Allied Warships

HMS Opportune (G 80)

Destroyer of the O class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassO 
PennantG 80 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.) 
Ordered3 Sep 1939 
Laid down28 Mar 1940 
Launched21 Feb 1942 
Commissioned14 Aug 1942 
End service 
History

Scrapped at Milford Haven on 25 November 1955.

 

Commands listed for HMS Opportune (G 80)

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

CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. Manley Lawrence Power, OBE, RN9 Jun 194226 Sep 1942
2Cdr. John Lee-Barber, DSO, RN26 Sep 194214 Aug 1944
3Cdr. Robert Edward Dudley Ryder, VC, RN14 Aug 19444 Sep 1945
4Cdr. Colin William McMullen, DSC, RN4 Sep 1945Nov 1945

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Notable events involving Opportune include:


29 Aug 1942
HMS H 34 (Lt. J.P.H. Oakley, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Onslow (Capt H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. M.L. Power, OBE, RN). (1)

2 Sep 1942
HMS H 34 (Lt. J.P.H. Oakley, DSC, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. These exercises included a practice attack on the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN) and her screen of six destroyers; HMS Onslow (Capt H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. M.L. Power, OBE, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN).

On completion of the exercises the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN) and HMS Somali (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) also joined after which the surface ships all set course for Hvalfjord, Iceland. (2)

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.

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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.

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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.]

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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.

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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.

4 Sep 1942
HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, 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), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) arrived at Hvalfjord from Scapa Flow. (3)

30 Oct 1942
' Force H ' departed Scapa Flow to participate in the landings in North Africa (Operation Torch). This force was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Argonaut (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, DSO, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN).

Around 1000/31, they made rendezvous with the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) and their escort of the destroyers HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). These ships had departed the Clyde around 2300/30.

At 1600/2 the destroyers HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN), HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) and HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar to make rendezvous with ' Force H '. They joined around 0730/4 after which HMS Argonaut, HMS Milne, HMS Martin, HMS Meteor, HMS Quality, HMS Quentin, HMAS Quiberon, HMS Pathfinder, HMS Partridge, HMS Ashanti, HMS Eskimo and HMS Tartar, parted company to proceed to Gibraltar to fuel. These ships arrived at Gibraltar around 1430/5. Of the original screen only HMS Porcupine remained with ' Force H ' at this moment.

Around 1730/4, the light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) joined.

Around 0830/5, the destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Capt. W. Harmsen, RNN) joined from convoy KMF 1.

around 1400/5, the escort destroyers HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN) joined. They had sailed from Gibraltar at 0700/5.

Around 1740/5, HMS Duke of York and HMS Renown parted company to fuel in the Bay of Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Panther, HMS Penn, HMS Opportune, HMS Lookout, HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog. The remaining ships remained to the west of the Straits of Gibraltar.

Around 2200/5, the remaining ships; HMS Nelson, HMS Victorious, HMS Formidable, HMS Bermuda, HMS Porcupine, HMS Boadicea, HMS Brilliant, HrMs Isaac Sweers, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge set course to the west to the Straits of Gibraltar.

On passing the Straits, HMS Nelson escorted by HMS Porcupine and HrMs Isaac Sweers parted company around 0420/6 and proceeded to Gibraltar. They passed through the gate around one hour later.

6 Nov 1942
On 6 November 1942, ' Force H ' was (re)assambled at sea to the east of Gibraltar to provide cover during the landings in North-Africa.

Around 0430/6, the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN), destroyers HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC, RN), HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN) and HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) entered the Mediterranean.

They were then joined by ships coming from Gibraltar (Bay), these were the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Argonaut (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN), destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, DSO, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN), HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN).

HMS Boadicea, HMS Brilliant, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge were then detached to Gibraltar where they arrived around 0615/6.

Around 0900/6, the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) joined.

The orders for ' Force H ' were to support the Eastern (Algiers) and Centre Task Forces (Oran) and their follow-up convoys (TE and TF) agains seaborne attack by Vichy-French or Italian Mediterranean Fleets. ' Force H ' was not to proceed eastwards of 04°30'E except to engage the enemy. Unless strong enemy forces were reported to be at sea, HMS Rodney, escorted by HMS Beagle, HMS Boreas, HMS Bulldog were to join the Centre Task Force at 0600/8. HMS Bermuda might also be detached but to join the Eastern Task Force. ' Force H ' was to refuel from ' Force R ' at sea if necessary, but if the military situation permitted, it would withdraw to the westward to refuel, possibly at Oran about 13 November, in immediate readiness for further operations. Force R ' was made up of the RFA tankders Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, master R.T. Duthie) and Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, master D.B.C. Ralph). Escort was provided by the corvette HMS Coreopsis (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Davies, RNVR) and four A/S trawlers, HMS Arctic Ranger (Skr. J.F. Banks, RNR), HMS Imperialist (T/Lt. A.R.F. Pelling, RNR), HMS Loch Oskaig (T/Lt. G.T.S. Clampitt, RNR) and HMS St. Nectan (Lt. J.B. Osborne, RANVR).

Around 1730/7, ' Force H ' was attacked by enemy aircraft in position 37°46'N, 02°52'E. HMS Panther was near missed and sustained damage. She had to return to Gibraltar, first steaming only 6 knots but later this could be increased to 14 knots. En-route she sighted an enemy submarine in position 37°46'N, 02°12'E and forced it to dive. This was U-458 which fired two torpedoes but apparently these were not sighted by the British. HMS Panther arrived at Gibraltar in the afternoon of November 8th.

At 1810/7, HMS Rodney, HMS Beagle, HMS Boreas and HMS Bulldog parted company with ' Force H ' to join the Centre Task Force. HMS Bermuda appeared to also have parted company around this time.

' Force H ' and the fuelling force, ' Force R ', cruised in the area of Algiers until 1830/8 when ' Force H ' turned north. It turned back at midnight when in position 39°00'N, 02°29'E and patrolled off Algiers again during the 9th. During the night of 9/10 November it steamed eastwards at 60 miles from the North-African coast, turning back 30 miles to the east of Bougie at midnight.

Shortly before 0300/10 (0252/10 according to German sources and 0258/10 according to British sources) the destroyer HMS Martin was torpedoed and sunk in position 37°53'N, 03°57'E by the German submarine U-431. 161 officers and ratings lost their lives. 4 Officers and 59 ratings were picked up by HMS Quentin.

By noon on 10 November ' Force H ' was in position 37°08'N, 01°36'E, between Algiers and Tenez, with ' Force R ' close at hand. From then onwards ' Force H ' patrolled 60 miles from the coast between Algiers and Cape Tenez.

' Force H ' was joined around 0630/12 by HMS Rodney and her destroyer screen now made of of the escort destroyers HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge.

Late in the evening of the 11th the destroyers HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Capt. W. Harmsen, RNN) departed Gibaltar to join ' Force H '. Before joining they fuelled from ' Force R ' in the evening of the 12th. They had been ordered to remain with ' Force R ' during the night to reinforce its escort and then join ' Force H ' after dawn on the 13th. However before the joined, HrMs Isaac Sweers was torpedoed and sunk by U-431, so only HMS Porcupine joined ' Force H ' early on the 13th.

At 0615/14 ' Force H ' split up to return to Gibraltar; HMS Duke of York, HMS Formidable, HMS Bermuda, HMS Argonaut, HMS Sirius, HMS Eskimo, HMS Ashanti, HMS Tartar, HMS Opportune, HMS Partridge, HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and HMS Porcupine arrived at Gibraltar around 0130/15.

HMS Rodney, HMS Renown, HMS Victorious, HMS Milne, HMS Meteor, HMS Quality, HMS Quentin, HMS Quiberon, HMS Lookout, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge formed the other group. They were joined at 0630/15 by HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, RN) and HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN). They returned to Gibraltar around 1800/15 but HMS Rodney was not able to berth and had to steam up and down in Gibraltar Bay until late in the evening when she anchorded there. The destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn, HMS Opportune and HMS Tartar were sent out to patrol to the seaward of the Bay.

16 Nov 1942
Around 1030Z/16, ' Force H ' departed Gibraltar for a patrol off the Balearic Islands to provide cover for the ongoing operations off the North-African Coast. ' Force H ' was now made up of the battleships Nelson HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), light cruisers HMS Argonaut (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN), HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) and the destroyers HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN) and HMS Vanoc ( A/Cdr. C.F.H. Churchill, RN).

At 1730Z/16, the destroyers HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC, RN) and HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar to join ' Force H ' which they did at 1113Z/17.

HMS Bulldog and HMS Opportune then parted company to return to Gibratar.

At 1215Z/17, HMS Ashanti parted company to proceed to Mers-el-Kebir to arrange the berthing of ' Force H ' for the following day. HMS Ashanti rejoined at 0655Z/18.

' Force H ' arrived at Mers-el-Kebir around 1100Z/18. (4)

5 Dec 1942
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN) departed Rosyth for Scapa Flow. She is escorted by the destroyers HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow earlier in the day. (5)

10 Dec 1942
During 10/11 December 1942, 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), HMS Anson ((Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN) and HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. These included night exercises.

The following morning they were joined for a few hours by the light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Belben, DSC, AM, RN). (6)

15 Dec 1942

Convoy JW 51A.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 15 December 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Beauregard (American, 5976 GRT, built 1920), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Dynastic (American, 5773 GRT, built 1919), El Almirante (Panamanian, 5248 GRT, built 1917), El Oceano (Panamanian, 6767 GRT, built 1925), Empire Meteor (British, 7457 GRT, built 1940), Gateway City (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), Greylock (American, 7460 GRT, built 1921), J.L.M Curry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Oremar (American, 6854 GRT, built 1919), Richard Bassett (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Richard Bland (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), San Cipriano (British (tanker), 7966 GRT, built 1937), West Gotomska (American, 5728 GRT, built 1918) and Wind Rush (American, 5586 GRT, built 1918).

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

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), minesweeper HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC and Bar, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR) and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, DSC, RNVR) and HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR).

On the 17th 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) and HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did on the 18th. After the destroyers had joined the convoy the three escort destroyer parted company with the convoy.

On the 24th five of the merchant ships were detached to proceed to Molotovsk. They were escorted by the Russian destroyers Razyarenniy and Valerian Kyubishev.

The Murmansk section of the convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on the 25th.

The Molotovsk section of the convoy arrived there on the 27th.

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To provide distant cover for the convoy a ' battlefleet ' was deployed which was made up of the battleship 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), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN). They departed Scapa Flow on 19 December 1942.

On 21 December they reached their covering position and cruiser to the southward of the convoy's route.

They arrived back at Scapa Flow on 25 December 1942.

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To provide close cover for the convoy ' Force R ' a cruiser cover force 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), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN). They had departed Scapa Flow on the 16th except for HMS Sheffield which joined them at sea later on the 16th coming from Loch Ewe.

On the 18th, both destroyers entered Seidisfjord to fuel. The cruisers did not do so due to thick fog and proceeded to cover the convoy without the destroyers.

On the 20th, the destroyers finally departed Seidisfjord to join the cruisers. They had been delayed due to defects in HMS Matchless.

