An Arctic Convoy seen from HMS Fencer

An Arctic Convoy seen from HMS Fencer

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Fleet Air Arm Carrier Warfare, Kev Darling. A complete history of the Fleet Air Arm's use of aircraft carriers, from the earliest experiments during the First World War, through the Second World War, where the carriers became the most important capital ships in the navy, the Korean War, which saw the Fleet Air Arm involved from the beginning to the end, the Falklands War, which re-emphasised the important of the carrier and right up to the current 'super-carriers'. [read full review]


For the gruelling years of the Second World War the Soviet, British, American, Canadian, South African and other military and merchant sailors ploughing the Arctic seas within the Convoys discharged their allied duty with honour. They endured the fire miles of the World War II, having supplied arms, ammunition, food and thousands of tons of other strategic cargo to Soviet Russia essential to our war effort.

Originally convoys started to be used in the beginning of the WWII in 1939. The system of convoys provided for formation of large groups of merchant ships under the escort of military vessels for making sea trips. Such a system is organizationally complicated and hardly effective since speed of any convoy does not exceed speed of its slowest ship.

In April 1940 the fascist Germany occupied Norway under the pretext of defence of its nationals from the British invasion. On June 22, 1941 Germany treacherously attacked the USSR. On July 12, 1941 Soviet Union and Great Britain signed the treaty on &rsquomutual assistance&rsquo against Germany.

In August 1941 Allied convoys commenced running to the Arctic port of Murmansk (with the exception of several months in 1943 the convoys to the Soviet Union ran from 1941 until the war&rsquos end). The northern route of less than 2,500 miles was practical, but it crossed the cruellest sea of all, the Arctic Ocean. This Arctic route became known as the Murmansk Run.

A convoy set off each month, except in the summer when the lack of darkness made them very vulnerable to attack. On the other hand, in the darkness of the Arctic winter, when the sun never rose, keeping station was difficult for the poorly equipped merchant ships, so there was always a danger of ship-to-ship collision. Sailing around the northern tip of Norway, the convoys would be exposed to one of the largest concentrations of German U-boats, surface raiders and aircraft anywhere in the world. Strict orders forbade the halting of any ship for even a moment for fear of being attacked by prowling German U-boats, and individuals who fell overboard or survivors seen adrift on the waters had to be ruthlessly ignored. Each delivery of arms was an epic achievement, described as undertaking the impossible.

Some of these convoys are particularly notable.

On August 12, 1941 the first convoy &rsquoDervish&rsquo departed Liverpool to Scapa Flow. It was composed of 6 British and a Dutch merchant ship. It reached Archangel with no losses on August 31 and delivered 10 thousand tons of rubber, 3800 depth-bombs and magnetic mines, 15 &rsquoHurricane&rsquo fighters and other equipment.

Originally, the Allied convoys went unnamed and unnumbered. After several round trips were successfully completed, a coding system was established. All convoys bound for the Soviet Union were designated &rsquoPQ&rsquo and those returning were designated &rsquoQP&rsquo (the name of the officer who was monitoring convoys in the British Admiralty was P. Q. Edwards, his initials &rsquoPQ&rsquo were used to mark the convoys heading outward and QP - homeward).

On September 28, 1941 the first of the PQ-convoys made up of 10 merchant ships under the escort of a cruiser and 2 destroyers departed Iceland to Archangel and reached it safely on October 11, 1941.

By the end of 1941, seven convoys had delivered 750 tanks, 800 planes, 2,300 vehicles and more than 100,000 tons of general cargo to the Soviet Union. Convoy PQ-8 was attacked by a U-boat but came to Murmansk on January 19, 1942. By early February 1942, 12 northbound convoys including 93 ships had made the journey with the loss of only one ship to a U-boat.

During 1941 the enemy did not put up serious resistance to the convoys in the Arctic still setting hopes on &rsquoblitzkrieg&rsquo. After the failure of the offensive on Moscow Germany started systematic fight against convoys by means of its fleet, submarines and &rsquoLuftwaffe&rsquo forces.

By the beginning of 1942 Germans additionally deployed here one of the worlds&rsquo best battleships - &rsquoTirpitz&rsquo, two heavy cruisers, 10 destroyers and later another battleship and cruiser, plus 260 &rsquoLuftwaffe&rsquo military aircraft. Most of the time all these forces acted simultaneously by delivering massive strikes at the convoys.

By the end of June 1942, PQ-17, the largest and most valuable convoy in the history of the run and known particularly for the tremendous losses among the merchant ships, was formed up and ready to sail for Murmansk and Archangel. Its cargo was worth a staggering $700 million. Crammed into bulging holds were nearly 300 aircraft, 600 tanks, more than 4,000 trucks and trailers, and a general cargo that exceeded 150,000 tons. It was more than enough to completely equip an army of 50,000.

It sailed from Iceland on June 27, 1942. Thirty-five cargo ships were escorted by six destroyers and 15 other armed vessels. One ship was a catapult-armed merchantman that carried a Hawker Hurricane fighter which could be launched to intercept enemy aircraft and perform reconnaissance. Due to the threat from German surface ships, the convoy was ordered to scatter on July 4, and the escorts were withdrawn rather than risk their loss.

The toll taken on the abandoned convoy was horrendous. Only 11 of the 35 merchantmen that left Iceland finally made it to the Soviet Union. Fourteen of the sunken ships were American. More than two-thirds of the convoy had gone to the bottom, along with 210 combat planes, 430 Sherman tanks, 3,350 vehicles and nearly 100,000 tons of other cargo. More than 120 seamen were killed and countless others were crippled and maimed.

PQ-18 was the last convoy of this series which became the largest convoy formation. It departed on September 2, 1942 and was escorted by more than 30 military vessels, including 1 cruiser and 14 destroyers, as well as 2 tankers, 4 trawlers and a salvage ship. In total 51 vessels took part in this operation. 27 transport ships of PQ-18 delivered 150 thousand tons of cargo to Archangel which equaled to the total cargo amount supplied in 1941.

In November 1942 the convoys&rsquo marking was changed for the reasons of secrecy to the following identifiers: JW for the journey to Russia and RA for the return journey.

By the end of 1942 well over a million tons of Allied shipping had been sent to the bottom of the Atlantic. 85 U-boats had gone there too. Slowly but surely the Battle of the Atlantic was turning the Allies&rsquo way.

In January 1943 a great success was achieved. The convoy JW51B was attacked by the cruiser &rsquoHipper&rsquo and the pocket battleship &rsquoLuetzow&rsquo, but the allied escort was able to drive off the attacking forces. After this victory, convoys ran regularly, with breaks from March to November 1943 and in the summer of 1944, until the end of the war. A total of 14 convoys sailed to Russia from November 1943 to May 1945 with only 13 ships lost altogether.

U-boats were losing their effectiveness as Allied submarine-hunting techniques improved through 1944. The battleship &rsquoTirpitz&rsquo, always more potent as a threat than actual weapon, was finally sunk at her Tromso anchorage by RAF bombers on November 12, 1944.

The last convoy left on May 12, 1945, arriving at Murmansk on May 22, 1945. It had no losses.

Between August 1941 and the end of the war, a total of 78 convoys made the perilous journey to and from north Russia, carrying four million tons of supplies for use by Soviet forces fighting against the German Army on the Eastern Front.

In summary, about 1400 merchant ships delivered vital supplies to Russia. 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were lost. Towards the end of the war the material significance of the supplies was probably not as great as the symbolic value hence the continuation of these convoys long after the Russians had turned the German land offensive.

On the whole these convoys delivered about 4,5 million metric tons of cargoes, which is about one fourth of western allies&rsquo total aid. The cargoes included over 7,000 airplanes, about 5,000 tanks, cars, fuel, medicines, outfit, metals and other raw materials.

The Allied seamen showed true heroism in their long and perilous sea passages in convoys, being constantly attacked by enemy forces in the appalling weather conditions of the Arctic. The bravery of these men and women who unsparingly fought for the Victory will be always remembered and respected.

The last surviving British warship which participated in the Arctic Convoys is HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames opposite the Tower of London. Victory Day commemorations and award ceremonies for UK veterans of the Convoys are held aboard. In 2010 a restoration project for HMS Belfast was conveyed by a number of Russian companies.

An Arctic Convoys Museum exists in Scotland:


After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy acquired 22 C3 merchant ships that were in varying states of construction, to be converted into escort carriers. Eleven of these were transferred to the Royal Navy as the Attacker class, while the 11 retained by the US were named the Bogue class. [1] [2] They were all laid down in 1941 and 1942, with Ingalls Shipbuilding and Western Pipe & Steel building four each and Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation erecting the additional three, and supplied under the terms of the Lend-Lease program. [1]

The ships had a standard complement of 646 officers and ratings. Crew accommodations were significantly different from the normal for the Royal Navy at the time. Instead of food being prepared by separate messes, it was cooked in the galley and served cafeteria-style in a central dining area. Unlike British-built ships, they were equipped with air conditioning, a modern laundry and a barber shop. The traditional hammocks were replaced by three-tier bunk beds, with 18 to a cabin, which were hinged and could be tied up to provide extra space when not in use. [3]

The ships had a waterline length of 465 ft (142 m) with an overall length of 495 ft 8 in (151.08 m). Their beam was 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m) at the waterline and a maximum beam of 111 ft 6 in (33.99 m). The draught was 24 ft 8 in (7.52 m) at full load and 21 ft (6.4 m) at light load. They displaced 7,800 long tons (7,900 t) at standard load and 14,170 long tons (14,400 t) at full load. [4]

Power was provided by two Foster and Wheeler boilers feeding steam to a General Electric steam turbine engine connected to a single shaft, giving 8,500 bhp (6,300 kW), which could propel the ship at 18 kn (33 km/h 21 mph). [5]

All the escort carriers had the capacity for up to 20 anti-submarine or fighter aircraft, which could be a mixture of the British Hawker Sea Hurricane, Supermarine Seafire, and Fairey Swordfish, and the American Grumman Wildcat, Vought F4U Corsair and Grumman Avenger. [4] The exact composition of the embarked squadrons depended upon the mission. Some squadrons were composite squadrons for convoy defence, and would be equipped with anti-submarine and fighter aircraft, [6] while other squadrons working in a strike-carrier role would only be equipped with fighter aircraft. [7] When utilised in ferry service the ships could carry up to 90 aircraft between both the flight and hangar decks. Aircraft facilities consisted of a small combined bridge–flight control on the starboard side above the flight deck that measured 442 ft × 88 ft (135 m × 27 m). There were nine arresting wires and three barriers at the stern of the ship, along with one hydraulic catapult at the bow which was able to launch a 3.5 t (3.4 long tons 3.9 short tons) aircraft at 61 kn (113 km/h 70 mph). The hangar deck was 262 ft × 62 ft (80 m × 19 m), which was larger than previous escort carriers, but retained the camber at the bow and stern of the main deck of the merchant ships they were built on. Because the elevators were placed at the ends of the flight deck, pulleys were required for handling planes on and off of the elevators on the hangar deck, which was difficult in normal conditions, and impossible in rough seas. [8]

The ships were delivered with 5-inch (130 mm)/51 calibre guns mounted on sponsons located on either side of the stern. These were replaced with older 4-inch (100 mm)/50 calibre Mk 9 surface guns because they were compatible with British ammunition. [9] The ships' anti-aircraft (AA) defence consisted of eight 40-millimetre (1.6 in) Bofors AA guns in twin mounts, and eight 20-millimetre (0.79 in) Oerlikon AA cannon in twin and ten in single mounts as the standard fit. [4] In practice all the ships had slightly different weapons mounted. Attacker, Chaser, and Hunter only had four single 20 mm AA cannon, the rest being double mounts. Of the other ships, Battler had two, Stalker had six, and Fencer had seven single 20 mm cannon. Pursuer had four extra 40 mm AA guns, and Striker had six extra in place of twin 20 mm mounts. [10]

After arriving in Great Britain, in addition to having their 5-inch guns changed out for 4-inch guns, they would have their aviation fuel bunkers reduced to 44,800 imp gal (204,000 l 53,800 US gal), from 186,286 US gal (705,170 l 155,116 imp gal), for Royal Navy safety reasons, and HF/DF ("Huff/Duff") radio direction finders (RDF) installed. [9]

An Arctic Convoy seen from HMS Fencer - History



see also the more detailed "Russian Convoys", starting with Eastern Front and Russian Convoys, Jun 1941-Oct 1942

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)


JUNE 1941

The invasion of Russia soon led to the introduction of the Russian or Arctic convoys with their dreadful conditions and after some months had elapsed, high losses in men and ships. However, the Royal Navy's presence in the Arctic was first made known in August when submarines started operating, with some success against German shipping supporting the Axis attack from Norway towards Murmansk. The port was never captured. Conditions with these convoys were at the very least difficult. Both summer and winter routes were close to good German bases in Norway from which U-boats, aircraft and surface ships could operate. In the long winter months there was terrible weather and intense cold, and in summer, continual daylight. Many considered that no ships would get through. The first convoy sailed in August and, by the end of the year, over 100 merchantmen had set out in both directions. Only one was lost to a U-boat. In 1942 the picture changed considerably.


The first Russian convoy, 'Dervish', sailed from Iceland with seven ships and arrived safely. Carrier "Argus" accompanied them to fly off Hurricanes for Kola.

Rus sian convoy PQ1 and the return QP1 both set out in September. A total of 24 ships were passed through without loss by early October

The six merc hant ships of Russian convoy PQ2 got through to Archangel without loss.

In November Russi an convoys PQ3, 4 and 5 and return convoys QP2 and 3 with a total of 45 ships set out. Three merchantmen turned back but the rest got through without loss.

Three outward-bound convoys, PQ6, PQ7 and PQ7B and one return, QP4 set out in December with a total of 31 ships. All but PQ6 arrived at their destinations in January, with two ships returning and one lost to U-boats.

De stroyer "MATABELE" escorting Iceland/Russia convoy PQ8 was sunk off Murmansk on the 17th by "U-454". Only two men survived. None of the eight merchantmen in the convoy were lost although one was damaged by a U-boat torpedo. In two return convoys in the month - QP5 and QP6 - 10 ships set out and arrived safely.

In four con voys PQ9, PQ10, PQ11 and return QP7, 31 merchantmen arrived safely at their destinations without loss.

1st-12th - Convoy PQ12 and Return QP8 - By now German battleship "Tirpitz", the ship that dictated Royal Navy policies in northern waters for so long, had been joined in Norway by pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer". The next Russia-bound and return convoys therefore set out on the same day, the 1st, so they could be covered by the Home Fleet with battleships "Duke of York", "Renown", "King George V" and carrier "Victorious". On the 4th, cruiser "Sheffield" was damaged on a mine off Iceland as she sailed to join the cover force. Convoys PQ12 and QP8 passed to the southwest of Bear Island and with "Tirpitz" reported at sea, the Home Fleet tried to place itself between her and the convoys. There was no contact between the surface ships, but on the 9th, aircraft from "Victorious" attacked but failed to hit "Tirpitz" off the Lofoten Islands. Of the 31 merchantmen in two convoys, only one straggler from QP8 was lost to the German force.

20th March-3rd April - Convoy PQ13 and Return QP9 - The se next two convoys set out around the 20th, again covered by the Home Fleet. Off North Cape on the 24th "U-655" was ra mmed and sunk by minesweeper "Sharpshooter" escorting QP9. Of the 19 merchantmen in this convoy all reached Iceland in safety. PQ13 and its escort, including cruiser "Trinidad" and destroyers "Eclipse" and "Fury", were scattered by severe gales and heavily attacked. On the 29th three German destroyers encountered the escort north of Murmansk. "Z-26" was sunk, but in the action "Trinidad" was hi t and disabled by one of her own torpedoes. As the cruiser limped towards Kola Inlet an attack by "U-585" failed and she was sunk by "Fury". Five of the 19 ships with PQ13 were lost - two to submarines, two to aircraft, and one by the destroyers. "Trinidad" reached Russia.

During the mon th, Russian convoy PQ14 set out from Iceland with 24 ships. Only seven arrived. One was sunk by a U-boat and another 16 had to turn back because of the weather. Return convoy QP10 lost four of its 16 ships around the same time, two each to U-boats and aircraft. Towards the end of the month convoys PQ15 and QP11 sailed. Both had cruisers in close support and PQ15 was covered by units of the Home Fleet including battleships "King George V" and the American "Washington". On the 30th the QP11 cruiser "Edinburgh" was torpedoed twice by "U-456" and had to turn back for Murmansk. The story of the PQ15 and QP11 convoys is taken up in May

26th April-7th May - Convoy PQ15 and Return QP11 - P Q15 sailing for Russia suffered misfortune twice, On the 1st, battleship "King George V" rammed "PUNJABI" one of her escorting destroyers and was then damaged by the latter's depth charges as she went down with heavy loss of life. On the 2nd, minesweeper "Seagull" and Norwegian destroyer "St Albans" sank Polish submarine "JASTRZAB" in error. Three of the convoy's merchant ships were lost to torpedo aircraft but the remaining 22 reached Murmansk by the 5th. QP11 departed Russia on the 28th April and on the 30th cruiser "Edinburgh" was torpedoed twice by U-boat. As she limped back to Russia yet again, three German destroyers attacked QP11, but only managed to sank a straggler. They found the cruiser on the 2nd. In a series of confused fights amidst snow showers and smokescreens, "Edinburgh" disabled the "Hermann Schoemann" by gunfire, but was then torpedoed for a third time by either "Z-24" or "Z-25". Escorting destroyers "Forester" and "Foresight" were als o damaged. Both "EDINBURGH" and "HERMANN SCHOEMANN" were s cuttled on the 2nd. The surviving 12 merchantmen of QP11 got through to Reykjavik, Iceland on the 7th.

