Contrarily to destroyers, escort ships did not appear as a type until the development of the submarine threat against merchant ships during the First World War. They were built in large quantities but they were ineffective due to the primitive hydrophones and the lack of adequate antisubmarine weapons. Around 1936, with the incoming danger of war, plans were made for a new generation of escort ships which should deal with the already important threat posed by submarines and aircraft. To face this situation were introduced corvettes armed with antiaircraft cannons and depth charges. Some of these ships were also intended for mine laying and others even for mine sweeping.

However, corvettes had the defect of insufficient speed, operational range and storage space for the charges, being inadequate to sustain the long missions that German submarines imposed on the Royal Navy. The corvettes of the Castle class were the last ones built during the war, being eclipsed by the larger frigates, of superior qualities. Along with aircraft, escort ships were crucial to keep open the routes of the convoys; without them the Allies could not have sustained the war effort. Italy and Japan built during the war small antisubmarine ships, but none of these countries managed to build them in the required amounts nor with enough technical qualities to deter the submarine attacks against their convoys. This was a determinant factor for their defeat.

HMS Hedingham Castle corvette

British antisubmarine corvette HMS Hedingham Castle circa 1950

Algerine class minesweeper corvette

British minesweeper corvette of the Algerine class during Second World War

Baionetta corvette

Italian antisubmarine corvette Baionetta during Second World War

Grisha II class corvette

Soviet antisubmarine corvette of the Grisha II class circa 1975

Nanuchka class missile corvette

Soviet missile corvette of the Nanuchka I class circa 1975

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