On 23 December 1942 the destroyers joined the cruisers.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 24 December 1942. (7)

22 Dec 1942

Convoy JW 51B and the Battle of the Barents Sea.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 22 December 1942 and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 3 January 1943.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Calobre (Panamanian, 6891 GRT, built 1919), Chester Valley (American, 5078 GRT, built 1919), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Dover Hill (British, 5815 GRT, built 1918), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Emerald (British (tanker), 8032 GRT, built 1941), Executive (American, 4978 GRT, built 1920), Jefferson Meyers (American, 7582 GRT, built 1920), John H.B. Latrobe (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Pontfield (British (tanker), 8319 GRT, built 1940), Puerto Rican (American, 6076 GRT, built 1919), Ralph Waldo Emerson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Vermont (American, 5670 GRT, built 1919) and Yorkmar (American, 5612 GRT, built 1919).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), corvettes HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, DSC, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (Lt. L.A. Sayers, RNR), minesweeper HMS Bramble (Cdr. H.T. Rust, DSO, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Northern Gem (Skr. H.C. Aisthorpe, RNR) and HMS Vizalma ( T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).

On 21 December the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN) and HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, RN) departed the Clyde to fuel at Seidisfjord and then join the close convoy escort. However on 22 December they ran into a Force 12 gale near Stokksnes Light, Iceland and both sustained weather damage. Damage to HMS Bulldog, whose Commanding Officer was to become the Senior Officer of the close escort, was of such nature that she was unable to join the convoy and she returned to the Clyde for repairs. HMS Achates was able to continue to Seidisfjord.

The convoy was most likely detected by a German Focke Wolf reconnaissance aircraft on the 24th.

Late on the 24th the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Orwell ( Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, DSO, RN) and HMS Achates departed Seidisfjord and joined the convoy the following day.

During the night of 28/29 December 1942, five merchant vessels, HMS Oribi and HMS Vizalma separated from the convoy during a gale about half way between Jan Mayen and Bear Islands.

In the afternoon of the 29th, HMS Bramble was detached to search for the missing merchantmen.

On 30 December 1942, three of the merchantmen managed to find and rejoin the convoy.

HMS Oribi reached the Kola Inlet alone on 31 December 1942 having searched for the convoy but having failed to do so.

HMS Bramble was sunk on 31 December 1942 before she was able to rejoin the convoy.

HMS Vizalma and one of the merchantmen rejoined the convoy on 1 January 1943.

The last merchantmen that had separated from the convoy was unable to find it and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 5 January 1943, two days after the main body of the convoy had arrived.

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Meanwhile in the afternoon of 27 December 1941, ' Force R ' had departed the Kola Inlet to support the convoy. ' Force R ' 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), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). They were to provide cover of the convoy going as far west as 11°00'E.

On the 29th he turned back and the destroyers were then detached to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived early in the afternoon of 1 January 1943.

As the cruisers went east again they kept well south of the expected convoy route and on reaching the meridian of the Kola Inlet on the 30th, they turned north-west to cross the expected convoy route early the next day with the intention to then steer a parallel course a few miles north of the route and to cover the convoy from 40 to 50 miles astern. This was the direction from which an attack was most likely to develop. The intention by Rear-Admiral Burnett to keep to the North of the convoy route was to gain the advantage of the light over any enemy that might appear and also to avoid detection by enemy air reconnaissance and leading enemy aircraft to the convoy.

Nothing however came of this plan as the convoy was further to the south and much further to the west than had been anticipated. The result was that Rear-Admiral Burnett did not cross the route behind the convoy but well ahead of it and by 0830 hours on 31 December 1942 was nearly 30 miles due north of it. This ignorance of the relative position of the convoy exercised great influence on the Rear-Admiral's decisions throughout the action that ensued.

Up to that morning, the 31st, there had been little sign that the Germans knew of the convoy's progress since the 24th.

Actually the convoy had been sighted by a German submarine (this was U-354) around noon on the 30th. The U-boat reported it was 'weakly protected'. A German squadron, made up of the heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) H. Hartmann, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral O. Kummetz), Lützow (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) R. Stange) and the destroyers of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) A. Schemmel), Z 16 / Friedrich Eckhold (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. Bachmann, with Capt. Schemmel on board), Z 4 / Richard Beitzen (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. von Davidson), Z 6 / Theodor Riedel (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) W. Riede), Z 29 (F.Kpt.(Cdr.) K. Rechel), Z 30 (F.Kpt.(Cdr.) H. Kaiser) and Z 31 (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. Alberts) then wasted no time in putting to sea. Vice Admiral Kummetz was not aware of the cruisers of Rear Admiral Burnett. He was also hampered by the orders not to risk an action with equal or superior enemy forces. Also night attack was ruled out. Also the Lützow showed a bit timid action in the engagement that was to follow, this was she was to avoid damage as she was to break out into the Atlantic immediately following the attack on the convoy.

Vice-Admiral Kummetz decided to approach from astern of the convoy thereby obtaining advantage of light, and to attack it from both sides, anticipating that the escort would be drawn off towards the first contact and that the convoy would turn away from it, thereby falling an easy prey to the other force. To give effect to this plan he devided his squadron into two forces. The Admiral Hipper, Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 4 / Richard Beitzen and Z 29 were to attack from the north-west and the Lützow, Z 6 / Theodor Riedel, Z 30 and Z 31 were to operate from the southward. During the night the Lützow-group was detached with orders to be 75 miles 180° from the Admiral Hipper-group at 0800/31. The Hipper-group would be in position 73°40'N, 28°00'E. On arriving in their positions a sweep to the eastward was to commence with the destroyers spread 15 miles apart on a line 15 miles ahead of the heavy ships.

Admiral Kummentz was later criticised for adopting a plan which split his force and introduced complications such timing difficulties, identification of own forces in the Arctic dusk and qualls, etc., but it is worth noting that his tactical dispositions did in fact work out exactly as he intended. The Lützow and her destroyers passed two or three miles south of the convoy while practically all its escorts were attending to the Hipper-group in the north, and but for the extreme caution of Capt. Strange of the Lützow there seems no reason why he should not have virtually annihilated the convoy.

To return to convoy JW 51B, the situation at 0830/31 was thus approximately as follows. The convoy, temporarily reduced to 12 ships, with five destroyers, two corvettes and a trawler still in company, was on an easterly course in position 73°15'N, 29°00'E. This was about 220 miles north-west of the Kola Inlet. Some 45 miles to the northward was the trawler HMS Vizalma with one merchant vessel in company. About 15 miles to the north-eastward was HMS Bramble. Rear-Admiral Burnett in HMS Sheffield and with HMS Jamaica was about 30 miles north of the convoy and 15 miles south of the Vizalma. None of these four groups knew each other's relative positions and there was also another straggler somewhere in the neighbourhood. Quite unknown to the British, for there had been no sign of the enemy being aware of their progress, still less that he was at sea in force, the Admiral Hipper had just crossed the wake of the convoy and was then within 20 miles to the north-westward, while the Lützow, still some 50 miles off, was closing in from the southward.

The weather was generally clear, the twilight visibility being about seven miles to the northward and ten miles to the southward, but at intervals much reduced by snow squalls. The sky was mostly covered with low cloud. The wind came from the west-north-west, force 3, the sea slight with no swell. There were 16 degrees of frost and there was ice on all ships.

At 0830/31, HMS Obdurate, on the starboard beam of the convoy, reported two destroyers to the south-west. Actually, they had been sighted ten minutes previously by HMS Hyderabad (on the starboard quarter of the convoy) but she had taken them for Russians coming to reinforece the escort and made no report. Captain Sherbrooke sent HMS Obdurate to investigate. A third destroyer soon came into sight. These were the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 4 / Richard Beitzen and Z 29 gradually opening from the Admiral Hipper in anticipation of the order to turn and sweep to the eastward. They altered course away from the Obdurate to the north-west. At 0930 hours - an hour after she had first sighted them - the Obdurate had closed them to 8000 yards, and they opened fire on her, so she turned away and steered to rejoin the convoy. The enemy made no attempt to follow and disappeared to the north-westward. This was the beginning of a series of disconnected skirmishes fought in the gloom of the Arctic twilight, in which smoke screens and snowstorms made it often impossible for ships of either side to identify their opponents with certainty, or indeed even to be sure of their numbers.

Captain Sherbrooke had already turned HMS Onslow towards the gun flashes and he signalled HMS Orwell, HMS Obedient and HMS Obdurate to join him, leaving HMS Achates and the three smaller warships with the convoy to cover it with smoke.

A more formidable opponent, however, diverted Captain Sherbooke's attention from the three destroyers. At 0939 hours, he sighted a large ship eight miles to the north-westward, a little on his starboard bow standing towards him. With HMS Onslow at this moment was only HMS Orwell as HMS Obedient had to come from the far side of the convoy. At 0941 hours, the big German turned away to port to open fire on HMS Achates, then showing clearly to windward of her smoke, and thus disclosing herself to be the Admiral Hipper, as her four gun turrets proved. HMS Onslow and HMS Orwell returned the fire, at a range of about 11000 yards, and followed round to a similar course. Captain Sherbrooke soon formed the opinion that the enemy was unwilling to face the risk of torpedo attack by the destroyers and made good use of the fact. For half an hour they skirmished fitfully, the British ships firing by radar, the Admiral Hipper sometimes hiding in the smoke and sometimes firing towards the convoy and all the time edging towards the north-east.

Meanwhile, the convoy had turned from east to south-east at 0945/31ç and was going off at nearly 9 knots, screened by smoke from HMS Achates, HMS Rhododendron and HMS Northern Gem. By 0955 hours, HMS Obedient had joined Captain Sherbrooke, and HMS Obdurate was in sight returning from the south-west He ordered these two ships to join the convoy, anxious lest it should be attacked by the three German destroyers, which he had never seen himself and whose movements he could not trace. Actually they had been ordered to join the Hipper at 0933 hours (just after opening fire on HMS Obdurate). HMS Obedient steered away to the southward at 1008 hours, and signalled to HMS Obdurate to join her, turning eastward later to lay a smokescreen across the wake of the convoy before joining it. A signal from HMS Sheffield that she was approaching on course 170° had been received ' with acclamation ' a few minutes previously.

At the same time HMS Obedient turned south the Admiral Hipper hauled right up to the northward out of action and it was thought that she had received three hits [this was not the case though]. Her firing had been ' aimless and erratic ' and whenever the range came within 11000 yards she had turned away. This was partly in pursuance of the plan to lure the escort away to the northward and so leave the field clear for the Lützow, and partly because Admiral Kummetz could form no clear picture of the situation owing to the smoke and poor visibility.

However, a few minutes later she ' suddenly pulled herself together ' and turned back to fight to two remaining destroyers. After a few inaccurate salvos she found the Onslow's range and at 1020 hours scored four hits in rapid succession inflicting considerable damage. 'A' and 'B' guns were put out of action, the aft superstructure and mess deck were set on fire, the main aerials and both W/T sets were destroyed, the engine room holed, and Captain Sherbrooke severely wounded in the face, so that he could not see. Despite his wounds he continued to direct the flotilla and his ship till a further hit compelled him to disengange the Onslow, only then, after receiving reports as to her condition and assuring himself that the order to Lt.Cdr. Kinloch of HMS Obedient to take charge of the destroyers was being acted on, did he leave the bridge. By the time Lt.Cdr. Kinloch learnt that he was in command (1035 hours), a snowstorm had reduced the visibility to about two miles and the Admiral Hipper had disappeared. This was the end of the first action.

