Allied Warships

HMS Ledbury (L 90)

Escort destroyer of the Hunt (Type II) class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeEscort destroyer
ClassHunt (Type II) 
PennantL 90 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.) 
Ordered5 Sep 1939 
Laid down24 Jan 1940 
Launched27 Sep 1941 
Commissioned11 Feb 1942 
End service 
History

Scrapped at Rosyth in May 1958.

 

Commands listed for HMS Ledbury (L 90)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Roger Percival Hill, RN30 Dec 19416 Oct 1942
2Lt. Denis Roy Newton Murdoch, RN6 Oct 194223 Feb 1944
3Lt.Cdr. James Harry Higson, DSC, RN23 Feb 1944May 1945
4Lt. Jack Broughton Cox, RN1 May 1945early 1946

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Notable events involving Ledbury include:


1 Mar 1942

Convoys PQ 12 and QP 8.

Convoy PQ 12 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 8 from Northern Russia to Iceland.

On 1 March 1942 convoy PQ 12 departed Reykjavik for ports in Northern Russia.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Bateau (Panamanian, 4687 GRT, built 1926), Beaconstreet (British (tanker), 7467 GRT, built 1927), Belomorcanal (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Capulin (Panamanian, 4977 GRT, built 1920), Dneprostroi (Russian, 4756 GRT, built 1919), Earlston (British, 7195 GRT, built 1941), El Coston (Panamanian, 7286 GRT, built 1924), El Occidente (Panamanian, 6008 GRT, built 1910), Empire Byron (British, 6645 GRT, built 1941), Lancaster Castle (British, 5172 GRT, built 1937), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1937), Navarino (British, 4841 GRT, built 1937), Sevzaples (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1932), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

Close escort on departure from Reykjavik was provided by the A/S trawlers HMS Angle (T/Lt. E. Playne, RNVR), Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(Retd.) B. Bevans, RNR), HMS Notts County (T/Lt. R.H. Hampton, RNR) and HMS Stella Capella (Lt. W.L. Sadgrove, RANVR). These trawlers parted company with the convoy early on 5 March. the minesweeper HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN) and the A/S whaler Sulla (T/Skr. T. Meadows, RNR) were to join the convoy coming from Reykjavik as well as the destroyers HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and the A/S whalers HMS Shera (T/Lt. W.E. Bulmer, RNR), Shusa (S.Lt. J.B. Powell, RNR), Stefa (T/Lt. T. Costley, RNVR) and Svega (T/Lt. F.P. Maitland, RNVR) which came from Seidisfjord.

Of the whalers Sulla later had to turn back.Shusa and Stefa were able to join the convoy while Svega made the passage to Murmansk independently with Shera until that ship sank on 9 March, presumably as a result of stability problems as she suddenly capsized. The Svega was able to pick up three survivors from the freezing water.

HMS Offa and HMS Oribi joined the convoy early on the 5th 100 miles south of Jan Mayen Island while HMS Gossamer could not find the convoy and proceeded to Murmansk independently.

The light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, RN) also joined on the 5th. She had departed Hvalfiord with the cover force at 0600/3. She parted company again on the 6th. She was however ordered to rejoin the convoy and she did so in the evening of the 6th.

The same evening the escorts were informed that a German heavy ship, thought to be the Tirpitz had left Trondheim and was proceeding northwards. The same evening the convoy encountered ice and course had to be changed from north-east to south-east. One of the merchant ships, the Bateau and the whaler Sulla had to turn back. The destroyer HMS Oribi sustained ice damage.

On the 7th the convoy was able to resume its original course. At noon on the 7th it passed convoy QP 8 in position 72°09'N, 10°34'E, some 200 miles south-west of Bear Island.

Around 1400/7, HMS Kenya sighted smoke on the horizon to the northward so she set off to investigate. Visibility was now at the maximum. It soon became apparent that it was a staggler from convoy QP 8 so Kenya then rejoined convoy PQ 12 at 1515/7.

Then around 1600/7 HMS Kenya received Admiralty signal 1519A/7 stating that enemy surface forces might be nearby. The convoy was ordered to steer north so at 1640/7 course was altered to 360°. Shortly afterwards a signal timed 1632/7 was received from the Russian merchant vessel Izhora, a staggler from convoy QP 8, that she was being gunned by an enemy warship in position 72°35'N, 10°50'E although the position was doubtful and the signal was garbled. It was thought this was the merchant vessel we sighted a few hours earlier. This ship was now thought to be 35 to 40 miles to the eastward of convoy PQ 12 and its northerly course might drive the convoy straight into the arms of the enemy.