14th/15th - Cruiser "Trinidad" (above - Navy Photos) was damaged escorting PQ13 in March, and patched up at Murmansk ready for the homeward journey. Escort was now provided by four destroyers and cover by more cruisers, but on the 14th she was heavily attacked from the air and hit by a Ju88 bomber. Fires got out of control and "TRINIDAD" was s cuttled next day in the cold waters north of Norway's North Cape.

German Surface Warships - In addition to aircraft and U-boats, the Germans now had "Tirpitz", "Admiral Scheer", "Lutzow", "Hipper" and nearly a dozen big destroyers at Narvik and Trondheim. With by now continuous daylight throughout the journey, the Admiralty pressed for the convoys to be discontinued until the days shortened. For political reasons they went ahead.

Convoys PQ16 and QP12 passed through in May. PQ16 started out for Russian with 35 ships but one returned, six were lost to heavy aircraft attack and one to U-boats. QP12 had one return but the other 14 reach Iceland.

Russian convoys PQ17 and QP13 set sail towards the end of the month.

27th June-28th July - Destruction of Convoy PQ17 - Conv oys PQ17 and return QP13 both set out on 27th June. PQ17 left Reykjavik, Iceland with 36 ships, of which two returned. The close escort under Cdr J. E. Broome included six destroyers and four corvettes. Two British and two US cruisers with destroyers were in support (Rear-Adm L. H. K. Hamilton), and distant cover was given by the Home Fleet (Adm Tovey) with battleships "Duke of York" and the US "Washington", carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers. The British Admiralty believed the Germans were concentrating their heavy ships in northern Norway. In fact pocket battleship "Lutzow" had run aground off Narvik, but this still left battleship "Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" and heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" - all formidable adversaries, which reach Altenfiord on the 3rd. At this time PQ17 had just passed to the north of Bear Island, after which German aircraft sank three merchantmen. Fear of attack by the German ships led the First Sea Lord, Adm Pound, far away in London, to decide the fate of the convoy. In the evening of the 4th the support cruisers were ordered to withdraw and the convoy to scatter. Unfortunately Adm Hamilton took the six escorting destroyers with him. The merchantmen were now to the north of North Cape. Thirty-one try to make for the isolated islands of Novaya Zemlya before heading south for Russian ports. Between the 5th and 10th July, 20 of them were lost, half each to the aircraft and U-boats sent to hunt them down. Some sheltered for days off the bleak shores of Novaya Zemlya. Eventually 11 survivors and two rescue ships reached Archangel and nearby ports between the 9th and 28th. In fact "Tirpitz" and the other ships did not leave Altenfiord until the morning of the 5th, after the 'convoy was to disperse' order. They abandoned the sortie that same day. History suggests the vital decision on the future of PQ17 should have been left to the commanders on the spot. The US reacted strongly to the Royal Navy apparently leaving its merchantmen to their fate. Meanwhile all went well with QP13's 35 ships from Murmansk, until the 5th. Approaching Iceland through the Denmark Strait they ran into a British minefield. Escorting minesweeper "NIGER" and five merchant ships were lost. The rest got in. No more Russian convoys run until September..

2nd-26th - Convoy PQ18 and Return QP14 - PQ18 left Loch Ewe in Scotland on the 2nd with over 40 merchantmen. The hard learnt lessons of PQ17 and previous convoys were not forgotten. Close escort was provided by 17 warships plus escort carrier "Avenger" and two destroyers. Two separate forces were in support - close cover by AA cruiser "Scylla" and 16 fleet destroyers under Rear-Adm R L Burnett, and further out three heavy cruisers. More distant cover was by Vice-Adm Sir Bruce Fraser with battleships "Anson" and "Duke of York", a light cruiser and destroyers to the northeast of Iceland. Submarines patrolled off the Norwegian Lofoten Islands and northern Norway. Over 40 major warships were involved. German heavy ships moved to Altenfiord but did not sortie. Instead the attacks were mounted by bombers and torpedo aircraft as well as U-boats. On the 13th, aircraft torpedoed nine ships, but next day "Avenger's" Hurricanes ensured only one more ship was lost to air attack. In total over 40 German aircraft were shot down by the convoy's defences. U-boats sank three merchantmen but lost three of their number to Adm Burnett's forces. Destroyers "Faulknor", "Onslow" and "Impulsive" sank "U-88", "U-589" and "U-457" respectively between the 12th and 16th in the Greenland and Barents Seas. (Some sources reverse the identity of "U-88" and "U-589"). Escort carrier "Avenger's" Swordfish from 825 Squadron helped with the destruction of "Onslow's" U-boat on the 14th. Of the original 40 ships, 27 reached Archangel on the 17th. Meanwhile return convoy QP14 with 15 ships sailed on the 13th to gain the protection of "Avenger" and Adm Burnett's AA cruiser and destroyer force. On the 20th, to the west of Bear Island, minesweeper "LEDA" was s unk by "U-435" and support group destroyer "SOMALI" torpedoed by "U-703". After struggling for four days in tow towards Iceland a gale blew up and she foundered to the north. Three merchant ships were lost to U-boats and the survivors reached Loch Ewe on the 26th. In late 1941, escort carrier "Audacity" closed the Gibraltar air-gap for the first time. "Avenger" had now done the same for the Russian route. However, further convoys havdto be postponed as ships were transferred in preparation for the North African landings.

Archan gel to Loch Ewe, Scotland convoy QP15 with 28 ships lost two to U-boat attack.

31st - Battle of the Barents Sea & Convoys JW51A and JW51B - After a three-month gap the first of the JW convoys set out. JW51 sailed in two sections. Part A left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 15th with 16 ships bound for Kola Inlet. All arrived safely on Christmas Day, the 25th accompanied by supporting cruisers "Jamaica" and "Sheffield". JW51B (14 ships) left on the 22nd escorted by six destroyers, a minesweeper and four smaller vessels under the command of Capt St. V. Sherbrooke in "Onslow". Adm Burnett with "Jamaica" and "Sheffield" joined the convoy south west of Bear Island on the 29th to provide close cover through the Barents Sea. By now "Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Lutzow", heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper", light cruisers "Koln" and "Nurnberg" and a number of 5in and 5.9in gun destroyers were in Norwegian waters. The Admiralty assumed they were for attacks on Russian convoys. In fact, they were in Norway because Hitler feared invasion. Convoy JW51B was reported an the 30th and 8in "Hipper" (Adm Kummetz), 11in "Lutzow" and six destroyers put to sea from Altenfiord to intercept north of North Cape. Early on the 31st, New Year's Eve, the British ships were in four groups (1-4) . The main convoy (1) with five remaining 4in or 4.7in destroyers "Achates", "Onslow", "Obdurate", "Obedient" and "Orwell" headed due east. (Some of the escort and merchantmen had been scattered by gales and never regained the convoy). Northeast of the convoy, detached minesweeper "Bramble" (2) was searching for missing ships. Adm Burnett's two 6in cruisers (3) covered to the north. Further north still a straggling merchant ship and escorting trawler (4) tried to reach the convoy. Capt Sherbrooke planned to use the same tactics as Adm Vian in the Second Battle of Sirte and head for the enemy while the convoy turned away under smoke. Unfortunately Adm Kummetz divided his force in two [1-2] and planned to attack from astern on both sides - "Hipper" [1] and three destroyers in the north and "Lutzow" [2] with the other three in the south.

On the 31st around 09.30, the action started with "Hipper's" three destroyers [1] heading north across the rear of the convoy (1), and opening fire on "Obdurate". The convoy later turned as planned, but south towards "Lutzow" [2]. Then "Onslow", Orwell" and Obedient" sighted Hipper" [1] and held her off until, at 10.20, "Onslow" was hit and Capt Sherbrooke badly wounded (Capt Rupert St. V. Sherbrooke RN was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry). Adm Burnett's cruisers (3) meanwhile, following a radar contact, had diverted north towards the straggler and escort (4) . They only headed towards the action at 10.00. Still to the north of the convoy, "Hipper" [1] and her destroyers came across the hapless "BRAMBLE" (2) and sent her to the bottom around 10.40. They headed south, and 40min later the 8in cruiser [1] approached JW51B (1) , opened fire and hit "ACHATES" which sank after the battle was over. Lutzow [2] had alr eady come up on the convoy from the south but did not join battle until 11.45. She was driven off by the remaining destroyers. By now "Jamaica" and "Sheffield" (3) had arrived on the scene. They quickly hit "Hipper" [1] and sank destroyer "FRIEDRICH ECKOLDT". "Hipper" tried to get back to the convoy but again the destroyers skillfully kept her at bay. By midday the German ships were withdrawing with the two cruisers in pursuit. Contact was shortly lost. None of the merchantmen were more than lightly damaged and all 14 reached Kola on the 3rd January. Return convoy RA51 left Kola on the 30th December. After being supported part of the way by "Jamaica" and "Sheffield", the 14 merchant ships were safely delivered to Loch Ewe on the 11th January. When Hitler learnt the big ships had been driven off by light cruisers and destroyers he flew into a rage and ordered them all paid off. Grand-Adm Raeder resigned in protest and was succeeded as C-in-C, German Navy, in January by Adm Doenitz. The paying-off order was revoked.

HMS Britomart, Algerine minesweeper and
same class as the overwhelmed "Bramble"

Rus sian convoy JW52 and return RA52 both set out in January. Of the 25 ships in the two convoys, one left JW52 to return to port, and one merchantmen with RA52 was lost to U-boat attacks.

Rus sia-bound convoy JW53 sailed with 28 merchantmen. Six turned back because of the weather, but the rest reach Kola Inlet on the 27th. Return convoy RA53 with 30 ships lost three to U-boats in March. These were the last convoys to or from Russia until November 1943 - another nine months, because of the pressure of events in the North Atlantic

22nd - Midget Submarine Attack on Tirpitz - Bat tleship "Tirpitz" posed such a threat to Russian convoys and held down so much of Home Fleet's strength that almost any measures to immobilise her were justified. One gallant attempt was made in October 1942 when a small Norwegian fishing vessel "Arthur", penetrated to within a few miles of the battleship in Trondheimfiord with Chariot human torpedoes slung underneath. Just short of the target they broke away and all the efforts were in vain. Now it was the turn of midget submarines - the X-craft each with two 2-ton saddle charges. Six left for northern Norway towed by 'S' or 'T' class submarines. Two were lost on passage, but on the 20th off Altenfiord, "X-5", "X-6" and "X-7" set out to attack "Tirpitz" and "X-10" for the Scharnhorst. "X-5" was lost and "X-10" was unable to attack, but "X-6" (Lt Cameron) and "X-7" (Lt Place) penetrated the defences to reach "Tirpitz" laying in Kaafiord at the far end of Altenfiord. Both dropped their charges under or near the battleship before they sank and some of their crews escaped. "Tirpitz" managed to shift her position slightly, but not enough to avoid damage when the charges went up. She was out of action for six months. Lt Donald Cameron RNR and Lt Basil Place RN were awarded the Victoria Cross.

For the first time since March 1943, Russian convoys sailed - setting out and arriving at the end of the month and in early December. Convoys JW54A and JW54B to Kola Inlet, and return RA54A and RA54B passed through a total of 54 ships without loss.

26th - The Battle of North Cape and Convoy JW55B - Russi an convoys were still sailing in two sections. JW55A left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 12th and arrived safely with all 19 merchant ships on the 20th. Adm Fraser with "Duke of York" went right through to Russia for the first time before returning to Iceland.

Convoy JW55B, also with 19 ships, sailed for Russia on the 20th. >>>

<<< Three days later return convoy RA55A (22 ships) sets out.

Cover for both convoys through the Barents Sea was to be provided by Vice-Adm R. L. Burnett with cruisers "Belfast", "Norfolk" and "Sheffield" (1) which left Kola Inlet on the same day as RA55A - the 23rd. The Admiralty expected the 11in-gunned battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" to attack the convoys and Adm Fraser with "Duke of York" and cruiser "Jamaica" (2) left Iceland and headed for the Bear Island area. "Scharnhorst" (Rear-Adm Bey) and five destroyers [1] sailed f rom Altenfiord late on the 25th, Christmas Day. Early next morning JW55B was 50 miles south of Bear Island, the weather stormy, as the Germans headed north to intercept. Meanwhile Adm Fraser (2) was 200 miles away to the southwest and Adm Burnett's cruisers (1) were approaching the convoy from the east. At 07.30 on the 26th the German destroyers were detached to search for the convoy, failed to make contact and were later ordered home. They played no part in the battle.

First contact (by group 1) was just before 09.00 on the 26th when "Belfast" detected "Scharnhorst" by radar as she was heading south and only 30 miles east of the convoy. "Norfolk" engaged and hit the battlecruiser which turned north and away to try to get around to JW55B. Adm Burnett anticipated this move and instead of shadowing, carried on towards the convoy. "Belfast" regained contact at noon and all three cruisers (1) opened fire. In the next 20min "Scharnhorst" was hit and "Norfolk" badly damaged by 11in shells. The German ship now headed south away from the convoy as Adm Burnett shadowed by radar. At this time, Adm Fraser (2) was now to the south-southwest and in a position to cut off her retreat. He made radar contact soon after 16.00 at a range of 22 miles and closed in. Fifty minutes later at 1650, "Belfast" (1) illuminated "Scharnhorst" with starshell and Adm Burnett's cruisers (1) engaged from one side and "Duke of York" and "Jamaica" (2) from the other. Hard hit, especially by the battleship's 14in shells, the German ship's main armament was eventually silenced. Finally the cruisers and accompanying destroyers fired torpedoes, 10 or 11 of which struck home, and soon after 19.30 "SCHARNHORST" went down. Only 36 men could be rescued. Now only "Tirpitz" remained as a potential big ship threat to the Russian convoys. On the 29th JW55B reached Kola safely. Return convoy RA55A was well clear of Bear Island by the time the battle had started and made Loch Ewe on 1st January. The second return half - RA55B of eight ships - left Russia on the last day of the year and got in on 8th January.



E scorting Russian convoy JW56B, destroyer "HARDY (2)" was to rpedoed by "U-278" to the south of Bear Island on the 30th and had to be scuttled. On the same da y destroyers "Whitehall" and "Meteor" of the escort sank "U-314". All 16 of JW56B's ships reached Kola Inlet. JW56A earlier in the month had not been so fortunate - of the 20 merchantmen, five returned due to the weather, and three were lost to U-boats.

The 4 2 merchantmen of Russian convoy JW57 all reached Kola on the 28th, but one escort and two U-boats were sunk in the battles surrounding them: 24th - To the northwest of Norway, "U-713" was pu t down by destroyer "Keppel" of the escort. 25th - Next day, destroyer "MAHRATTA" was l ost to an acoustic torpedo from "U-956" or "U-990" and sank with heavy loss of life. A RAF Catalina of No 210 Squadron flying at extreme range managed to sink "U-601". Return convoy RA56 earlier in the month made Loch Ewe with its 37 ships.

Th e next return convoy from Russia RA57, sailed with the escort of the February JW57 including escort carrier "Chaser" and her rocket-firing Swordfish of 816 Squadron. On the 4th, to the north west of Norway, they damaged "U-472" which was finished off by destroyer "Onslaught". In the next two days, in spite of foul weather, they destroyed "U-366" and "U-973". The 2nd EG moved from Atlantic convoys to support Russian convoy JW58. Two days after leaving Loch Ewe and by now off Icelan d, "Starling" sank "U-961" on the 29th. More U-boats were lost before the convoy reached Russia early in April.

Three days after 2nd EG sank "U-961" off Iceland, Russia-bound JW58 was to the northwest of Norway and the attacking U-boats lost three of their number. On the 1st an Avenger of 846 Squadron from escort carrier "Tracker" damaged "U-355" with rockets and destroyer "Beagle" completed the job. Next day - the 2nd - destroyer "Keppel" sank "U-360" with her ahead-throwing Hedgehog mortar. On the 3rd it was the turn of "U-288". A Swordfish, Wildcat and Avenger from "Tracker's" 846 and "Activity's" 819 Squadron sent her to the bottom. Apart from one merchantman forced to return, all JW58's remaining 48 ships arrived at Kola on the 5th April. Return convoy RA58 passed through 36 rnerchantmen by mid-month without loss.

3rd - Fleet Air Arm Attack on "Tirpitz", Operation 'Tungsten' - The dam age inflicted by midget submarines on "Tirpitz" in September 1943 was nearly repaired and the Admiralty decided to launch a Fleet Air Arm attack. On the 30th March, Adm Fraser left Scapa Flow with battleships "Duke of York" and "Anson", fleet carriers "Victorious" and the old "Furious", escort carriers "Emperor", "Fencer", "Pursuer" and "Searcher", cruisers and destroyers, split into two forces, and headed north, partly to cover JW58. By the 2nd the two forces had joined up 120 miles off Altenfiord and early next morning on the 3rd, two waves each of 20 Barracuda bombers with fighter cover surprised "Tirpitz" at anchor. A total of 14 hits were made, but the damage was not serious. However, the battleship was out of action for another three months. Home Fleet was back in Scapa on the 6th. A similar operation was attempted later in the month, but bad weather prevented any attacks. Instead a German convoy was found in the area and three ships sunk. The weather again saved Tirpitz from two sorties in May 1944, but the fleet and escort carrier aircraft did manage to sink several more merchant ships at these and other times during the month.

Ret urn Russian convoy RA59 (45 ships) was attacked by U-boats to the northwest of Norway. One ship was lost, but in return the Swordfish of 842 Squadron from "Fencer" sank three with depth charges - on the 1st, "U-277", and next day "U-674" and "U-959". The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe with the rest of the 44 ships on 6th May.

6th June - Normandy invasion and the "Second Front" demanded, often belligerently by Russia since early 1942, was opened

17th - FAA Attack on "Tirpitz" - Bar racuda torpedo bombers from Home Fleet carriers "Formidable", "Indefatigable" and "Furious" attempted to hit "Tirpitz" in Altenfiord on the 17th, but failed, partly because of defensive smokescreens. U-boats were sent to attack the carrier force, but over a period of four days, RAF Coastal Command sank three in the Northern Transit Area.