By this time Rear-Admiral Burnett with HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica was coming into the picture. Unfortunately he had been delayed from steering for the gunfire as early as he might have done by a radar contact picked up at 0858/31 of a ship some 15000 yards ahead while he was still steering to the north-west. As the plot developed, at 0905 hourss the stranger seemed to be doing at least 25 knots, though it subsequently appeared that her speed had been greatly over estimated. Just before this ' a ship was dimly in sight ' for a moment on the correct bearing and Rear-Admiral Burnett ' hauled away ' to the south-east and then closed at 0930 hours, in order to ' track and establish touch '. It was in fact, a merchant vessel, wihch had parted company with the convoy earlier and was now with the trawler HMS Vizalma. These were shortly yo see the two British cruisers stretching away to the southward ten miles on their starboard bow, without knowing whether they were friend or foe. Two minutes later, at 0932 hours, gun flashes were seen over the southern horizon and were taken for anti-aircraft fire. It must have been the skirmish between HMS Obdurate and the German destroyers that opened the day's fighting.

Rear-Admiral Burnett was in a perplexing position. He had no idea of the actual position of the convoy, whose safety was his prime objective, and which he supposed to be well to the eastward of him. Past experience had taught him that stragglers were to be expected after the heavy gales. The brief exchange of gunfire seen at 0932 hours had soon died down and might well have come from one or a detached escort vessel. On the whole it seemed likely hat the convoy was somewhere ahead of the Vizalma and her straggler and with this in mind he continued to track them by radar steering to the east and north-east.

Then, at 0946/31, heavy gunfire was observed to the southward and very shortly afterwards an enemy report of three destroyers was received from Capt. Sherbrooke. Though by then suspecting that the convoy was considerably further south than anticipated, the Rear-Admiral held on for some minutes and it was not until 0955 hours that he altered course and increasing to 25 knots and ' steamed towards the sight of the guns '.

In hindsight, it is clear that the cruisers could have intervened in the action earlier, had Rear-Admiral Burnett at once applied the two fundamental principles of British fighting policy, viz ' when in doubt, steer for the sound of the guns ' and ' the unfailing support given in battle by one British unit to another '. On the other hand the ' safe and timely arrival ' of the still unlocated convoy was his object, and human reactions are known to be slow when subjected to the rigours of the bitter Arctic climate.

As the cruisers ran south they worked up to 31 knots, and the could see through the smoke the later stages of the destroyers first fight with the Admiral Hipper, though the could not distinguish the ships engaged. At about 1030 hours, they had radar contacts of ships bearing 180° and 140°, at ranges of about 24000 and 30000 yards respectively, both ships apparently standing to the eastward at high speed. As the situation was not yet clear Rear-Admiral Burnett turned eastward himself at 1035 hours. A minute later there was a burst of firing on his starboard bow. He continued to the eastward to close this while taking care to preserve the light in his favour. At 1045/31 the nearer and western ship of the two radar contacts came in sight for a moment, she was ' larger then a destroyer, therefore necessarily an enemy' but that was all that could be said of her. The ships of the other contact, further east, altered course to the southward at 1054 hours and at 1055 hours the British cruisers turned to the southward in chase.

Ten minutes later they had a contact a little on the starboard bow at 19000 yards, and this was the ship they subsequently engaged. At 1112 hours she was seen to be firing to the eastward. Rear-Admiral Burnett then altered course towards her.

Now lets return to the convoy. The situation that Lt.Cdr. Kinloch had to cope with on taking over command of the escort at 1035 hours was by no means clear. The convoy, by this time steering 180°, was some three miles to the southward of HMS Obedient and HMS Obdurate, which were closing it. HMS Orwell, somewhat to the north-east, was steering to join them. HMS Achates a little to the westward was continuing to lay smoke, and the damaged HMS Onslow was taking station ahead of the convoy from whence she could home ' Force R '. Just about this time, HMS Rhododendron from the port quarter of the convoy reported smoke to the south-west, followed ten minutes later by a report of a large vessel bearing 160° only two miles off, steering to the north-east. These reports necessarily engaged the attention of Lt.Cdr. Kinloch, but he did not accept them for want of corroboration by ships nearer to the strangers, and continued to follow the convoy to the southward, keeping between it and the direction in which the Admiral Hipper had disappeared. For some reason HMS Hyderabad, stationed on the starboard side of the convoy, which just previously had seen two destroyers and a large ship cross ahead from west to east, made no report. This was the Lützow's force, but provindentially a heavy snow-squall just then partially blotted out the convoy, and her Captain, though aware of its presence, considered it too risky to attack and decided to stand off to the eastward till the weather should be clear.

Meanwhile the Admiral Hipper, after disabling HMS Onslow had stood on the east-north-east at 31 knots. At 1036 hours, she fell in with HMS Bramble, which no doubt had altered course towards the gunfire of the previous engagements, and damaged her with a few salvoes at short range. At 1047 hours, she altered course to the southward, detaching Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt a few minutes later to finish off HMS Bramble.

Lt.Cdr. Kinloch with his three destroyers continued to the southward, gradually overhauling the convoy and passing down its port side. His last news of the Hipper had been a report from the Orwell placing her 038° eight miles from her at 1040 hours. The weather cleared somewhat at about 1100 hours and HMS Obedient then sighted a cruiser and two destroyers bearing 060°. This was the Lützow waiting for the weather to clear. Lt.Cdr. Kinloch led round towards her mad made smoke. She seemed to be steering about 150°, and the British destroyers soon conformed, keeping between her and the convoy. At 1106 hours the enemy opened fire, but no fall of shot could be seen from HMS Obedient. Actually, the ship firing was the Admiral Hipper, which was approaching at 31 knots on course 190° on a bearing nearly the same as the Lützow's. The Admiral Hipper at that time was firing on destroyers to the eastward, which she claimed to have set on fire. No British destroyers were in this position at the time. A possible explanation is that this was the unfortunate Bramble again, which in the murk and gloom had limped off to the southward. Be that as it may, the Admiral Hipper continued at high speed on course 220°, and at 1115 hours engaged HMS Achates, then just clearing her smoke screen in response to orders from Lt.Cdr. Kinloch to join HMS Onslow ahead of the convoy. After three minutes, HMS Achates received a hit which crippled her, killing her Commanding Officer, Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, and some 40 others. Lt. Peyton-Jones, who then took command, found he could only overtake the convoy very slowly, so he disregarded orders and continued to lay smoke as before.

The Admiral Hipper then shifted her fire to HMS Obedient, which had led her destroyers to the northward again to keep between her and the convoy, and had opened fire on her at a range of 8500 yards at 1120/31. At 1125 hours the Admiral Hipper hauled up o the north-westward (310°), and having straddled HMS Obedient and put her wireless out of action at 1128 hours, altered course to 360° at 1130 hours in order to clear the torpedo menace. At the same time Lt.Cdr. Kinloch, as the range was rapidly opening, altered course to port again to close the convoy.

At this moment the Admiral Hipper received an unpleasant shock. Firing broke out from the northward, and before it was realised what was happening she received a hit which reduced her speed to 28 knots. ' Force R ' had arrived. Her turn to the north-westward at 1125 houres had revealed her broadside to the approaching cruisers, then some sever or eight miles off. Rear-Admiral Burnett led round a roughly parallel course and at 1130 hours, HMS Sheffield opened fire under helm at about 13000 yards, HMS Jamaica firing directly afterwards from her forward turrects. Taken completely by surprise, the Admiral Hipper failed to reply till after the fourth salvo had arrived. She made smoke and altered course towards them, swinging through east to 240°, and receiving two more hits before she was round. This was too much for Vice-Admiral Kimmetz, who thus found himself between Lt.Cdr. Kinloch's destroyers to the southward and an unknown force engaging him from the northward, and at 1137 hours he made a general signal ordering all ships to break off action and retire to the west.

The British ships conformed with her turn and the range at one stage fell as low as 8000 yards, unluckily the Admiral Hipper then became obscured, and HMS Sheffield had to cease fire from 1136 to 1139 hours, losing three precious minutes at short range. At 1143, when both sides were pointing southward again, two German destroyers appeared in an ideal position to attack with torpedoes at 4000 yards range. HMS Sheffield reversed her helm and headed for one destroyer. This was the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, which had mistaken the British cruisers for the Admiral Hipper and Lützow, which she was trying to rejoin. HMS Sheffield engaged her with all guns down to pompoms, passing within half a mile of her and reducing her to a shambles in ten minutes. HMS Jamaica astern fired first at the other destroyer, which was further off and which turned away seemingly unharmed [This was the Z 4 / Richard Beitzen]. Then she shifted her aim to the Sheffield's target, but refrained from firing on the blazing wreck, which the enemy subsequently admitted had been sunk. Meanwhile the Admiral Hipper having completed the full circle of her turn passed out of sight to the westward. She had suffered three hits in the brief action. Her no.3 boiler room was flooded and her hangar on fire. They only salvo she got off at her opponents had fallen harmlessly in the sea.

Before the British cruiser found the enemy again, HMS Obedient and her consorts had one more fight. After disengaging from the Admiral Hipper at 1130 hours, they stood to the southward to close the convoy. The flashes of Rear-Admiral Burnett's guns to the north-eastward had been a welcome sight. Though they had known he was on his way, they could not know when he would arrive. They also saw another engagement further east at 1138 hours, apparently between a large ship and a much smaller one, the latter firing a single gun. This may have been the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt sinking HMS Bramble. Then, some three minutes later, a large ship began shelling the convoy from the north-east at a distance of about nine miles. Some of the merchant ships were not yet screened by the smoke the destroyers had been laying, and one of them, the Calobre, was damaged. This was the Lützow, which seeing no possibility of attacking the convoy from the east, had altered course at 1126 to the north-westward, in order to maintain contact with the Admiral Hipper, which she had seen firing and identified by exchange of recognition signals ten minutes previously.

The convoy made an emergency turn to 225°, while Lt.Cdr. Kinloch hauled round to the eastward to cover it with smoke, and opened fire. According to the Lützow all shots fell short. One of the German destroyers following the Lützow fired a few ineffective rounds. After about five minutes, the smoke screen became effective and the Lützow ceased fire. Immediately afterwards Lt.Cdr. Kinloch sighted the Admiral Hipper and her two destroyers on a south-westerly course four to five miles to the northward. The three British destroyers turned together to the north-west which put HMS Obdurate, to whom Lt.Cdr. Kinloch had turned over the direction of the destroyer when his own wireless was disabled, at the head of the line and steered between the convoy and the new enemy. The Germans altered away to a similar course, but by this time the Lützow was steaming to join the Admiral Hipper at 24 knots and she opened an accurate fire on HMS Obdurate at 1155/31, to which the British destroyers replied. At 1202 hours, after the Obdurate had been damaged by a near miss, they turned away to keep between the convoy and the most likely direction of attack if the enemy should close again, while the Lützow continued to the westward. But this was the last attempt the Germans made. Vice-Admiral Kummetz had repeated his signal to withdraw at 1149 hours, and no more was seen of them by the destroyers. At 1240 hours, with no enemy in sighted and night drawing on, the steered south to overtake the convoy.

