Allied Warships

HMS Gleaner (J 83)

Minesweeper of the Halcyon class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeMinesweeper
ClassHalcyon 
PennantJ 83 
ModSecond group 
Built byWilliam Gray & Co. (Hartepool, U.K.) : N.E. Marine 
Ordered13 Mar 1936 
Laid down17 Jun 1936 
Launched10 Jun 1937 
Commissioned30 Aug 1938 
End service2 Sep 1946 
History

When completed HMS Gleaner was fitted out as a survey ship and but when war broke out she was at Plymouth undergoing conversion to a minesweeper. On completion of this conversion she joined the 1st Anti-Submarine Striking Force based at Belfast. She patrolled the waters between Belfast and Liverpool. From late November HMS Gleaner was part of the 2nd Anti-Submarine Striking Force, operating between the Clyde and Loch Ewe. In January 1940 she was transferred to the 3rd Anti-Submarine Striking Force.

On 12 February 1940 HMS Gleaner was on patrol off the Firth of Clyde. At 0250 hours a hydrophone contact was picked up and traced until at about 0316 hours a U-boat, U-33, was seen on the surface. U-33 dived and lay on the bottom. Gleaner carried out a depth charge attack at 0353 hours but little damage was done. A second attack was carried out at 0412 hours which caused more serious damage to gauge glasses, lights etc. and caused several leaks. The German Commanding officer, Kptlt. Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky, decided to bring U-33 to the surface which she broke at 0522 hours. HMS Gleaner opened fire on the U-boat and turned to ram her, firing as she approached, but before she could do so the crew started to abandon ship. U-33 finally sank taking 25 of her crew with her, leaving 17 survivors.

HMS Gleaner continued with anti-submarine duties until 12 August 1940 when she was detailed to relieve HMS Deptford as close escort to convoy OA-198 off the west coast of Scotland, becoming a member of the Northern Escort Force. At 1420 hours on 16 August an escorting aircraft reported having attacked and possible damaged a U-boat 180nm NW of Bloody Foreland. In a later report this aircraft claimed two direct hits by depth charges, the first blowing the U-boat to the surface with her decks awash. After the second, the U-boat healed over on it's side and sank. Gleaner was brought to the spot at 1630 howhere she carried out a sweep and at 1710 she signalled the aircraft she could not get a contact. After the was German records have shown this to be U-51. She was not sunk, as thought, but had suffered extensive damage to her machinery. Limping on the surface towards Lorient, she was attacked and sunk with all hands by HMS Cachalot on 20 August.

The Gleaner's second convoy, OA-204, was not so fortunate. The convoy consisted of 21 ships in 6 columns, protected by Gleaner (LtCdr H.P. Price) and the British corvette HMS Clematis. At 0023 hours on 29 August 1940 the convoy was attacked by U-100, the British steam merchant Hartismere was struck by one torpedo on the starboard side, underneath the bridge. One minute later the Commodore's ship, the British steam merchant Dalblair, was torpedoed amidships on her starboard side and sank in ten minutes. Gleaner sighted explosions and tried to cross ahead of the convoy, narrowly avaiding several collisions with ships which, without a Commodore and without any orders were scattering in all directions at full speed. Hampered by her lack of speed the Gleaner turned back to ensure the survivors were being picked up. At 0140 hours on 29 August the British steam merchant Astra II, was torpedoed and sunk rapidly. Gleaner picked up 20 survivors and at daylight proceeded to escort the damaged Hartismere to the Clyde. Later that night two other ships, one British and one Swedish were lost.

The remainder of HMS Gleaner's escort service was comparatively uneventful and in February 1942 she was taken in hand at Leith for conversion to a Fleet Minesweeper and to be fitted for Arctic conditions. On completion in May she joined the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla, Home Fleet and, as well as minesweeping patrols, she escorted convoys between Scapa Flow and the Icelandic ports of Hval Fjord and Seidisfjord and between Scapa and the Kola Inlet. This too was a quiet period for HMS Gleaner.

In June 1944, with other members of the 1st MSF, she took part in 'Operation Neptune'. On 25 August 1944 at 1540, HMS Gleaner suffered extensive damage from a near miss mine whilst sweeping to westward of Cap d'Antifer in follow up operations. Her main engine was put out of action and she was taken in tow for repairs in the UK. Once repaired she was involved in sweeps in the area of Margate Roads. On 14 March 1945 she was rendered unseaworthy following a collision with a pilot ship which left her with a six foot hole at deck level.

HMS Gleaner remained with the 1st MSF until 2 September 1946 when she paid off into reserve at Falmouth. On 12 May 1950 she was transferred to the British Iron and Steel Corporation for breaking up.

 

Commands listed for HMS Gleaner (J 83)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Hugh Percival Price, RN7 May 193722 Feb 1941
2Lt.Cdr. Karl Eric Oom, RAN22 Feb 1941Dec 1941
3Lt.Cdr. Evelyn David John Abbot, RNDec 1941early 1942
4Lt. John Osric Leatham Shelton, RNearly 194210 Apr 1942
5Lt.Cdr. Frank Joseph George Hewitt, DSC, RN10 Apr 194229 Sep 1944
6T/A/Lt.Cdr. Harold Graham King, RNVR29 Sep 194416 Jul 1945
7A/Lt.Cdr. John Andrew Pearson, DSC, RNR16 Jul 1945Oct 1945 ?

You can help improve our commands section
Click here to Submit events/comments/updates for this vessel.
Please use this if you spot mistakes or want to improve this ships page.

Notable events involving Gleaner include:


22 Dec 1939

Convoy TC 2.

This convoy of troopships departed Halifax on 22 December 1939 for the Clyde where it arrived on 30 December 1939.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / liners; Almanzora (British, 15551 GRT, built 1914, carrying 1284 troops), Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939, carrying 1358 troops), Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936, carrying 806 troops), Chrobry (Polish, 11442 GRT, built 1939, carrying 1045 troops) Orama (British, 19840 GRT, built 1924, carrying 935 troops), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917, carrying 1269 troops) and Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931, carrying 1455 troops).

A/S escort was provided on leaving Halifax the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.N. Creery, RCN), HMCS Ottawa (Capt. G.C. Jones, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. W.B.L. Holms, RCN), HMCS St. Laurent (Lt.Cdr. H.G. de Wolf, RCN) and the British destroyer HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. De Villiers, RN). These destroyers remained with the convoy until 24 December 1939 when they set course to return to Halifax.

Ocean Escort was provided by the British battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) [Rear-Admiral Holland had hoisted his flag shortly before departure], French battlecruiser Dunkerque (Capt. M.J.M. Seguin and the French light cruiser Gloire (Capt. F.H.R. de Belot).

When the convoy approached the British isles, the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) departed Greenock on the 25th to join the convoy on the 28th. On the 26th two more destroyers departed Greenock, these were HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN). These destroyers also joined the convoy on the 28th.

On the 29th the French battlecruiser Dunkerque and the light cruiser Gloire parted company with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Fearless, HMS Firedrake and HMS Fury until they were relieved by the French large destroyers Mogador (Cdr. P. Maerte), Volta (Cdr. C.V.E. Jacquinet), Le Triomphant (Cdr. M.M.P.L. Pothuau), Le Fantasque (Capt. P.A.B. Still), and Le Terrible (Cdr. A.E.R. Bonneau).

Four more escorts joined the convoy on the 29th. These were the minesweepers HMS Jason (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Fryer, RN), HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, RN).and the patrol vessels HMS Puffin (Lt.Cdr. Hon. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) and HMS Shearwater (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN).

The convoy arrived safely in the Clyde area in the morning of 30 December 1939. (1)

12 Feb 1940
German U-boat U-33 was sunk in the Firth of Clyde, in position 55°23,4'N, 05°08,2'W, by depth charges from the British minesweeper HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, RN).

29 Aug 1940
HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, DSO, RN) picks up 20 survivors from the British merchant Astra II that was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-100 148 nautical miles north-west of Bloody Foreland in position 56°09'N, 12°14'W.

7 Feb 1941
HMS L 23 (Lt. L.F.L. Hill, RNR) departed Methil for Scapa Flow. She was escorted by HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, DSO, RN). (2)

10 Aug 1942
HMS Upright (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Collett, DSC, RN) carried out A/S exercises with HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN). (3)

13 Aug 1942
HMS Upright (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Collett, DSC, RN) carried out A/S exercises with HNoMS Eskdale (Lt.Cdr. S. Storheill), RHS Adrias, HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN). (3)

2 Sep 1942

Convoy operations to and from northern Russia, convoy's PQ 18 and QP 14.

Convoy PQ 18 from Loch Ewe to the Kola Inlet and convoy QP 14 from the Kola Inlet to Loch Ewe.

Convoy PQ 18 departed Loch Ewe on 2 September 1942 and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 21 September 1942.

On departure from Loch Ewe it was made up of the following merchant vessels; Africander (Panamanian, 5441 GRT, built 1921), Atheltemplar (British (tanker), 8992 GRT, built 1930), Campfire (American, 5671 GRT, built 1919), Charles R. McCormick (American, 6027 GRT, built 1920), Dan-Y-Bryn (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Beaumont (British, 7044 GRT, built 1942), Empire Morn (British, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Empire Snow (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Empire Stevenson (British, 6209 GRT, built 1941), Empire Trinstram (British, 7167 GRT, built 1942), Esek Hopkins (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Gateway City (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), Goolistan (British, 5851 GRT, built 1929), Hollywood (American, 5498 GRT, built 1920), John Penn II (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Kentucky (American, 5446 GRT, built 1921), Lafayette (Russian, 5887 GRT, built 1919), Macbeth (Panamanian, 4941 GRT, built 1920), Mary Luckenbach (American, 5049 GRT, built 1919), Meanticut (American, 6061 GRT, built 1921), Nathaniel Greene (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Faith (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Oliver Ellsworth (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Oregonian (American, 4862 GRT, built 1917), Oremar (American, 6854 GRT, built 1919), Patrick Henry (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Sahale (American, 5028 GRT, built 1919), San Zotico (British (tanker), 5582 GRT, built 1919), Schoharie (American, 4971 GRT, built 1919), St. Olaf (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940), Virginia Dare (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Wacosta (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), White Clover (Panamanian, 5462 GRT, built 1920) and William Moultrie (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942).

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tankers Black Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) were also part of the convoy. These ships were known as ' Force Q '.

As was the rescue ship Copeland (British, 1526 GRT, built 1923).