15th-29th - Attacks on Tirpitz and Convoy JW59 - Russian convoy JW59 (33 ships) left Loch Ewe on the 15th with a heavy escort including escort carriers "Striker" and "Vindex" and the 20th and 22nd Escort Groups. Home Fleet, under the command of Adm Moore, sailed in two groups, partly to cover the convoy but mainly to launch further FAA attacks on "Tirpitz" in Altenfiord. One group included "Formidable", "Indefatigable" and "Furious" and battleship "Duke of York" the second one escort carriers "Trumpeter" and the Canadian-manned "Nabob" together with t he 5th EG (Cdr Macintyre). Between the 22nd and 29th, three strikes were made, but in two of them the German ship was obscured by smoke and although a hit was obtained on the 24th, the bomb failed to explode. In the course of these manoeuvres the escort carrier group suffered two casualties: 22nd - "U-354" encountered them to the northwest of North Cape and attacked. Frigate "BICKERTON" (below - in foreground) of the 5th EG was torpedoed, badly damaged, and finished off by destroyer "Vigilant" (not an old "V" and "W", but a war programme ship). Escort carrier "NABOB" was too badly damaged by her torpedo hit to be repaired. The U-boat was shortly sunk.

The convoy, JW59 was also subjected to U-boat attack and losses were sustained by both sides: 21st - Sloop "KITE" of the 22nd EG was torpedoed by "U-344" to the northwest of Norway in the Greenland Sea and went down. There were few survivors, but the attacker, like "U-354" was also sunk shortly. 24th - As "U-344" tried to approach the convoy to the north of North Cape, she was sunk by destroyer "Keppel", frigate "Loch Dunvegan" and sloops "Mermaid" and "Peacock" of the 20th EG (both sister-ships of "Kite" so recently lost to "U-344's" attack) 25th - "U-354" now prepared for the arrival of return convoy RA59A in the Bear Island area and was destroyed by a rocket-firing Swordfish of 825 Squadron from "Vindex". (Note: Some sources reverse the cause of loss of "U-344" and "U-354", but with "U-344" sunk on the 22nd and "U-354" on the 24th.) JW59 arrived at Kola Inlet on the 25th with all 33 merchant ships.

Return Russian convoy RA59A (nine ships) was now off northwest Norway when "U-394" was d amaged by Swordfish of 825 Squadron and sunk on the 2nd by destroyers "Keppel" and "Whitehall" and sloops "Mermaid" and "Peacock". The convoy arrived safely at Loch Ewe on the 6th. Nine days later the next Russian-bound convoy, JW60 set out with 30 merchantmen. They too arrived at their destination without loss before the month was out. The next convoy returning from Russia, RA60 left Kola on the 28th with 30 ships, but by the time it arrived at Loch Ewe in early October had lost two merchantmen to U-boat attack. While still to the northwest of Norway on the 30th, Swordfish of 813 Squadron from escort carrier "Campania" sank "U-921".

Convo y JW61 arrived safely at Kola by the end of the month with all 29 ships. On the 30th October, JW61A with just two liners carrying Russian POWs for repatriation, left Liverpool and reached Kola Inlet by 6th November.

For the first time since September 1939, no merchant ships were lost throughout the length and breadth of the North and South Atlantic, including the Arctic, in October 1944

UK-bound con voys RA61 and RA61A left Kola and passed through a total of 35 ships in the month without loss. Russian-bound JW62 set out at the end of the month and reached Kola in early December with all 30 merchant ships.

Return R ussian convoy RA62 (28 ships) prepared to leave Kola Inlet on the 10th with the escort of JW62. Beforehand on the 9th, Royal Navy and Russian warships drove off the waiting U-boats, and corvette "Bamborough Castle" serving with the 8th and 20th EGs sank "U-387". As the convoy passed Jan Mayen Island on the 13th, "U-365" was sent to the bottom by Swordfish of 813 Squadron flying from escort carrier "Campania" (better known for her association with the 1951 Festival of Britain in London). All merchantmen reached Loch Ewe on the 19th.

Convoys JW63 and return RA63 passed through a total of 65 ships in the month without loss.

There was still no let up for the Russian convoys. Although JW64 reached Kola Inlet safely on the 13th with all 26 merchantmen, the arriving corvette "DENBIGH CASTLE" was torpe doed by "U-992" and became a total loss. Four days later on the 17th return RA64 was ready to set out. Just off Kola Inlet "U-425" was su nk by sloop "Lark" and corvette "Alnwick Castle", but later that day "LARK" was damaged by "U-963" and also became a total loss. Corvette "BLUEBELL" was th en torpedoed by "U-711" and blew up with only one man surviving. Of the 34 ships with the convoy, one returned, one went down to U-boats and on the 23rd, straggler "Henry Bacon" was sunk by Ju88 torpedo bombers, the last ship of the war by German aircraft. The rest of the convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on the 28th after a voyage made even more difficult by violent storms typical of northern waters.

As R ussian convoy JW65 approached Kola Inlet with 24 merchant ships on the 20th, waiting U-boats sank two and "U-716" sank sloop "LAPWING" of the escort. Return RA65 set out on the 23rd and all 25 ships got through to the Orkney Islands on the last day of the month.

29th - Russia/UK Convoy RA66, the Last Convoy Battle of the War - K ola Inlet bound convoy JW66 (22 ships) arrived safely on the 25th with escort carriers "Premier" and "Vindex", cruiser "Diadem", Home Fleet destroyers and the 8th and 19th EGs all under the command of Rear-Adm A. E. Cunninghame-Graham. Return convoy RA66 (24 ships) set out on the 29th with JW66s escort, some of which went ahead to clear the 14 U-boats waiting off the Inlet. Frigates "Anguilla", "Cotton", "Loch lnsh" and "Loch Shin" of the 19th EG accounted for "U-307" followed by "U-286" , the last U-boats sunk by warships of the Royal Navy. In the action, frigate "GOODALL" of the 19th EG was torpedoed by "U-968" and went down with heavy loss of life. She was the last major warship of the Royal and Dominion Navies lost in the war against Germany. RA66 arrived safely in the Clyde on 8th May

One last Russian convoy sailed each way soon after the German surrender. JW67 left the Clyde on the 12th with 23 merchantmen and reached Kola on the 20th. Three days later return RA67, again with 23 ships, set out and on the last day of the month sailed up the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.

In Conclusion . Since August 1941, 78 convoys had sailed in both directions and passed through nearly 1,400 merchant ships for the loss of 85 - a loss rate of 6 percent. Millions of tons of vital cargo and thousands of tanks and aircraft were delivered to the Russians. The cost to the Royal Navy included one escort carrier severely damaged, two cruisers, six destroyers ans eight other escorts sunk in the cold and often stormy waters of the Arctic. The Germans lost "Scharnhorst" and indirectly "Tirpitz", three big destroyers, over 30 U-boats.

An Arctic Convoy seen from HMS Fencer - History

As the world marks the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War,
RBTH remembers the dramatic and heroic story of the Arctic Convoys, a period of unique collaboration between Russia and the UK, when more than four million tons of vital military supplies were shipped across treacherous,
often freezing seas.

As many as 87 Merchant Navy and 18 Royal Navy vessels were
sent to the bottom of the sea during the perilous operation
and over 3,000 Allied seamen died.
This is their story.

When Adolf Hitler launched his surprise Blitzkrieg - codenamed Barbarossa - on the Soviet Union in June 1941, bringing Russia into the war against Nazi Germany, Britain no longer stood alone against the fascist threat. Putting aside his lifelong antipathy to Bolshevism, Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill authorised urgent naval convoys of vital war material to Russia. Shipped across some of the most dangerous waters in the world, the Arctic Convoys between 1941 and 1945 delivered tanks, fighter planes, fuel, ammunition, raw materials and food to the Soviet Union's northern ports.

Churchill's genuine, if pragmatic, change of heart was announced the very day of the Nazi assault on the Soviet people. In a radio broadcast, Britain's wartime leader said: "… we shall give whatever help we can to Russia and to the Russian people. We shall appeal to all our friends and Allies in every part of the world to take the same course and pursue it as we shall, faithfully and steadfastly to the end."

Known as the 'Russian' and 'Polar' convoys - or by the sailors who risked their lives to bring the supplies to Russia, the 'Murmansk Run' - the Arctic Convoys were part of the Lend Lease programme under which the United States supplied France, Great Britain, China, the USSR and other Allied nations with food, oil, and material between 1941 and 1945. The programme started in March 1941 and ended in September 1945. Supplies to the Soviet Union also came overland via the Persian Corridor and to Russia's Far East by the Pacific Route.

The shortest route was to Russia's northern ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk sailing through Arctic waters above Nazi occupied Norway from Iceland and (from September 1942) Loch Ewe in Scotland.

Merchant Navy ships escorted by Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers as well as U.S. and other allied warships, carried the essential supplies.

The first Arctic convoy, codenamed Operation 'Dervish', set out from Hvalfjord in Iceland on 21 August 1941, sailing into harbour at Arkhangelsk on 31 August 1941.

It consisted of six merchant ships loaded with raw materials and 15 Hawker Hurricane fighter planes escorted by the Royal Navy with three destroyers (Electra, Active, Impulsive), three minesweepers (Halcyon, Salamander, Harrier), three anti-submarine trawlers (Hamlet, Macbeth, Ophelia), with additional distant cover from the heavy cruiser Shropshire and destroyers Matabele, Punjabi and Somali. Aircraft carrier Argus delivered 24 Hurricanes (the Royal Air Force's 151 Fighter Wing) to Vaenga airfield near Murmansk. Some of the 39 Hurricanes delivered by 'Dervish', flown by Russian pilots, were deployed defending Moscow between October 1941 and January 1942.

Those who sailed during operation 'Dervish' had beginners' luck - the convoy suffered no losses, as the Nazis were simply unaware of it.

Code letters and sequential numbers subsequently identified convoys: PQ to Russia (inbound) and QP from Russia (outbound). The letters P and Q were from the initials of Commander P. Q. Edwards, who was responsible for the planning of these early operations. The system was used until convoys PQ18 in September 1942 and QP15 in November 1942. From December 1942 the convoys were coded JW (starting with 51) to Russia and RA (number) from Russia.

A total of 78 inbound and outbound convoys did the 'Murmansk Run' between August 1941 and May 1945.

Apart from Nazi warships, submarines and Luftwaffe aircraft, the convoys faced another, just as tough, adversary: the elements. Rough and unpredictable Arctic storms were the least of it. Temperatures were so low that water washed on board quickly froze and could add so much weight that a ship could become top-heavy and capsize. Constant de-icing of decks and guns with axes and steam hoses was a daily routine for the Arctic Convoys' sailors.

Two of the 78 convoys represent the best and worst of the heroic missions.

The Navy experiences wintry weather in the middle of January 1941, with the destroyer HMS Kelvin. Photo shows the Arctic conditions that ships had to face during the cold winter months. HMS Kelvin shown blanketed in snow.

Ships at Hvalfjord, Iceland, November 1941, on board the tribal class destroyer HMS Ashanti. HMS Ashanti and some of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at exercise.

Convoy to Russia, with a British cruiser escort on Arctic lifeline, December 1941, on board the cruiser HMS Sheffield. Freeing chains, wires and bollards from ice on the fo`c'sle.

Convoy to Russia, with a British cruiser escort on Arctic lifeline, December 1941, on board the cruiser HMS Sheffield. In the Russian base HMS Sheffield anchors and waits once more for the sailing orders. In the background can be seen snow covered hills.

Convoy to Russia, with a British cruiser escort on Arctic lifeline, December 1941, on board the cruiser HMS Sheffield. A gangway sentry on duty on the quayside.

British Naval activities in winter. 20 January 1942, Rosyth, under Arctic like conditions

British Naval activities in winter. 20 January, Rosyth, destroyers in Harbour under Arctic like conditions. A gun's crew on the look-out for enemy aircraft.

A Fleet Air Arm flight deck party on board HMS Victorious leaning against the island of the aircraft carrier whilst they are awaiting the return of aircraft from patrol.

On board the destroyer HMS Fury. 20 February 1942. Officers and men firing at a floating mine in Northern waters in an attempt to sink it and clear the potential danger.

" The sea was violent with waves of 30 ft plus. When we met a gale in the Atlantic we went into it bow on and ploughed through, but in the Arctic, east of Bear Island, the sea was very narrow and we had to go east with no deviation. This meant we were rolling as much as 30 degrees to port and starboard.

With the deck covered in ice and snow we had to use lifelines when going aft to the guns and depth charges. These lifelines were fitted very firmly and anyone going aft on deck had to fix a rope around the body with a hook on to the lifeline and gradually move aft when the ship was steady. But when she rolled, your feet left the deck and at 30 degrees you were hanging over the sea. At maximum roll the ship shuddered for a few seconds and then decided to come back or turn over - some did.

The temperature in these seas got as low as 60 degrees below freezing. Your eyebrows and eyelashes froze and your eyes were very sore with the winds blowing into them. When you got down to the mess deck there was about three inches of water from condensation. The older men, who had hair in their noses, found that these froze solid and were like needles. Many men came off watch with faces covered in blood as they had rubbed their noses without thinking.

The main thing at this time was to keep the upper deck clear of ice and snow by means of axes and steam hoses or the ship could become top heavy."

Winston Churchill had predicted the Arctic Convoys would be "the worst journey in the world". The biggest disaster in naval history befell Convoy PQ17.

The convoy left Iceland on 27 June 1942 for Arkhangelsk made up of 36 merchant ships and six naval auxiliaries with one close and two distant escorts, 43 warships in total. The convoy was carrying 297 aircraft, 594 tanks, 4,246 trucks and trailers, and 150,000 tons of military and general supplies. It was by far the largest convoy ever to sail to Russia.

The biggest threat to the Royal Navy at the time was the German battleship Tirpitz, armed with a main battery of eight 15-inch (38 cm) guns in four twin turrets. She had been deployed to Norway in January 1942 in order to prepare to attack a convoy.

In March 1942, the Tirpitz launched her first attack on PQ12 convoy, but bad weather kept her from zeroing on the convoy and the attack failed. Later, the German navy, the Kriegsmarine, came up with Operation Rösselsprung (Knight's Move), a plan to bring the Tirpitz and her entourage into contact with the next outbound convoy PQ17.

On 4 July after sending a message from Norway to the Admiralty in London, saying that the Tirpitz has moved the previous day, the First Sea Lord Sir Dudley Pound, fearing attack, commanded the escort ships to turn back and the convoy to scatter and to chart their own course to Russia.

It was a mistake of historic proportion that profoundly misjudged the situation and would have fatal consequences. The Tirpitz has merely changed position to the north without any plans to intercept the convoy.

Fully exposed to Nazi aircraft and U-boats without any escort, PQ17 was gradually destroyed. By 22 July only 11 of the convoy's original 36 merchant vessels had reached Arkhangelsk, delivering just 70,000 tons - less than half the anticipated cargo.

In his monumental six-volume record of those times, The Second World War, Churchill called PQ17 "one of the most melancholy naval episodes in the whole of the war." U.S. Admiral Dan Gallery in his memoirs was more blunt, referring to the disaster as "a shameful page in naval history."

"I remember it was 13 July, 1942. That day I was asked to fulfil the duties of navigation officer. Our ship was on the outer patrol near Kola Bay - the main base of the Northern Fleet. The weather was extremely good, calm and sunny. Suddenly there was a telegram cipher on the bridge. Our commander Kondratyev read the telegram, handed it to me and gave an order to navigate on the set course. The telegram read 'To the commander of frigate SKR-32. Our submarine K-22 identified a rescue boat with sailors in distress [coordinates]. Locate the boat and save the men. Commander of the Fleet.'

The given coordinates were about 30 miles to the north of our position, and a little more than three hours later we found the rescue boat full of freezing men. Fifty sailors had spent several days in the Barents Sea. Some were unconscious. We took them aboard, gave them alcohol and dry clothes.

On our way back to Polyarnoye base we realised that six of the sailors were Russian, and they told us the story. The rescued survivors were from the British merchant ship 'Bolton Castle' that was part of PQ17 convoy. They had been sunk by air attack on 5 July.

Sixty-two years later, in 2004, I found one of the survivors of 'Bolton Castle', Albert Higgins from Bridlington."

Convoy JW55B was a total success for the Royal Navy, better known for its part in the Battle of the North Cape, which was designed as a distraction manoeuvre against the Germany battle cruiser the Scharnhorst, armed with a main battery of nine 11-inch (28 cm) guns in three triple turrets.

The convoy consisted of 19 merchant ships that sailed from Loch Ewe on 22 December 1943 accompanied by a close escort of two corvettes (Borage and Wallflower) and two minesweepers (Hound and Hydra). Destroyers Whitehall and Wrestler, minesweeper Gleaner, and corvettes Honeysuckle and Oxlip, were also deployed as escorts. Vice-Admiral Robert Burnett, who was accompanying the homebound RA-55A with cruisers Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield, later offered further support. Admiral Bruce Fraser, expecting - and hoping - that the Scharnhorst would attack the convoy, headed for Bear Island from Iceland with battleship Duke of York and cruiser Jamaica.

Scharnhorst (commanded by Rear-Admiral Erich Bey) and five destroyers sailed from northern Norway on Christmas Eve. Early on Boxing Day, 26 December, JW55B was about 50 miles south of Bear Island when the enemy fleet headed north to intercept.

