The Wolf Packs Gather: Mayhem in the Western Approaches 1940, Bernard Edwards

The Wolf Packs Gather: Mayhem in the Western Approaches 1940, Bernard Edwards

This book focuses on four trans-Atlantic convoys that sailed in the autumn of 1940, just when Donitz was first able to implement group attacks and after the British merchant codes had been captured and compromised.

This is a valuable reminder of just how desperate the situation was in the North Atlantic early in the Battle of the Atlantic. Many books on this topic tend to focus on the way in which the battle was won as more escort ships, better equipment and ever improving air cover turned the tide, but here we only see those desperate early days in which a handful of normally outclassed escorts bravely attempted to protect their convoys against deadly attack.  In the four convoys at the centre of this book a total of forty-eight ships were sunk, taking with then hundreds of experienced crewmen and hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo.

Edwards concentrates on the fate of each individual ship to be lost, often giving a description of the ship, its cargo, its history and its captain and crew. This helps make their loss feel more personal that the more standard approach of focusing on tonnage and cargos. I agree with his decision not to carry the overall story on beyond the end of 1940, as this would have reduced its impact, but I would have liked an appendix with short biographies of the U-boat commanders featured.

This is an excellent book that really gives the reader an idea of how desperate the Battle of the Atlantic was, and how close to defeat Britain came in the Atlantic in 1940.

1 – The Betrayal
2 – The First Pack Runs
3 – The Deep Atlantic
4 – The Pack Attacks
5 – Help Arrives
6 – Chaos Reigns
7 – Slaughter
8 – Rout by Moonlight
9 – Running the Gauntlet
10 – More Lambs to the Slaughter
11 – The Turkey Shoot
12 – The Rescue Ship
13 – The Lone Wolf
14 – The Year Ends

Author: Bernard Edwards
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 192
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2011

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