The merchant vessel Beauregard (American, 5976 GRT, built 1920) had also sailed with the convoy but soon returned to Loch Ewe with engine trouble.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Campbell (A/Cdr. E.C. Coats, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Mackay ( Lt. J.B. Marjoribanks, RN), escort destroyers HNoMS Eskdale (Lt.Cdr. S. Storheill), HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Arab (T/Lt. F.M. Procter, RCNVR), HMS Duncton (T/Lt. J.P. Kilbee, RNR), HMS Hugh Walpole (T/Lt. J. Mackenzie, RNR), HMS King Sol (Lt. P.A. Read, RNR) and HMS Paynter (Lt. R.H. Nossiter, RANVR).

On 6 September 1942 the escort was reinforced by the destroyers HMS Montrose (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) and HMS Walpole (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN) which came from Hvalfjord.

On 7 September 1942 three ships which had taken passage in this convoy arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland, these were the Gateway City, Oremar and San Zotico. Also the five A/S trawlers had parted company with the convoy.

Also on this day eight more merchant vessels joined the convoy coming from Reykjavik, these were the; Andre Marti (Russian, 2352 GRT, built 1918), Exford (American, 4969 GRT, built 1919), Komiles (Russian, 3962 GRT, built 1932), Petrovski (Russian, 3771 GRT, built 1921), Richard Bassett (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Stalingrad (Russian, 3559 GRT, built 1931), Sukhona (Russian, 3124 GRT, built 1918) and Tblisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912).

The Richard Bassett however soon returned to Reykjavik.

Also with this section were three motor minesweepers which were to be transferred to the Russian Navy, these were MMS 90 (Skr. J. Dinwoodie, RNR), MMS 203 ( Skr. J.H. Petherbridge, DSC, RNR) and MMS 212 ( T/Lt. W.J. Walker, RNVR).

These ships were escorted by the destroyers HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, RN), minesweepers HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN), corvettes HMS Bergamot (Lt. R.T. Horan, RNR), HMS Bluebell (Lt. G.H. Walker, RNVR), HMS Bryony (Lt.Cdr. J.P. Stewart, DSC, RNR), HMS Camellia (T/Lt. R.F.J. Maberley, RNVR), A/S trawlers HMS Cape Argona (T/A/Lt.Cdr. E.R. Pate, RNR), HMS Cape Mariato (T/Lt. H.T.S. Clouston, RNVR), HMS Daneman (T/Lt. G.O.T.D. Henderson, RNVR), HMS St. Kenan (Lt. J. Mackay, RNR) and the AA ships HMS Alynbank (A/Capt.(Retd.) H.F. Nash, RN) and HMS Ulster Queen (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.K. Adam, RN).

When the Reykjavik section joined the convoy the escort destroyers HNoMS Eskdale and HMS Farndale parted company and proceeded to Hvalfjord. HMS Walpole also returned to Hvalfjord with defects as did HMS Amazon. After repairs, HMS Amazon proceeded to Akureyri.

HMS Campbell and HMS Mackay arrived at Hvalfjord on the 9th, having been detached from the convoy escort. They later went on to Akureyri.

Around 0615A/8 the minesweepers HMS Sharpshooter (Lt.Cdr. W.L. O'Mara, RN) departed Seidisfjord escorting the submarines HMS P 614 (Lt. D.J. Beckley, RN) and HMS P 615 (Lt. P.E. Newstead, RN). All three ships joined the convoy shortly after noon on the 9th.

Around 2100A/8, ' Force A ', made up of the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. M.L. Power, OBE, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) departed Akureyri for Spitsbergen where they were to refuel from ' Force P ' (see below).

Around 2145A/8, ' Force B ', made up of the AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, DSO, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN) and the ' Carrier Force ' made up of the escort carrier HMS Avenger (Cdr. A.P. Colthurst, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did around 2200A/9.

Around 2230A/9, HMS Echo parted company with the convoy to return to Hvalfjord as did HMS Montrose which proceeded to Akureyri. Both destroyers arrived at their destinations on the 10th.

' Force A ', made up of the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Offa, HMS Onslaught, HMS Opportune, HMS Ashanti, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali and HMS Tartar, arrived at Spitsbergen on the 11th, fuelled from ' Force P ' and departed P.M. to join convoy PQ 18 which they did in the morning of the 13th.

Meanwhile HMS Scylla, HMS Milne, HMS Marne, HMS Martin, HMS Meteor and HMS Intrepid parted company with the convoy at 1130A/11 to proceed to Spitsbergen to fuel from ' Force P '. The other destroyers / escort destroyers with the convoy fuelled from ' Force Q '.

HMS Scylla, HMS Milne, HMS Marne, HMS Martin, HMS Meteor and HMS Intrepid completed fuelling in the morning of the 13th and they rejoined the convoy around 1400A/13. The escort was complete then.

Meanwhile the convoy, had been picked up again by German aircraft on the 12th. Also at 2109A/12, the destroyer HMS Faulknor attacked a contact ahead of the convoy with depth charges in position 75°04'N, 04°49'E, this meant the end of the German submarine U-88.

On 13 September the convoy was heavily attacked by the enemy resulting in the loss of ten of the merchant vessels; by U-boat (U-408) Stalingrad and the Oliver Ellsworth and by German aircraft the Wacosta, Oregonian, Macbeth, Africander, Empire Stevenson, Empire Beaumont, John Penn and Sukhona.

On 14 September the German submarine U-457 hit the tanker Atheltemplar. The tanker burst into flames and was abandoned by her crew. HMS Harrier tried to scuttle the tanker with gunfire but failed to do so and she was last seen heavily on fire but still afloat. The capsized wreck was sunk by the German submarine U-408 in the afternoon.

Early in the afternoon the German submarine U-589 was hunted by Swordfish aircraft from HMS Avenger and she was sunk in position 75°40'N, 20°32'E with depth charges by HMS Onslow.

The German airforce also attacked the convoy on this day but concentrated initially on attacking the escort instead of the merchant ships. The HMS Avenger was heavily attacked but she was not hit though she had a lucky escape during a dive bomb attack. Torpedoes fired at her were dropped from long range due to effecive fire from her close escort, the escort destroyers HMS Wheatland and HMS Wilton and the AA ship HMS Ulster Queen which had also come to her aid.

In the afternoon the merchant vessel Mary Luckenbach was torpedoed. She exploded and completely vaporised due to her cargo of 1000 tons of TNT. There were no survivors.

On September 15th, German aircraft could not inflict damage to the convoy though some ships had narrow escapes. The U-boats could be kept at bay by the escorts.

In the early hours of the 16th, the German submarine U-457 tried to attack the convoy but she was depth charged and sunk by HMS Impulsive in position 75°05'N, 43°15'E.

Shortly before noon the destroyers HMS Offa and HMS Opportune conducted depth charge attacks on the German submarines U-255 and U-378 during which the former sustained some damage.

Around 1530A/16, HMS Scylla, HMS Avenger, Milne, Marne, Martin, Meteor, Faulknor, Fury, Impulsive, Intrepid, HMS Onslow, HMS Offa, HMS Onslaught, HMS Opportune, HMS Ashanti, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Wheatland, HMS Wilton, HMS Alynbank, HMS P 614 and HMS P 615 parted company with PQ 18 to join the westbound convoy QP 14 (see below) which they did the following morning. The two RFA tankers from ' Force Q ' were also with them.

On September 17th, the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, and Sokrushitelny joined the convoy escort.

On September 18th, the Russian destroyers Valerian Kyubishev and Uritsky joined the convoy as did the British minesweepers HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), HMS Halcyon (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Corbet-Singleton, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Hazard (Lt.(Retd.) G.C. Hocart, RNR), HMS Salamander (Lt. W.R. Muttram, RN) joined the convoy escort. Also on this day the merchant vessel Kentucky was lost due to a German air attack.

The convoy arrived at Archangelsk on 21 September 1941. Some delay having been experienced due to heavy weather on the 19th.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Convoy QP 14 departed Archangelsk on 13 September 1942 and arrived at Loch Ewe on 26 September 1942.

On departure from Archangelsk it was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alcoa Banner (American, 5035 GRT, built 1919), Bellingham (American, 5345 GRT, built 1920), Benjamin Harrison (American, 2191 GRT, built 1942), Deer Lodge (American, 6187 GRT, built 1919), Empire Tide (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Harmatris (British, 5395 GRT, built 1932), Minotaur (American, 4554 GRT, built 1918), Ocean Freedom (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Voice (British, 7174 GRT, built 1941), Samuel Chase (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Silver Sword (British, 4937 GRT, built 1919), Tobruk (Polish, 7048 GRT, built 1942), Troubadour (Panamanian, 6428 GRT, built 1920), West Nilus (American, 5495 GRT, built 1920) and Winston Salem (American, 6223 GRT, built 1920).

The rescue vessels Rathlin (British, 1600 GRT, built 1936) and Zamalek (British, 1567 GRT, built 1921) were also part of the convoy.

On departure from Archangelsk the convoy was escorted by the (Russian) destroyer Kuibyshev, Uritski, escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), minesweepers Britomart, HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, DSO, RN), Halcyon, Hazard, HMS Leda (A/Cdr.(Retd.) A.H. Wynne-Edwards, RN), Salamander, HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), corvettes HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.G. Rankin, RNR), HMS La Malouine (T/Lt. V.D.H. Bidwell, RNR), HMS Lotus (Lt. H.J. Hall, RNR), HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR), A/S trawlers HMS Ayrshire (T/Lt. L.J.A. Gradwell, RNVR), HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. O.B. Egjar, RNR), HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR), HMS Northern Gem (Skr.Lt. W.J.V. Mullender, DSC, RD, RNR), and the AA ships HMS Palomares (A/Capt.(rtd.) J.H. Jauncey, RN) and HMS Pozarica (A/Capt.(rtd.) E.D.W. Lawford, RN).

In the morning of the 17th, HMS Scylla, HMS Avenger, Milne, Marne, Martin, Meteor, Faulknor, Fury, Impulsive, Intrepid, HMS Onslow, HMS Offa, HMS Onslaught, HMS Opportune, HMS Ashanti, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Wheatland, HMS Wilton, HMS Alynbank, HMS P 614 and HMS P 615 joined the convoy. The two RFA tankers from ' Force Q ' were also with them.

Also on the 17th, the Kuibyshev, Uritski, Britomart, Halcyon, Hazard and Salamander parted company with the convoy to join the escort of convoy PQ 18 (see above).