Capt. Denny then decided to change course to 60°. Kenya's Walrus aircraft was launched at 1720/7 to search between 270° and 210°. The Walrus returned soon after 1800/7 having sighted nothing after searching to a depth of 45 miles. Course was therefore altered to 040° to bring the convoy closer to its original track.

No more news was heard from the Izhora or the enemy but soon after midnight another signal from the Admiralty was received telling the convoy to steer north of Bear Island, if ice permitted, a very considerable diversion from the original route. At daylight therefore the convoy altered further to the northward. Capt. Denny warning the convoy Commodore not to take the destroyers through the ice. The weather and information about the icefield, soon determined Capt. Denny and the convoy Commodore to disregard the Admiralty signal and they altered course to the south-east a little after mid-day, intending to cross the miridian of Bear Island to the southward after dark that evening. About 1530/8, between snowstorms, they sighted the island 40 miles off to the north-east, and the icefield at the same time. At dusk, 1700/8, they ran into the fringe of the ice.

it took the convoy three hours to work clear and reform, whereupon, to avoid further damage to HMS Oribi, Captain Denny detached her to make her own way to Murmansk, which she reached on March 10th.

The convoy went on, keeping as far north as the ice allowed. On the 9th, HMS Offa detected a patrolling aircraft by her radar, but thick and persistent sea smoke rising many feet into the air, combined with a change of course for two hours, prevented discovery, while intercepted signals showed that the Tirpitz was no longer likely to be a threat, for which she had been attacked off the Lofoten Islands by aircraft from HMS Victorious.

The convoy arrived at Murmansk on 12 March 1942.

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On 1 March 1942 convoy QP 8 departed Murmansk for Iceland.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), British Pride (British (tanker), 7106 GRT, built 1931), British Workman (British (tanker), 6994 GRT, built 1922), Cold Harbor (Panamanian, 5105 GRT, built 1921), El Lago (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Elona (British (tanker), 6192 GRT, built 1936), Empire Selwyn (British, 7167 GRT, built 1941), Explorer (British, 6235 GRT, built 1935), Fridrikh Engels (Russian, 3972 GRT, built 1930), Izhora (Russian, 2815 GRT, built 1921), Larranga (American, 3892 GRT, built 1917), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Revolutsioner (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Tbilisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912) and West Nohno (American, 6186 GRT, built 1919).

Close escort on departure from Murmansk was provided by the destroyers Gremyashchiy, Gromkiy, corvettes HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Sweetbriar (Lt.(Retd.) J.W. Cooper, RNR) and the HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN), HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN), HMS Salamander (Lt. W.R. Muttram, RN) and HMS Sharpshooter (Lt.Cdr. D. Lampen, RN).

The two Soviet destroyers, HMS Harrier and HMS Sharpshooter parted company with the convoy on 3 March. The other escorts remained with the convoy until it arrived in Iceland.

Close cover for the convoy was provided from 3 to 7 March by the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN) which had departed the Kola Inlet on 2 March and arrived at Scapa Flow on 8 March.

On 4 March the convoy scattered due to the bad weather conditions but was later reformed. On 9 March the convoy was disbanded after wich most ships arrived in Icelandic ports on 11 March 1942 minus a staggler from the convoy, the Soviet Izhora, which had been found and sunk around 1630/7 by the German destroyer Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn.

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Distant cover for these convoys was provided by battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), light cruiser HMS Kenya and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, 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, DSC, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN). These ships had departed Hvalfjord, Iceland at 0600/3.

At 0600/4 the battleship HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN) departed Scapa Flow.

At 0700/4, the destoyers HMS Faulknor and HMS Eskimo were detached from the Renown group to refuel at Seidisfjord.

At 1600/4, HMS Berwick was detached from the King George V'-group to return to Scapa escorted by HMS Bedouin. She had developed engine trouble. The cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) was ordered to take over her place after refuelling at Seidisfjord.

At 2300/4, HMS Kenya was detached from the Renown group to provide close cover for convoy PQ 12. Around the same time HMS Bedouin was ordered to part company with HMS Berwick and go to the aid of HMS Sheffield which had been mined near the Seidisfjord. HMS Faulknor and HMS Eskimo were also ordered to assist the damaged cruiser.

At 1200/5 the 'Renown'-group was in position 66°45'N, 06°30'W steering a northerly course. This was about 100 miles south of convoy PQ 12.