By 9am Belfast detected Scharnhorst as she was heading south, some 30 miles east of the convoy. Norfolk engaged and hit Scharnhorst as she turned north try to get closer to JW55B. Expecting this move Burnett continued leading his escort towards the convoy, and when Belfast regained contact with Scharnhorst all three cruisers opened fire. Scharnhorst was hit and Norfolk damaged by 11-inch shells. By this time the German battle cruiser was heading south and away from the convoy and Fraser was in a position to cut off her retreat. Soon after 4pm, the three cruisers were closing in and at 4.50pm, Belfast lit up Scharnhorst with a parachute-borne star shell. Burnett's cruisers engaged from one side while the Duke of York and Jamaica came in from the other. Scharnhorst, hit by Jamaica and the Duke of York, was severely damaged. Other cruisers and destroyers fired torpedoes, 11 of which reached their target. Scharnhorst went down shortly after 7.30pm. Of the 1,932 men on board the Scharnhorst only 36 were rescued.

History & Learning

Jack Harrison was born in 1925 in Cleckheaton, North Yorkshire. He joined the Royal Navy in June 1943 aged eighteen.

His naval career commenced with basic training aboard HMS Glendower whilst she was located in North Wales, followed by radio operator training on the Isle of Man. On completion of this training, he transferred to Thurso via Portsmouth and joined the light cruiser HMS Diadem at Scapa Flow.

Over the next three years he took part in ten Russian convoy return trips to Murmansk, an eight week engagement during and after the Normandy D Day landings, flank protection in the Bay of Biscay and mine laying off the Norwegian coast. He was also involved in the last naval engagement of World War Two, a clash with German Z class destroyers.

Jack was eventually demobbed from HMS Collingwood in 1946.

In the late 1980s, Jack joined the North Russian Club and was an active member until it was disbanded in 2001 due to its ageing and declining membership.

An idea for an Arctic convoy museum

In 1998, Jack visited Loch Ewe (from where the convoys departed) with fellow member, Jimmy McHugh. This was a nostalgic, yet enlightening journey for them as they had only previously seen the area from aboard their respective ships during war time. They stayed at Pool House and, from conversations with the proprietor (who shared the same surname as Jack), discovered a common interest in the Russian convoys. The idea of a museum was hatched and subsequently developed by the owners of Pool House with assistance from Jack.

Jack became interested in a particularly heroic episode of the convoy period that affected the lives of five hundred Norwegian men, women and children.

They had fled their homes in Hammerfest ahead of retreating German troops who were being pursued by advancing Russian forces. After surviving in remote caves, the refugees were rescued by Royal Naval destroyers Zest, Zealous and Zambezi accompanied by Canadian destroyer RCN Sioux. They were taken to Murmansk where they were distributed amongst vessels of several nations for transportation to the UK.

Nineteen of the Norwegians, comprising eleven adults and eight children were put aboard Liberty ship USS Henry Bacon. Unfortunately, she developed rudder problems after setting out and fell behind the convoy. The ship was then attacked and badly damaged by German bombers. Radio messages were transmitted and the captain’s order was given to abandon ship, but only two of the four lifeboats were intact.

The nineteen Norwegians, with six young crew members to man the oars and radio operator Spud Campbell were placed in one lifeboat. The other serviceable lifeboat was packed with crew members, but could not carry them all. Thirty-eight members of the crew stayed behind and perished when the ship went down in the freezing sea. After the two lifeboats had been adrift for three hours, the aptly named British destroyer HMS Opportune appeared, responding to the radio distress signals. The occupants of both lifeboats were successfully transferred aboard and taken to safety in the UK.

Captain Neil Hulse MBE (Merchant Navy) was chairman of the North Russian Club until its disbandment. He presented Jack with the ship’s bell on the condition that he would seek a maritime location for it. Additional engraving was added to the bell in memory of USS Henry Bacon and, with convoy related documents, it was donated to Pool House, Loch Ewe for permanent display. The bell commemorates not only the Russian convoys that operated from this location, but the aerial protection provided by the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. It is a permanent reminder of the courage, endurance and sacrifice of those who served in demanding and dangerous conditions.

Photo – Ship’s bell off the SS Henry Bacon, on display now at Pool House, Poolewe.

An Arctic Convoy seen from HMS Fencer - History

Leading Seaman Charlie Erswell saw much more than his fair share of action during the Second World War. He was present at the 1942 landing in North Africa (Operation TORCH), D-Day and the liberation of Norway. But his main area of operations was that of the Arctic Convoys, escorting merchant ships taking essential war supplies to the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel.

In addition to contending with relentless U-boat and Luftwaffe attacks, crews endured the extreme sea conditions and appalling weather. This involved clearing ice and snow in temperatures as low as minus thirty degrees Celsius. No wonder Winston Churchill described it as &lsquothe worst journey in the world&rsquo.

Fortunately, Charlie, who served on two destroyers, HMS Milne and Savage, kept a record of his experiences and is alive today to describe them. His story, published to coincide with the 80th Anniversary of the first convoy, is more than one man&rsquos account. It is an inspiring tribute to his colleagues, many of whom were killed in action. No-one reading Surviving The Arctic Convoys could fail to be moved by the bravery and endurance of these outstanding men.

About The Author

John R McKay served in the RAF before pursuing a career with the Fire and Rescue Service.

He is the author of seven published novels including “The Worst Journey In The World”, based on the Arctic Convoys. Inspired by Charlie’s war service, he feels very privileged to have helped Charlie record his story.

A keen football fan, John lives in Wigan with his wife Dawn. He has two daughters and one grand-daughter.

Born in 1923, Charlie Erswell spent his childhood at Berwick-upon-Tweed. He joined the Royal Navy in December 1941 and for the next five years was in the thick of the action, as described in this book.

After demobilization in 1949, he pursued a varied engineering career. For 12 years before retirement at 65 he manufactured artificial limbs in Leeds for Roehampton Hospital, London.

He lives with his second wife, Betty in Yorkshire. Between them, they have numerous children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Design and description

There were eight Attacker class escort carriers in service with the Royal Navy during the Second World War. They were built between 1941 and 1942 by Ingalls Shipbuilding and Western Pipe & Steel shipyards in the United States, both building four ships each. [1]

The ships had a complement of 646 men and crew accommodation was different from the normal Royal Navy's arrangements. The separate messes no longer had to prepare their own food, as everything was cooked in the galley and served cafeteria style in a central dining area. They were also equipped with a modern laundry and a barber shop. The traditional hammocks were replaced by three tier bunk beds, eighteen to a cabin which were hinged and could be tied up to provide extra space when not in use. [2]

The ships dimensions were an overall length of 492.25 feet (150.04 m), a beam of 69.5 feet (21.2 m) and a height of 23.25 ft (7.09 m). They had a displacement of 11,420 long tons (11,600 t) at deep load. [3] Propulsion was provided by four diesel engines connected to one shaft giving 8,500 brake horsepower (BHP), which could propel the ship at 17 knots (31 km/h 20 mph). [4]

Aircraft facilities were a small combined bridge–flight control on the starboard side and above the 450 feet (140 m) x 120 feet (37 m) flight deck, [5] two aircraft lifts 42 feet (13 m) by 34 feet (10 m), and nine arrestor wires. Aircraft could be housed in the 260 feet (79 m) by 62 feet (19 m) hangar below the flight deck. [3] Armament comprised two 4 inch DP,AA guns in single mounts, eight 40 mm anti-aircraft gun in twin mounts and twenty-one 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons in single or twin mounts. [3] They had the capacity for up to eighteen aircraft which could be a mixture of Grumman Martlet, Hawker Sea Hurricane, Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft and Fairey Swordfish or Grumman Avenger anti-submarine aircraft. [3]

Weapons and Warfare

Despite howls of Soviet protest, British strength was required elsewhere for Operation Pedestal within the Mediterranean. Following the catastrophe of PQ17, the Royal Navy was determined that PQ18 would not sail until much greater escort strength could be provided. It would be September before the convoy finally departed for Russia.

On 2 September PQ18 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland. Comprised of forty merchant ships (twenty American, eleven British, six Soviet and three Panamanian) a heavy escort was laid on which included an aircraft carrier for the first time: HMS Avenger carrying ten Hurricane fighters and three Swordfish torpedo bombers. A combined Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force task force of Hampden torpedo bombers, Catalina and Spitfire reconnaissance aircraft had also transferred to Vaenga airbase near Murmansk for potential operations against Tirpitz should she put to sea.

U-boat missions against PQ18 were planned, code-named Operation Eispalast. The outgoing QP14 was included, but deemed of secondary importance. Once again, large surface ships were readied for potential use against the convoy, although, as always, Hitler’s strict criteria would be used to determine their activation. They moved north to Altafjord on 10 September – Admiral Scheer narrowly missed by four torpedoes from HMS Tigris while in transit – and remained ready for sailing orders that never came. Hitler’s paranoia of losing his large ships rendered them once again useless.

Meanwhile PQ18 was detected briefly by Luftwaffe reconnaissance on 8 September. Oesten brought together a new U-boat group: Trägertod (Carrier killer). By 10 September U88, U403 and U405 were en route from the Spitsbergen and Bear Island area to a patrol line further west U589, U377, U408 and U592 raced to join them. Additionally, U435 and U457 were scheduled operational by 12 September at Narvik, and U378 at Trondheim: and all would sail. U703 was refuelling at Harstadt, bringing the group number to eleven. Four others were earmarked for operations against QP14 following refuelling at Kirkenes: U255, U601, U456 and U251. At 1.20 p.m. on 12 September, Luftwaffe aircraft sighted PQ18 again, U405 making contact soon after and staying on station as beacon boat. The U-boats gathered, one of the next boats to begin shadowing was Kaptlt Bohmann’s U88 Bohmann was himself detected ahead of the convoy by HMS Faulknor of the ‘fighting escort’ – U88 accurately depth charged and sunk with all forty-six crewmen aboard.

The escorts and Avenger’s aircraft were kept busy attempting to force shadowing boats away from PQ18. However, at 9.52 a.m. on 13 September, Kaptlt Reinhard von Hymmen made the first torpedo hit on PQ18 when 3,559-ton Soviet steamer Stalingrad was sunk with one of three torpedoes, the ship going under in less than four minutes laden with ammunition, aircraft and tanks. Twenty-one of the eighty-seven crew were killed and the master, A. Sakharov, was last to leave the sinking ship, spending forty minutes in the water before being rescued and going on to act as pilot for the convoy. Von Hymmen had missed Stalingrad with two of his three torpedoes, but one had passed by the Soviet ship and hit 7,191-ton American Liberty Ship Oliver Ellsworth, the steamer executing a hard left turn to avoid the crippled Russian. The American ship was abandoned even before it had ceased moving, three of four lifeboats swamping and throwing their occupants into the water, though all except one US Navy armed guard were rescued. The wreck was finally sunk by shells from escorting ASW trawler HMT St Kenan.

At almost the same time as Von Hymmen, Kaptlt Hans-Joachim Horrer fired two torpedoes toward HMS Avenger from U589 claiming to have scored at least one hit, although his shots missed. It may have been the detonations from U408’s attack that were heard through the freezing water aboard the submerged boat. That same day Horrer pulled four Luftwaffe airmen from their escape dinghy after their aircraft had been shot down during He111 torpedo bomber attacks that destroyed eight ships for the loss of the same number of aircraft. The airmen did not have long to enjoy their good fortune as the following day U589 was sighted by one of Avenger’s Swordfish. Though the biplane was chased away by a Luftwaffe Bv138 flying boat, the sighting brought destroyer HMS Onslow to the scene, catching U589 on the surface. Crash-diving, U589 was depth charged relentlessly by the destroyer until fuel oil, green vegetables and pieces of U-boat casing floated to the surface marking the grave of all forty-four crew and their four Luftwaffe passengers.

That same day there remained only one other confirmed sinking from PQ18. At 4 a.m., Brandenburg’s U457 hit 8,939-ton motor tanker Atheltemplar whose cargo of 9,400 tons of Admiralty fuel oil immediately began to burn. The crew abandoned ship south-west of Bear Island while minesweeper HMS Harrier attempted to scuttle the burning ship with gunfire, the attempt failing and the ship was left burning fiercely, later found by U408 after she had capsized – the hulk sent to the bottom with gunfire. Brandenburg claimed another 4,000-ton steamer sunk and two hits on a Javelin-class destroyer, but in this he was mistaken. Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopman later claimed another destroyer hit on 16 September after a torpedo from U405 was heard to detonate after a run of over seven minutes. This too remains unsubstantiated, although the Allies definitely found Brandenburg’s U457 at 3 a.m. on that day. The U-boat was diving through the port bow escort screen when spotted: depth charges from HMS Impulsive destroying the boat along with all forty-five hands as oil, wreckage, paper and a black leather glove floated to the surface to mark the spot. The British illuminated the scene with a calcium flare before one further depth charge set to explode at 500ft was dropped to ensure the boat was sunk.

Elsewhere QP14 came under successful U-boat attack. Seventeen merchant ships, under heavy escort, were attacked by a total of seven U-boats that sank six ships. Strelow’s U435 sank minesweeper HMS Leda and three merchant ships: 5,345-ton American freighter Bellingham 7,174-ton British steamer Ocean Voice and 3,313-ton British freighter Grey Ranger during a single devastating assault on 22 September. Reche’s U255 sank 4,937-ton American PQ17 survivor Silver Sword while the destroyer HMS Somali was badly damaged by Kaptlt Bielfeld’s U703 and later sank in gale force winds while under tow.

PQ18 was judged a relative success by the Allies. Although thirteen ships in total had been lost, twenty-eight had arrived safely in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, three U-boats and forty Luftwaffe aircraft – including many skilled veterans of maritime operations – had been destroyed the Luftwaffe were never again able to mount such strong attacks on the Russian convoys, as aircraft were gradually transferred south to the Mediterranean. The severe losses accrued by both PQ17 and PQ18 combined, coupled with demands elsewhere for Allied naval craft such as supporting Operation Torch, led to the suspension of the Arctic convoys until December 1942. Instead, independently sailing merchantmen would be despatched in what was known as Operation FB.

Between 29 October and 2 November, thirteen ships sailed at approximately twelve-hour intervals from Scotland to Murmansk. Although unescorted, there were ASW trawlers stationed at intervals along the route and local escorts available from Murmansk. From the ships that sailed, three were forced to abort their voyages and five were sunk, the remaining five reaching the Soviet Union. On 2 November ObltzS Dietrich von der Esch in U586 had already been at sea for three weeks, sailing in bad weather and suffering mechanical problems with the boat’s exhaust valves. An initial order to reconnoitre Jan Mayen was carried out before the U-boat sighted Operation FB ship Empire Gilbert and began a two-hour chase. The 6,640-ton steamer was missed by an initial double torpedo shot but hit on the port side by a second pair of torpedoes at 1.18 a.m.. The ship sank rapidly and when U586 reached the scene she was gone. The Germans pulled deck boy Ralph Urwin and gunner Arthur Hopkins aboard U586 from a floating beam, the pair barely able to move after submersion in the freezing water, and next attempted to question six survivors found aboard a raft but received no answer. Taking one more man, gunner Douglas Meadows, prisoner aboard the U-boat, U586 left the scene and later landed the three survivors at Skjomenfjord. The other sixty-four men were never seen again.

Two days later unescorted Liberty Ship William Clark was hit by a torpedo in the engine room from Kaptlt Karl-Heinz Herbschleb’s U354. A coup-de-grâce torpedo broke the ship in two and sent her to the bottom, 31 of the 71 crew either killed in the sinking or lost at sea as their lifeboats drifted away.

The final ‘FB’ ships sunk by U-boat were both destroyed by ObltzS Hans Benker’s U625 engaged upon its maiden war patrol. The 5,445-ton British steamer Chulmleigh had been bombed by Ju88 aircraft and beached on Spitsbergen’s South Cape when Benker torpedoed the stranded wreck and finished it off with gunfire on 6 November. That night he sighted 7,455-ton British Empire Sky and hit her with two torpedoes. As the steamer settled into the water a coup de grâce ignited its ammunition cargo and she exploded, flinging debris over a wide area, one piece weighing a kilogram clattering down the conning tower hatch into the U-boat’s control room. All sixty men aboard the shattered freighter were lost.

PQ18 – The First Air Support for the Convoys

PQ17’s fate could not be ignored. It was necessary to maintain the link between the Western Allies and the beleaguered Soviet Union. Four British destroyers were despatched to Archangel loaded with ammunition and replacement anti-aircraft gun barrels, as well as interpreters in an attempt to improve liaison with the Russians. The ships arrived on 24 July 1942. On 13 August the American cruiser USS Tuscaloosa sailed for Russia, escorted by a British destroyer and two American destroyers, carrying RAF ground crew and equipment as well as aircraft spares for two squadrons of Handley Page Hampden bombers destined to be based in northern Russia, as would be photo-reconnaissance Supermarine Spitfires and a squadron of RAF Coastal Command Consolidated Catalina flying boats. Also included in the cargo carried by these warships was a demountable medical centre with medical supplies, but while the Soviets took the medical supplies, they rejected the hospital that would have done so much to improve the lot of Allied seamen in need of medical attention on reaching a Russian port.

Survivors from PQ17 were brought home to the UK aboard the three American ships plus three British destroyers. Ultra intelligence led the three British destroyers to Bear Island where they discovered the German minelayer Ulm, and while two of the destroyers shelled the ship, the third, Onslaught, fired three torpedoes with the third penetrating the magazine, which exploded. Despite the massive explosion, the commanding officer and fifty-nine of the ship’s company survived to be taken prisoner.

Less successful were the Hampden bombers. Already obsolescent, several were shot down on their way to Russia by the Germans and, perhaps due to mistaken identity, by the Russians, who may have confused the aircraft with the Dornier Do 17. Unfortunately, one of those shot down by the Germans crashed in Norway and contained details of the defence of the next pair of convoys, PQ18 and the returning QP14. QP14 was to be the target for the Admiral Scheer, together with the cruisers Admiral Hipper and Köln and a supporting screen of destroyers. This surface force moved to the Altenfjord on 1 September.

