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Finding ships lost during wartime

War losses

The British government ensured that detailed records were compiled of the enormous losses of Allied merchant ships in both world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45). This section is a guide to these records.

The records need to be used with caution. They were based on reports from survivors, and other ships in the convoy, and `the fog of war` meant that sometimes the cause of the loss was not clear. For instance, it was not always obvious whether an explosion that sank a ship was due to it hitting a mine or being torpedoed by a submerged submarine. Not surprisingly, the survivors had other things on their minds! After the Second World War (1939-45), comparing British records with those of the German Navy gave a much clearer picture. Some of the books listed are the result of painstaking comparisons of these records, but in many cases it is still only possible to say what is likely to have happened.


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