At the same time the 'King George V'-group was about 100 miles bearing 154° from the 'Renown'-group and was also steering a northerly course.

At 1900/5 HMS Kenya joined the close escort of convoy PQ 12.

At 2000/5, the 'Renown'-group altered course easterly to affect a rendezvous with the 'King George V'-group the next morning. Admiral Tovey had decided to concentrate his forces.

At 1030/6, both groups made rendezvous in position 71°00'N, 04°30'E amd the two forces joined together. They continued to steer a northerly course. The entire force was now made up of the battleships HMS King George V, HMS Duke of York, battlecruiser HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Lookout, HMS Ashanti, HMS Punjabi, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Fury, HMS Echo and HMS Elcipse.

At 1100/6, the German battleship Tirpitz escorted by the destroyers Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn and Z 25 departed Trondheim and steered north to intercept a convoy (PQ 12) reported by Focke Wulf reconnaissance aircraft.

At 1400/6, the Home Fleet altered course to the south.

In a signal timed 1801/6 the submarine HMS Seawolf (Lt. R.P. Raikes, RN) reported sighting the Tirpitz off Kya. At 0010/7, Admiral Tovey received the news of Seawolf's sighting. Tovey now knew that Tirpitz was out but he was unsure if the German battleships was out to attack the convoy or to break out into the Atlantic. It had been intended to fly off search aircraft from HMS Victorious but the weather conditions prevented any flying from taking place.

At 1750/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the east and the destroyers HMS Icarus and HMS Intrepid detached to refuel in Iceland.

At 2000/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the north. At the same time the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Ashanti, HMS Punjabi, HMS Fury, HMS Echo and HMS Eclipse were detached to sweep north between the Home Fleet and the Lofoten Islands along what Admiral Tovey thought to be the enemy’s most likely route to return to Trondheim. After this sweep the destroyers were to proceed to Seidisfjord to refuel. Apparently only HMS Lookout remained with the Fleet.

At 2400/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the south so that the Fleet could be in position off the Lofoten Islands to launch a strike force at dawn in case the Tirpitz would be sighted by the destroyers. At 0400/8 Admiral Tovey concluded that he had missed the German battleships and since he was without destroyers except for HMS Lookout and in submarine infected waters, he turned south-west towards Iceland to collect some destroyers that had already refuelled.

At 1820/8 the Home Fleet altered course to the north-east despite that no destroyer had joined so far. Admiral Tovey then broke radio silence sending a signal to the Admiralty requesting destroyers to be sent out and refuelling facilities at sea for his destroyers. The heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Iceland with orders to rendezvous with the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN) coming from the Denmark patrol and the light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) and HMS Trinidad (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN) departed Scapa Flow on 7 March. These cruisers were ordered to refuel destroyers at sea.

The heavy cruisers apparently did not fuel any destroyers. The light cruisers fuelled HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury on the 9th. HMS Echo was unable to fuel from them due to the bad weather conditions. She went to Seidisfjord to fuel as did HMS Onslow HMS Ashanti and HMS Eclipse.

Around 2000/8 the Tirpitz, having been unable to find the convoy, set course to return to Trondheim.

At 0240/9, the Admiralty informed Admiral Tovey that the Tirpitz was heading south so the Home Fleet altered course to the south-east to close the Lofoten Islands.

At 0640/9, Admiral Tovey ordered HMS Victorious to fly off a reconnaissance force of 6 Albacores on a diverging search between 105° and 155° to a depth of 150 miles to search for the German battleship.

At 0730/9, a strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying Albacores were flown off.

At 0802/9, one of the reconnaissance aircraft the Tirpitz and a destroyer (Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn) sailing south and made a report. Shortly after being sighted the Germans however altered course towards the Vestfjord and Narvik.

At 0917/9, the Tirpitz was attacked by the strike force. No hits were obtained though one torpedo only missed the battleships stern by 30 feet. Two of the attacking Albacores were shot down by AA fire.

At 0940/9, the Home Fleet turned west and then south-west.

At 1545/9, the Home Fleet was attacked by 3 Ju-88 bombers, one bomb landed close astern of HMS Victorious but no damaged was caused.

At 1620/9, The Tirpitz and Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn arrived at Narvik.

At 1840/9 the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo and HMS Tartar (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN) joined the Home Fleet coming from Iceland. The Home Fleet now set course to return to Scapa Flow.

Around 0800/10 the destroyers HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and the escorted destroyers HMS Grove (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Rylands, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) joined coming from Iceland.

