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In the warm electric light beneath Westminster in the heart of London, the Prime Minister stares intently at the wall. He is pondering lines drawn upon a massive chart in his underground Cabinet Room. That map records the last known positions of numerous convoys and task forces in the Atlantic Ocean, each represented by pins and strings. Anxiety and frustration keep him there. The pins and strings convey old information, and the Prime Minister is keen to update the situation as he waits for new reports that will change the map. He has taken to lingering in that room often in recent weeks as he and his subordinates endure the hours as battles unfold and fate tips in one direction or the other. The balance has not been kind to the Royal Navy.
It is March 18, 1941, and Winston Churchill is momentarily quiet as he ponders that wall. He is dictating a radio address to the nation, struggling to find the words. He must acknowledge that twenty-two British merchant ships, nearly 120,000 tons of materiel, have just been sent to the bottom by two German battlecruisers. Those raiders are now represented as a pin on that map, refitting in a French port for their next campaign, a coordinated action intended to link forces with another ship, the mighty Bismarck. Churchill fears that ship above all others, and dreads the day he will see her represented on the chart before him.
The Prime Minister takes another puff of his cigar and clears his throat, prompting the secretary to ready his fingers at the typewriter. After another puff, he continues: "We must regard the Battle of the Atlantic as one of the most momentous ever fought in all the annals of the war."