On the 18th (or early on the 19th ?) the destroyers HMS Fury and HMS Impulsive were detached from the convoy for Spitsbergen. They rejoined the convoy around 1700A/19 having escorted the RFA tanker Oligarch from Spitsbergen to the convoy. The destroyer HMS Worcester was also with them.

On 20 September U-boats began to attack the convoy and the minesweeper HMS Leda was torpedoed and sunk around 0530A/20 by U-435 in position 76°30'N, 05°00'E. She sank around 0700A/20.

Shortly after noon, the submarines HMS P 614 and HMS P 615 also parted company with the convoy to proceed to Lerwick but they first swept astern of the convoy to try to attack shadowing enemy submarines. HMS P 614 attacked U-408 with four torpedoes thinking to have sunk the enemy but this was not the case.

Later that day the merchant vessel Silver Sword was torpedoed and sunk by U-255. The Silver Sword did not sink immediately, her wreck was scuttled by gunfire from the destroyer HMS Worcester.

And finally on the 20th, the destroyer HMS Somali was torpedoed and damaged around 1850A/20 by the U-703. The ship was taken in tow towards Akureyri or Seidisfjord by her sistership HMS Ashanti and screened by HMS Opportune, HMS Eskimo and HMS Intrepid but HMS Somali finally breaking in two around 0230A/24 when the weather conditions had worsened. Both halves sank quickly.

Also on this day, Rear-Admiral Burnett transferred his flag from HMS Scylla to HMS Milne. HMS Scylla, HMS Avenger, HMS Fury, HMS Wheatland and HMS Wilton then parted company to proceed to Seidisfjord where they arrived on 22 September. The destroyer HMS Onslaught was detached to escort the staggler Troubadour. They later joined the remainder of ' Force P ' (RFA tanker Blue Ranger, destroyer HMS Windsor and the escort destroyers HMS Cowdray and HMS Oakley) which had departed Spitsbergen. On 22 September they joined HMS Somali under tow by HMS Ashanti and the escorting destroyers HMS Opportune, HMS Eskimo and HMS Intrepid.

Three German submarines were attacked by the A/S escort on 20 September, these were U-378 by a Swordfish aircraft from HMS Avenger, U-212 by HMS Ashanti and finally U-255 by HMS Eskimo. All submarines managed to escape without damage.

On 21 September a Catalina (RAF(Norwegian) 330Sq./Z) attacked the German submarine U-606 but the aircraft is shot down by the enemy.

Early on 22 September, HMS Milne detached from the convoy to proceed to Seidisfjord where she arrived in the evening.

On 22 September the German submarine U-435 again attacked the convoy and managed to sink the merchant vessels Bellingham, Ocean Voyce and the RFA tanker Grey Ranger.

On 23 September, HMS Onslow, HMS Offa, HMS Worcester and the two rescue ships, were detached to Seidisfjord arriving there later on the same day.

Also on 23 September, HMS Scylla, HMS Avenger, HMS Milne, HMS Wheatland and HMS Wilton departed Seidisfjord for Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 24th.

The staggler Troubadour was detached from ' Force P ' on the 24th to proceed to Akureyri.

On 24 September, HMS Marne was detached to proceed to Seidisfjord to land the survivors that she had picked up from the Catalina aircraft that had been shot down on 21 September by U-606. She rejoined the convoy later the same day. HMS Onslow, HMS Offa, HMS Worcester and the two rescue ship left Seidisfjord to rejoin the convoy which they did on the 25th.

On the 25th, HMS Martin was detached to escort the staggler Winston Salem while HMS Ayrshire was detached to Seidisfjord with defects.

Around 2115A/25, HMS Ashanti, HMS Intrepid, HMS Onslaught and HMS Opportune arrived at Scapa Flow. HMS Eskimo arrived around 0700A/26. Following the sinking of Somali they had detached from ' Force P ' on the 24th.

On the 26th, HMS Faulknor, HMS Onslow, HMS Offa, HMS Marne, HMS Meteor, HMS Tartar, HMS Impulsive, HMS Worcester, HMS Blankney, HMS Middleton, HMS Bramble, HMS Seagull and the tankers Oligarch and Black Ranger were detached to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the same day.

The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on the 26th.

The staggler Winston Salem arrived at Loch Ewe the following day after which HMS Martin proceeded to Scapa Flow arriving around 1930A/27.

' Force P ', Blue Ranger escorted by HMS Windsor, HMS Cowdray and HMS Oakley arrived at Scapa Flow on the 27th.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To provide cover and support for this convoy four forces were deployed.

' Force P ' was the Spitsbergen refueling force. It was made up of the RFA tankers Blue Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and Oligarch (6894 GRT, built 1918) and departed Scapa Flow on 3 September escorted by the destroyer HMS Windsor (Lt.Cdr. D.H.F. Hetherington, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, RN), HMS Cowdray (Lt.Cdr. C.W. North, RN), and Oakley (Lt.Cdr. T.A. Pack-Beresford, RN).

On 4 September the destroyer HMS Worcester (Lt.Cdr. W.A. Juniper, RN), coming from Seidisfjord, Iceland, relieved HMS Bramham which then proceeded to Seidisfjord. She later went on to Akureyri.

' Force P ' arrived at Spitsbergen (Lowe Sound) on 10 September. [For futher movements of ' Force P ' see the text above and below.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There was also the ' Cruiser Force ' was was to provide close cover for the convoys during their passage through the most dangerous area. Also two ships of the force were to land stores, personnel and dogs on Spitsbergen (Operation Gearbox II). It was made up of the heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN), HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN), HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN), HMS Suffolk (Capt. R. Shelley, CBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Echo, HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN). They departed Hvalfjord around 1145Z/14.

Around 1330A/15, they were joined in position 67°40'N, 19°55'W by HMS Amazon coming from Akureyri.

Around 1200A/16, HMS Cumberland and HMS Eclipse were detached for operation Gearbox II.

In the evening of the 16th the destroyers were fuelled by the cruisers. Due to these ships having to be available to intercept and engage German surface forces in case these would come out to attack the convoys the fuel levels in the destroyers were kept as high as possible. HMS Bulldog was fuelled by HMS Norfolk, HMS Echo was fuelled by HMS London, HMS Amazon was fuelled by HMS Suffolk.

At 0600A/17, HMS Eclipse was detached by HMS Cumberland to patrol to seaward while HMS Cumberland went on to Barentsburg. She anchored there around 1420A/17 and the first boat with stores was underway at 1445A/17. At 1900A/17, HMS Eclipse came alongside to fuel. This was completed at 2110A/17 and she got underway. At 2145A/17 weighted and departed Barentsburg to rejoin the other cruisers which she did around 0600A/18.

At 2200A/17, HMS Sheffield parted company with the other cruisers for her part in Operation Gearbox II. She anchored off Barentsburg around 1530A/18 and commenced disembarking. At 1930A/18, HMS Eclipse went alongside to fuel which was completed at 2105A/18. HMS Sheffield and HMS Eclipse departed the fjord around 2130A/18. They rejoined the other ships around 1050A/19.

Meanwhile in the late afternoon / early evening of the 17th, HMS Amazon, HMS Bulldog and HMS Echo were fuelled by ' Force P ' which had come out of the fjords. The destroyers were again topped off by ' Force P ' in the later morning / afternoon of the 18th.

The ' Cruiser Force ' returned to Hvalfjord around 1730Z/22.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And finally there was the ' Distant Cover / Battlefleet Force '. This force was made up of the battleships HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral B.A. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN), destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Campbell, HMS Mackay, HMS Montrose and the escort destroyer HMS Bramham. They departed from Akureyri around 1700Z/11 to provide cover for convoy PQ 18. The destroyers had sailed a little earlier presumably to conduct an A/S sweep off the fjord first.

They returned to Akureyri around 0900Z/14 except for HMS Bramham which had been detached to proceed to Hvalfjord.

HMS Anson, HMS Duke of York, HMS Jamaica, HMS Keppel, HMS Campbell, HMS Mackay and HMS Montrose departed again around 0630Z/19 to provide cover for convoy QP 14. The destroyer HMS Broke (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Layard, RN) had meanwhile joined them at Akureyri and sailed with them. Once again the destroyers joined off the fjord presumable having conducted an A/S sweep of the fjord first.

The ' Battlefleet Force ' arrived at Hvalfjord around 2100Z/22.

30 Dec 1942

Convoy RA 51.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet on 30 December 1942.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Belorussia (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Campfire (American, 5671 GRT, built 1919), Empire Galliard (British, 7170 GRT, built 1942), Empire Scott (British, 6150 GRT, built 1941), Hopemount (British, 7434 GRT, built 1929), Hugh Williamson (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), John Walker (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Kotlin (Russian, 2545 GRT, built 1921), Meanticut (American, 6061 GRT, built 1921), Okhta (Russian, 1357 GRT, built 1918), Revolutsioner (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Richard Halvey (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942) and Volga (Russian, 2847 GRT, built 1935).

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Oligarch (6894 GRT, built 1918) was also part of the convoy.

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN), minesweeper HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Cape Argona (T/A/Lt.Cdr. E.R. Pate, RNR), HMS Cape Mariato (T/Lt. H.T.S. Clouston, RNVR), HMS Daneman (T/Lt. G.O.T.D. Henderson, RNVR), HMS St. Kenan (Lt. J. Mackay, RNR).

On 31 December 1942, the convoy was spotted by German air reconnaissance.

The destroyer HMS Montrose (A/Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did the following day.

HMS Faulknor, HMS Inglefield, HMS Fury, HMS Echo, HMS Eclipse and HMS Beagle were then detached to proceed to Seidisfjord.

Also the RFA tanker Oligarch was detached to Hvalfjord escorted by HMS Cape Mariato and HMS St. Kenan. They arrived at Hvalfjord on the 8th.

On the 7th, HMS Daneman had to be detached to Seidisfjord due to engine trouble.

The destroyer HMS Worcester (Lt.Cdr. W.A. Juniper, RN) left Seidisfjord and joined the convoy.

On the 9th, HMS Blankney was detached from the convoy to proceed to Scapa Flow arriving later the same day.

On the 10th, HMS Worcester was detached from the convoy to Stornoway due to condenser trouble.

HMS Montrose, HMS Ledbury and HMS Gleaner were detached from the convoy to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 11th.

On the 11th, the convoy arrived at Loch Ewe escorted by HMS Cape Argona.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A close cover force ' Force R ' was deployed. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) and HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) which had departed the Kola Inlet on 27 December to provide cover, first for eastbound convoy JW 51B and then for westbound convoy RA 50.

