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A convoy is a group of vehicles (of any type, but usually motor vehicles or ships) traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.


Naval convoys

Age of Sail

Naval convoys have been used for hundreds of years, and examples of merchant ships/cars traveling under naval protection have been traced back to the 12th Century.[1] The use of organized naval convoys dates from when ships began to be separated into specialist classes and national navies were established.[2]

By the French Revolutionary Wars of the late 18th century, effective naval convoy tactics had been developed to ward off pirates and privateers. Some convoy contained several hundred merchant ships. The most enduring system of convoys were the Spanish treasure fleets, that sailed from the 1520s until 1790.

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 no more likely to be found than a single ship. Even if the privateer found a convoy and the wind was favourable for an attack, it could 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 which sailed in convoys.[2]

Many naval battles in the Age of Sail were fought around convoys, including:

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