Around 0920/10 the destroyers Verdun (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Donald, DSC, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN) joined after they had fuelled at Scapa Flow coming from Rosyth (first two) and Port ZA (last two) respetively.

Around 1200/10 the destroyers HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus joined.

Around 2300/10 the Home Fleet arrived at Scapa Flow. Shortly before arriving the destroyers HMS Verdun and HMS Woolston were detached to return to Rosyth and HMS Lancaster and HMS Wells were detached to return to Port ZA.

HMS Liverpool, HMS Trinidad, HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury arrived at Scapa Flow at 0930/11. (1)

14 Mar 1942

Minelaying operation SN 81.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

On 14 March 1942, the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. J. Cresswell, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T.B. Drew, OBE, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt.(Retd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) and HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN) departed Port ZA. (Loch Alsh) to lay minefield SN 84. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN).

They were joined around 1500A/14 by the destroyer HMS St. Marys (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN). The had departed Scapa Flow around 0900A/14.

Cover for the operation was provided by the AA cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow around 1800A/14. She joined the 1st Minelaying Squadron the following morning.

Rendezvous was made around 1300A/15 with the survey vessel HMS Scott (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Sharpey-Schafer, RN) which had been deployed to the position of the minelay to archive extreme accuracy for the upcoming minelay which commenced shortly afterwards.

A total of 2053 mines were laid along a line joining positions
62°18'2"N, 07°42'2"W,
62°26'3"N, 07°56'3"W,
62°30'3"N, 08°04'8"W and
62°37'7"N, 08°17'7"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, Agamemnon 530 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 551 mines.

Depth of the mines was 18 to 20 feet. One premature explosion was seen.

The 1st Minelaying Squadron, including HMS St. Marys arrived back at Port ZA on 16 March as did HMS Charybdis and HMS Ledbury which arrived at Scapa Flow also on the 16th. (2)

20 Mar 1942

Convoys PQ 13 and QP 9.

Convoy PQ 13 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 9 from Northern Russia to Iceland.

On 20 March 1942 convoy PQ 13 departed Reykjavik for Murmansk.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Bateau (Panamanian, 4687 GRT, built 1926), Dunboyne (American, 3513 GRT, built 1920), Effingham (American, 6421 GRT, built 1919), El Estero (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Eldena (American, 6900 GRT, built 1919), Empire Cowper (British, 7164 GRT, built 1941), Empire Ranger (British, 7008 GRT, built 1942), Empire Starlight (British, 6850 GRT, built 1941), Gallant Fox (Panamanian, 5473 GRT, built 1918), Harpalion (British, 5486 GRT, built 1932), Induna (British, 5086 GRT, built 1925), Mana (Honduras, 3283 GRT, built 1920), Mormacmar (American, 5453 GRT, built 1920), New Westminster City (British, 4747 GRT, built 1929), Raceland (Panamanian, 4923 GRT, built 1910), River Afton (British, 5479 GRT, built 1935), Scottish American (British (tanker), 6999 GRT, built 1920) and Tobruk (Polish, 7048 GRT, built 1942).

The RFA oiler Oligarch (6897 GRT, built 1918) was also part of the convoy.

Close escort on departure from Reykjavik was provided by the escort destroyer HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Blackfly (T/Lt. A.P. Hughes, RNR) and HMS Paynter (Lt. R.H. Nossiter, RANVR). Three M/S whalers were also with the convoy, these were: Silja (Skr. W. Rigby, RNR), Sulla (T/Skr. T. Meadows, RNR) and Sumba (T/Lt. W.E. Peters, RNR).

In the afternoon of 23 March convoy PQ 13 was joined by the destroyers HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN, SO close escort) which came from Seidisfjord.

At 2030/23, the light cruiser HMS Trinidad (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN) made contact with the convoy to provide close cover. A strong south-westerly wind had accelerated the passage and the convoy was some 40 miles ahead of its sheduled position when it was sighted by HMS Trinidad. On reaching the miridian 5°W course was altered to the eastward in compliance with Admiralty instructions amending the route, on order to avoid a U-boat area.

At 0200/24, HMS Lamerton and the RFA oiler Oligargh parted company with the convoy. They wre to make rendezvous with destroyers that were with the Home Fleet which were to fuel from the tanker.

By noon on the 24th the convoy was in position 69°20'N, 00°20'E, making good almost 9 knots. So far so good.