They had engaged enemy surface forces on 31 December 1942 during the defence of convoy JW 51B and then had turned west to provide cover for convoy RA 51.

On 2 January 1943 they set course to proceed to Seidisfjord where they arrived on 4 January.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A battleforce, made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet) and HMS Howe (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, CB, RN), heavy cruisers HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Montrose and HMS Worcester departed Scapa Flow on 31 December 1942 and steered north to cover the passage of convoy RA 51 between latitudes 70°00'N and 71°30'N and longitude 01°00'E to 05°00'E.

As the battlefleet proceeded to the north they ran into heavy weather on 1 Janauary 1943 and they had to slow down to enable the destroyers to keep up without sustaining weather damage. HMS Kent and HMS Berwick were then detached to proceed ahead to reach the covering position at the intended time.

On the 2nd, HMS Montrose was detached to Seidisfjord where she arrived on the 3rd.

On the 3rd the battlefleet, minus HMS Kent and HMS Berwick turned back towards Scapa Flow. HMS Worcester was detached to Seidisfjord where she arrived on the 4th.

HMS King George V, HMS Howe, HMS Bermuda, HMS Raider, HMS Queenborough, HMS Musketeer and ORP Piorun returned to Scapa Flow on the 5th.

HMS Kent and HMS Berwick returned to Scapa Flow on the 6th. (4)

10 Aug 1943
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.A.R. Troup, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Stork (Cdr.(Retd.) G.W.E. Castens, RN), HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Alisma (Lt. G. Lanning, RANVR). (5)

12 Dec 1943

Operation FV, passage of convoys JW 55A and JW 55B to Northern Russia and RA 55A and RA 55B from Northern Russia and the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst.

Convoy JW 55A

.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 12 December 1943 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Collis P. Huntington (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Daniel Willard (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Pickwick (British, 7068 GRT, built 1943), Fort Astoria (British, 7189 GRT, built 1943), Fort Hall (British, 7157 GRT, built 1943), Fort Missanabie (British, 7147 GRT, built 1943), Fort Thompson (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), George Weems (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), James A. Farrell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), James Woodrow (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942), Lapland (British, 2897 GRT, built 1942), Lewis Emery Jr. (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Lucerna (British, 6556 GRT, built 1930), Philip Livingston (American, 7176 GRT, built 1941), San Ambrosio (British (tanker), 7410 GRT, built 1935), Stage Door Canteen (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Thistledale (British, 7241 GRT, built 1942) and Thomas Scott (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyer HMS Westcott (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. H.E.H. Nicholls, RN), HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Williams, RD, RNR), HMS Cockatrice (A/Lt.Cdr. C.W. Armstrong, RNR) and the corvette HNoMS Acanthus (?).

on 15 December the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt. W.D. Shaw, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, RN), HMS Ashanti (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN) and HMCS Athabascan (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN) joined the convoy coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands. HMS Harrier and HMS Cockatrice were then detached with orders to proceed to Skaalefjord.

On 20 December 1943 the convoy split into two sections, one for Murmansk with the original escort and one for Archangelsk with a new escort made up of the minesweepers HMS Hussar (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Biggs, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Halcyon (T/A/Lt.Cdr. L.J. Martin, RNVR), the Russian destroyers Gromkiy, Grozniy, Valerian Kyubishev as well as three Russian minesweepers.

The Murmansk section arrived at its destination on 21 December 1943, the Archangelsk section a day later.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Convoy JW 55B

.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 20 December 1943 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Bernard N. Baker (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943), British Statesman (British (tanker), 6991 GRT, built 1923), Brockhorst Livingston (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Cardinal Gibbons (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Fort Kullyspell (British, 7190 GRT, built 1943), Fort Nakasley (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943), Fort Verscheres (British, 7128 GRT, built 1942), Harold L. Winslow (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), John J. Abel (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943), John Vining (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), John Wanamaker (British, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Norlys (Panamanian (tanker), 9892 GRT, built 1936), Ocean Gipsy (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Messenger (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Pride (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Valour (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Viceroy (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Thomas U. Walter (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and Will Rogers (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. P.J. Cowell, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), minesweepers HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN), Hound (A/Cdr.(Retd.) A.H. Wynne-Edwards, RN), Hydra (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.T.J. Wellard, RNR) and the corvettes HMS Borage (Lt. W.S. MacDonald, DSC, RNVR), HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR) and HMS Wallflower (Lt. G.R. Greaves, RNR).

On 22 December 1943 the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, DSC, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. P. Bekenn, RN), HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN), HMCS Iroquois (Cdr. J.C. Hibbard DSC, RCN), HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN) and HMCS Huron (Lt.Cdr. H.S. Rayner, DSC, RCN) joined the convoy coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands. HMS Hound, HMS Hydra, HMS Borage and HMS Wallflower were then detached to Skaalefjord.

For 23 December 1943 onwards the convoy was shadowed by enemy aircraft, U-boats joined them the following day.

On 24 December 1943, the convoy reversed it's course for a few hours in order to have the battle cover force ' Force 2 ' close the distance due to the threat to the convoy of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst [see below for more info in the resulting ' Battle of the North Cape '.]

On 25 December 1943, the destroyers HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago joined the convoy having detached from convoy RA 55A. They were detached again the following day and joined cover force ' Force 1 ' [again see below for more info].

On 26 December the convoy was diverse to the north to evade the Scharnhorst. Later in the day, following the sinking of the German ship the convoy resumed its normal course.

On 28 December 1943 the convoy split into two sections, one for Murmansk with the original escort and one for Archangelsk with a new escort made up of the minesweepers HMS Hussar, HMS Halcyon, HMS Speedwell, the Russian destroyers Razyarenniy, Razumniy, Valerian Kyubishev as well as four Russian minesweepers.

The Murmansk section arrived at its destination on 29 December 1943, the Archangelsk section a day later.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Convoy RA 55A

.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet (Murmansk) on 22 December 1943 for the U.K.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Arthur L. Perry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Daniel Drake (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Edmund Fanning (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Empire Carpenter (British, 7025 GRT, built 1943), Empire Celia (British, 7025 GRT, built 1943), Empire Nigel (British, 7067 GRT, built 1943), Fort McMurray (British, 7133 GRT, built 1942), Fort Yukon (British, 7153 GRT, built 1943), Gilbert Stuart (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Villard (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Smith (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), Junecrest (British, 6945 GRT, built 1942), Mijdrecht (Dutch (tanker), 7493 GRT, built 1931), Ocean Strength (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Vanity (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Verity (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Park Holland (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), San Adolfo (British (tanker), 7365 GRT, built 1935), Thomas Kearns (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943), Thomas Sim Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), William L. Marcy (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942) and William Windom (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943).

The rescue vessel Rathlin (British, 1600 GRT, built 1936) was also with the convoy.

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Milne, HMS Matchless, HMS Meteor, HMS Musketeer, HMS Opportune, HMS Virago, HMS Ashanti, HMCS Athabascan, HMS Westcott, HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN), minesweeper HMS Jason (Cdr. H.G.A. Lewis, RN) and the corvettes HMS Dianthus (A/Lt.Cdr. B.J. Bowick, RNVR) and HMS Poppy (T/Lt. D.R.C. Onslow, RNR).

On 23 December the merchant vessel Thomas Kearns had to return with defects.

On 25 December, HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago were detached to join JW 55B.

On 26 December the convoy got scattered during a gale.

On 28 December HMCS Athabascan and HMS Beagle were detached to Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands where they arrived on the 29th.

On 30 December, the minesweepers HMS Hound, HMS Hydra and the corvettes HMS Borage and HMS Wallflower joined the convoy. They had departed Skaalefjord on the 29th.

Also on the 30th, HMS Ashanti and later HMS Westcott were detached to fuel at Skaalefiord.

On 31 December HMS Westcott rejoined the convoy after fuelling at Skaalefiord.

Also on 31 December HMS Milne and HMS Meteor were detached from the convoy to proceed direct to Scapa Flow arriving there later the same day. HMS Seagull was also detached for Scapa Flow also arriving the same day but later then the destroyers.

The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on 1 January 1944, escorted by HMS Borage and HMS Wallflower.

HMS Hound and HMS Hydra had been detached to return to Skaalefiord where they arrived on 2 January 1944.

HMS Westcott, HMS Acanthus, HMS Dianella and HMS Poppy had been detached to proceed to east coast ports to rejoin the Western Approaches Command. They arrived at their destinations on 2 January 1944.

Convoy RA 55B

.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet (Murmansk) on 31 December 1943 for the U.K.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Empire Stalwart (British, 7045 GRT, built 1943), Fort Columbia (British, 7155 GRT, built 1942), Fort Poplar (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), James Gordon Bennett (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Lucerna (British, 6556 GRT, built 1930), San Ambrosio (British (tanker), 7410 GRT, built 1935) and Thomas Kearns (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943).

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Onslaught, HMS Orwell, HMS Impulsive, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron, HMS Whitehall, HMS Wrestler, minesweepers HMS Halcyon, HMS Hussar, HMS Speedwell and the corvettes HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron (T/Lt. O.B. Medley, RNVR).

On 1 January 1944, HMS Halcyon, HMS Hussar, HMS Speedwell were detached to return to the Kola Inlet where they arrived the following day.

On 6 January 1944, the minesweepers Ready (Cdr. A.V. Walker, RN) and Orestes (Lt.Cdr. A.W.R. Adams, RN) joined the convoy coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands.

Also on 6 January 1944, HMCS Huron, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron fuelled at Skaalefjord and then rejoined the convoy.

On 7 January 1944, HMS Onslow, HMS Onslaught, HMS Orwell, HMS Impulsive, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron parted company with the convoy to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived later the same day.

On 8 January 1944, the convoy arrived at Loch Ewe escorted by HMS Ready and HMS Orestes.

HMS Whitehall, HMS Wrestler, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron had parted company shortly before arrival to proceed to East coast ports to rejoin the Western Approaches Command.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

' Force 1 '

.

' Force 1 ' was the cruiser cover force for these convoy's. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. D.K. Bain, RN).

On 16 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', departed Seidisfjord, Iceland to provide cover for Convoy JW 55A.

On 19 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', arrived in the Kola Inlet.

On 23 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', departed the Kola Inlet to provide cover for convoys RA 55A and JW 55B.

On 26 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', was joined by the destroyers HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago and ' Force 1 ' was in action with the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst during which HMS Sheffield and HMS Norfolk were damaged [see below for more info.]