PQ18 was the first Arctic convoy to have an escort carrier, the American-built Avenger. The ship had three radar-equipped Swordfish from No. 825 NAS for anti-submarine duties, as well as six Hawker Sea Hurricanes, with another six dismantled and stowed beneath the hangar deck in a hold, for fighter defence. These aircraft were drawn from 802 and 883 Squadrons. Another Sea Hurricane was aboard the CAM ship Empire Morn. Other ships in the convoy escort included the cruiser Scylla, 2 destroyers, 2 anti-aircraft ships converted from merchant vessels, 4 corvettes, 4 anti-submarine trawlers, 3 minesweepers and 2 submarines. There was a rescue ship so that the warships did not have to risk stopping to pick up survivors, and three minesweepers being delivered to the Soviet Union also took on this role.

The convoy had gained an escort carrier but the Home Fleet, which usually provided the distant escort – a much heavier force than that providing the close escort – had lost its fast armoured fleet carrier, Victorious , damaged while escorting the convoy Operation PEDESTAL to Malta and being refitted as a result. Also missing were the American ships, transferred to the Pacific. The C-in-C, Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Tovey, also made other changes. This time he would remain aboard his flagship, the battleship King George V , at Scapa Flow where he would have constant telephone communication with the Admiralty, while his deputy, Vice Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, went to sea in the battleship Anson . Both PQ18 and QP14 had a strong destroyer escort with the freedom of action to leave the close escort to the corvettes, armed trawlers, AA ships and minesweepers if the situation warranted it. To save fuel, the officer in command of the destroyers, Rear Admiral Robert Burnett aboard the light cruiser Scylla, ordered that no U-boat hunt was to exceed ninety minutes.

In addition, the convoy would have the support of Force Q and Force P, both comprising two fleet oilers, or tankers, and escorting destroyers, which were deployed ahead of the convoy to Spitzbergen, Norwegian territory not taken by the Germans but that had Russians ashore working on a mining concession dating from Tsarist times. A re-supply operation for the garrison in Spitzbergen was linked with Force P and Force Q.

Iceland was the main rendezvous, but getting there was difficult despite it being summer. Seas were so rough that a Sea Hurricane was swept off Avenger ’s deck, and the steel ropes securing aircraft in the hangars failed to stop them breaking loose and crashing into one another or the sides of the hangar. Fused 500lb bombs stored in the hangar lift-well broke loose and had to be captured by laying down duffel coats with rope ties, which were secured as soon as a bomb rolled onto one of the coats. Fuel contamination with sea water meant that the carrier suffered engine problems. It also seems that remote Iceland was not remote enough, or safe enough, for the carrier was discovered and bombed by a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor long-range maritime-reconnaissance aircraft that dropped a stick of bombs close to Avenger but without causing any damage.

The engine problems meant that the convoy, already spotted by a U-boat while en passage to Iceland from Scotland, had to sail without the carrier and, on 8 September, the convoy was discovered by another Condor. Low cloud then protected the convoy from German aircraft until 12 September when a Blohm und Voss BV 138 flying boat dropped through the clouds. By this time, Avenger had caught up with the convoy and was able to launch a flight of four Sea Hurricanes, but not in time to catch the German aircraft before it disappeared.

Swordfish were extremely vulnerable on the Arctic convoys which, unlike those across the Atlantic, also had to face German fighters. As a result, the fighters from Avenger not only had to protect the ships in the convoy from aerial attack, they had to protect the Swordfish as well. At 0400 on 9 September, the Sea Hurricanes were scrambled after Swordfish on anti-submarine patrols were discovered by a BV 138 flying boat and a Junkers Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft, but both disappeared into the clouds before the Hurricanes could catch them. Another Swordfish patrol discovered that the BV 138s were laying mines ahead of the convoy.

PQ18 was repeatedly attacked from the air, which meant that the ships had to make mass turns and put up heavy anti-aircraft fire, all of which made life for the returning Swordfish crews very interesting as aircraft recognition was not as good as it could be and the single-engined biplane Swordfish were often mistaken for twin-engined monoplane Ju 88s. Ditching in the sea was never something to be considered lightly but in Arctic waters, even in summer, survival time could be very short indeed.

The Sea Hurricanes attempted to keep a constant air patrol over the convoy with each aircraft spending twenty-five minutes in the air before landing to refuel, but with just six operational aircraft, keeping a constant watch over the Swordfish as well as the convoy was impossible.

On 14 September, the first Swordfish of the day found U-589 on the surface, but she dived leaving the Swordfish to mark the spot with a smoke flare. Once the aircraft had gone, the submarine surfaced and continued charging her batteries, but alerted by the Swordfish the destroyer Onslow raced to the scene. Once again U-589 dived, but the destroyer attacked with depth-charges and destroyed her. As a result the Germans, so far not accustomed to a convoy having its own air cover and aerial reconnaissance, were forced to change their tactics. Reconnaissance BV 138s and Ju 88s were sent to intimidate the Swordfish, forcing them back over the convoy until the Germans were so close to the ships that they were driven off by AA fire. The Swordfish would then venture out, only to be driven back again.

Later that day, another attack by Ju 88s was detected by the duty Swordfish. This time, Avenger herself was the target. Her maximum speed was just 17 knots, much slower than an ordinary aircraft carrier, but fortunately the Sea Hurricanes broke up the attack and no ships from the convoy were lost, while most of the eleven Ju 88s shot down had succumbed to anti-aircraft fire. Further attacks followed that day, again without any losses to the convoy, although another German aircraft was shot down. In a final attack, three of the four patrolling Hurricanes were shot down by friendly fire from the convoy’s ships but all three pilots were saved. In this last attack of the day, Avenger ’s commanding officer Commander Colthurst successfully combed torpedoes dropped by the Germans. A bomb dropped by a Ju 88 pilot, who flew exceptionally low to make sure he did not miss the target, hit the ammunition ship Mary Luckenbach, which blew up, taking her attacker with her. The sole survivor from the ship was a steward who had been taking the master a cup of coffee, was blown off the upper deck by the explosion and found himself in the sea half a mile down the convoy.

Not all rescues were left to the rescue ships. At the height of the battle for PQ18, the destroyer Offa saw a cargo ship, the Macbeth, hit by two torpedoes and beginning to sink with her cargo of tanks and other war matériel. Offa ’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Alastair Ewing, took his ship alongside Macbeth and, at the cost of some guard rails and stanchions, took off all her ship’s company before she sank. One Sea Hurricane pilot had been very lucky to be snatched out of the sea within minutes of baling out by the destroyer Wheatland which was acting as close escort for Avenger , her role also being what became known as a ‘plane guard’, fishing unfortunate naval aviators out of the sea.

The next day, the remaining Sea Hurricanes and the Swordfish were again in the air, with the former breaking up further attacks. It was not until 16 September that the Swordfish were relieved of their patrolling by shore-based RAF Consolidated Catalina flying boats of No. 210 Squadron operating from Russia. However, the break was short-lived. Later that day the convoy passed the homeward convoy QP14 with the survivors of the ill-fated PQ17 and Avenger, with her aircraft and some of the other escorts transferred to this convoy. The interval had been used by the ship’s air engineering team to assemble five Sea Hurricanes, more than replacing the four lost on the outward voyage. In all, the Sea Hurricanes had accounted for a total of 5 enemy aircraft and damaged 17 others out of a total of 44 shot down. It was fortunate that the three Fairey Swordfish remained serviceable as no replacement aircraft were carried.

During the convoy, Avenger ’s commanding officer had changed the operational pattern for the Sea Hurricanes in order to get the maximum benefit from his small force, having a single aircraft in the air most of the time rather than having all of his aircraft, or none of them, airborne at once.

Once the Sea Hurricane flight had been so depleted, it fell to the CAM ship Empire Morn to launch her Hurricane, flown by Flying Officer Burr of the RAF. The launch was accompanied by friendly fire from other ships in the convoy until he was finally out of range. Despite problems with the barrage balloons flown by some of the merchantmen, he managed to break up a German attack, setting one aircraft on fire. Once out of ammunition, he saved his precious aircraft by flying it to Keg Ostrov airfield near Archangel. As previously mentioned, this ‘one-off’ use of aircraft from the CAM ships was a major drawback as convoy commanders were reluctant to use them in case a more desperate situation emerged later in the convoy’s passage. Cases of CAM ship fighters being saved were very rare.

Clearly, even an escort carrier with a mix of fighters and anti-submarine aircraft was hard-pressed to provide adequate air cover. It is hard to escape the conclusion that two escort carriers would have been needed, or a larger ship such as Nairana or Vindex with up to fourteen Swordfish and six Wildcat fighters, a much better aircraft than the Sea Hurricane. Again, even with these two ships one might suggest that the balance between fighters and anti-submarine aircraft was wrong for an Arctic convoy.

Inevitably, as the convoy approached its destination there was no sign of the promised Red Air Force air cover. This was typical of the experiences of those on the convoys to Russia, with neither Russia’s air forces nor her navy providing any support. Indeed, apart from some coastal bombardment as the Red armies swept westwards, the main achievement of the Russian navy was for its submarines to sink the merchantmen carrying German refugees away from the Russians and one of these attacks resulted in the greatest recorded loss of life at sea as the Germans struggled to evacuate more than 1.5 million civilians.

There were many more convoys to Russia still to come at this stage, but PQ17 and PQ18 were two of the most famous. The convoys were a demanding operation for both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, one that Stalin never recognized and there was no Soviet contribution to the escorts. The convoys continued, despite German attacks and the weather, until the war’s end, with the exception of the period immediately before, during and after the Normandy landings when a massive effort was required that demanded the escorts and especially the larger ships. That finally gave Stalin the only battlefront that he would recognize as being a ‘second front’.

World War II Database

ww2dbase To better maintain a pressure on the eastern border of Germany, the Soviet Union demanded a great amount of war supplies from the Anglo-Americans, which were readily supplies. While some goods were delivered via eastern Russia and through Persia, the most efficient route was by sea to the two far northern Russian ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. The first Anglo-Soviet link-up of naval forces took place on 31 Jul 1941 when Soviet destroyer Sokrushitelny made rendezvous with British minelayer HMS Adventure near the Gorodetski lighthouse at the entrance to the White Sea in northern Russia. Before a month's time, Soviet destroyers were escorting in the first supply convoy, uniquely codenamed Dervish, into the Dvina River, which led to Arkhangelsk. Starting in Sep 1941, the convoys were codenamed in numerical sequence, with the prefix "PQ" denoting supply-laden convoys sailing from Iceland (with a few from Scotland, United Kingdom), and "QP" denoting returning convoys, either sailing in ballast or with passengers (generally survivors of sunken merchant ships, British servicemen, and Soviet diplomats). Sailing through the northern waters was not an easy task, as the waters of the Barents Sea as well as the neighboring Norwegian Sea and Kara Sea were known for unpredictable storms. The cold temperature in the arctic region also posed a risk in that sea splashes slowly formed a layer of ice on the decks of ships, which over time, if not tended to, could weigh so much that ships would become top-heavy and capsize. Of course, given the state of war, the German military also posed a great danger by means of surface warships, submarines, and aircraft. The threats, natural or otherwise, endangered the merchant ships throughout the entire length of the supply route. British destroyer HMS Matabele and Soviet trawler RT-68 Enisej of convoy PQ-8 were sunk by German submarine U-454 at the mouth of the Kola Inlet near the very end of their trip, British whaler HMS Sulla of PQ-9 capsized from ice build-up three days into her journey in the Norwegian Sea, while PQ-15 suffered the loss of three merchant ships on 2 May 1942 to German torpedo bomber attacks north of Norway.

ww2dbase Of the PQ and QP series of convoys, PQ-17 suffered particularly heavy losses. It had an inauspicious start when a ship became grounded upon leaving Hvalfjörður north of Reykjavik, Iceland while another became damaged by floating ice in the Denmark Strait. The remaining 33 merchant ships, supported by a tanker and escorted by the usual array of destroyers, anti-aircraft vessels, corvettes, minesweepers, and trawlers were attacked by large formations of German torpedo bombers while two heavy cruisers, Lützow and Admiral Scheer, with supporting destroyers set sail to intercept. To deal with the surface threat, PQ-17 was ordered to scatter and the escorts ordered to return to Iceland, and the resulting small groups of merchant ships were picked off along the way for the next week. By the time the first of the PQ-17 merchant ships began to arrive at Arkhangelsk, 24 of them, about 60% of the convoy, were lost. 64,000 metrics tons of war goods went to the bottom of the sea with them. The heavy losses of PQ-17 were criticized, but convoying through this northern route would continue, albeit paused for the remainder of the summer of 1942, waiting for daylight hours to shorten. When the Soviets complained of this pause, a special convoy of US and UK warships were dispatched to deliver some goods in Jul and Aug.

ww2dbase While PQ-17 stood out as one of the more disastrous missions, many of the other 77 arctic convoy missions suffered losses as well, including the later JW and RA series of convoys that ran between Dec 1942 and the end of the European War in May 1945. In total, 104 Allied merchant ships were sunk with the arctic convoys, along with 18 warships 829 merchant mariners and 1,944 navy personnel were killed aboard them. The Soviet Union lost 30 merchant ships and an unknown number of personnel. In the attempt to disrupt the convoys, the Germans lost 5 surface warships, 31 submarines, and many aircraft.

ww2dbase The direct impact of these convoys was in the realm of supply and logistics, but they played a role in shaping the military strategy of the Battle of the Atlantic as well. Realizing the need to eliminate this source of supply of tanks, aircraft, ammunition, and other weapons and equipment for the Soviet forces, German Navy (Kriegsmarine) and German Air Force (Luftwaffe) had to deploy significant portions of their strengths in Norway to intercept these convoys, including major surface warships such as, but not limited to, Tirpitz, Lützow, and Admiral Scheer (and thus an array of escorting destroyers and supply ships) and aircraft, all of which could otherwise be used in battles raging on elsewhere in Europe. British and American navies had to make similar military commitments as well, at a time when trans-Atlantic convoys, the Pacific War, and the invasion of North Africa all competed for air and naval resources.

