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The war at sea

The war and re-armament

By September 1939 the worst British re-armament deficiencies had been rectified. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had safely arrived in France and the RAF began carrying out leaflet raids on German towns.

For the Navy the war was real from the outset. On the first day the Donaldson Liner 'Athenia' was torpedoed without warning. Quickly dispatched convoys shepherded merchant vessels across the danger zone, but a German submarine managed to penetrate the Royal Navy's wartime base and the battleship 'Royal Oak' was sunk with heavy loss of life.

The German pocket battleships 'Graf Spee' and 'Admiral Scheer' were discovered at sea preying on Allied shipping. The Royal Navy cornered the Graf Spee off the River Plate. The German vessel fled to neutral waters where the Captain scuttled his ship. The Admiral Scheer also escaped capture yet despite this, it was largely due to British naval supremacy that invasion of Britain was still considered unlikely.