On 27 December 1943, ' Force 1 ' arrived in the Kola Inlet to fuel and make temporary repairs to the damaged ships.

On 29 December 1943, ' Force 1 ' (HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Norfolk) departed the Kola Inlet for Scapa Flow where they arrived on 1 January 1944.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

' Force 2 '

.

' Force 2 ' was the battle cover force for these convoy's. It was made up of the battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.H.E. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN), HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill).

On 12 December 1943, ' Force 2 ' had departed Scapa Flow for the Kola Inlet where it arrived on 16 December 1941.

On 18 December 1943, ' Force 2 ', departed the Kola Inlet to provide cover from convoy JW 55A.

On 21 December 1943, ' Force 2 ', arrived at Akureyri, Iceland. It was swept in by the minesweepers HMS Loyalty (Lt.Cdr. James Edward Maltby, RNR).

On 23 December 1943, ' Force 2 ', departed Akureyri to provide cover for convoys JW 55B and RA 55A.

On 26 December 1943, ' Force 2 ' was in action with the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst [see below for more info.]

On 27 December 1943, ' Force 2 ' arrived in the Kola Inlet to fuel and to make some repairs.

On 28 December 1943, ' Force 4 ', made up of HMS Duke of York, HMS Jamaica, HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune, HMS Virago, HMS Savage, HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord departed the Kola Inlet for Scapa Flow. HMS Saumarez was unable to sail, her action damage some more repairs.

On 1 January 1944, ' Force 4 ' arrived at Scapa Flow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Action with and sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst, 26 December 1943.

.

Dispositions at 0400A/26.

At 0400A/26, the situation in the Bear Island area was as follows;

Westbound convoy RA 55A was about 220 nautical miles to the westward of Bear Island in approximate position 74°42'N, 05°27'E, steering 267°, speed 8 knots. This convoy was apparently still not detected by the enemy.

Eastbound convoy JW 55B was about 50 miles south of Bear Island in approximate position 73°31'N, 18°54'E, steering 070°, speed 8 knots.

' Force 1 ', the cruiser force, was in position 73°52'N, 27°12'E (some 150 nautical miles to the eastward of convoy JW 55B. They were steering 235° at 18 knots.

' Force 2 ', the battle force, was in position 71°07'N, 10°48'E, some 350 miles to the south-west of the cruisers. They were proceeding on course 080° at 24 knots. In the weather conditions the destroyers had difficulty keeping up and the bow of HMS Duke of York was almost constantly under water.

Convoy JW 55B had been sighted and shadowed by aircraft for a while and when flying conditions deteriorated U-boats had been in contact with the convoy. Admiral Fraser had no doubt that this convoy would be the target for the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst and the destroyers Z 29, Z 30, Z 33, Z 34 and Z 38 which were known to be at sea. He therefore decided to divert the convoy to the northward in order to increase the enemy's difficulties in finding it. This would entail breaking wireless silence and revealing the presence of covering forces but the decided that the safety of the convoy must be the primery object. At 0628A/26, Convoy JW 55B was ordered to steer 045° and ' Force 1 ' was ordered to close it for support.

' Force 1 ' altered course to 270° at 0712A/26 in order to approach the convoy from the southward and thus, in the event of action, to avoid steaming into the strong south-westerly wind and heavy seas. Course was held for an hour, and after receiving the position, course and speed of the convoy, course was altered to 300° at 0815A/26. Speed was increased to 24 knots.

Meanwhile the German battlegroup had continued to proceed northwards and at 0730 hours was in estimated position 73°52'N, 23°10'E. Soon afterwards the destroyers were detached to form a reconnaissance line 10 miles ahead of the Scharnhorst. Some of the destroyers did not receive this order and as a result they moved ahead but the area of their search was not the one intended. At 0800 hours the German battlegroup altered course to 230°, probably on account of a submarine report on the position of the convoy. At this time the destroyers were some 10 miles ahead of the battlecruiser, spread approximately in line abreast but it seems that soon afterwards the Scharnhorst turned to the north-eastward, and all communication between her and the destroyers broke down. Communication was restored two hours later but the destroyers never rejoined the battlecruiser.

First contact with the enemy.

At 0840A/26, HMS Belfast picked up a radar contact at 35000 yards, bearing 295°. The Belfast's estimasted position was then 73°35'N, 23°21'E and Vice-Admiral Burnett reckoned the convoy was bearing 287°, 48 nautical miles from him. At the same time Capt. McCoy in HMS Onslow placed the enemy about 36 nautical miles, bearing 125°, from the convoy.

In the Belfast the range of the main echo decreased rapidly, and twenty minutes later - at 0900A/26 - a second echo was obtained, bearing 299°, 24500 yards. This second echo remained on a steady bearing till 0930A/26, when, from its estimated speed of 8-10 knots, the Vice-Admiral considered that it was probably a merchant ship from the convoy, and disregarded it. It may well have been, however, one of the enemy destroyers, detached to shadow the convoy.

At 0915A/26 the main echo bore 250°, 13000 yards, speed approximately 18 knots. At this time ' Force 1 ' was formed on a line of bearing 180°, in the order HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Norfolk, HMS Belfast being the northern ship. The line of bearing had just been altered to 160°, when at 0921A/26, HMS Sheffield reported ' enemy in sight ' bearing 222°, 13000 yards. At 0924A/26, HMS Belfast opened fire with starshell and at 0929A/26, ' Force 1 ' was ordered to engage with main armament, course being altered 40° towards the enemy, to 265°. HMS Norfolk opened fire at a range of 9800 yards, but had to drop back to clear the Belfast's range. She continued firing till 0940 and obtained one git, with her second or third salvo, either on the crow's nest of the bridge port director, which caused several casualties, and possible a hit on the forecastle. The 6" cruisers did not fire during this phase of the action, nor did the enemy, whole altered course to about 150°, steaming at 30 knots. ' Force 1 ' altered to 105° at 0938A/26 and to 170° at 0946A/26 by which time the range had opened to 24000 yards and chased to the southward, but the enemy drew away and the range continued to increase.

At 0955A/26, the Scharnhorst altered course to the north-east, and Vice-Admiral Burnett at once appreciated that she was trying to work round to the northward of the convoy for a second attempt to attack it. Possibly this was the result of an exhortation from Admiral Dönitz which appears to have been received and read to her ship's company around this time. In the prevailing weather conditions - wind force 7 to 8 from the southwest - ' Force 1's ' maximimum speed was 24 knots, and as that of the enemy appeared to be 4 to 6 knots faster the Vice-Admiral decided that he must get between the Scharnhorst and the convoy. He therefore altered course to 305° at 1000A/26, and to 325° at 1014A/26, with result that six minutes later contact was lost with the enemy bearing 078°, 36000 yards, and steering to the north-east at about 28 knots.

Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief had ordered Capt. McCoy, the escort commander, to turn the convoy to the northward at 0930A/26, and to send four destroyers to join ' Force 1 ' at 0937A/26. HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago were detached at 0951A/26. They joined Vice-Admiral Burnett at 1024A/26. By 1030A/26, when it was clear to the Commander-in-Chief that ' Force 1 ' had lost touch with the enemy, and he was again closing the convoy, he ordered convoy JW 55B to resume course 045°.

Second engagement of ' Force 1 '.

Half an hour after losing touch with the enemy ' Force 1 ' made radar contact with the convoy, bearing 324°, 28000 yards, at 1050A/1, and the cruisers commenced zigzagging 10 miles ahead of it, with the four destroyers disposed ahead as a screen.

At 1058A/1, the Commander-in-Chief informed Vice-Admiral Burnett that ' Force 2 ' wound have little chance of finding the enemy unless some unit regained touch with him and shadowed, but in view of the enemy's advantage in speed under the prevailing weather conditions, the Vice-Admiral ' rightly considered it undesirable to split his force by detaching one or more ships to search, feeling confident that the enemy would return to the convoy from the north or north-east '. An hour went by, and the Commander-in-Chief found himself faced with the difficult question of the destroyers fuel situation. He had ' either to turn back or go to the Kola Inlet, and if the Scharnhorst had already turned for home, these was obviously no chance of catching him. This latter contingency was by no means improbable, for ' Force 2 ' had been shadowed from the starboard quarter by three enemy aircraft since about 1000A/26, and their reports had presumably been passed to the Scharnhorst. Then, at 1205A/26, came a signal from HMS Belfast reporting radar contact again with the enemy, and he knew that there was every prospect of cutting him off.

The convoy had remained on a course of 045° till just before noon, when Capt. McCoy, who had been ordered by the Commander-in-Chief at 1122 hours to use his discretion as to its course, altered to 125° in order to keep ' Force 1 ' between the convoy and the probable direction of the enemy. HMS Norfolk had reported a radar contact at 27000 yards at 1137A/26, but had lost it a few minutes later, and by noon, when the convoy was turning to 125°, ' Force 1 ' was in position 74°11'N, 22°18'E, steering 045°, 18 knots, with the convoy about 9 miles on the port quarter. Five minutes later (1205A/26), HMS Belfast radar picked up the enemy bearing 075°, 30500 yards. Vice-Admiral Burnett concentrated his four destroyers on his starboard bow, and at 1219A/26, altered course to 100°. The enemy course and speed was estimated at 240°, 20 knots. A minute later the Scharnhorst appeared to alter course slightly to the westward and at 1221A/26, HMS Sheffield reported ' enemy in sight '. ' Force 1 ' immediately opened fire, and the destroyers were ordered to attack with torpedoes, but were unable to reach a firing position owing to the weather conditions, and the enemy's hurried retirement.

This second action, fought by the cruisers at ranges from 9000 to 16000 yards, lasted about 20 minute, and again the Scharnhorst was ' most effectively driven off the convoy by Force 1's determined attack '. The enemy altered course from west round to south-east, increasing speed to 28 knots, and the range soon began to open. Several hits were claimed by the cruisers, but only one, which struck the port side aft and apparently failed to explode, was subsequently confirmed by prisoners. HMS Musketeer, however, which was herself engaging the enemy at a range of 4500 yards, consided there were others, and the prisoners agreed that the cruisers fire was unpleasantly accurate and filled the air with fragments.

At 1233A/26, 12 minutes after the action started, HMS Norfolk received two hits, one through the barbette of 'X' turret, which was put out of action, and one amidships. All radar, except Type 284, became unsericeable and these were several casualties. One officer and six ratings were killed and five seriously wounded. At the same time an 11" salvo straddled HMS Sheffield, and several pieces of shell, came inboard, fragments penetrated the ship at various points.

