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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Washington Convoy Conference

1 to 12 March 1943

Location: Washington
Players: British, Canadian and US navy, RAF, USAAF anti-submarine representatives.
Outcome: Britain and Canada agree to take over the northern transatlantic escort convoys from the Americans.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt©
At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the Allies agreed to have this second conference two months later. The conference was attended by representatives who would report back to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and the aim was to plan strategy with particular focus on the Battle of the Atlantic.

Participants were shocked when it became clear that the Americans intended to withdraw escort vessels (accompanying supply boats transporting food, raw materials and arsenal) in the Battle of the Atlantic - the ongoing struggle on behalf of the Allies to sustain Atlantic sea routes that were vital to victory. It was Churchill who had given this naval struggle its name after the fall of France in the summer of 1940, which upped the stakes in the naval war and threatened the Allied blockade. Support from the US came in 1942 after agreements made at the Placentia Bay Conference.

With the threat of US withdrawal, the Allies compromised and the British and Canadians agreed to take control of the majority of northern transatlantic convoys. Reorganisation was necessary and North West Atlantic command was given a new head, Rear Admiral Murray, a Canadian officer who previously commanded the Newfoundland Escort Force.

Also as a result of reorganisation, 20 very-long-range aircraft were promised to the Royal Canadian Air Force to cover the principal mid-Atlantic air gap to the south of Greenland. New convoys would be established, huff-duff (the High Frequency/Direction Finding equipment network) was to be increased and further escort carrier groups would protect Atlantic convoys.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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