ww2dbase Sources:
Michael Walling, Forgotten Sacrifice

Last Major Update: Nov 2012

Arctic Convoys Interactive Map

Arctic Convoys Timeline

31 Jul 1941 Soviet destroyer Sokrushitelny made rendezvous with British minelayer HMS Adventure near the Gorodetski lighthouse at the entrance to the White Sea in northern Russia.
1 Aug 1941 British minelayer HMS Adventure arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia and delivered a supply of naval mines.
8 Aug 1941 Soviet destroyer Valerian Kuibyshev made rendezvous with British submarine HMS Tigris off northern Russia.
21 Aug 1941 The first Allied Arictic convoy, codenamed Dervish, set sail from Hvalfjörður, Iceland for Arhangelsk, Russia.
22 Aug 1941 Soviet passenger ship Pomorie hit a mine and sank in the White Sea in northern Russia 60 were killed, 20 survived.
30 Aug 1941 Soviet destroyers Grozny, Oritsky, and Kuibyshev escorted the Allied convoy Dervish into the Dvina River and on to Arkhangelsk, Russia. Crewmen of the merchant ships of this first Allied convoy to arrive in Arkhangelsk reported poor cooperation from the Soviets. No stevedores were found so the crewmen attempted to unload the cargo themselves, only to be stopped by Soviet armed guards because they did not have the proper passes to step onto the shore the situation was only improved after the arrival of higher ranking Soviet officers later in the day.
28 Sep 1941 Allied convoy QP-1, which was consisted of 14 British and Soviet merchant ships escorted by British cruiser HMS London and four minesweepers, departed Arkhangelsk, Russia at about 1200 hours for Britain.
29 Sep 1941 Allied convoy PQ-1 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.
9 Oct 1941 Allied convoy QP-1 arrived at Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom.
10 Oct 1941 Allied convoy QP-1, which was consisted of 14 British and Soviet merchant ships escorted by British cruiser HMS London and four minesweepers, from Arkhangelsk, Russia arrived at Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom.
11 Oct 1941 Allied convoy PQ-1, consisted of 11 merchant ships escorted by 7 British warships, arrived in Arkhangelsk, Russia.
13 Oct 1941 Allied convoy PQ-2 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
30 Oct 1941 Allied convoy PQ-2 arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
3 Nov 1941 Allied convoy QP-2 departed Arkhangelsk, Russia.
16 Nov 1941 Allied convoy PQ-3 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland in stormy weather.
17 Nov 1941 Allied convoy QP-2 arrived at Kirkwall, Scotland, United Kingdom and convoy PQ-4 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.
20 Nov 1941 One of the ships of Allied convoy PQ-3 struck an iceberg and another developed mechanical problems both were turned back toward Iceland.
22 Nov 1941 Allied convoy PQ-3 crossed the Arctic Circle west of Norway. Later in the same day, German Stuka dive bombers attacked the convoy without success two dive bombers were lost during the mission.
27 Nov 1941 Allied convoy QP-3 departed Arkhangelsk, Russia and convoy PQ-5 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.
28 Nov 1941 Allied convoy PQ-4 arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
3 Dec 1941 Dispersed ships of Allied convoy QP-3 began to arrive in Allied waters.
8 Dec 1941 Allied convoy PQ-6 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.
10 Dec 1941 Russian ship Kuzbass and tug Arcos, Stragglers of Allied convoy QP-3, were found by Soviet ice breaker Fyodor Litke, rescue ship Squall, and Soviet patrol ship SKR-19 at 0900 hours.
13 Dec 1941 Allied convoy PQ-5 arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
17 Dec 1941 British minesweepers HMS Hazard and HMS Speedy, in escort of Allied convoy PQ-6 30 miles north of Cape Gorodetski in northern Russia, were attacked by German destroyers Z23, Z24, Z25, and Z27 Speedy was hit 4 times (2 were killed) and was forced to turn back.
20 Dec 1941 Allied convoy PQ-6 arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
26 Dec 1941 Allied convoy PQ-7a departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland. Russian ship Kuzbass, straggler of Allied convoy QP-3, arrived at Iokanka, Russia under tow by Soviet icebreaker Fyodor Litke.
29 Dec 1941 Allied convoy QP-4 departed Arkhangelsk, Russia.
31 Dec 1941 Allied convoy PQ-7b departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.
2 Jan 1942 German submarine U-134 sank British freighter Waziristan of Allied convoy PQ-7A Waziristan was already damaged by German aircraft at the time of this attack all 47 aboard were killed.
8 Jan 1942 Allied convoy PQ-8 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.
9 Jan 1942 Dispersed ships of ALlied convoy QP-4 began to arrive in Allied waters.
11 Jan 1942 Allied convoy PQ-7b arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
12 Jan 1942 Allied convoy PQ-7a arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
13 Jan 1942 Allied convoy QP-5 departed Murmansk, Russia.
15 Jan 1942 USS Wichita collided with US freighter West Nohno and British trawler HMS Ebor Wyke and was grounded near Hrafneyri Lighthouse in poor weather in northern Russia.
16 Jan 1942 At Murmansk, HMS CUMBERLAND, Embarked Foreign Secretary, Sir Stafford Cripps, for return passage to UK and escorted return Convoy QP5 from Murmansk, Russia with HM Destroyers ICARUS and TARTAR.
17 Jan 1942 German submarine U-454 attacked Allied convoy PQ-8 20 miles off the Kola Inlet in northern Russia at 2221 hours, sinking British Tribal-class destroyer HMS Matabele (under Commander A. C. Stafford 236 were killed, 2 survived), sinking Soviet trawler RT-68 Enisej, and damaging British merchant ship Harmatris (civilian convoy commodore's flagship). Later in the day, surviving ships of PQ-8 arrived in Murmansk, Russia.
19 Jan 1942 Dispersed ships of Allied convoy QP-5 began to arrive in Allied waters.
19 Jan 1942 HMS Cumberland resumed Home Fleet duties after arrival from Murmansk, Russia.
24 Jan 1942 Allied convoy QP-6 departed Murmansk, Russia.
25 Jan 1942 British merchant ship Harmatris, the civilian convoy commodore's flagship of Allied convoy PQ-8, damaged by German submarine U-454 on 17 Jan 1942, arrived at Kola in northern Russia in tow by two tugs.
28 Jan 1942 Dispersed ships of Allied convoy QP-6 began to arrive in Allied waters.
1 Feb 1942 Allied convoys PQ-9 and PQ-10 departed Reykjavík, Iceland together.
7 Feb 1942 Allied convoy PQ-11 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
10 Feb 1942 Allied convoys PQ-9 and PQ-10 arrived at Murmansk, Russia together.
12 Feb 1942 Allied convoy QP-7 departed Murmansk, Russia.
14 Feb 1942 Allied convoy PQ-11 departed Kirkwall, Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 Feb 1942 Dispersed ships of Allied convoy QP-7 began to arrive in Allied waters.
22 Feb 1942 Allied convoy PQ-11 arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
1 Mar 1942 Allied convoy PQ-12 departed Reykjavík, Iceland and convoy QP-8 departed Murmansk, Russia.
3 Mar 1942 Soviet transport Kiev fell out of Allied convoy PQ-12 in poor weather.
4 Mar 1942 Light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Captain A. W. Clarke, RN) was mined off Iceland. She was under repair until Jul 1942.
6 Mar 1942 Merchant ship El Occidente and Soviet anti-submarine whaler Stefa fell out of Allied convoy PQ-12 in poor weather.
7 Mar 1942 The 2,815-ton Russian passenger-cargo vessel Ijora went missing near the Kola Inlet. It was reported to have been sunk by the German destroyer Friedrich Ihn during operations against Convoy QP-8.
8 Mar 1942 German battleship Tirpitz and escorting destroyers got as close as 60 miles from Allied convoy PQ-12 but poor weather prevented the Germans from realizing this fact. German destroyer Friedrich Ihn, however, did catch sight of old Russian coal-burning merchant ship Izhora (commanded by Vasily Belov), a straggler of the convoy, and promptly sank her at 1715 hours only 1 person survived this sinking. In the evening, Admiral Otto Ciliax turned his fleet back toward its home port.
9 Mar 1942 British anti-submarine whaler HMS Shera, escorting Allied convoy PQ-12, capsized possibly due to being top-heavy from heavy ice build-up and having low levels of fuel, although the weather was not particularly bad on this date only 3 of those aboard survived the sinking.
10 Mar 1942 Soviet transport Kiev and merchant ship El Occidente, both of which fell out of Allied convoy PQ-12 several days prior, arrived at Iokanka, Russia.
11 Mar 1942 Merchant ship Sevaples fell out of Allied convoy PQ-12 in poor weather. Allied convoy QP-8 arrived at Reykjavík, Iceland.
12 Mar 1942 Allied convoy PQ-12 arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
13 Mar 1942 Merchant ship Sevaples and Soviet anti-submarine whaler Stefa, both of which fell out of Allied convoy PQ-12 several days prior, found each other while at sea as Sevaples was being attacked by a German aircraft Stefa shot down the German attacker.
14 Mar 1942 Adolf Hitler ordered the German naval and air forces to focus on hitting the Allied Arctic convoys.
21 Mar 1942 Allied convoy PQ-13, consisted of 19 merchant ships, set sail from Reykjavík, Iceland, with 1 destroyer and 5 trawlers in escort.
22 Mar 1942 Allied convoy QP-9, consisted of 19 merchant ships, departed Murmansk, Russia with cruiser HMS Nigeria, destroyer HMS Offa, and 2 minesweepers in close escort.
24 Mar 1942 Minesweeper HMS Sharpshooter, escorting Allied convoy QP-9, spotted German submarine U-655 in a distance she forced the submarine to surface by depth charges, rammed, and sank her all 47 aboard U-655 were killed.
25 Mar 1942 Allied convoy PQ-9 ran into a storm west of Norway ice accumulated on British whaler/minesweeper HMS Sulla (FY1874), causing her to gain too much top weight, eventually capsizing her all 21 aboard were killed.
26 Mar 1942 Allied convoy PQ-14 departed Oban, Scotland, United Kingdom.
28 Mar 1942 In the morning, German submarine U-209 attacked Polish ship Tobruk of Allied convoy PQ-13 with all torpedoes missing the target the convoy escorts counterattacked with depth charges with similar dismal results. Later in the day, German aircraft attacked the same convoy and sank British ship Empire Ranger and damaged Panamanian merchant ship Raceland (which would eventually sink at 2230 hours). In the evening, German destroyers Z24, Z25, and Z26 departed Kirkenes in far northern Norway to hunt for ships of the PQ-13 61 of Empire Ranger's survivors were rescued by German destroyer Z24 at 2245 hours, but many other survivors died in the freezing water.
29 Mar 1942 German destroyer Z26 sank Panamanian ship Bateau of Allied convoy PQ-13 in the Barents Sea shortly after 0000 hours 37 were killed, 6 survived. At 0943 hours, British cruiser HMS Trinidad spotted Z26 along with Z24 and Z25, hitting Z26 with gunfire at 1024 hours, HMS Trinidad was hit by a torpedo that she fired and circled around, killing 31. At 1032 hours, British destroyer HMS Eclipse continued the attack, hitting Z26 with 6 more shells at 1120 hours, Z24 and Z25 coordinated an attack on HMS Eclipse, hitting her with two shells, killing 23. Shortly after, Z26 sank from the heavy damage. 243 of those aboard Z26 were killed, 96 survived 88 of the survivors were picked up by Z24 and Z25, while German submarine U-376 picked up the remaining 8. HMS Trinidad was given temporary repairs in Murmansk, Russia and sailed for home on 13 May 1942.
30 Mar 1942 German submarines U-209 and U-376 attacked British Induna of Allied convoy PQ-13 at 0552 hours (41 survived the sinking, but 11 would die in the freezing water and 2 more would die in the hospital after being rescued) U-209's attack failed, but U-376 would sink Induna at 0807 hours 38 were killed, 28 survived. At 1035 hours, U-456 and U-435 also attacked the convoy, stopping US transport Effingham 2 were killed, 41 survived (some of the survivors would die of exposure before being rescued) the transport was scuttled by U-435 at 1219 hours.
30 Mar 1942 German submarine U-585 probably struck one of the many mines that drifted from the German defensive barrage Bantos-A in the Barents Sea on this day.
31 Mar 1942 Surviving ships of Allied convoy PQ-13 began to arrive at Murmansk, Russia after several attacks by German destroyers, submarines, and aircraft.
3 Apr 1942 Allied convoy QP-9 arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland without any losses. At Murmansk, Russia, German aircraft sank British merchant ship Empire Starlight, British merchant ship New Westminster City, and Polish merchant ship Tobruk Soviet ship was also damaged in the attack.
8 Apr 1942 Allied convoy PQ-14 departed Reykjavík, Iceland it was consisted of 24 merchant ships, escorted by 2 minesweepers and 3 anti-submarine trawlers.
10 Apr 1942 Allied convoy PQ-14 found itself scattered shortly after dawn after a stormy night 16 ships decided to return to Iceland while 8 ships sailed on for Russia. On the same day, Allied convoy QP-10 departed Murmansk, Russia it was consisted of 16 merchant ships, escorted by 5 destroyers, 3 corvettes, 1 minesweeper, and 2 trawlers QP-10 was almost immediately detected by German aircraft. Far to the west, PQ-15 departed Oban, Scotland, United Kingdom.
11 Apr 1942 German Ju 88 aircraft attacked Allied convoy QP-10, damaging ship Stone Street and sinking British ship Empire Cowper (19 were killed) a heavy snow storm prevented the Germans from launching another air attack on the Arctic convoy.
13 Apr 1942 German submarines attacked Allied convoy QP-10 150 miles north of Norway U-436 sank Russian merchant ship Kiev at 1300 hours (6 were killed, 62 survived), and U-435 sank Panamanian ship El Occidente at 1329 hours (20 were killed, 21 survived).
14 Apr 1942 A German Fw 200 Condor aircraft located Allied convoy QP-10 at dawn 20 Ju 88 aircraft attacked at 0600 hours, damaging the rudder of British freighter Harpalion (she would be scuttled shortly after) at the cost of 4 aircraft shot down.
15 Apr 1942 Allied convoy PQ-14, how down to 6 cargo ships and 2 tankers, was spotted by a German BV 138 flying boat. Later in the day, Fw 200 Condor aircraft relieved the BV 138 aircraft in keeping track of this convoy. They called in several air attacks, but none of them succeeded in sinking any ships.
16 Apr 1942 German submarine U-403 fired 5 torpedoes at Allied convoy PQ-14 and made 2 hits on the civilian commodore's ship Empire Howard 200 miles north of Norway at 1245 hours 29 were killed, 37 survived. Many of victims were killed by depth charges meant to hit U-403. Captain W. H. Lawrence of merchant ship Briarwood took over the civilian commodore role as his predecessor E. Rees was also killed.
17 Apr 1942 Soviet destroyers Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchy were transferred from Allied convoy QP-10 to convoy PQ-14 at 0430 hours.
19 Apr 1942 The 7 surviving ships of Allied convoy PQ-14 arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
21 Apr 1942 Allied convoy QP-10 arrived at Reykjavík, Iceland.
26 Apr 1942 Allied convoy PQ-15, consisted of 24 merchant ships, 1 fleet auxiliary oiler, and 2 icebreakers departed Reykjavík, Iceland for Murmansk, Russia with 4 destroyers, 1 corvette, 3 minesweepers, 4 trawlers, 1 catapult aircraft merchantman, and 1 anti-aircraft ship in escort.
28 Apr 1942 Allied convoy PQ-15, which had departed Iceland two days prior, was joined by British battleship HMS King George V, American battleship USS Washington, British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, 5 cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 4 submarines for its journey toward Murmansk, Russia the convoy was spotted by German aircraft 200 miles northwest of Tromsø, Norway. On the same day, returning convoy QP-11 departed Kola Inlet in northern Russia it was consisted of 13 merchant ships and was escorted by 6 destroyers, 4 corvettes, 1 trawler, and 4 minesweepers.
29 Apr 1942 4 minesweepers departed from the close escort force of Allied convoy QP-11 off northern Russia later on the same day, the convoy was spotted by a German Ju 88 aircraft.
30 Apr 1942 A German Fw 200 Condor aircraft spotted Allied convoy PQ-15 250 miles southwest of Bear Island, Norway.
1 May 1942 Four Ju 88 aircraft attacked Allied convoy QP-11 at 0540 hours 150 miles southeast of Bear Island, Norway all torpedoes missed. At 1345 hours, German destroyers Z7 Hermann Schoemann, Z24, and Z25 were sighted the first round of the exchange of torpedoes by QP-11 and the Allied escorts at 1407 hours all missed, but a shortly after British destroyer HMS Amazon was hit by gunfire and Russian freighter Tsiolkovsky was sunk by torpedo. Through 1742 hours, the German destroyed attempted to close in five more times, but they were not successful they broke off after 1742 hours to pursue HMS Edinburgh in the direction of Murmansk, Russia. Elsewhere, six German Ju 88 bombers attacked Allied convoy PQ-15 west of Norway at 2200 hours without success, losing one aircraft in the process.
2 May 1942 British destroyer HMS St Albans and minesweeper HMS Seagull, while escorting Allied convoy PQ-15, attacked an ASDIC contact 200 miles northwest of Tromsø, Norway at 1950 hours. As the target surfaced, she turned out to be Polish submarine Jastrzab, which suffered serious damage and 5 killed. The submarine was written off and scuttled shortly after the 35 survivors were taken off. On the same day, German torpedo bombers attacked PQ-15, sinking freighters Cape Corso, Jutland, and Botavon.
3 May 1942 Six He 111 aircraft of German Luftwaffe unit I./KG 26 from the airfield at Bardufoss, Norway attacked Allied convoy PQ-15 between North Cape and Bear Island (Bjørnøya), sinking ships Botavon (20 were killed), Jutland, and Cape Corso (all 50 aboard were killed) at 0127 hours the convoy recorded 3 German aircraft shot down, but KG 26 records showed only 1 loss. At 2230 hours, another air attack came upon PQ-15, damaging the ship Cape Palliser while one Ju 88 aircraft was shot down the arrival of Soviet Pe-3 aircraft drove off the rest of the German attackers.
4 May 1942 Soviet destroyers Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchy made rendezvous with Allied convoy PQ-15.
5 May 1942 Soviet patrol ship Rubin, Soviet patrol ship Brilliant, British minesweeper Harrier, British minesweeper Niger, and British minesweeper Gossamer set sail from Polyarny, Russia they made rendezvous with Allied convoy PQ-15 in the Kola Inlet at 2300 hours.
7 May 1942 Allied convoy QP-11 arrived at Reykjavík, Iceland at 0700 hours.
13 May 1942 HMS Trinidad departed Murmansk, Russia, escorted by 4 destroyers.
14 May 1942 A German Fw 200 Condor aircraft discovered Trinidad off northern Russia at 0730 hours at 1852 hours, two BV 138 aircraft relieved the Fw 200 aircraft in shadowing the cruiser at 2200 hours, a wave of aircraft attacked and damaged the cruiser.
15 May 1942 Damaged by German aircraft two hours prior on the previous date, the abandon ship order was given by the captain of HMS Trinidad at 0000 hours at 0120 hours, she was scuttled by a torpedo from HMS Matchless north of Russia.
21 May 1942 Allied convoy QP-12 departed Murmansk, Russia it was consisted of 17 merchant ships, escorted by 1 catapult aircraft merchantman, 6 destroyers, 4 trawlers, and 1 anti-aircraft vessel. From the other end of the Arctic convoy route, PQ-16 departed Reykjavík, Iceland with 35 merchant ships, 1 minesweeper, and 4 trawlers.
23 May 1942 The close escort force for Allied convoy PQ-16 was reinforced by 4 corvettes, 2 submarines, and 1 anti-aircraft vessel.
24 May 1942 British trawler HMS Retriever broke away from Allied convoy PQ-16 and returned for Iceland.