That night, however, a gale sprang up from the north-east and by the forenoon of the 25th it was blowing force 8, with visibility varying up to 2 miles. For the next 36 hours the gale continued unabated. By dawn on the 27th the convoy was widely scattered, and not a single merchant ship was in sight from HMS Trinidad or either of the escorting destroyers.

Throughout the 27th short visibility and heavy weather made it difficult to find the scattered units of PQ 13. HMS Trinidad was searching the area about 100 miles south-west of Bear Island, where she was joined by HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN), sighted none for them till the evening, when two ships were located. HMS Eclipse some 180 miles to the south-westward had one ship in company. HMS Fury spent most of the afternoon finding and fueling the whaler Sumba in sesponse to a urgent appeal received from the Sumba at 1127/27. This she completed at 2041/2, and then steered to rejoin the convoy, falling in with the merchant vessel Harpalion at 0710/28, with whom she remained in company.

By this time the weather was moderating and the situation was approximately as follows. The convoy was strung out over 150 miles. Furthest east was the merchant vessel Empire Ranger by herself, some 80 miles due north of North Cape at 0800/28. About 40 miles astern of her was a group of six merchant vessels and the armed whaler HMS Silja. 35 miles astern of this group was the Harpalion with HMS Fury. A further 65 miles to the west were six merchant vessels with HMS Eclipse, HMS Paynter and HMS Sumba in company. Four merchant vessels and an armed whaler were straggling (most likely HMS Sulla had already gone down by this time though).

HMS Trinidad had spent the night sweeping to the eastward along the convoy route, sighted the Empire Ranger at 0830/28. She then turned and swept back along the convoy's track, with the intention of concentrating with HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse, in view of the possibility of surface attack of which warning had been received from the Admiralty. The Harpalion and HMS Fury were sighted at 1125/28 and 20 minutes later, with HMS Fury in company course was again altered to the eastward. Meanwhile the convoy had been located by the enemy air reconnaissance.

The forenoon of the 28th March was clear and sunny, with occasional snow patches. At 1007/28, HMS Trinidad sighted a shadowing aircraft. which she engaged ineffectively at long range. The enemy wasted no time, within about an hour their bombers arrived on the scene. In the afternoon the German destroyers Z 24, Z 25 and Z 26 sailed from Kirkenes in search of the convoy.

Throughout the remainder of the day, air attacks were carried out at intervals. The eastern group of six merchant vessels with HMS Silja was dive bombed twice, the Panamanian merchant vessel Ballot being so shaken by near-misss that she dopped astern and started to abandon ship, though she subsquently reached port under her own steam.

At 1127/28, HMS Paynter was attacked.

At 1318/28, HMS Trinidad was narrowly missed by three bombs from an aircraft which dided out of a cloud. Between 1418 and 1430/28, HMS Trinidad was persistently dived bombed by Ju-88's but she sustained only some minor damage from near misses.

During the afternoon the merchant Raceland was sunk by aircraft and at about 1930/28 the Empire Ranger reported that she was sinking and abandoning ship in position 72°13'N, 32°10'E. The trawler Blackfly was sent to this position but she did not sighted any survivors.

During the hours of darkness during the night of 28/29 March, HMS Trinidad and HMS Fury cruised to the southward if 72°25'N, 30°00'E in order to cut off the enemy destroyers, should they attack either main group of the convoy. Course was altered to the east-north-east at 0200/29, in order to close the leading group of merchant ships and to locate the destroyers Sokrushitelny, Gremyashchiy and HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) which had sailed from the Kola Inlet to make rendezvous which was effected at 0422/29. Around the same time, HMS Trinidad, opened fire on a U-boat which then dived to safety. This was U-378. Course was then shaped to the westward to close the group of merchant vessels that were with HMS Eclipse. Shortly afterwards they passed wreckage from the merchant vessel Empire Ranger. Four lifeboats, well stocked with ample supplies, were examined by HMS Oribi. The absence of survivors indicated that some ship must have rescued them.

The convoy group that was with HMS Eclipse now numbered eight merchant vessels. HMS Paynter and HMS Sumba were also with this group when they were found at 0630/29 in position 72°29'N, 31°48'E. The two Russian destroyers and HMS Oribi were ordered to remain with this group.

HMS Trinidad and HMS Fury altered course at 0700/29 to 105° and proceeded at 20 knots to seek the eastern group, which by now had been reduced to four ships. One ship, as already mentioned, had straggled the day before as a result of air attacks while another, the Induna, with HMS Silja in tow as the whaler had run short of fuel, got caught in heavy ice during the night and did not get clear till the following afternoon.

