatly especially seeing as we had great naval superiority the island was never really under threat from invasion.
In conclusion there were many factors that helped Britain to hold out between the fall of France in June 1940 and the end of 1943, and it was not easy for the British but great leadership from Churchill and some dodgy decisions by Hitler helped us through the time greatly. American assistance such as the lend-lease act helped greatly also, although at the end of the war Britain was in massive debt and had a lot of work to do to build itself back up again.