25 May 1942 German He 111 torpedo bombers and Ju 88 bombers attacked Allied convoy PQ-16 475 miles northeast of Iceland one He 111 was shot down by a British Hurricane fighter. To the east, German Fw 200, Bv 138, and two Ju 88 aircraft successively shadowed QP-12 starting at 1400 hours British catapult aircraft merchantman Empire Moon launched her Hurricane fighter which shot down a Ju 88 aircraft but Flying Officer John Kendal would die when his parachute failed to open in time after he bailed out. At 1910 hours, 6 German Ju 88 and 7 He 111 aircraft attacked QP-12, damaging US freighter City of Joliet.
26 May 1942 German submarine U-703 attacked Allied convoy PQ-16 780 miles northeast of Iceland at 0259 hours, sinking US merchant ship Syros (two torpedo hits, detonating cargo of ammunition) 9 were killed, 30 survived (but 2 of the survivors would later die from exposure). 8 German He 111 and 3 Ju 88 aircraft also attacked PQ-16, but they failed to cause any damage.
27 May 1942 He 111 bombers of German Luftwaffe unit I./KG 26 and Ju 88 dive bombers of KG 30 attacked Allied convoy PQ-16 southeast of Bear Island (Bjørnøya), Norway in multiple waves. The first attack arrived over PQ-16 at 0320 hours, causing no damage. At 1100 hours, US freighter City of Joliet suffered a near miss. At 1310 hours, US freighter Alamar was hit by two bombs and was abandoned 20 minutes after with all aboard surviving. At 1315 hours, US ship Mormacsul was sunk by 1 bomb hit and 3 near misses 3 were killed, 45 survived. At 1410 hours, British catapult aircraft merchantman Empire Lawrence was sunk after receiving 5 hits 25 were killed. In the afternoon, Russian ship Stari Bolshevik, British ship Empire Baffin, and Polish destroyer Garland were damaged by German attacks, followed by US ship City of Joliet being damaged after being struck by a crashing German dive bomber (she would be abandoned at the end of the day). At 1945 hours, British merchant ship Empire Purcell was hit by 2 bombs and was abandoned. Finally, at 1950 hours, British merchant ship Lowther Castle was hit by a torpedo from a I./KG26 He 111 bomber and sank. I./KG 26 recorded the loss of two crews on this day.
28 May 1942 Allied convoy PQ-16 encountered heavy fog but managed to remain with each other by keeping eyes on fog buoys towed by the ship immediately in front of each trailing ship.
29 May 1942 Allied convoy QP-12 arrived at Reykjavík, Iceland. To the east, PQ-16 sailed in the opposite direction. As PQ-16 neared Murmansk, Russia, they were joined by Soviet destroyers Grozny, Sokrushitelny, and Kuibyshev at 1150 hours and then 6 British destroyers several hours later. At 2200 hours, the convoy broke into two groups, one sailing for Murmansk and another sailing for Arkhangelsk further east. At 2330 hours, the Murmansk group came under attack by 18 German aircraft and the Arkhangelsk group by 15 German aircraft no ships were sunk, and several aircraft on both sides were shot down, including one piloted by Double Hero of the Soviet Union Boris Safonov, killing him.
30 May 1942 21 ships of the Allied convoy PQ-16 arrived in the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia at 1600 hours.
1 Jun 1942 8 ships of the Allied convoy PQ-16 arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia. On the same day, German Ju 88 bombers attacked the harbor at Archangelsk, sinking the ship Steel Worker and damaging Soviet submarine ShCh-404.
14 Jun 1942 German Admiral Otto Schniewind issued the order to commence Operation Rösselsprung ("Knight's Move") in turn German warships Tirpitz, Admiral Hipper, Lützow, and 12 destroyers departed from their home ports toward the Barents Sea.
24 Jun 1942 Five German Ju 88 bombers attacked Allied shipping at anchor in the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia starting at 0908 hours, sinking British minesweeper HMS Gossamer at 0921 hours (23 were killed, 12 were wounded).
27 Jun 1942 Allied convoy PQ-17 under Commodore J. C. K. Dowding sailed from Hvalfjord, north of Reykjavik, Iceland, where it had assembled. One ship grounded on leaving harbour and another was damaged by ice in the Denmark Strait, so the convoy that set course for Arkhangelsk, Russia comprised 33 ships plus a tanker, escorted by six destroyers, two anti-aircraft ships, four corvettes, three minesweepers, four trawlers and two submarines which it was hoped would discourage enemy attacks. On the same date, convoy QP-13 set sail from Arkhangelsk, Russia it was consisted of 35 merchant ships and was escorted by 3 destroyers, 1 minesweeper, 4 corvettes, 1 anti-aircraft vessel, and 2 trawlers.
28 Jun 1942 The British Royal Navy Home Fleet (carrier HMS Victorious, battleship HMS Duke of York, with cruisers and destroyers), reinforced by US battleship USS Washington, departed from Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom to provide distant cover for Allied convoy PQ-17 sailing from Iceland to Arkhangelsk, Russia.
29 Jun 1942 Allied convoy QP-13 was spotted by a German Fw 200 aircraft.
1 Jul 1942 German submarine U-456 and a German Bv 138 aircraft spotted Allied convoy PQ-17 in the Barents Sea and began shadowing it.
2 Jul 1942 6 German aircraft attacked Allied convoy PQ-17 but was driven off without causing any damage.
3 Jul 1942 German pocket battleship Lützow, pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, and six destroyers departed from Narvik, Norway to intercept Allied convoy PQ-17 in the Barents Sea en route, Lützow and three destroyers ran aground. The group was detected by the British and the Soviets, leading to the dispatching of 9 British and 7 Soviet submarines to intercept the German fleet en route, Soviet submarines D-3 and M-176 hit German naval mines and sank.
4 Jul 1942 Allied convoy PQ-17 was attacked by 24 He 111 aircraft of German Luftwaffe unit I./KG 26 about 60 miles north of Bear Island (Bjørnøya), Norway, fatally damaging US freighter Christopher Newport which would later be scuttled by a British submarine (3 were killed, 47 survived) at 1930 hours, another attack wave came upon the convoy, causing no damage at 2020 hours, the convoy was attacked by 25 aircraft, sinking British freighter Navarino, sinking US freighter William Hooper (3 were killed, 55 survived), and damaging Soviet tanker Azerbaijan at 2100 hours, believing that German battleships might be in the area, PQ-17 was ordered to scatter and the convoy escorts were withdrawn. Sailing in the opposite direction, QP-13 broke up to two convoys, one of which ran into a minefield several ships struck mines and sank (British minesweeper HMS Niger (149 were killed), freighter Hybert, freighter Heffron, freighter Massmar (17 were killed), and Soviet passenger ship Rodina (several family members of Soviet diplomats were killed)), and several others were damaged (civilian commodore's ship American Robin, freighter Exterminator, and freighter John Randolph) HMS Hussar was able to lead the survivors out of the minefield.
5 Jul 1942 The scattered Allied convoy PQ-17 was hunted down by German submarines and aircraft piecemeal throughout the day British freighter Empire Byron (by U-703 at 0827 hours 7 were killed, 63 survived), civilian commodore J. C. K. Dowding's ship River Afton (by U-703 at 2102 hours 26 were killed, 38 survived)), British ship Earlston (by U-334 at 1747 hours all 52 aboard survived), Washington, Bolton Castle, Paulus Potter (abandoned after Ju 88 attack carrying 34 tanks, 15 aircraft, 103 trucks, and 2,250 tons of general goods 51 crew, 14 gunners, and 11 passengers took to boats), Pan Kraft, US ship Carlton (by U-88 at 1015 hours 3 were killed, 42 survived), Fairfield City, Daniel Morgan (by U-88 at 2252 hours 3 were killed, 51 survived), Peter Kerr, British fleet oiler Aldersdale (fatally damaged by aircraft and abandoned), British rescue ship Zaafaran, and Honomu (by U-456 at 1431 hours 13 were killed, 28 survived) were all destroyed. Meanwhile, Allied convoy QP-13 was sailing in the opposite direction British minesweeper HMS Niger, in escort, entered a British minefield due to navigation error, struck a mine, and sank 10 miles north of Iceland at 2240 hours, killing 149 the 36 merchant ships of the convoy, following Niger's lead, also entered the minefield 5 merchant ships would sink, 1 would sustain damage.
6 Jul 1942 German submarine U-255 sank US ship John Witherspoon 1 was killed, 49 survived. German aircraft sank US ship Pan Atlantic. Both ships were of Allied convoy PQ-17, traveling in the Barents Sea.
7 Jul 1942 German submarine U-457 sank abandoned British fleet oiler RFA Alderdale of Allied convoy PQ-17 with her deck gun in the Barents Sea. In the same area, U-355 sank British ship Hartlebury (8 were killed, 52 survived, but only 20 would remain alive before being rescued) also of PQ-17. U-255 also attacked PQ-17 ships, sinking US ship Alcoa Ranger (all 40 aboard survived).
7 Jul 1942 Allied convoy QP-13 arrived at Reykjavík, Iceland.
8 Jul 1942 German submarine U-255 sank US ship Olopana of Allied convoy PQ-17 at 0100 hours 7 were killed, 34 survived).
9 Jul 1942 German Ju 88 bombers attacked Allied convoy PQ-17 in the Barents Sea at 2000 hours, damaging Panamanian freighter El Capitan (all 67 aboard survived), US freighter Hoosier (all 53 aboard survived), US Liberty Ship Samuel Chase, and rescue ship Zamalck 4 German aircraft were shot down in the attack.
10 Jul 1942 German submarine U-251 sank Panamanian freighter El Capitan and German submarine U-376 sank US ship Hoosier, both of Allied convoy PQ-17, in the Barents Sea.
11 Jul 1942 Allied convoy PQ-17, after losing 24 of the 33 vessels, finally arrived in ports in northern Russia, delivering 64,000 tons of war goods it was the worst convoy loss of the war, with some 430 tanks, 210 aircraft, 3,350 lorries and jeeps and 100,000 tons of materials lost at the hands of repeated German attacks. Joseph Stalin, suspicious of the western powers, believed that the British were unwilling to provide the Soviets with large amounts of goods and had made up the heavy losses.
13 Jul 1942 The floating wreck of Dutch merchant steamer Paulus Potter, damaged by German air attack 8 days prior, was discovered by German submarine U-225. The ship was a member of Allied convoy PQ-17. The second officer and two crew boarded the deserted ship and made an attempt to get her under way. However, the flooding in the engine room was too deep and after taking food, cigarettes and other useful material including a heavy chest from the bridge, they returned to the submarine. The chest contained the confidential papers pertaining to the convoy codes and positions which the Dutch in their haste had forgotten to throw overboard. U-225 then torpedoed and sank the Dutch merchant.
20 Jul 1942 British steam merchant Empire Tide arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia and disembarked the survivors of Dutch merchant steamer Paulus Potter and US merchant steamer Washington.
24 Jul 1942 Allied convoy PQ-17 arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia. Also arriving Arkhangelsk were destroyers HMS Marne, HMS Martin, HMS Middleton, and HMS Blankney, carrying ammunition and other war supplies.
27 Jul 1942 German submarine U-601 bombarded the Soviet polar station Malye Karmakuly near Belushya Bay in the Novaya Zemlya islands, Russia. Several buildings and one seaplane were destroyed.
1 Aug 1942 German submarine U-601 received orders to go into the Kara Sea as a part of Operation Wunderland. En route, she would sink Soviet transport Krestyanin with one torpedo, killing 7.
8 Aug 1942 German submarine U-601 entered the Kara Sea as a part of Operation Wunderland.
13 Aug 1942 USS Tuscaloosa, USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and HMS Onslaught departed Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom with ammunition, aircraft parts, and other war goods for the Soviet Union.
15 Aug 1942 German aircraft detected an Allied westbound convoy in the Kara Sea.
16 Aug 1942 Soviet ocean tug Komsomelets, ocean tug Nord departed Chabarovo on the shore of Yugorsky peninsula in northern Russia, with barge P4 (328 people on board, most of whom were penal construction workers), lighter Sh-500, and tug Komiles in tow.
17 Aug 1942 German submarine U-209 spotted Soviet ocean tug Komsomelets and ocean tug Nord at 0700 hours east of the Yugorsky Peninsula in northern Russia the two tugs were towing barge P4, lighter Sh-500, and tug Komiles. U-209 immediately shelled Komsomelets and fired a torpedo at P4, which missed. At 0800 hours, U-209 shelled Komiles, forcing her crew to abandon ship. At 0810, U-209 shelled and sank Sh-500. Shortly after, U-209 fired another torpedo at P4 305 were killed (most of whom were penal construction workers), 23 survived.
19 Aug 1942 German submarine U-209 attempted to approach Belushya Guba in the Novaya Zemlya islands in northern Russia, but was spotted by Soviet motor boat Poliarny, minesweeper T-39, and minesweeper T-58, which drove off U-209.
20 Aug 1942 USS Tuscaloosa, USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and HMS Onslaught, carrying war goods for the Soviet Union, were spotted by German aircraft.
23 Aug 1942 USS Tuscaloosa, USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and HMS Onslaught arrived at Vaenga Bay near Murmansk, Russia they disembarked personnel of two RAF Bomber Command squadrons, torpedoes, ammunition, and medical supplies.
24 Aug 1942 USS Tuscaloosa, USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and HMS Onslaught departed Murmansk, Russia. HMS Marne, HMS Martin, HMS Middleton, and HMS Blankney departed Arkhangelsk, Russia. Both groups of Allied warships were sailing for Iceland some of them carried Soviet diplomats and survivors of various sunken or damaged merchant ships. At 2002 hours, German minelayer Ulm, which had departed Narvik, Norway at 0400 hours earlier on the same day, was attacked by HMS Onslaught, HMS Marne, and HMS Martin Marne was hit twice in the engagement (4 were killed), but the British ships were able to sink Ulm at 2235 hours 132 were killed, 54 survived (30 to 40 of whom were captured by the British).
2 Sep 1942 Allied convoy PQ-18 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom it was supported by two tankers and one rescue ship and was escorted by two anti-aircraft vessels, three destroyers, four corvettes, and four trawlers.
8 Sep 1942 A German aircraft detected Allied arctic convoy PQ-18 late in the day, but it would lose track of the convoy due to heavy fog.
9 Sep 1942 The escort force of Allied convoy PQ-18 was joined by Rear Admiral Robert Burnett's force including escort carrier HMS Avenger and several small warships.
12 Sep 1942 German aircraft re-established contact with Allied convoy PQ-18 at 1320 hours. At 2100 hours, German submarine U-88 attacked PQ-18 400 miles north of Norway U-18 was instead counterattacked and sunk by depth charges from British destroyer HMS Faulknor, killing all 46 aboard.
13 Sep 1942 Allied convoy QP-14 departed Arkhangelsk, Russia with 15 merchant ships and two rescue ships under the civilian commodore J. C. K. Dowding it was escorted by two anti-aircraft vessels, two destroyers, four corvettes, three minesweepers, and three trawlers under British Royal Navy Captain J. F. Crombie. Elsewhere, Allied convoy PQ-18 sailed in the opposite direction PQ-18 would be subjected to repeated attacks all day. The first casualty occurred at 0855 hours when U-408 and U-589 sank Soviet freighter Stalingrad (hit by three torpedoes 21 were killed) and US tanker Oliver Ellsworth 150 miles northwest of Bear Island (Bjørnøya), Norway these two ships were on the outside starboard column of PQ-18. At 1500 hours, 6 Ju 88 aircraft attacked without success. At 1530 hours, 30 Ju 88 dive bombers of German Luftwaffe unit III./KG 26 and 55 He 111 bombers of I./KG 26 attacked, sinking the ships Wacosta (scoring a direct hit with a torpedo before the torpedo entered water), Empire Stevenson, Macbeth, Gregonian (US ship 28 were killed, 27 survived), Sukhona (Russian ship), Afrikaner (Panamanian ship), Empire Beaumont, and John Penn at the cost of only 5 aircraft.
14 Sep 1942 German submarine U-457 attacked Allied convoy PQ-18 20 miles south of Spitzbergen, Svalbard, Norway destroyer HMS Impulsive detected U-457's approach, but she failed to deter the attack U-457 fatally damaged British tanker Atheltemplar at 0400 hours (3 were killed, 58 survived but 16 would die of wounds later the floating burning wreck would be sunk by U-408 at 1430 hours). Shortly after, U-589 attempted to attack, but was sunk by destroyer HMS Onslow and a Swordfish aircraft from escort carrier HMS Avenger (all 44 aboard were killed). At 1235 hours, about 20 German He 111 torpedo bombers of I./KG 26 attacked in failure with 11 of them shot down. Shortly after, 12 Ju 88 attacked, again losing 11 aircraft without scoring any hits. A third round of 25 aircraft (He 111 of I./KG 26 and Ju 88 of III./KG 26) attacked, sinking US ship Mary Luckenbach (189 were killed, 1 survived detonation of her cargo of ammunition on board damaged nearby US ship Nathanael Greene and US ship Wacosta) at the cost of 9 aircraft lost. Finally, at 1430 hours, the final wave of 20 German aircraft attacked, scoring no hits and losing one aircraft.
15 Sep 1942 Soviet destroyers Gremyashchy, Sokrushitelny, Uritsky, and Kuibyshev joined Allied convoy PQ-18.
16 Sep 1942 British destroyer HMS Impulsive (escorting Allied convoy PQ-18) sank U-457 with depth charges 200 miels northeast of Murmansk, Russia, killing all 45 aboard. Later in the day, some of the warships escorting PQ-18 transferred to convoy sailing in the opposite direction QP-14.
18 Sep 1942 12 German He 111 torpedo bombers attacked Allied convoy PQ-18 at the entrance of the Kola Inlet, Russia, sinking US ship Kentucky (all aboard survived) at the cost of 3 aircraft shot down.
19 Sep 1942 The 28 surviving merchant ships of Allied convoy PQ-18 reached the Dvina River near Arkhangelsk, Russia.
20 Sep 1942 German submarine U-435 sank British minesweeper HMS Leda of Allied convoy QP-14 180 miles west of Spitsbergen, Norway at 0631 hours 14 were killed, 66 survived. At 1815 hours, U-255 sank US freighter Silver Sword of QP-14 1 was killed, 63 survived. At about 1900 hours, escort carrier HMS Avenger and cruiser HMS Scylla were detached from QP-14 to head back to base. At 1955 hours, U-703 damaged British destroyer HMS Somali also of QP-14 47 were killed, 67 survivors were taken off, and 80 survivors remained aboard as she was taken in tow by destroyer HMS Ashanti.
21 Sep 1942 German submarine U-606 approached Allied convoy QP-14 between Greenland and Jan Mayen Island, Norway at 1114 hours but was driven off by a Norwegian-piloted British Catalina aircraft U-606 fought back and shot down the aircraft. To the east, convoy PQ-18 arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
22 Sep 1942 German submarine U-435 attacked Allied convoy QP-14 50 miles west of Jan Mayen Island, Norway at 0718 hours, sinking US merchant ship Bellingham (all 75 aboard survived), British merchant ship Ocean Voice (civilian commodore J. C. K. Dowding's ship all 89 aboard survived), and British fleet oiler RFA Grey Ranger (6 were killed, 33 survived).
24 Sep 1942 HMS Somali (Lieutenant Commander C. D. Maud) broke apart and sank while under tow by HMS Ashanti 185 miles north of Iceland 77 were killed, 35 survived.
26 Sep 1942 Allied convoy QP-14 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
29 Oct 1942 US freighter Richard H. Alvey and British freighter Empire Galliard departed Iceland in Operation FB.
30 Oct 1942 Russian freighter Dekabrist, US freighter John Walker, and British freighter Empire Gilbert departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland in Operation FB.
31 Oct 1942 US freighter John H. B. Latrobe and British freighter Chulmleigh departed Iceland in Operation FB.