All this time the crippled HMS Achates, her bows deep in the water and listing ominously, had continued to screen the convoy with smoke. By 1300 hours the list had increased to about 60°, and a quarter of an hour later she lost steam. Lt. Peyton-Jones then signalled for assistance, and HMS Northern Gem closed her at once. She capsized suddenly and sank at 1330 hours. HMS Northern Gem picked up 81 survivors.

Meanwhile HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica had ceased fire at 1154 ad alter to the westward. At 1215 hours, they sighted the Admiral Hipper for a moment 12 miles away on the port bow going also to the westward. Then at 1223 hours two destroyers came in sight four or five miles to the southward in a good position for firing torpedoes. Rear-Admiral Burnett turned towards them to engage. As the guns were training on the target, however, HMS Sheffield sighted a larger ship, the Lützow, further away on the same bearing. At 1229 hours, the British cruisers opened fire on her from 14000 yards. She replied at once and the Admiral Hipper joined in the fight two or three minutes later from further ahead. The Lützow's shots fell consistently short, but the Hipper's fire was dangerously accurate, so Rear-Admiral Burnett hauled up to the northward to avoid being engaged ' from both sides at once ' and to lessen the risk from torpedoes fired gt the destroyers, which were not being engaged. By 1236 hours the fight was over, HMS Jamaica claiming one hit on the Lützow [this was not the case]. The Germans continued to the westward, and the British ships soon turned west also, tracking the enemy by radar till at 1400 hours they lost contact. By this time the radar operators in HMS Sheffield, who had been operating their apparatus in an exposed position in a temperature well below freezing point for hours, were completely exhausted. HMS Jamaica's radar had been out of action due to her own salvo firing. Rear-Admiral Burnett also did not want to get too far from the convoy, of whose position he was still very uncertain. The big German ships had been driven off, but it was known that the light cruiser Nürnberg had been with them at Altenfjord. It was though that she was also at sea nearby. Rear-Admiral Burnett to the southward, between the convoy and the big German ships still with the advantage of what little light remained.

So the fighting ended. The British forces had lost the Achates and Bramble but the convoy was intact and the had sunk the Friedrich Eckholdt and seriously damaged the Admiral Hipper. As a result of these actions, too, the Germans abandoned the plan for the Lützow to break out onto the Atlantic which was deemed impossible of fulfulment, and thouroughly discouraged they steered for the Altenfjord.

Convoy JW 51B had no more encounters with the enemy after the action on 31 December. In the afternoon of January 2nd, the minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN) as well as two Russian destroyers joined. The Russians taking charge of ships bound for Archangelsk, which then parted company. The main body of the convoy entered the Kola Inlet on the 3rd and the Archangelsk detachment arrived there on the 6th.

Rear-Admiral Burnett had patrolled with HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica to the westward of convoy JW 51B up to 1830/31 when he followed it to the south-east and finally turned north early on 1 January to give protection to westbound convoy RA 51. These two cruiser eventually arrived at Seidisfjord on 4 January 1943.

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A distant cover force had also been deployed. It was made up of the battleship the battleship 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), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and the destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and had left Akureyri, Iceland on shortly after noon on 26 December. At 0400/29 they had arrived in position 72°36'N, 13°07'E after which they turned back for Iceland.

In the early evening of 30 December HMS Cumberland was detached to Hvalfjord where she arrived very late in the evening of 31 December.

HMS Anson and the three destroyers then proceeded to Seidisfjord where they arrived early in the afternoon of 31 December but not before they had been joined by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney, HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Ledbury earlier in the day. (8)

15 Feb 1943

Convoy JW 53.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe for Northern Russia on 15 February 1943.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Beaconhill (American, 6941 GRT, built 1919), Bering (American, 7631 GRT, built 1920), British Governor (British (tanker), 6840 GRT, built 1926), City of Omaha (British, 6124 GRT, built 1920), Dover Hill (British, 5815 GRT, built 1918), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Fortune (British, 6140 GRT, built 1943), Empire Galliard (British, 7170 GRT, built 1942), Empire Kinsman (British, 6744 GRT, built 1942), Empire Portia (British, 7058 GRT, built 1942), Empire Scott (British, 6150 GRT, built 141), Explorer (British, 6235 GRT, built 1935), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Israel Putnam (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Bowie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John Laurance (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Joseph E. Johnston (American, 7196 GRT, built 1942), Komiles (Russian, 3962 GRT, built 1932), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1937), Marathon (Norwegian, 7208 GRT, built 1930), Mobile City (American, 6157 GRT, built 1920), Ocean Freedom (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Petrovski (Russian, 3771 GRT, built 1921), Pieter de Hoogh (British, 7168 GRT, built 1941), Tblisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912), Thomas Hartley (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942) and Tobruk (British, 7048 GRT, built 1942).

Three of the above listed ships sailed only on the 16th as convoy JW 53B and were to overtake and join the main convoy [see below].

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the minesweeper HMS Jason (Cdr. H.G.A. Lewis, RN), corvettes HMS Bergamot (Lt. R.T. Horan, RNR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.F. Tognola, RNR), HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR) and the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. E.L. Wathen, RNR) and HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. T.D. Bennett, RNR).

The escort destroyers escort destroyers HMS Meynell (Lt. B.M.D. I'Anson, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN), HMS Pytchley (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) and minesweeper HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. L.C. Smith, RN) departed Scapa Flow on the same day and joined the convoy escort at sea. HMS Hazard however returned to Scapa Flow later the same day with weather damage and presumably never actually joined the convoy. She was replaced by HMS Halcyon (T/A/Lt.Cdr. H.L.D. Hoare, RNR) which departed Scapa Flow early on the 16th joining the convoy escort p.m. that day.

Also on the 16th convoy JW 53B, made up of three merchant ships of the above list, and escorted by the corvette HMS Bryony (T/Lt. T. Hand, RNR) departed Loch Ewe to overtake and join the convoy. The destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join convoy JW 53B which they did the following day after which HMS Bryony was detached to Liverpool as she had sustained weather damage. She arrived at Liverpool on the 18th.

On the 17th, the A/S trawler HMS Lord Middleton was detached with weather damage to Scapa Flow escorted by the corvette HMS Dianella. They arrived at Scapa Flow on the 18th.

On the 18th, one of the ships from convoy JW 53B was detached to Scapa Flow with weather damage. She was escorted by HMS Matchless. The merchant vessel eventually went back to Loch Ewe arriving there on the 22nd. HMS Matchless then went to Scapa Flow arriving there also on the 22nd.

On the 19th, the two remaining ships of convoy JW 53B also turned back, due to the weather conditions they were unable to overtake the main convoy. Three ships from the main convoy also turned back to Loch Ewe with weather damage. These five merchant vessels arrived back at Loch Ewe on 22 February. The destroyer HMS Musketeer proceeded to Akureyri, Iceland arriving there on the 20th.

On the 20th the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the escort of convoy JW 53 as did the corvettes HMS Bluebell (Lt. G.H. Walker, RNVR) and HMS Camellia (T/Lt. R.F.J. Maberley, RNVR). All these escorts joined the convoy p.m. 20th.

Also on the 20th the AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) and ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) departed Akureyri also to join the escort of convoy JW 53 which they did on 21 February.

On the 21st, HMS Middleton and HMS Pytchley were detached from the escort of convoy JW 53 to proceed to Seidisfjord where the arrived p.m. the same day. HMS Middleton was unable to anchor at Seidisfjord and the proceeded to Scapa Flow instead where she arrived on 23 February.

On the 22nd, HMS Meynell and HMS Halcyon parted company with convoy JW 53. HMS Meynell arrived at Seidisfjord p.m. on the 22nd, HMS Halcyon arrived the next day.

On 23 February the convoy was sighted and reported by German air reconnaissance and of the next day the convoy was being shadowed by aircraft and U-boats.

At 2142A/24, the German submarine U-622 attacked a destroyer with torpedoes. She missed but was later depth charged by the destroyer HMS Orwell which most likely had also been the target of her attack. The submarine escaped without damage though.

On 25 February the convoy was attacked around noon by 14 Ju.88's in position 73°41'N, 29°42'E. No damage was done to any ship in the convoy.

Around noon the 26th the convoy was attacked again from the air, in position 71°16'N, 36°54'E and again no damage was done.

Also on the 26th a Russian escort made up of the destroyers Gromkiy, Grozniy, Valerian Kyubishev and Uritsky joined as did the British minesweeper HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN).

Later on the 26th, seven of the merchant vessels were detached to Archangelsk with the Russian escorts as well as the minesweeper HMS Britomart.

The bulk of the convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on 27 February. The Archangelsk section arrived there the following day.

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A battle force (distant cover force) for this convoy was also deployed. It departed Akureyri, Iceland on 22 February 1943 and was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. T.E. Halsey, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Howe (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, CB, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Musketeer, HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN).

They arrived in their covering position, 150 miles south-west of Bear Island on 24 February.

On the 26th the distant cover force returned to Akureyri except for HMS Berwick which was detached to Hvalfjord where she arrived on the 27th.

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Besides the distant cover force there was also a cruiser / close cover force ' Force R '.

It was made up of the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, OBE, RN) and the heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN) departed Seidisfjord on 21 February.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 26 February 1943.

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A ' carrier ' force made up of the escort carrier HMS Dasher (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, DSO, RN) and the destroyer HMS Impulsive and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) was also to be deployed from Seidisfjord but as HMS Dasher and HMS Blankney suffered weather damage in the built up stage of the convoy operation so the deployment of the ' carrier ' force was cancelled. HMS Impulsive then went to Akureyri to join the ' battle ' force instead. (9)

1 Mar 1943

Convoy RA 53.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet on 1 March 1943.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Calobre (Panamanian, 6891 GRT, built 1919), Chester Valley (American, 5078 GRT, built 1919), Cornelius Harnett (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Dan-Y-Bryn (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Delsud (American, 4982 GRT, built 1919), El Oriente (Panamanian, 6012 GRT, built 1910), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1941), Empire Clarion (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Emerald (British, 8032 GRT, built 1941), Empire Snow (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Empire Tristram (British, 7167 GRT, built 1942), Executive (American, 4978 GRT, built 1920), Gulfwing (American (tanker), 10217 GRT, built 1928), J.L.M. Curry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Jefferson Myers (American, 7582 GRT, built 1920), John H.B. Latrobe (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Mossovet (Russian, 2981 GRT, built 1935), Nicholas Gilman (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Faith (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Oremar (American, 6854 GRT, built 1919), Puerto Rican (American, 6076 GRT, built 1919), Ralph Waldo Emerson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Richard Basset (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Richard Bland (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), San Cipriano (British (tanker), 7966 GRT, built 1937), Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940), Vermont (American, 5670 GRT, built 1919), West Gotomska (American, 5728 GRT, built 1918) and Yorkmar (British, 5612 GRT, built 1919).

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

On departure the close escort was made up of the AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), corvettes HMS Bergamot (Lt. R.T. Horan, RNR), HMS Lotus (Lt.Cdr. H.J. Hall, DSC, RNR), HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR), Starwort and the A/S trawlers HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.L.F. Bell, RNR) and HMS St. Elstan (Lt. R.M. Roberts, RNR).