By 1241A/26, the enemy was on a course of 110° steaming 28 knots, and the range had opened to 12400 yards. Vice-Admiral Burnett decided to check fire, and to shadow with his whole force until the Scharnhorst could be engaged by ' Force 2 '. He therefore increased speed to 28 knots, and at 1250A/26, the enemy range and bearing were steady at 13400 yards, 138°. The destroyers, to the westward of the cruisers, continued to pursue the enemy in line ahead, their range opeing to 20000 yards and then remaining steady.

Shadowing operations.

The Scharnhorst had by this time given up all idea of attacking the convoy and for the next three hours her course was to the south-east and south. As she was retiring on a course so favourable for interception by ' Force 2 ', Vice-Admiral Burnett did not re-engage, and kept his cruisers concentrated, shadowing by radar from just outside visual range, about 7.5 nautical miles and slightly to the eastward of the enemy's course. The four destroyers of ' Force 1 ', which owing to the heavy sea had been unable to close the enemy sufficiently to attack with torpedoes, was stationed to the westward by the Commander-in-Chief at about 1600A/26 to guard against the Scharnhorst breaking back in that direction towards the convoy or Alten Fjord.

Despite her damage HMS Norfolk kept up with ' Force 1 ' throughout the afternoon, but at 1603A/26, she was obliged to reduce speed to fight a fire and a few minutes later, at 1607A/26, HMS Sheffield dropped back, reporting her port inner shaft out of action and speed reduced to 10 knots. By 1621A/26, she was able to proceed at 23 knots, but the delay and reduction of speed prevented her from rejoining HMS Belfast until about 2100A/26. For the rest of the action she remained some 10 miles astern. HMS Norfolk was able to rejoin HMS Belfast around 1700A/26.

Movements of the German destroyers.

All this time, while the Scharnhorst was being gradually haunded to her doom, the German destroyers had played a singularly ineffective part. After losting contact soon after 0800A/26, they continued on the south-westerly course (230°) to which the force had just turned, spread approximately five miles apart. No orders were received from the Flag Officer, Battle Group, until 1009A/26 - just after the close of the first action with Vice-Admiral Burnett's cruisers - when a signal was received directing the destroyers ' to advance into the immediate vicinity of the convoy '. To this Z 29, the Flotilla Leader, replied that they were advancing according to plan, course 230°, speed 12 knots. Twenty minutes later, Admiral Bey had apparently come to the conclusion that the convoy was further to the north then that he had previously supposed, and at 1027 he ordered the Flotilla to alter course to 070° and to increase speed to 25 knots, an hour later (1135A/26) he ordered a further change of course to 030°.

At 0945A/26, a report from the submarine U-277 had been received in the Scharnhorst placing the convoy in position 73°58'N, 19°30'E, but this seems to have been disregarded by Admiral Bey and it was not until two-and-a-half hours later (1218A/26), that he ordered the destroyers to operate in this area. Course was accordingly altered to 280° and the flotilla concentrated on the northern ship but it was too late and the convoy was well to the north-eastward of the position reported by the U-boat, though the destroyers must have passed within 10 miles of it at about 1300A/26 on passage to the new area, owing to Capt. McCoy's turn to the south-eastward at noon. On this Admiral Bey was unaware, and at 1418A/26, he ordered the destroyers to break off the operation and make for the Norwegian coast. With the excetion of Z 33, which had become separated in the bad weather, the Flotilla - then some 16 nautical miles south-east of Bear Island - at once altered course to 180° and eventually entered Norwegian coastal waters at about 0200A/27.

Z 33 made her own way back, at 1810A/26, she sighted what was believed to be a straggler from the convoy. At this target she fired four torpedoes, which missed, and continued on her way to her base.

Movements of the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet ' Force 2 '.

Meanwhile ' Force 2 ', acting on reports of Vice-Admiral Burnett's cruisers, had been steering throughout the day to intercept. During the first two cruiser engagements the composition of the enemy's force was not clear to the Commander-in-Chief, but on confirmation by the Vice-Admiral that only one heavy unit was present, he decided to engage on similar courses, with HMS Jamaica in support, opening fire at about 13000 yards and detaching his destroyers to make a torpedo attack. At 1400A/26 he estimated that if the enemy maintained his course and speed, ' Force 2 ' would engage him at about 1715A/26, but the Scharnhorst altered to the south soon afterwards, and at 1617A/26 the Duke of York's Type 273 radar picked her up at 45500 yards bearing 020°. The range closed rapidly, and soon HMS Belfast was picked up astern of the target. At 1632A/26, a quarter of an hour after the first contact, the Duke of York's Type 284 found the enemy at 29700 yards, apparently zig-zagging on a mean course of 160°. Five minutes later, the destroyers, which had formed sub-divisions on either bow of the flagship shortly after first contact, were ordered to take up most advantageous position for torpedo attack, but not to attack until ordered to do so. The destroyers had formed sub-divisions as follows, HMS Savage with HMS Saumarez and HMS Scorpion with HNoMS Stord.

At 1642A/26, the enemy seemed to alter course slightly to port and two minutes later ' Force 2 ' altered to 080° in order to open 'A' arcs. At 1647A/26, HMS Belfast opened fire with starshell, followed at 1648A/26 by HMS Duke of York. Those from the latter illuminated the enemy at 1650A/26. The Commander-in-Chief then made an enemy report and ' Force 2 ' opened fire with their main armament.

' Force 2 ' engages, 1650-1844 hours, 26 December 1943.

When HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica opened fire at 12000 yards. There was every indication that the Scharnhorst was completely unaware of their presence, her turrets were reported trained fore and aft, she did not immediately reply to the fire of ' Force 2 ' and when she did her fire was erratic. Prisoners subsequently confirmed that she had made no radar contact during the approach of ' Force 2 '. They had been told they would not have to engage anything larger then a cruiser and were badly shaken when informed that a capital ship to the southward was engaging them.

The Scharnhorst altered round at once to the northward, and the Duke of York to 360° to follow and also to avoid torpedoes which the enemy, had he been on the alert, might have been fired. On this, HMS Belfast prepared to fire torpedoes, but the Scharnhorst altered away to the eastward, probably with the double object of avoiding ' Force 1 ' and opening 'A' arcs, and HMS Belfast and HMS Norfolk then engaged her with their main armamant, steering northerly and north-easterly courses in order to prevent her breaking back to the north-westward, until 1712A/26, when she ran out of range, after firing two ineffective salvoes at the cruisers. Vice-Admiral Burnett continued to the north-north-west until 1720A/26, and it was then apparent that the enemy meant to escape to the eastward, gradually altered round to follow. Just then orders were received from the Commander-in-Chief to ' steer 140° ' and join him, and the cruisers steadied on a south-easterly course at 1727A/26.

The hunt was up, and for the next hour there was a chase to the eastward, HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica engaging at ranges which gradually increased, as the enemy's superior speed began to tell. By 1708A/26, the Scharnhorst was steadily on an easterly course and engaging HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica with her main armamant. Her tactics were to turn to the southward, fire a broadside, and then turn on end-on away to the east till ready to fire the next salvo, making the Duke of York's gunners a problem.

By 1730A/26, the situation was as follows. To the south-west of the enemy HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica were engaging him and pursuing similar tactics. ' Force 2's ' destroyers - still well astern of him - were endeavouring to gain bearing to attack with torpedoes, taking individual avoiding action when fired on, HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez edging over to get on his port side while HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord remained on the starbord side. To the north-west, HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago, which had turned at 1700A/26, was creeping up on a easterly course roughly parallel to that of the enemy and some miles to the northward. Further to the north-west HMS Belfast and HMS Norfolk were steering to the south-eastward to join the Commander-in-Chief, with HMS Sheffield some distance astern, and dropping owing to her reduced speed. What the German Admiral though of the situation may be judged from his signal to the German War Staff (timed 1724 hours); ' Am surrounded by heavy units '.

HMS Duke of York probably obtained hits with her first and third salvoes, which, accordingly to prisoners, were on the quarter deck close to ' C ' turret, and low down forward. This latter may have put ' A ' turret out of action as it did not fire again. Little is known about other hits during this first engagement, but it seems certain that HMS Duke of York had obtained hits which may have caused some underwater damage that eventually reduced the Scharnhorst speed. HMS Jamaica claimed on hit.

The Scharnhorst's gunfire was erratic to begin with but later improved as the range increased. Between ranges of 17000 - 20000 yards HMS Duke of York was straddled several times. Her hull was not hit but both masts were shot through by 11" shells which fortunately did not explode.

By 1742A/26, the range had opened to 18000 yards and HMS Jamaica then ceased fire, her blind fire at this range considered of doubtful value and liable to confuse the Duke of York's radar spotting. At this time all the cruisers were out of range, and the destroyers had not yet been seriously engaged by the enemy. The gun duel between HMS Duke of York and the Scharnhorst continued till 1820A/26 when the enemy ceased firing at 20000 yards, and reduced speed, though this was not immediately apparent. At the same time the Commander-in-Chief decided to turn south-eastward towards the Norwegian coast, in the hope she would also lead round and so to give his destroyers a chance to attack. At 1824A/26, the range having opened to 21400 yards, HMS Duke of York checked fire. She had fired 52 broadsides, of which 31 have been reported as straddles and 16 as within 200 yards of the enemy.

Just at this moment the Scharnhorst was sending her final signal - a message from Admiral Bey to the Führer - ' We shall fight to the last shell '. This was the last report the German Naval Staff received from her as to her fate, though no doubt they were able to draw their conclusions three-quarters of an hour later (1919A/26) when they intercepted a British signal ' Finish her off with torpedoes '.

First destroyer attack, 1850 hours, 26 December 1943.

At 1824A/26, the Commander-in-Chief was of the opinion that the Scharnhorst might escape and much depended on the four 'S-class' destroyers to damage of sink her. Since 1713A/26, when they had been ordered to attack, they had been gradually gaining bearing on the Scharnhorst, but their progress was very slow and their chances of attack depended on a radical alteration of course by their quarry. Then, at 1820A/26, when they had closed to 12000 yards they started to forge ahead. The enemy had reduced speed. By 1840A/26, the first sub-division (HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez), astern of the enemy, and the second sub-division (HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord), on his starboard beam, had each closed to about 10000 yards. Some three minutes earlier, the Commander-in-Chief, observing on his radar plot the enemy's reduction of speed, had altered course directly towards her, and was beginning to close rapidly.