1 Nov 1942 US freighter Hugh Williamson and British freighter Empire Sky departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland in Operation FB.
2 Nov 1942 German submarine U-586 sank British freighter Empire Gilbert of Operation FB southwest of Jan Mayen island, Norway at 0118 hours 60 were killed, 3 survived. In Iceland, US Liberty ship William Clark and British freighter Empire Scott departed they were also of Operation FB.
3 Nov 1942 British freighter Daldorch departed Iceland in Operation FB.
4 Nov 1942 German submarine U-354 damaged US Liberty ship William Clark of Operation FB off Jan Mayen island, Norway at 1333 hours at 1400 hours, U-354 struck again and sank William Clark (31 were killed, 61 survived). Russian freighter Dekabrist, also of Operation FB, was attacked by German Ju 88 aircraft, suffering fatal damage (she would sink shortly after east of Spitzbergen, Norway). During the day, British freighter Briarwood departed Iceland in Operation FB.
5 Nov 1942 British freighter Chulmleigh of Operation FB got stuck on a reef off Norway at 2300 hours.
6 Nov 1942 British freighter Chulmleigh of Operation FB, stuck on a reef off Norway, was abandoned by her crew at 0400 hours at 1558 hours, German submarine U-625 found Chulmleigh and destroyed her with gunfire. At 2224 hours, U-625 found British freighter Empire Sky, also of Operation FB, and sank her south of Spitzbergen, Norway at 2224 hours, killing all 60 aboard.
7 Nov 1942 German destroyer Z27 sank Soviet ship Donbass 49 were kiled, 16 survived and captured by the Germans.
17 Nov 1942 Allied convoy QP-15 departed Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia. It was consisted of 28 freighters and was escorted by one anti-aircraft vessel, five minesweepers, four corvettes, and two destroyers.
20 Nov 1942 While escorting Allied convoy QP-15, a severe storm severed the stem of Soviet destroyer Sokrushitelny, killing six men. Most of the officers abandoned ship before the crewmen the captain was shot for cowardice and the executive officer was sent to a penal battalion. The same storm also seriously damaged Soviet destroyer Baku.
21 Nov 1942 Soviet destroyer Sokrushitelny, which was disabled on the previous day after a severe storm tore off its stem, sank. The skeleton crew of 16 men which remained aboard was lost.
22 Nov 1942 While escorting Allied convoy QP-15, Soviet destroyer Sokrushitelny foundered after sustaining damage in heavy weather.
23 Nov 1942 German submarine U-625 sank British freighter Goolistan at 0145 hours shortly after, U-601 sank Russian merchant ship Kuznets Lesov all 82 people aboard the two ships were killed.
30 Nov 1942 Ships of Allied convoy QP-15 began to arrive at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
3 Dec 1942 All remaining ships of Allied convoy QP-15 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 Dec 1942 Allied convoy JW-51A departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom it was consisted of 16 freighters and was escorted by seven destroyers and four smaller warships.
20 Dec 1942 Ships of Allied convoy JW-51A began to arrive at Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
22 Dec 1942 Convoy JW-51B departed from Liverpool, England, United Kingdom for Murmansk, Russia it was consisted of 14 freighters and was escorted by six destroyers, two corvettes, one minesweeper, and two trawlers under the command of Captain Robert Sherbrooke British cruisers of Force R covered the convoy from a distance.
25 Dec 1942 All ships of Allied convoy JW-51A arrived in the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia this convoy suffered no losses.
26 Dec 1942 Allied convoy JW-51B was hit by a major storm about half way between Bear Island and Jan Mayen island north of Norway five ships lost contact with the convoy.
30 Dec 1942 Allied convoy RA-51 departed Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia. To the west, German submarine U-354 detected Allied convoy JW-51B Admiral Erich Raeder ordered Lützow, Admiral Hipper, and six destroyers to sortie from Altafjord, Norway to intercept.
4 Jan 1943 Allied convoy JW-51B arrived in the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
11 Jan 1943 Allied convoy RA-51 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
17 Jan 1943 Allied convoy JW-52 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
24 Jan 1943 12 German aircraft were launched to attack Allied convoy JW-52 only three of them found and attacked the convoy, and all three were shot down.
27 Jan 1943 Allied convoy JW-52 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
29 Jan 1943 German submarine U-255 sank Soviet cargo ship Ufa south of Bear Island, Norway at 0622 hours. To the east, Allied convoy RA-52 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
3 Feb 1943 German submarine U-255 sank US freighter Greylock of Allied convoy RA-52 all 70 aboard survived.
9 Feb 1943 Allied convoy RA-52 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 Feb 1943 Allied convoy JW-53 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
27 Feb 1943 Allied convoy JW-53 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
1 Mar 1943 Allied convoy RA-53 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia it was consisted of 30 freighters and was escorted by 31 warships.
5 Mar 1943 German submarine U-255 sank freighter Executive (9 were killed, 51 survived) and damaged freighter Richard Bland of Allied convoy RA-53 at 0924 hours shortly after, 12 German He 111 aircraft attacked the convoy, but none of them were able to break through the escort screen.
7 Mar 1943 US Liberty Ship J. L. M. Curry of Allied convoy RA-53 broke in two in a storm.
9 Mar 1943 German submarine U-586 sank US merchant ship Puerto Rican of Allied convoy RA-53 northeast of Iceland 61 were killed, 1 survived.
10 Mar 1943 German submarine U-255 sank freighter Richard Bland of Allied convoy RA-53 61 were killed, 1 survived.
11 Mar 1943 The destroyer HMS Harvester, flagship of the escort group B3, escorting convoy HX-228, stopped and picked up survivors from the American Liberty ship William C. Gorgas which had been sunk by German submarine U-757. The destroyer returned to the convoy and sighted German submarine U-444 which dived but was forced to the surface by depth charges. Harvester then rammed the submarine and the two vessels became locked for a while. The submarine then pulled away but was again rammed, this time by the French corvette FFL Aconit (K 58), and sank. The badly damaged British destroyer could not make way and was soon hit by two torpedoes from German submarine U-432. The ship sank quickly and seven officers, 136 crew and 39 survivors were lost. The French corvette then returned to the scene and sank U-432 with depth charges and ramming. She then picked up four crewmen from U-444, 20 from U-432 plus 60 from the Harvester, including 12 from the American Liberty ship. The 5,001-ton Norwegian steam merchant Brandt County was also sunk in the attack on convoy HX-228. Brandt County was carrying 5330 tons of general cargo, a large amount of carbide and 670 tons of ammunition. She was hit by one torpedo, which ignited her load of carbide. Of the five men on the bridge, three managed to get to the lifeboat and the other two died. Three of the four men in the engine room died and the fourth was unable to stop the engine but managed to get on deck. Among the dead were also eight military passengers. The 24 survivors abandoned ship in one lifeboat and when it was about 200 metres away the flames reached the cargo of explosives. The Brant County disappeared in a huge explosion, which sent pieces of metal and other debris in the air. The survivors were picked up after 30 minutes by the British steam merchant Stuart Prince. One of them was badly burned and died shortly thereafter. At 0215 hours German submarine U-590 joined in the attack and reported a ship sunk, in actual fact one torpedo hit the 5,464-ton British cargo ship Jamaica Producer the ship was able to continue and get to port where she was repaired and returned to service in May 1943.
14 Mar 1943 Allied convoy RA-53 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
24 Jul 1943 German submarine U-703 was ordered to go to Hopen island, Norway to pick up stranded Russian sailors (from Russian freighter Dekabrist which was sunk many months prior).
25 Jul 1943 German submarine U-703 arrived at Hopen island, Norway and picked up four survivors of Russian freighter Dekabrist, including the skipper Beliaev.
27 Jul 1943 German submarine U-255 sank Soviet survey ship Akademik Shokalski off Novaya Zemlya archipelago in northern Russia.
21 Aug 1943 German submarine U-354 pursued an Allied convoy off northern Russia to no success.
31 Aug 1943 German submarine U-703 arrived at Narvik, Norway and dropped off four survivors of Russian freighter Dekabrist.
18 Sep 1943 German submarine U-711 shelled the Soviet wireless telegraph station at Pravdy in northern Russia.
24 Sep 1943 German submarine U-711 shelled the Soviet wireless telegraph station at Blagopoluchiya in northern Russia.
30 Sep 1943 A wolfpack consisted of German submarines U-703, U-601, and U-960 attacked Soviet convoy VA-18 near the Sergey Kirov Islands in the eastern Kara Sea and sank freighter Arhangelsk.
1 Oct 1943 In the Kara Sea off northern Russia, German submarine U-703 sank freighter Sergei Kirov of Soviet convoy VA-18 and U-960 sank escort vessel T-42.
7 Oct 1943 German submarine U-703 rescued survivors of sunken Russian freighter Dekabrist.
9 Oct 1943 German submarine U-703 arrived at Harstad, Norway and dropped off two survivors of Russian freighter Dekabrist.
1 Nov 1943 Allied convoy RA-54A departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
14 Nov 1943 Allied convoy RA-54A arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 Nov 1943 Allied convoy JW-54A departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
22 Nov 1943 Allied convoy JW-54B departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
24 Nov 1943 Allied convoy JW-54A arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
26 Nov 1943 Allied convoy RA-54B departed Arkhangelsk, Russia.
3 Dec 1943 Allied convoy JW-54B arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
9 Dec 1943 Allied convoy RA-54B arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
12 Dec 1943 Allied convoy JW-55A departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
22 Dec 1943 Allied convoy JW-55A arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia and convoy RA-55A departed Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
30 Dec 1943 Allied convoy JW-55B arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
31 Dec 1943 Allied convoy RA-55B departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
1 Jan 1944 Allied convoy RA-55A arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
8 Jan 1944 Allied convoy RA-55B arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
12 Jan 1944 Allied convoy JW-56A departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom it was consisted of 20 freighters and was escorted by 2 cruisers and 9 destroyers.
15 Jan 1944 Allied convoy JW-56A sailed into a storm off the Faroe Islands it was redirected to Akureyri, Iceland for shelter.
21 Jan 1944 Allied convoy JW-56A continued her journey from Akureyri, Iceland.
22 Jan 1944 Allied convoy JW-56B departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
25 Jan 1944 German submarine U-278 sank US freighter Penelope Barker (16 were killed, 56 survived) and U-360 damaged destroyer HMS Obdurate which was forced to leave the escort force of the Allied arctic convoy.
26 Jan 1944 German submarine U-716 sank US freighter Andrew G. Curtin of Allied convoy JW-56A 3 were killed, 68 survived. U-360 damaged British freighter Fort Bellingham (convoy civilian commodore's ship), which was later sunk by U-957 36 were killed, 35 survived.
28 Jan 1944 Allied convoy JW-56A arrived at Arkhangelsk, Russia.
30 Jan 1944 German submarine U-278 fatally damaged Allied arctic convoy escort HMS Hardy HMS Venus scuttled HMS Hardy after the damaged destroyer was abandoned.
1 Feb 1944 Allied convoy JW-56B arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
3 Feb 1944 Allied convoy RA-56 departed at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
11 Feb 1944 Allied convoy RA-56 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
20 Feb 1944 Allied convoy JW-57 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom. It was consisted of 42 merchant ships, was supported by 2 tankers and 1 rescue ship, and was escorted by 4 corvettes (and later reinforced with destroyers and frigates).
23 Feb 1944 A British Swordfish aircraft sank German submarine U-713 near Allied convoy JW-57 all 50 aboard were killed.
25 Feb 1944 A British Catalina aircraft sank German submarine U-601 near Allied convoy JW-57 all 51 aboard were killed. At 2055 hours the British destroyer HMS Mahratta (G 23) (Lieutenant Commander E. A. F. Drought, DSC, RN) was hit by a G7es acoustic torpedo from German submarine U-990 about 280 miles from the North Cape, Norway, while escorting the stern sector of convoy JW-57. The destroyer exploded and sank within minutes. HMS Impulsive (D 11) (Lieutenant Commander P. Bekenn, RN) and HMS Wanderer (D 74) (Lieutenant Commander R. F. Whinney, DSC, RN) were quickly on the scene to pick up survivors, but only 16 survivors could be recovered from the freezing waters. The commander, ten officers and 209 ratings lost their lives.
28 Feb 1944 Allied convoy JW-57 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
2 Mar 1944 Allied convoy RA-57 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
10 Mar 1944 Allied convoy RA-57 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
27 Mar 1944 Allied convoy JW-58 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
31 Mar 1944 Aircraft from ships Beagle and Tracker in Allied convoy JW-58 sank German submarine U-355 in the Arctic Sea.
4 Apr 1944 Allied convoy JW-58 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
7 Apr 1944 Allied convoy RA-58 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
14 Apr 1944 Allied convoy RA-58 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
28 Apr 1944 Allied convoy RA-59 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
6 May 1944 Allied convoy RA-59 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
8 Aug 1944 Soviet convoy BD-5 departed Arkhangelsk, Russia, escorted by 3 trawlers.
12 Aug 1944 German submarine U-365 sank Russian freighter Marina Raskova and Soviet trawler T-114 of Soviet convoy BD-5 in western Kara Sea off northern Russia a total of 362 were killed and 256 survived.
15 Aug 1944 Allied convoy JW-59 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom it was consisted of 33 freighters.
25 Aug 1944 Allied convoy JW-59 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
28 Aug 1944 Allied convoy RA-59A departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
5 Sep 1944 Allied convoy RA-59A arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 Sep 1944 Allied convoy JW-60 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
23 Sep 1944 Allied convoy JW-60 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
28 Sep 1944 Allied convoy RA-60 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
5 Oct 1944 Allied convoy RA-60 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
20 Oct 1944 Allied convoy JW-61 departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
28 Oct 1944 Allied convoy JW-61 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
31 Oct 1944 Allied convoy JW-61A departed Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
2 Nov 1944 Allied convoy RA-61 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
6 Nov 1944 Allied convoy JW-61A arrived at Murmansk, Russia.
9 Nov 1944 Allied convoy RA-61 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
11 Nov 1944 Allied convoy RA-61A departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
17 Nov 1944 Allied convoy RA-61A arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
29 Nov 1944 Allied convoy JW-62 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
7 Dec 1944 Allied convoy JW-62 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
10 Dec 1944 Allied convoy RA-62 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
19 Dec 1944 Allied convoy RA-62 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
30 Dec 1944 Allied convoy JW-63 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
8 Jan 1945 Allied convoy JW-63 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
11 Jan 1945 Allied convoy RA-63 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
21 Jan 1945 Allied convoy RA-63 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
3 Feb 1945 Allied convoy JW-64 departed Clyde, Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 Feb 1945 Allied convoy JW-64 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
17 Feb 1945 Allied convoy RA-64 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
28 Feb 1945 Allied convoy RA-64 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
11 Mar 1945 Allied convoy JW-65 departed Clyde, Scotland, United Kingdom.
20 Mar 1945 In the afternoon, German submarine U-968 attacked convoy JW-65 near the mouth of the Kola Inlet and reported a destroyer and a Liberty sunk and another Liberty ship damaged. In fact, the sloop HMS Lapwing (U-62 Commander J. A. Binnie, Rtd, RN) of the 7th Escort Group and the Liberty ship Thomas Donaldson were sunk. The sixty-one survivors of the sloop were rescued by the destroyer HMS Savage (G 20). The Thomas Donaldson, carrying 7,679 tons of general cargo, including 6,000 tons of ammunition, foodstuffs and locomotives and tenders as deck cargo was the twentieth ship as convoy formed into one column to enter Kola Inlet and was hit at 1315 hours on the starboard side by one torpedo about 20 miles from the mouth of Kola Inlet. The torpedo struck the engine room, killed one officer and two crewmen on watch below and destroyed the engines. Due to her dangerous cargo the master ordered the crew of eight officers, 34 crewmen and 27 armed guards to abandon ship after 10 minutes. Most left in the two port lifeboats and a raft and were picked up by the corvette HMS Bamborough Castle (K 412) while others jumped overboard and were picked up by HMS Oxlip (K 123). One man died after being rescued. The master and eight crew members remained aboard and were later taken off by HMS Honeysuckle (K 27), which took the ship in tow toward Kola Inlet. At 1630 hours, a Soviet tug took over the tow but the Thomas Donaldson sank stern first at 1745 hours, one-half miles from Kilden Island.
21 Mar 1945 Allied convoy JW-65 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
23 Mar 1945 Allied convoy RA-65 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
1 Apr 1945 Allied convoy RA-65 arrived at Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom.
16 Apr 1945 Allied convoy JW-66 departed Clyde, Scotland, United Kingdom.
25 Apr 1945 Allied convoy JW-66 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
29 Apr 1945 Allied convoy RA-66 departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
8 May 1945 Allied convoy RA-66 arrived at Clyde, Scotland, United Kingdom.
12 May 1945 Allied convoy JW-67 departed Clyde, Scotland, United Kingdom.
20 May 1945 Allied convoy JW-67 arrived at the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
23 May 1945 Allied convoy RA-67, the last outgoing Allied arctic convoy, departed the Kola Inlet near Murmansk, Russia.
30 May 1945 Allied convoy RA-67, the last returning Allied arctic convoy, arrived at Clyde, Scotland, United Kingdom.

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