On the 2nd the convoy was reported by the German submarine U-255 on 2 February 1943 which then commenced shadowing the convoy. Later in the day U-622 and U-629 also made contact with the convoy but were driven off. In the afternoon U-657 also made contact but soon lost it. In the evening the German submarine U-622 was depth charged by some ships of the convoy escort.

Early in the afternoon U-657 was driven off and depth charged but she escaped without damage.

In the late afternoon of 3 March the German submarine U-355 made a torpedo attack on the convoy but no hits were obtained. Following this attack the German submarine was depth charged by HMS Bergamot but she managed to escape without damage.

On 4 March U-255 was twice driven off before she could attack. Early in the day U-622 was detected and depth charged by the escort but she managed to escape without damage. The shortly before noon U-657 and shortly after noon U-355 both had the same experience.

Early on the 5th the convoy was also reported by German air reconnaissance.

In the morning of the 5th the German submarine U-255 made a torpedo attack. The British merchant Executive was sunk and the American merchant Richard Brand was hit and damaged. The torpedo did not explode but went right through the ship making a hole on both sides. The damaged ship was able to remain with the convoy for the moment though.

Early in the afternoon of the 5th the convoy was attacked by German Ju.88 aircraft but no damage was done.

On the 6th the destroyer HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Meynell (Lt. B.M.D. I'Anson, RN) and HMS Pytchley (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) departed Akureyri to join the convoy which they did only on the 9th having been delayed by ice and bad weather. HMS Vivacious had also smashed her Asdic dome while en-route.

Also on the 6th, the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Eclipse, HMS Impulsive and HMS Opportune parted company with the convoy to proceed to Seidisfjord to fuel.

On the 7th, the destroyers HMS Intrepid, HMS Boadicea, HMS Obdurate and HMS Obedient parted company with the convoy to proceed to Seidisfjord to fuel.

On the 8th, HMS Faulknor, HMS Eclipse, HMS Impulsive and HMS Opportune arrived at Seidisfjord to fuel.

On the 9th, HMS Vivacious, HMS Ledbury, HMS Meynell and HMS Pytchley joined the convoy while HMS Intrepid, HMS Boadicea, HMS Obdurate and HMS Obedient arrived at Seidisfjord to fuel.

Also on the 9th the American merchant vessel J.L.M. Curry broke up in heavy weather and sank. Apparently her hull had developed cracks earlier. Her crew was picked up by HMS St. Elstan.

HMS Faulknor, HMS Eclipse, HMS Impulsive and HMS Opportune departed Seidisfjord on the 9th to rejoin the convoy which they did later the same day.

On the 10th, HMS Scylla, HMS Milne, ORP Orkan and HMS Orwell detached from the convoy to proceed to Akureyri to fuel. They arrived the later the same day.

Also on the 10th several ships were detached to Seidisfjord, most of which (if not all) arrived there later the same day, these were , HMS Meynell, HMS Pytchley and HMS Northern Pride. Also detached was HMS Ledbury but she escorted one of the merchant vessels of the convoy to the Seidisfjord. They arrived early on the 11th.

Besides that, on the 10th, the merchant vessel Richard Brand, which had been damaged earlier, (see above), was again sighted by U-255 after having straggled from the convoy. The submarine now managed to sink her. HMS Impulsive was detached early on the 11th to pick up survivors.

On the 11th, HMS Milne, ORP Orkan and HMS Orwell departed Akureyri to search for stragglers from the convoy.

The merchant vessel John H.B. Latrobe was towed into Seidisfjord on the 11th as she had defective steering by the destroyer HMS Oppurtune. They were escorted by HMS St. Elstan.

HMS Boadicea escorting a merchant vessel (presumably the one that had arrived early on the 11th) departed Seidisfjord to rejoin the convoy.

HMS Vivacious, HMS Meynell and HMS Pytchley also departed Seidisfjord and rejoined the convoy.

HMS Bergamot, HMS Lotus and HMS Starwort left the convoy to fuel at Seidisfjord. After doing so they left Seidisfjord later on the 11th to rejoin the convoy.

HMS Poppy also parted company with the convoy, but later then the other corvettes. She too went to Seidisfjord but did not rejoin the convoy.

HMS Fury also detached on the 11th to proceed to Seidisfjord escorting the RFA tanker Oligarch. After fuelling HMS Fury departed again later the same day to rejoin the convoy.

On the 12th HMS Inglefield and HMS Ledbury departed Seidisfjord to rejoin the convoy. HMS Inglefield however remained briefly with the convoy as she was detached to Scapa Flow later the same day. Also detached to Scapa Flow were HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse.

Also on the 12th HMS Bergamot, HMS Lotus and HMS Starwort rejoined the convoy. Also the destroyer HMS Orwell, which had been searching for stragglers joined the convoy.

On the 13th, HMS Impulsive arrived at Seidisfjord with survivors and HMS Milne also arrived there having searched for stragglers. ORP Orkan which had also been searching for stragglers proceeded direct to Scapa Flow arriving there on the 15th.

Also on the 13th, HMS Vivacious, HMS Ledbury, HMS Meynell and HMS Pytchley detached from the convoy and proceeded to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 14th.

Two of the merchant vessels arrived at Loch Ewe on the 13th apparently having proceeded ahead of the convoy.

On the 14th, HMS Boadicea detached from the convoy to proceed to the Clyde where she arrived on the 15th.

and HMS Starwort detached from the convoy and proceeded to Londonderry arriving there on the 15th.

HMS Bergamot detached with the Clyde section of the convoy (5 ships). After having delivered them off the Clyde on the 15th, HMS Bergamot continued on to Liverpool where she arrived later on the 15th.

The Loch Ewe section of the convoy (16 ships) arrived there on the 15th.

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To provide distant cover for this convoy the ' battlefleet ' departed Akureyri on 2 March. The ' battlefleet ' was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. T.E. Halsey, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Howe (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, CB, RN), light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN).

They arrived in their covering position to the north of the convoy route on the 4th.

On the 5th they left the covering position for Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 6th minus HMS Glasgow and HMS Forester which had been detached to Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands on the 5th. These two ships arrived there on the 6th. HMS Forester then fuelled from HMS Glasgow and they departed for Scapa Flow later the same day.

HMS Glasgow and HMS Forester arrived at Scapa Flow on the 7th.

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A cruiser, close cover, Force was also deployed. It was known as ' Force R ' and was made up of the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, OBE, RN) and the heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN).

They had departed the Kola Inlet on 2 March and arrived at Seidisfjord on the 7th.

After fuelling they departed again on the 8th to continue to provide cover for the convoy.

On the 9th they set course to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 11th. (9)

30 Mar 1943
HMS H 34 (Lt. J.P. Angell, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN). (10)

12 May 1943
German U-boat U-456 was almost certainly sunk in an diving accident on 12 May, 1943 in the North Atlantic, in position 46°39'N, 26°54'W, while facing the British destroyer HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN) after being badly damaged by a Fido homing torpedo from a British Liberator aircraft (Sqdn 86/B).

27 May 1943
During 27/28 May 1943, the battleships HMS Anson (Commodore H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN) and HMS Valiant (Capt. L.H. Ashmore, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow during which they were escorted by the destroyers HMS Quilliam (Capt. S.H. Carlill, DSO, RN), HMS Quail (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Jenks, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN).

Around 1950B/27, HMS Anson parted company to proceed to Rosyth escorted by HMS Quality, HMS Obedient and HMS Opportune.

HMS Anson entered the Firth of Forth around 1045B/28. The destroyers turned back to return to Scapa Flow off the gate. (11)

7 Jun 1943

Operation FH.

This operations had three objectives;
a) Carrying relief personnel and stores to the Norwegian Garrison in Spitsbergen.
b) Bringing back two corvettes from North Russia.
c) Carrying mail and stores to HM ships and establishments in North Russia.

The ships taking part in the operation were covered by a large battleforce which took station about 200 miles south-west of Bear Island.

The detailed movements taking part in the operation were as follows.

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' Force R ' was deployed for the relief of the garrison at Spitsbergen (Operation Gearbox III).

It was made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers HMCS Athabascan (Cdr. G.R. Miles, DSO, OBE, RCN) and HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN).

They departed Akureyri, Iceland on 7 June for Spitsbergen where they arrived on 10 June. The cruisers commenced unloading while the destroyers conducted an A/S patrol off the entrance of the fjord. Also HMCS Athabascan fuelled from HMS Cumberland and HMS Eclipse from HMS Bermuda.

On 11 June, ' Force R ' departed Spitsbergen for Scapa Flow where they arrived on 14 June.

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On 8 June, the destroyers HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) and HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfjord. HMS Mahratta and HMS Musketeer were to proceed to the Kola Inlet. HMS Onslaught was to make rendezvous with the corvettes HMS Bluebell (Lt. G.H. Walker, RNVR) and HMS Camellia (T/Lt. R.F.J. Maberley, RNVR) which departed the Kola Inlet for the U.K. on 9 June.

On 12 June, HMS Mahratta and HMS Musketeer arrived in the Kola Inlet where they unloaded, fuelled and departed to return to Seidisfjord later the same day.

On 13 June, HMS Onslaught returned to Seidisfjord having failed to meet the corvettes which passed to the south of Bear Island.

On 14 June, HMS Bluebell arrived at Aultbea.

On 15 June, HMS Camellia arrived at Liverpool and HMS Mahratta and HMS Musketeer arrived at Seidisfjord.

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On 9 June, the battlefleet, made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN), USS South Dakota (Capt. L.D. McCormick, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN), USS Alabama (Capt. F.D. Kirtland, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. H.J. Egerton, RN), AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), USS Ellyson (T/Cdr. E.W. Longton, USN), USS Rodman (T/Cdr. J.F. Foley, USN), USS Emmons (T/Cdr. E.B. Billingsley, USN), USS Macomb (T/Cdr. J.C. South, USN) and USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN) departed Akureyi to proceed to their cover position about 200 miles south-west of Bear Island where they arrived on the 11th.

On the 12th, USS South Dakota, USS Alabama, HMS Berwick, USS Ellyson, USS Rodman, USS Emmons, USS Macomb and USSFitch were detached to proceed to Hvalfjord where they arrived on the 14th. The remaining ships set course for Scapa Flow.

On the 13th, HMS Duke of York, HMS Furious, Scylla, HMS Milne, HMS Obdurate, HMS Obedient, HMS Opportune and HMS Orwell arrived at Scapa Flow. (12)

15 Jun 1943
During 15/16 June, a large exercise was carried out off Scapa Flow by ships that were to participate in the upcoming landings on Sicily. The ships that participated were; the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.H.E. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.U. Willis, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. L.H. Ashmore, RN), HMS Warspite (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. G. Grantham, CB, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral C. Moody, RN). They were escorted by destroyers the destroyers HMS Quilliam (Capt. S.H. Carlill, DSO, RN), HMS Quail (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Jenks, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, DSO, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Arrow (Lt.Cdr. W.W. Fitzroy, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) (these last four remained with the Home Fleet) and escort destroyers HMS Viceroy (Lt. T.F. Hallifax, RN) and HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN). [It is likely that even more destroyers / escort destroyers participated in these exercises.

