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Actual analysis of shipping losses in World War I disproved all these arguments, at least so far as they applied to transatlantic and other long-distance traffic.Ships sailing in convoys were far less likely to be sunk, even when not provided with an escort.Even if the privateer found a convoy and the wind was favourable for an attack, it could still hope to capture only a handful of ships before the rest managed to escape, and a small escort of warships could easily thwart it.As a result of the convoy system's effectiveness, wartime insurance premiums were consistently lower for ships that sailed in convoys.The Admiralty took a long time to respond to this change in the tactical position, and in April 1917 convoy was trialled, before being officially introduced in the Atlantic in September 1917. The primary issue was the loss of productivity, as merchant shipping in convoy has to travel at the speed of the slowest vessel in the convoy and spent a considerable amount of time in ports waiting for the next convoy to depart.Further, large convoys were thought to overload port resources.The enormous number of vessels involved and the frequency of engagements meant that statistical techniques could be applied to evaluate tactics: an early use of operational research in war.
These submarines were only a little faster than the merchant ships they were attacking, and capable of sinking only a small number of vessels in a convoy because of their limited supply of torpedoes and shells.
When merchant ships sailed independently, a privateer could cruise a shipping lane and capture ships as they passed.
Ships sailing in convoy presented a much smaller target: a convoy was as hard to find as a single ship.
The deterrence value of a battleship in protecting a convoy was also dramatically illustrated when the German light battleships (referred by some as battlecruisers) Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, mounting 11 in (28 cm) guns, came upon an eastbound British convoy (HX-106, with 41 ships) in the North Atlantic on February 8, 1941.
When the Germans detected the slow but well-protected battleship HMS Ramillies escorting the convoy, they fled the scene rather than risk damage from her 15 in (38 cm) guns.
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Maiden, Trewellard, Kenbame Head, Beaverford, and Fresno were quickly sunk, and other ships were damaged.