The Scharnhorst opened a fairly heavy, though ineffective, fire on HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez, which they returned when the range closed to 7000 yards. As these two approached from the north-westward, drawing the enemy's fire, HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord were closing in apparently unseen, and certainly unengaged from the south-eastward. At 1849A/26, starshells from HMS Savage illuminated the enemy, and she was seen to be turning to the southward. The Scorpion and Stord immediately swung to starboard, each firing eight torpedoes at 2100 and 1800 yards respectively. HMS Scorpion claimed one hit, HNoMS Stord none, probably due to the Scharnhorst combing the latter's tracks. Both destroyers were engaged by the enemy's secondary and light armament while retiring, the the firing was wild and inflicted no damage. They returned the fire and scored several hits on the superstructure. The Scharnhorst continued to alter round to starboar after this attack till on a south-westerly course, thus placing HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez in an excellent position on her starboard bow. Her movements could be followed clearly in the light of their starshell, and HMS Savage with HMS Saumarez on her starboard quarter, hastily training their torpedo tubes to starboard, turned in to attack at 1855A/26, coming under heavy fire from the enemy's entire armament as they did so. HMS Savage fired eight torpedoes from 3500 yards, but HMS Saumarez received damage which prevented her training one set of tubes, and got off only four from 1800 yards. Subsequent analysis credited there attacks with three hits altogether. The destroyers then withdrew to the northward, engaging the Scharnhorst as they did so. Fortunately damage to HMS Saumarez was all above the waterline. Shells had passed through her director and rengefinders without exploding, but she had suffered considerably from splinters which reduced her speed to 10 knots on one engine only. One officer and ten ratings were killed and eleven ratings were wounded.

Second engagement of ' Force 2 '.

As the destroyers withdrew to the northward, HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica coming up from the south-west, re-engaged at a range of 10400 yards, opening fire at 1901A/26. Hits were immediately scored, while the enemy continued to fire at the retiring destroyers. HMS Norfolk, too joined in from the northward, but had difficulty in finding the right target, and checked fire after a couple of salvoes. After five minutes, when the Scharnhorst had been repeatedly hit and fires and flashes from exploding ammunition were flaring up, she shifted her secondary armament fire to HMS Duke of York at a range of about 8000 yards. During this second action she apparently engaged HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica with only part of her main armament, and that intermittently.

The battle was then approaching its end. Between 1901A/26 and 1926A/26 the enemy's speed fell drastically from 20 to about 5 knots. At 1915A/26, HMS Belfast opened fire on her at a range of 17000 yards, and a few minutes later she steadied on a northerly course. About this time (1919A/26) the Commander-in-Chief ordered HMS Jamaica and HMS Belfast to close the enemy, who was then almost stationary, and to sink her with torpedoes. HMS Duke of York continued firing - getting of 25 broadsides, of which 21 were straddles - till 1928A/26, when she checked fire to enable the cruisers, which had altered course towards the enemy to diliver their torpedo attacks. According to prisoners HMS Duke of York had obtained at least 10 hits.

Torpedo attacks by HMS Belfast and HMS Jamaica.

In the Scharnhorst - battered by gunfire and crippled by four torpedoes - resistance was pracically at an end as the cruisers closed in from north and south. Prisoners subsequently stated that after sending their final signal to Hitler, assuring him that the Scharnhorst would fight to the last shell, the Admiral and Captain had shot themselves on the bridge but this could not be confirmed.

HMS Jamaica fired three torpedoes to port (one of which misfired) at 1925A/26 from 3500 yards but claimed no hits as the enemy's speed appeared to have been underestimated. Two minutes later HMS Belfast also fired three torpedoes, one of which may have git, though this was subsequently considered unlikely. Both cruisers then hauled round to fire their remaining tubes. Meanwhile HMS Jamaica scored several hits with her main and secondary armamant. The Scharnhorst replied with wild fire from her secondary armamant and light weapons which did no damage and had ceased firing altogether when at 1937A/26, at a range of 3750 yards, HMS Jamaica fired three torpedoes to starboard at the enemy, broadside on and almost stopped. The result could not be seenm as the target was completely hidden by smoke, but underwater explosions were heard after the correct time interval, and it is probable that two torpedoes took effect. Two minutes earlier (1935A/26), HMS Belfast had turned to fire her port torpedoes but then HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago arrived at the scene and HMS Belfast retired to the south to await developments.

Torpedo attacks by the 36th Destroyer Division.

The 36th Division, made up of HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago, starting the chase well to the westward of the other forces, had been tracking the enemy by radar and slowly gaining bearing on a parallel course to the northward throughout the action. The destroyers now closed in sub-divisions (HMS Musketeer with HMS Matchless and HMS Opportune with HMS Virago) from the north and astern. At 1930A/27 they commenced their attacks, HMS Musketeer and HMS Matchless from the port side and HMS Opportune and HMS Virago from the starboard side. HMS Opportune fired two salvoes of four torpedoes each at 1931A/26 and 1933A/26 from range of 2100 and 2500 yards. She claimed two hits. HMS Virago followed her in, and at 1934A/26 fired seven torpedoes from 2800 yards. Two hits were observed and the sub-division then retired to the westward with HMS Virago firing on the enemy as long as possible.

On the port side, HMS Musketeer fired four torpedoes from 1000 yards at 1933A/26 and observed two and possibly three hits and then withdrew to the westward. HMS Matchless could not fire as her torpedo tubes training had been effected by a heavy sea. She therefore hauled round without firing and then came in to attack again from the enemy's port bow, but before she could fire the Scharnhorst had sunk. She then joined HMS Scorpion in picking up survivors. The German ship was last seen around 1938A/26 though no ship saw her actually sinking. This most probably occured at 1945A/26 when a large underwater explosion was felt.

For the next hour, HMS Belfast, HMS Norfolk and most of the destroyers searched the area for survivors. In all only thirty were picked up in the heavy weather from the icy waters by HMS Scorpion and six by HMS Matchless. No officer was among them. The most senior was the equivalant rating of Acting Petty Officer.

Conclusion.

Around 2100A/26, HMS Sheffield rejoined ' Force 1 ' and all forces in the area were ordered to proceed independently to the Kola Inlet where they all arrived unmolested the next day.

(6)

13 Dec 1943
HMS Telemachus (Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Tenacious (Lt.Cdr. D.F. Townsend, RN), HMCS Iroquois (Cdr. J.C. Hibbard DSC, RCN), HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN) and HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN). (7)

15 Dec 1943
HMS Telemachus (Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Regal (A/Skr.Lt. J.H.D. Dansie, RNR). (7)

12 Jan 1944

Operation FW, passage of convoys JW 56A and JW 56B from the U.K. to Northern Russia as well as convoy RA 56 from Northern Russia to the U.K.

Convoy JW 56A

.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 12 January 1944 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Aert van der Neer (Dutch, 7170 GRT, built 1942), Andrew G. Curtin (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943), Charles Bulfinch (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Charles Scribner (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Edwin L. Drake (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Empire Ploughman (British, 7049 GRT, built 1943), Fort Bellingham (British, 7153 GRT, built 1942), Fort Slave (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), Jefferson Davis (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John A. Quitman (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joseph N. Nicollet (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Nathaniel Alexander (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Penelope Barker (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Richard H. Alvey (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), San Adolfo (British (tanker), 7365 GRT, built 1935), San Cirilo (British (tanker), 8012 GRT, built 1937), Thorstein Veblen (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), William Tyler Page (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and Woodbridge N. Ferris (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyer HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr J.H. Eaden, DSC and Bar, RN), sloop HMS Cygnet (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN), corvettes HMS Borage (Lt. W.S. MacDonald, DSC, RNVR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.F. Tognola, RNR), HMS Poppy (T/Lt. D.R.C. Onslow, RNR), HMS Wallflower (Lt. G.R. Greaves, RNR) and the minesweepers Orestes (Lt.Cdr. A.W.R. Adams, RN)and Ready (Cdr. A.V. Walker, RN).

On 15 January 1944, HMS Cygnet was detached to Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands with a defective propeller. She arrived at Skaalefjord the following day.

Also on the 15th, the convoy got badly scattered in a heavy gale.

On 16 January 1944, the destroyers HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN) and HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill) joined the convoy from Seidisfjord which they had departed earlier the same day.

Also on the 16th, the merchant vessels Charles Bulfinch, Jefferson Davis, John A. Quitman, Joseph N. Nicollet and Nathaniel Alexander turned back to Loch Ewe.

Also on the 16th the destroyers HMS Hardy (Capt. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Leonard, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN) left Seidisfiord to join the convoy.

On the 17th, HMS Savage returned to Seidisfjord to fuel, sailing A.M. to rejoin the convoy.

Later on the 17th, HMS Inconstant also returned to Seidisfjord to fuel, sailing P.M. to rejoin the convoy.

Also on the 17th, all merchant ships and were escorts ordered to proceed to Akureyri to reassemble the convoy and await better weather. HMS Hardy, HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant, HMS Virago, HMS Offa and HMS Obdurate returned to Seidisfiord to fuel as did the corvettes HMS Dianella and HMS Poppy arrived Seidisfiord to fuel.

On the 18th, HMS Hardy, HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant, HMS Virago, HMS Offa and HMS Obdurate departed Seidisfjord for Akureyri as did HMS Dianella and HMS Poppy.

Also on the 18th HMS Savage, HNoMS Stord and HMS Inconstant arrived at Akureyri, possible ahead of the convoy. The convoy also arrived at Akureyi escorted by HMS Borage, HMS Wallflower, HMS Orestes and HMS Ready.

On 21 January 1944, the convoy (now made up of 15 ships) and escorted by HMS Hardy, HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant, HMS Virago, HMS Savage, HNoMS Stord, HMS Offa and HMS Obdurate, HMS Inconstant, HMS Dianella, HMS Poppy, HMS Orestes and HMS Ready left Akureyri to continue it's passage to Northern Russia.

On 22 January 1944, HMS Orestes and HMS Ready parted company with the convoy for Skaalefjord where they arrived the following day.

On 25 January 1944, German submarines made contact with the convoy. Several attacks of which most were made with T-5 homing torpedoes on the escort vessels. The following German submarines made contact with the convoy U-278, U-314, U-360, U-425, U-601, U-716, U-737 and U-957. The results of these attacks were that first, HMS Obdurate was damaged when a T-5 torpedo, fired by U-360 exploded in her wake, one shaft was out of action. She was however to remain with the convoy. Later, on her return to England for repairs it was found out that damage was more severe then initially thought and she was out of action for more then a year. Later in the evening the merchant vessel Penelope Barker was torpedoed and sunk by U-278, HMS Savage picked up 56 surivors.