The Home Fleet cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN), HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, RN), screened by the Home Fleet destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Grenville (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, DSO, RN) simulated an enemy fleet.

The exercises included night encounter exercises. (13)

18 Jun 1943
The battleship HMS Anson (Commodore H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN) proceeded from Rosyth to Scapa Flow. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN). (14)

21 Jun 1943
The battleship HMS Anson (Commodore H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (A/Capt. J.S.S. Litchfield-Speer, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. During the exercises HMS Anson was escorted by the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Grenville (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, DSO, RN). (15)

24 Jun 1943
During the morning, HMS Truant (Lt.Cdr. J.G. Hopkins, RN), carries out A/S exercises with HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN).

During the afternoon A/S exercises were carried out with HMS Roebuck (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) and HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, DSC, RN). (16)

24 Jun 1943
The battleships HMS Anson (Commodore H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN), USS South Dakota (Capt. L.D. McCormick, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN), USS Alabama (Capt. F.D. Kirtland, USN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), USS Ellyson (T/Cdr. E.W. Longton, USN), USS Rodman (T/Cdr. J.F. Foley, USN), USS Emmons (T/Cdr. E.B. Billingsley, USN), USS Macomb (T/Cdr. J.C. South, USN) and USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN). (17)

6 Jul 1943

Operation Camera.

The object of this operation was to pin down enemy forces in Norway before the Sicilian campaign commenced.

Four Forces were deployed during this operation, these were; ' The Battlefleet ' to provide cover for the operation. It was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN), USS South Dakota (Capt. L.D. McCormick, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) and the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), USS Ellyson (T/Cdr. E.W. Longton, USN), USS Rodman (T/Cdr. J.F. Foley, USN), USS Emmons (T/Cdr. E.B. Billingsley, USN), USS Macomb (T/Cdr. J.C. South, USN) and USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN).

' Force Q ' was made up of the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN, Senior Officer ' Force Q ' ), heavy cruisers HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN), HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN) and the destroyers HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, DSC, RN).

' Force R ', which was representing a convoy was made up of the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN, Senior Officer ' Force R '), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), trawlers HMS Bressay (T/Lt. J.E. Wilmot, RNVR), HMS Cape Barracouta (Skr.Lt.(Retd.) A. Flaws, DSC, RNR), HMS Cape Nyemetzki (T/Lt. A. Flaaten, RNR), HMS Hamlet (T/Lt. J.C. Boyd, RNVR), HMS Hawthorn (T/Lt. G.W. Fox, RNVR), HMS Larch (T/Skr. J.G. Mackay, RNR), HMS Macbeth (T/Lt. A. Parker, RNR), HMS Oak (A/Skr.Lt. P. Buchan, DSC, RNR), HMS Skye (T/Lt. W.G. Burt, RNR), HMS Sycamore (Skr. G. Reaich, RNR) and the Motor Launches HMML 276 (T/Lt. E.W. Lovelady, RNVR), HMML 286 (T/Lt. J.R.T. Ward, RNVR), HMML 345 (T/Lt. A. Priestly, RNVR), HMML 445 (T/Lt. B.W. Kelly, RNVR), HMML 452 (T/Lt. P.L.K. Wait, RNVR), HMML 466 (T/Lt.Cdr. D. Wilkie, RNVR).

' Force S ' which was made up of the heavy cruisers HMS Berwick (Capt. H.J. Egerton, RN, Senior Officer ' Force S '), HMS Norfolk (Capt. D.K. Bain, RN) and the destroyer HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN).

On 6 July ' Force S ' left Hvalfiord, Iceland for position 'A' (66°13'N, 12°05'W) and then to position 'B' (66°40'N, 10°01'W).

On 7 July ' Force R ' left Scapa Flow for position ' W ' (61°15'N, 01°25'W) and then to position ' X ' (61°40'N, 01°00'E).

' Force Q ' (besides HMS Obdurate) left Scapa Flow for position ' T ' (62°20'N, 05°30'W) where it was joined by HMS Obdurate coming from Skaalefiord, Faeroer, and then to position ' V ' (62°20'N, 01°00'E).

' The Battlefleet ' left Scapa Flow for position ' Y ' (62°52'N, 01°45'W) and then to position ' Z ' (61°20'N, 01°00'E).

In the afternoon of 8 July all forces commenced to withdraw having been sighted by enemy aircraft as had been the idea.

Martlets from HMS Furious shot down one BV 138 aircraft which was shadowing the ' Battlefleet ' and ' Force R '.

On 9 July, HMS Obdurate was detached from ' Force Q ' to return to Skaalefiord.

The ' Battlefleet ' and later ' Force Q ' returned to Scapa Flow.

' Force R ' arrived at Sullom Voe, sailing again P.M. for Scapa Flow.

On 10 July, ' Force S ' returned to Hvalfiord and ' Force R ' returned to Scapa Flow. (12)

2 Aug 1943
HMS Stoic (Lt. P.B. Marriott, DSO, RN) conducted A/S exercises at Scapa Flow with (at least) HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN). (18)

5 Aug 1943

Convoy TA 58.

This convoy was only made up of one ship, the troopship Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936) which departed the Clyde on 5 August.

On board the Queen Mary was Prime Minister Churchill, Chiefs of Staff and their entourage which were en-route to the Quebec conference.

Close (A/S) escort for the convoy was provided by the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) which had departed Londonderry on 5 August. They returned to the Clyde on 8 August.

Two destroyers had already left Londonderry on the 4th, these were HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN). These probably first proceeded westwards at economical speed and later took over from HMS Matchless and HMS Scorpion. They arrived at Argentia, Newfoundland on 9 August.

Cover for this convoy was provided by the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN) which was escorted by HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN). They departed the Clyde around 1230B/5 and returned there around 1000B/8.

During daylight on the 6th, the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) provided cover for the convoy. She had departed Scapa Flow around 0300B/5 and returned there around 0630B/8.

Close escort for the convoy was provided by the light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow around 0500B/5 and joined the troopship around 2200B/5. She remained with the troopship until around 0930B/7 when course was set to return to Scapa Flow where she arrived around 1600B/9.

The heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) sailed from Hvalfjord around 0130Z/5. She first sighted the Queen Mary with HMS Bermuda in company around 1930Z/6. She remained with or near the Queen Mary until 0815Z/8 when she parted company to proceed to Argentia, Newfoundland where she arrived around 1000N/9.

The light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) joined HMS Kent around 0650Z/7. She parted company around 2145Z/7. HMS Glasgow had departed Plymouth around 1545B/4 and returned there around 1830B/10.

Shortly before HMS Kent parted company with the Queen Mary the heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. J.B.W. Waller, USN) and the destroyers USS Isherwood (T/Cdr. R.E. Gadrow, USN), Luce (T/Cdr. D.C. Varian, USN), USS Bell (T/Cdr. L.C. Petross, USN) and Hale (T/Cdr. K.F. Poehlmann, USN) joined coming from Charleston, South Carolina which they had departed on the 4th together with the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (Capt. G. Rowe, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN) and the destroyers USS Forrest (T/Cdr. K.P. Letts, USN), USS Corry (T/Cdr. L.B. Ensey, USN) and USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN) which were also in the area providing air cover with the aircraft of USS Ranger.

The convoy arrived at Halifax on the 9th.

2 Oct 1943

Operation Leader.

The object of this operation was an attack by the air group of USS Ranger on shipping targets in the Bodo area.

Around 1200A/2, the Battlefleet, made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), USS Ranger (Capt. G. Rowe, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN), heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. J.B.W. Waller, USN), light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Teazer (Lt.Cdr. A.A.F. Talbot, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), USS Forrest (T/Cdr. K.P. Letts, USN), USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN), USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN), USS Corry (T/Cdr. L.B. Ensey, USN) and USS Capps (T/Cdr. B.E.S. Trippensee, USN) departed Scapa Flow for Operation Leader.

Around 0200A/3, the destroyers HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) joined the Battlefleet's screen coming from Skaalefiord, Faeroer Islands and the force proceeded north eastwards through position 66°40'N, 02°01'W to position 07°17'N, 08°20'E which was reached shortly before dawn on the 4th.

The weather was most favourable for the attack and at this point two air striking forces were flown off from USS Ranger at approximately half an hour's interval. 20 Dauntless and 8 Wildcats were launched in the first attack group and 10 Avengers and 6 Wildcats in the second.

Both striking groups found numerous targets in the Leads and pressed home their attacks to the full. 14 500lb and 1000lb bomb hits were claimed on nine merchant ships of three to ten thousand tons including an 8000 ton tanker. Two other small vessels were damaged by hits or near misses and all targets were raked with machine gun and cannon fire which undoubtedly accounted for further damage which cannot be assessed.

German sources gives the following damage inflicted; merchant vessels sunk, La Plata (German, 8056 GRT, built 1922), Rabat (German, 2719 GRT, built 1929), Skramstad (Norwegian, 4300 GRT, built 1925), Vaagan (Norwegian, 687 GRT, built 1921). Damaged were the Ibis (German, 593 GRT, built 1920), Cap Guir (German, 1536 GRT, built 1927), Schleswig (German (tanker), 10139 GRT, built 1942, former Norwegian Austanger), Kerkplein (Dutch, 5053 GRT, built 1921), Topeka (Norwegian, 4991 GRT, built 1925). The Topeka was later declared a total loss. The merchant vessel Malaga (German, 2146 GRT, built 1936) was hit by a dud torpedo.

Three of the aircraft were shot down, all by flak. One Dauntless crashed at Bodo and one made a forced landing in the water 12 miles west of Bodo. The third aircraft, an Avenger, was shot down off Alsten. Several members of the crews of these aircraft were seen swimming in the water and it is probable that they have been taken prisoner.

The two air attack groups returned to USS Ranger and landed on, losing one other aircraft during this operation, the Battlefleet then set course to return to Scapa Flow.

During the afternoon of the 4th, two enemy reconnaissance aircraft, a JU 88 and a HE 115, shadowed the Fleet and were promptly shot down by fighter patrols from USS Ranger. Except for these two aircraft no enemy air opposition was encountered throughout the operation.

The Force withdrew on a course of 260° through positions 67°10- N, 02°01'E and 64°10'N, 02°18'W.

At 1255A/5, HMS Savage, HMS Scorpion, and HMS Scourge were detached to return to Skaalefiord.

The Battlefleet returned to Scapa Flow around 0645A/6. (12)

23 Nov 1943
Around 1645/23, HMS Renown (Capt. W.E. Parry, CB, RN), departed Alexandria to return to the UK. On departure from Alexandria she was escorted by the destroyers HMS Grenville (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, DSO, RN), HMS Ulster (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Donald, DSC, RN), HMS Rocket (Lt.Cdr. H.B. Acworth, OBE, RN) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. R.H.C. Wyld, RN).

On the 25th HMS Echo was detached to Malta.

Around 1100/26, HMS Renown, HMS Grenville, HMS Ulster and HMS Rocket, arrived at Algiers.

Around 0030/27, HMS Renown departed Algiers for Gibraltar. She was now escorted by the destroyers HMS Grenville, HMS Ulster and HMS Isis (Cdr. B. Jones, DSO, DSC, RN). They arrived at Gibraltar around 2100/27.

HMS Renown departed Gibraltar for Rosyth around 2245/27 now escorted by HMS Rocket, HMS Tumult (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) and HMS Ulster.

Around 1445/29, HMS Rocket, HMS Tumult and HMS Ulster parted company after HMS Janus (Lt.Cdr. W.B.R. Morrison, RN) and HMCS Athabascan (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN) had joined.

Around 1115/1, HMS Janus and HMCS Athabascan parted company.

Around 2000/2, HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) joined.

HMS Renown, HMS Meteor and HMS Opportune arrived at Rosyth around 1200/3. (19)

3 Dec 1943
HMS Telemachus (Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMIS Cauvery (A/Cdr. A.W. Beeton, RIN). (20)

7 Dec 1943
HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Rosyth. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Tenacious (Lt.Cdr. D.F. Townsend, RN). (21)

8 Dec 1943
HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN) arrived at Rosyth from Scapa Flow. Her destroyer screen, made up of HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Tenacious (Lt.Cdr. D.F. Townsend, RN) parted company off the boom to the Firth of Forth and returned to Scapa Flow arriving there later the same day.

At Rosyth, HMS Anson is taken in hand for repairs by the Royal Dockyard. (21)

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.

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Convoy JW 55B

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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.

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Convoy RA 55A

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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.

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' 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.

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' Force 2 '

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' Force 2 ' was the battle cover force for these convoy's. It was made up of the battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, 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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. (23)

23 Mar 1944
HMS Ursula (Lt. A.G. Davies, RN) conducted A/S exercises at Scapa Flow with HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN), HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN). (24)

27 Mar 1944

Convoy JW 58.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 27 March 1944 and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 4 April 1944.

On departure the convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Andrew Carnegie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Arunah S. Abell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Barbara Frietchie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Benjamin H. Latrobe (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Benjamin Schlesinger (American, 7176 GRT, built 1944), Charles Gordon Curtis (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Charles Henderson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Dolabella (British, 8142 GRT, built 1939), Edward P. Alexander (American, 7201 GRT, built 1943), Empire Prowess (British, 7058 GRT, built 1943), Fort Columbia (British, 7155 GRT, built 1942), Fort Hall (British, 7157 GRT, built 1943), Fort Kullyspell (British, 7190 GRT, built 1943), Fort Vercheres (British, 7128 GRT, built 1942), Fort Yukon (British, 7153 GRT, built 1943), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Francis Vigo (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), George Gale (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), George M. Cohan (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), George T. Angell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1944), Grace Abbott (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Hawkins Fudske (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Villard (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Smith (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), John B. Lennon (American, 7198 GRT, built 1943), John Carver (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John Davenport (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John McDonogh (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joseph N. Nocollet (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joshua Thomas (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joyce Kilmer (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Julien Poydras (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Lacklan (British (tanker), 8670 GRT, built 1929), Morris Hillquit (American, 7210 GRT, built 1944), Nicholas Biddle (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Pierre S. Dupont (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Thomas Sim Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Townsend Harris (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), W.R. Grace (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), William D. Byron (American, 7210 GRT, built 1944), William Matson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), William McKinley (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943), William Moultrie (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), William Pepper (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and William S. Thayer (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943).

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

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Westcott (Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. P.J. Cowell, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr J.H. Eaden, DSC and Bar, RN), minesweepers Rattlesnake (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Coles, RD, RNR), Orestes (Lt.Cdr. A.W.R. Adams, RN), HMS Onyx (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.C.L. Gaussen, RNVR) and the corvettes HMS Bluebell (Lt. G.H. Walker, DSC, RNVR), HMS Honeysuckle (T/Lt. J.A. Wright, RNR), HMS Lotus (Lt. C.S. Thomas, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (T/Lt. O.B. Medley, RNVR) and HMS Starwort (Lt. A.H. Kent, RNR).

On 28 March 1944, the light cruisers HMS Diadem (Capt. E.G.A. Clifford, RN), i>USS Milwaukee (T/Capt. C.F. Fielding, USN), escort carriers HMS Activity (Capt. G. Willoughby, RN), HMS Tracker (A/Capt. J.H. Huntley, RN) and the destroyers HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN), HMS Serapis (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill) departed Scapa Flow to join the convoy which they did on 29 March.

The sloops HMS Starling (Capt. F.J. Walker, CB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Wild Goose (Lt.Cdr. D.E.G. Wemyss, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Whimbrel (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Moore, DSC, RNR), HMS Wren (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) and HMS Magpie (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Abram, RN) departed Scapa Flow also on 28 March to join the convoy which they too did on 29 March.

On 29 March 1944, the destroyers HMS Saumarez (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.C.A. Ingram, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Leonard, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. P. Bekenn, RN), HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.W. Hawkins, RN), HMS Keppel (Cdr. I.J. Tyson, DSC, RD, RNR) and HMS Walker (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) departed Skaalefiord, Iceland and joined the convoy.

On 29 March 1944, the German submarine U-961 was sunk near the convoy by HMS Starling.

Also on 29 March, two more merchant ships joined the convoy, these were the Gilbert Stuart (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and John T. Holt (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) coming from Reykjavik, Iceland. The merchant vessel Eloy Alfaro (American, 7176 GRT, built 1944) had also sailed with them but had to return and proceeded to Seidisfjord before she could join the convoy due to ice damage. She arrived at Seidisfjord on the 30th. These ships were escorted by the frigate HMS Fitzroy (Lt. C.D.C. McNeil, RNVR) and the minesweepers HMS Chamois (T/A/Lt.Cdr. D.P. Richardson, RNVR) and HMS Chance (T/Lt. P.P. Lees, RNVR). These escorts did not join the convoy.

Also on 29 March the minesweepers HMS Rattlesnake, HMS Onyx, HMS Orestes and the corvette HMS Starwort parted company with the convoy. The minesweepers proceeded to Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands arriving there later the same day. HMS Starwort proceeded to Londonderry arriving the on the 30th.

On 30 March four German shadowing aircraft were shot down by fighters from the escort carriers which themselves lost two aircraft.

On 31 March the German submarine U-673 was damaged by HMS Beagle and aircraft from HMS Tracker.

On 2 April two German shadowing aircraft were shot down by fighters from the escort carriers. Also the German submarine U-360 was sunk by Hedgehog attack from HMS Keppel.

On 3 April the German submarine U-288 was sunk by aircraft from the escort carriers.

ON 4 April, the convoy (39 ships) was split into two sections, one proceeded to the Kola Inlet arriving later the same day with the original escort. The other (with 10 ships), with a local escort which joined on this day to the White Sea where it arrived on the 6th. This local escort was made up of the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Razumniy, Razyarenniy and Valerian Kyubishev.

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Distant cover for this convoy was provided by a battleforce known as ' Force 1 ', it departed Scapa Flow around 1200A/30 and was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, GCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN) and HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN).

Around 0250A/31, the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Mackenzie, RD, RNR) and HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN) joined coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands.

Around 0340A/31, the original destroyer screen were detached to Skaalefjord arriving there later the same day.

On 2 April ' Force 1 ' proceeded to join ' Force 2 ' coming from Scapa Flow for the upcoming Operation Tungsten. (23)

11 May 1944
HMS Voracious (Lt. F.D.G. Challis, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises at/off Scapa Flow with HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.C.A. Ingram, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Speedy (A/Lt.Cdr. W.L.G. Dutton, RNR). (25)

20 May 1944
HMS Voracious (Lt. F.D.G. Challis, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises at/off Scapa Flow with HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Ulysses (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Hanson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, DSC, RN) and HMS Nubian (Lt.Cdr. T.A. Pack-Beresford, RN).

Upon completion of these exercises HMS Voracious departed Scapa Flow for Holy Loch. She was escorted by HMS Sardonyx (T/A/Lt.Cdr. E. Playne, RNVR). (25)

20 May 1944
During 20/21 May 1944, HMS Rodney (Capt. R.O. Fitzroy, RN), conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. First with the destroyer HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and later with four other destroyers, these were most likely HMS Savage (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN). (26)

19 Sep 1944

Operation Divan.

This operation had three objectives;
1) To create a diversion during the passage of convoy JW 60 to Northern Russia.
2) Mining the Leads at Finnenarennen and Gibostad.
3) Harassing the Germans and destruction of military installations in the Tromso Area.

On 19 September 1944, the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, KCB, RN), light cruiser HMS Swiftsure (Capt. R.D. Oliver, CBE, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cassandra (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Caprice (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN), HMS Cambrian (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Harrel, RN), HMS Zephyr (Lt.Cdr. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Biggs, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.C.A. Ingram, DSC, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, DSC, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN) and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) departed Scapa Flow.

They arrived in the operations area but the weather was found unsuitable to carry out the operation so it had to be cancelled.

The Force returned to Scapa Flow on 24 September 1944. (27)

2 Oct 1944
HMS Malaya (Cdr. D.H. Fuller, RN) departed Rosyth for the Clyde, she was escorted by HMS Onslow (Capt. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN).

At 1853/3, HMS Lapwing (Cdr.(Retd.) E.C. Hulton, RN) and HMS Fowey (A/Lt.Cdr. G.E. Newey, RNR) took over from the detroyers.

At 1700/4, HMS Malaya arrived in Loch Striven. (28)

5 Oct 1944
The battleship HMS King George V (Capt. T.E. Halsey, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Plymouth. She is escorted by the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN) and HMS Oribi (Lt. D.M. Vaughan-Hughes, RN [???]).

Around dawn the destroyers parted company to proceed to the Clyde.

Around 1545A/6, the destroyer HMS Serapis (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) joined.

Around 2230A/6, the destroyer HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) joined.

Around 1000A/7, HMS King George V, HMS Scourge and HMS Serapis arried at Plymouth. (29)

10 Jan 1945

Operations Spellbinder and Gratis

Operation Spellbinder was carried out in two parts, part I was an anti-shipping raid in the Egersund area and part II was a minelay near Utsira Island.

Operation Gratis was the laying of an air laid minefield in Karm Sund.

Around 2200A/10, ' Force 1 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Bellona (Capt. C.F.W. Norris, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, DSC, RN) and ' Force 2 ', made up of the fast minelayer HMS Apollo (Capt. J.A. Grindle, CBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Zealous (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Carron (Lt.Cdr. J.V. Wilkinson, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for operation Spellbinder.

They proceeded in company until 1100A/11 when they split up to the north of the Shetlands. ' Force 2 ' remained in that vicinity until 1508A/11 when course and speed were adjusted so as to arrive in the laying position at midnight. ' Force 1 ' set course for the Egersund area, aiming to arrive off the coast at about 2215A/11.

HMS Apollo, HMS Zealous and HMS Carron approached the Norwegian coast from the north-westward at 30 knots, in fine clear weather, making use of the beam of the enemy consol beacon situated in position 58°37'5"N, 05°37'8"E. Course was altered to 090° at 2336A/11 and Utsira light was seen shortly afterwards.

Starshell from ' Force 1 ', engaged 100 miles to the southward, was observed at 2343A/11. Five minutes later ' Force 2 ' reduced speed to 20 knots and HMS Zealous and HMS Carron proceeded ahead to make a smokescreen between the laying position and them mainland.