On 26 January, shortly after midnight, the merchant vessel Fort Bellingham was torpedoed and damaged by U-360 and shortly afterwards the merchant vessel Andrew G. Curtin was torpedoed and sunk by U-716, 68 survivors were picked up by HMS Inconstant. The damaged Fort Bellingham fell behind the convoy and was later finished off by U-957. The survivors were picked up by HMS Offa.

Also on 26 January 1944, a local escort made up of the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Gromkiy, Razyarenniy, British minesweepers HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Williams, RD, RNR) and the Russian minesweepers T-111, T-114 and T-117 departed the Kola Inlet to join the convoy.

On the 27th, the local escort joined the convoy and took over the White Sea section of 9 ships which was to proceed to Archangelsk where they arrived on the 29th.

The Murmansk section of 3 ships with the original escort arrived in the Kola Inlet on the 27th.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Convoy JW 56B

.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 22 January 1944 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Abner Nash (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Albert C. Ritchie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Charles A. McAllister (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Edward L. Grant (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Empire Tourist (British, 7062 GRT, built 1943), Fort Crevecoeur (British, 7191 GRT, built 1943), Fort Norfolk (British, 7131 GRT, built 1943), Henry Bacon (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Henry Lomb (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Wynkoop (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John H.B. Latrobe (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), John La Farge (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Paul Hamilton Hayne (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Robert Lowry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Samuel McIntyre (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Willard Hall (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943) and Winfred L. Smith (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Westcott (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. P.J. Cowell, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), sloop HMS Cygnet, corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (T/Lt. O.B. Medley, RNVR) and the minesweepers Hydra (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.T.J. Wellard, RNR) and HMS Onyx (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.C.L. Gaussen, RNVR).

Shortly after departure the merchant vessel Henry Lomb returned to Loch Ewe.

On the 24th, the destroyers HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy.

On the 25th, HMS Westcott and HMS Whitehall were detached and arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. Also HMS Mahratta and HMS Scourge returned to Seidisfiord.

On the 26th, HMS Rhododendron was detached from the convoy and arrived at Seidisfiord. She was not to rejoin the convoy.

Having completed fuelling HMS Westcott and HMS Whitehall departed from Seidisfiord and rejoined the convoy.

The destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Mahratta, HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Scourge and HMCS Huron (Lt.Cdr. H.S. Rayner, DSC, RCN) departed Seidisfiord and joined the convoy.

HMS Wrestler and HMS Onyx were detached and proceeded to Seidisfiord. They arrived there on the 27th.

HMS Honeysuckle was detached from the convoy to the Clyde

HMS Hydra was detached from convoy to Scapa Flow.

Also on the 26th, the convoy sighted and reported by enemy aircraft.

On the 27th, the destroyer HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) departed Skaalefjord. She joined the convoy on the 28th.

On the 28th, the destroyers HMS Hardy, HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant, HMS Virago, HMS Savage, HNoMS Stord and HMS Offa departed the Kola Inlet to the convoy. They joined the convoy on the 29th.

On the 29th, German U-boats were in contact with the convoy. These were U-472, U-636 and U-956. Of these U-636 was depth charged by HMS Inconstant and HMS Offa, they claimed to have possibly destroyer a U-boat but in fact U-636 was not damaged. U-956 twice attacked escort vessels with a T-5 homing torpedo but both did not hit a target. She was twice taken under fire, first by HMS Mahratta and HMS Whitehall and later by HMS Inconstant. She was also depth charged by HMS Inconstant and HMS Offa.

On 30 January 1944, U-Boats continued to attack the convoy. HMS Hardy was heavily damaged by U-278 with a T-5 Gnat acoustic torpedo. This hit was also claimed by U-957 and U-472 which had also fired T-5 torpedoes aroud the same time. U-472 in fact missed HNoMS Stord. HMS Hardy could not be salvaged and she was scuttled with a torpedo from HMS Venus. The detonation of the torpedo was heard by U-601 which had fired a T-5 torpedo around this time and thought her torpedo had hit one of the escorts.

More action with U-boats on the 30th included, depth charging of U-278 by HMS Whitehall. U-313 attacked an escort vessel with a T-5 torpedo and was subsequently depth charged by HMS Vigilant and HMS Savage, she managed to escape without damage. U-314 was sunk by depth charges from HMS Inconstant. U-425 twice attacked escort vessels with a T-5 torpedo. After the second attack she was depth charged by HMS Venus. U-601 attacked the convoy with two torpedoes but no hits had been obtained. This was before the attack lised above. U-737 attacked the destroyer HMS Milne with a T-5 torpedo which did not hit the target. Later in the day she made another attack with a T-5 torpedo but this torpedo also failed to hit a target. Following this attack she was depth charged by HMS Inconstant and HNoMS Stord. U-739 was depth charged by HMS Inconstant and HMS Offa, she managed to escape without damage. U-965 attacked an escort vessel with a T-5 torpedo which did not hit, following this attack she was depth charged by HMS Venus but she escaped without damage.

On 31 January attacks by U-boats continued. U-278 was detected and depth charged by escorts but was not damaged. U-472 was depth charged by HMS Virago but was not damaged. U-956 attack an escort vessel with a T-5 torpedo but no hit was obtained, following the attack she was depth charged but was not damaged. U-957 was detected on the surface by HMS Inconstant which then opened fire on her, the U-boat submerged and was then attacked with depth charges but she managed to escape without damage. U-990 attacked an escort vessel with a T-5 torpedo but it missed.

On 1 February the convoy split. The White Sea (Archanglesk) section of 6 merchant vessels proceeded with a local escort which had joined from the Kola Inlet. This local escort was made up of the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Grozniy, Razyarenniy, British minesweeper HMS Gleaner, Russian minesweepers T-111 and T-117 and the Russian patrol vessels BO-201 and BO-210.

The other merchant vessels (10) made up the Kola Inlet (Murmansk) section (10 ships) arrived in the Kola Inlet with the British escort.

On 2 February the White Sea section arrived at Archangel.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Convoy RA 56

.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet on 3 February 1944 for Loch Ewe.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; British Statesman (British (tanker), 6991 GRT, built 1923), Brockholst Livingston (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Cardinal Gibbons (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Collins P. Huntington (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Daniel Willard (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Lionel (British, 7030 GRT, built 1942), Empire Pickwick (American, 7068 GRT, built 1943), Eugene Field (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Fort Astoria (British, 7189 GRT, built 1943), Fort Hall (British, 7157 GRT, built 1943), Fort Kullyspell (British, 7190 GRT, built 1943), Fort Missanabie (British, 7147 GRT, built 1943), Fort Nakasley (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943), Fort Thompson (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), Fort Verscheres (British, 7128 GRT, built 1942), George Weems (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Harold L. Winslow (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Horace Gray (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943), James A. Farrell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), James Woodrow (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942), John Fitch (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), John J. Abel (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943), John Vining (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), John Wanamaker (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Lewis Emery Jr. (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Norlys (Panamanian (tanker), 9892 GRT, built 1936), Ocean Gypsy (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Messenger (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Pride (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Valour (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Viceroy (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Philip Livingston (American, 7176 GRT, built 1941), Stage Door Canteen (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Thistledale (British, 7241 GRT, built 1942), Thomas Scott (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Thomas U. Walter (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and Will Rogers (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942).

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Inconstant, HMS Westcott, HMS Whitehall, HMS Milne, HMS Mahratta, HMS Meteor, HMS Musketeer, HMS Offa, HMS Opportune, HMS Savage, HMS Scourge, HNoMS Stord, HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant, HMCS Huron, sloop HMS Cygnet, minesweepers HMS Gleaner, Halcyon, HMS Hussar (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Biggs, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.W Ellis, DSC, RNR), HMS Speedwell and the corvettes HMS Dianella, HMS Oxlip and HMS Poppy.

The destroyers HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, DSC, RN), HMS Swift (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, RN) and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) left Skaalefiord to rendezvous with convoy RA 56 near Bear Island.

On 5 December, two merchant ships of the convoy, the Empire Pickwick and Philip Livingston, which were unable to keep up, returned to Kola Inlet with HMS Gleaner and HMS Seagull.

On 6 December, HMS Verulam, HMS Swift and HMS Obedient joined the convoy.

On 7 December HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant, HMS Savage, HMS Offa and HMS Opportune were detached from the convoy to proceed to Scapa Flow.

On 8 December the destroyer HMS Wrestler, corvettes HMS Borage, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Wallflower and the minesweepers HMS Cockatrice (A/Lt.Cdr. C.W. Armstrong, RNR), HMS Loyalty (Lt.Cdr. James Edward Maltby, RNR), HMS Ready and Rattlesnake (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Coles, RD, RNR) departed Skaalefiord to join the convoy which they did on the 9th.

Also on the 9th, HMS Milne, HMS Mahratta, HMS Meteor, HMS Musketeer, HMS Verulam, HMS Scourge HNoMS Stord, HMS Swift, HMS Obedient, HMCS Huron and HMS Inconstant were detached to Scapa Flow.

On 10 February 1944, the convoy was split up off Cape Wrath with most of the ships arriving at their destinations the following day.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cover for convoy JW 56A and JW 56B was provided by ' Force 1 ' which was made up of the heavy cruisers HMS Kent ((Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.F.E. Palliser, CB, DSC, RN), HMS Berwick (Capt. H.J. Egerton, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN). They departed Akureyri on 23 January. HMS Berwick however returned later the same day due to defects.

On 28 January 1944, HMS Kent and HMS Bermuda returned to Akureyri.

On 3 February ' Force 1 ', including HMS Berwick which had completed repairs, departed Akureyri to cover convoy RA 56 between meridians 28'E and 5'E keeping to west of 15'E.

They patrolling in their assigned area from 5 to 7 February.

On 9 February 1944, ' Force 1 ' arrived at Scapa Flow. (8)

4 Mar 1944
HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN) picks up 68 survivors from the British merchant Empire Tourist that was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-703 in the Norwegian Sea in position 73°25'N, 22°11'E.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/367 + ADM 199/393
  2. ADM 199/400
  3. ADM 173/17714
  4. ADM 199/632
  5. ADM 173/17773
  6. ADM 199/632 + ADM 234/343
  7. ADM 173/18214
  8. ADM 199/1427

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


Return to the Allied Warships section