Between 2357A/11 and 0020A/12, HMS Apollo laid 156 mines in three lines as follows;
Line 1 of 52 mines - Between 59°15'00"N, 05°01'06"E and 59°15'00"N, 05°04'21"E.
Line 2 of 55 mines - Between 59°14'51"N, 05°06'06"E and 59°13'39"N, 05°00'00"E.
Line 3 of 49 mines - Between 59°13'15"N, 05°07'54"E and 59°12'51"N, 05°04'48"E.
The mines were laid at a depth of 30 feet and flooders were set to operate on 19 February 1945.

On completion of this unobserved lay ' Force 2 ' retired at high speed to the northward and then set course to return to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 1450A/12.

' Force 1 ' had picked up Utsira Island by radar at 1940A/11 and an hour later course was altered to close the convoy route south of Stavanger. The ships were positioned in line ahead.

At 2215A/11, ' Force 1 ' altered course to starboard to run down the coast, keeping 10 miles to seaward and parallel to the shipping route. At the same time they were picked up and held by enemy shore radar.

At 2312A/11, when opposite Egersund, radar contact was made with a convoy close inshore and apparently making for Egersund. Course was altered towards the target and fire was opened with starshell at 2341A/11. The appearance of a radar echo on the starboard bow, which was classified as a U-boat, somewhat complicated the movements of ' Force 1 '.

During the ensuing engagement the enemy shore batteries joined in, but although they registered several straddles and near misses they achieved no hits. Rear-Admiral McGrigor reported that out of eight ships which made up the convoy, including escorts, one, probably an escort, escaped into Egersund after being hit. Of the remaining seven, one large merchant vessel was sunk and another one was left blazing to the waterline. One small merchant vessel, or escort, was seen to turn turtle. One M-class minesweeper blew up after running itself ashore in flames. The other three ships were left on fire of which one was seen to blow up when ' Force 1 ' was retiring.

' Force 1 ' withdrew to the west at 0027A/12, altering to the northward when well clear of enemy radar. They made rendezvous with ' Force 3 ' at 0800A/12. At 0910A/12, a shadowing JU 88 was shot down by fighters from HMS Trumpeter. One of the fighters was damaged and had to ditch the pilot being recovered by HMS Zodiac. The Combat Air Patrol was kept busy during the forenoon investigating bogeys, but no enemy attack developed and at 1400A/12, ' Force 3 ' was detached for operation Gratis. ' Force 1 ' then headed for Scapa Flow, passing east of the Shetlands, and arrived at 2205A/12.

' Force 3 ', made up of the light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. R.F. Elkins, OBE, RN), escort carriers Premier (A/Capt. R.J. Gardner, RN), HMS Trumpeter (Cdr. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) and the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN), HMS Zest (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN), HMS Zodiac (Lt.Cdr. H.R. Rycroft, DSC, RN) and HMS Cavendish (Cdr. R.H. Maurice, DSO, RN), had departed Scapa Flow at 1130A/11, to rendezvous with ' Force 1 ', and, having been detached on the 12th, proceeded west-about round the Shetlands and through Fair Isle Channel for the flying off position in 59°15'N, 01°10'E.

Two MTB's from Lerwick had been detailed to rendezvous with ' Force 3 ', to act as Air Sea Rescue craft in the event of a ditching to the east the flying off position. They made rendezvous at 0915A/13, just short of the flying off position. In view of the good weather conditions, flying off commenced immediately and by 0930A/13, the strike, made up of six Avengers from 846 Squadron and eight Wildcats from HMS Trumpeter and six Avengers from 856 Squadron and eight Wildcats from HMS Premier, was airborne. Departure was taken at 0938A/13 and a good landfall was made on Utsira Island. At about 1130A/13 the 12 Avengers laid their mines in the channel between Salhus light and a position 500 yards to the northward. Only light flack was encountered and all aircraft returned safely to the carriers being landed on by 1150A/13. ' Force 3 ' then returned to Scapa Flow arriving there at 2100A/13.

The German convoy attacked by ' Force 1 ' was made up of the transports Bahia Camarones (8551 GRT, built 1918), Charlotte (4404 GRT, built 1908) and Wesermarsch (1923 GRT, built 1943). They were escorted by the minesweepers M-456, M-436, M-306, M-273 and M-253. The submarine U-427 was also with the convoy and she fired torpedoes at ' Force 1 ' but all mised. The Bahia Camarones, Charlotte and M-273 were sunk.

15 Jan 1945
HrMs Zeehond (Lt.Cdr. Baron D.T. Mackay, RNN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN), HMS Cavendish (Cdr. R.H. Maurice, DSO, RN) and HMS Cavalier (Lt.Cdr. D.T. McBarnet, RN). (30)

1 May 1945

Operation Judgement.

The main object of the operastion was the destruction of U-boat depot ships at Kolbotn. The secondary object was to destroy enemy shipping anchored of Sandnesjoen.

The Force deployed for this operation departed Scapa Flow around 1130B/1 and was made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Diadem (Capt. A.M. Knapp, RN), escort carriers HMS Queen (A/Capt. K.J. D'Arcy, DSO, RN), HMS Searcher (Capt. J.W. Grant, DSO, RN), HMS Trumpeter (A/Capt. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) and the destroyers HMS Carysfort (Lt.Cdr. L.St.G. Rich, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zambesi (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Palmer, RN), HMS Savage (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Malins, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. C.G.H. Brown, DSC, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN), Orwell and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC and Bar, RN).

In the early morning of 3 May the destroyers were fuelled by HMS Norfolk, HMS Searcher, HMS Trumpeter and the RFA tanker Blue Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) which had also been deployed.

At 1020B/3, the Blue Ranger parted company escorted by HMS Obedient and HMS Orwell. HMS Orwell escorting the Blue Ranger arrived at Scapa Flow on 7 May. HMS Obedient had been detached and already arrived at Scapa Flow on 5 May.

Around 1600B/4, the escort carrier commenced flying off aircraft to attack the German base at Kilbotn, just south of Harstad. During the attacks the depot ships Black Watch (5035 GRT, built 1939) and Senja (858 GRT, built 1938). Also sunk was the submarine U-711 which was alongside the Black Watch. Aircraft involved were eight Avengers and four Wildcats from 846 Squadron in HMS Trumpeter, eight Avengers and four Wildcats from 853 Squadron in HMS Queen, and twenty Wildcats from 882 Squadron in HMS Queen.

By 1809B/4, all aircraft had landed on except for one Avenger and one Wildcat. All crews were lost.

At 0700B/5, HMS Norfolk and HMS Diadem parted company to proceed ahead to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 0800B/6.

The destroyers HMS Carysfort, HMS Zambesi, HMS Savage, HMS Scourge and HMS Opportune also arrived at Scapa Flow, most likely late on the 6th.

The three escort carriers remained at sea and were joined around 2359B/6 by the escort carrier HMS Campania (Capt. C.B. Alers-Hankey, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Franks, DSO, DSC, OBE, RN), HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. H. Øi) and ORP Piorun (Lt.Cdr. J. Tchorznicki, ORP). (31)

6 May 1945

Operation Cleaver.

Entry of a naval surface force into the Skagerrak and Kattegat.

The following forces took part in this operation;
' Force 5 ' which was made up of the light cruisers HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.W. Williams, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. R.F. Elkins, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Zephyr (Capt. J.H. Allison, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zealous (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Zest (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN) and HMS Zodiac (Lt.Cdr. H.R. Rycroft, DSC, RN).
This force departed Rosyth in the evening of the 6th.

' Force 6 ' which was made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. C.G.H. Brown, DSC, RN, with Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN on board), HMS Savage (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Malins, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Thorpe, DSO, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN), HMS Zambesi (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Palmer, RN) and HMS Carysfort (Lt.Cdr. L.St.G. Rich, DSO and Bar, RN). This force departed Scapa flow early the 7th except to joined the escort carriers HMS Queen (A/Capt. K.J. D'Arcy, DSO, RN), HMS Searcher (Capt. J.W. Grant, DSO, RN), HMS Trumpeter (A/Capt. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) which had still been at sea after operation Judgement together with the escort carrier HMS Campania (Capt. C.B. Alers-Hankey, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Franks, DSO, DSC, OBE, RN), HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. H. Øi) and ORP Piorun (Lt.Cdr. J. Tchorznicki, ORP). The cruisers and the destroyers joined the escort carriers around 1000B/7.

HMS Campania, HMS Obdurate, HNoMS Stord and ORP Piorun then parted company.

And the 40th Minesweeping Flotilla made up of HMS Catharine (Cdr. Kenneth Hillam Fraser, RN), 6541 HMS Cynthia (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.L. Chatwin, RNVR), HMS Elfreda (T/A/Lt.Cdr. L. Jolly, RNVR), HMS Grecian (T/A/Cdr. C.R. Fraser, DSC and Bar, RNR) and HMS Gazelle (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Sutcliffe, RN), HMS Maenad (Cdr. C.E. Duggan, RD, RNR), HMS Steadfast (T/A/Lt. A.H. Hall, RNVR) and HMS Tattoo (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.G. Rogers, RD, RNR). They departed Rosyth of the 6th.

Force 5 and the 40th M/S Flotilla arrived at Copenhagen, Denmark on 9 May. The 40th M/S Flotilla swept Force 5 through the minefields.

Force 6 returned to Scapa Flow on 10 May. (31)

22 May 1945
HMS Rodney (Capt. R.O. Fitzroy, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, CVO, DSO, RN, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Rosyth. They were escorted by HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN). (32)

23 May 1945
HMS Rodney (Capt. R.O. Fitzroy, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, CVO, DSO, RN, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet), HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN) arrived at Rosyth. (33)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 173/17240
  2. ADM 173/17241
  3. ADM 53/115324 + ADM 199/632
  4. ADM 199/652
  5. ADM 53/115327
  6. ADM 53/115326 + ADM 53/116142 + ADM 53/116431 + ADM 53/116633
  7. ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429 + ADM 199/644
  8. ADM 234/369
  9. ADM 199/632 + ADM 234/369
  10. ADM 173/17792
  11. ADM 53/116900 + ADM 53/118672
  12. ADM 199/632
  13. ADM 53/117014 + ADM 53/117576 + ADM 53/117670 + ADM 53/117839 + ADM 53/118252 + ADM 53/118480 + ADM 53/118629 + ADM 53/118673 + ADM 53/118714
  14. ADM 53/116901
  15. ADM 53/116901 + ADM 53/118301 + ADM 53/118526
  16. ADM 173/18284
  17. ADM 53/116901 + Logbooks of USN ships involved
  18. ADM 173/18113
  19. ADM 53/118436
  20. ADM 173/18214
  21. ADM 53/116907 + ADM 199/632
  22. ADM 199/632 + ADM 234/343
  23. ADM 199/1427
  24. ADM 173/19314
  25. ADM 173/19434
  26. ADM 53/120410 + ADM 53/120655
  27. ADM 53/119604 + ADM 53/120602 + ADM 199/1426 + ADM 199/1427
  28. ADM 53/119849
  29. ADM 53/119673
  30. 2.12.03.7152 (Dutch Archives, The Hague)
  31. ADM 199/1440
  32. ADM 53/121932 + ADM 53/122158 + ADM 199/1440
  33. ADM 53/122158

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


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