Meanwhile the German destroyers Z 24, Z 25 and Z 26 (S.O.) had left Kirkeness at 1330/28 and shaped course to the northward. At 2145/28, being then in approximately 72°20'N, 32°50'E course was altered to the westward to sweep along the estimated route of the convoy, at 15 knots. The destroyers were spread three miles apart. An hour later they came across the Empire Ranger's boats and picked up her survivors.

Continuing to the westward, they sighted a straggler, the Bateau at 0035/29 in position 72°20'N, 30°40'E. Z 26 promptly sank her by torpedo and gunfire. The Germans remained in the vicinity for an hour, and then, apparently thinking they were too far to the north-west, at 0140/29 set course 140°, and swept to the south-eastwar at 25 knots till 0530/29, when the turned due north up the meridian 33°55'E.

At 0820/29, they were once more on the estimated convoy route in approximately 72°22'N, 34°00'E. They altered course to 270° at 17 knots, to sweep to the westwards. This course took them directly towards HMS Trinidad and HMS Fury. The weather, which had earlier been fine, with the sky almost free from cloud and the visibility extreme, was then deteriorating and the visibility rapidly shortening.

The visibility had falled to two miles when at 0843/29, Trinidad's radar picked up an echo bearing 079°, 6.5 miles. Two minutes later the bearing changed to 092°, 4.5 miles - apparently three ships -. Captain Saunders though that they might be ships of the convoy but that he was surprised that three wounld be in this position. At 0849/29 shapes were sighted in the mist, which were identified as three foreign destroyers on approximate course 330°. As this could not be the Russian destroyers as these were further to the west fire was opened at the leading destroyer at 0851/29.

The Germans replied at almost the same moment. By 0852/29 the leading destroyer, Z 26 had been frequently hit and was blazing amidships. Fire was then shifted by HMS Trinidad to the second enemy destroyer in line. Half a minute later the wheel was put hard to starboard as it seemed likely that torpedoes had been fired and indeed two were seen later passing up the port side while the ship was still turning. The action now ceased for the time being.

Z 26, severely damaged, made to the north-westward. The other two German destroyers, who had not sighted the enemy through the mist, turned to the north-eastward to avoid torpedoes (none had been fired by the British), thus becoming separated from their leader whom they failed to rejoin for an hour.

Meanwhile, HMS Trinidad with HMS Fury astern had steadied on course 360°. At the same time radar contact was regained with Z 26 bearing 358°, 7200 yards so speed was increased and course altered to port so as to close. At 0917/29, the outline of the destroyer ws sighted fine on the port bow. HMS Trinidad, opened fire from 2900 yards. The enemy endeavoured to avoid the salvoes which were falling all round her by a continuous and violent zigzag. She did not return the fire and was apparently unable to fire her torpedoes due to damage but she was able to steam.

At 0922/29, HMS Trinidad fired a torpedo at Z 26. Two others fired shortly afterwards failed to leave the tubes due to icing. Meanwhile Z 26 was suppering a beating until at 0923/29 a torpedo was seen breaking surface 200 yards on the Trinidad's port bow. The wheel was put hard to port but it was too late and the torpedo hit HMS Trinidad between 71 and 79 stations on the port side. The ship almost immediately liste 17° to port, speed dropped to 8 knots, all communication from the compass platform failed and steering had to be shifted to the after-steering position.

Z 26 made off to the south-westward and was soon lost to view, pursued by HMS Fury, which from her station astern of HMS Trinidad had hitherto not sighted the enemy. This course took thhem close north of the approaching convoy. Visibility was then about 6 cables. The destroyers of the escort were zigzagging furiously around in order to maintain a decent speed when HMS Eclipse sighted a warship (Z 26) bearing 20° just visible in the mist. One of the Russian destroyers opened fire, but the Eclipse, mistaking her for HMS Trinidad, refrained from doing so. At this moment, 0930/29, HMS Fury appeared out of the snow ahead at high speed and for some minutes chaos reigned in the destroyer screen. HMS Fury actually fired two salvoes at HMS Eclipse before recognition. HMS Fury then turned back to rejoin HMS Trinidad, and the Eclipse, hauled round to the westward at 15 knots to follow the ship which had passed the convoy a few minutes before. HMS Eclipse had not gone far when her radar picked up an echo distant two miles, which she closed keeping the bearing about 20° on the port bow. Slowly the range decreased. At 0950/29 a ship was dimly sighted through the snow half a mile off. She was again taken for HMS Trinidad, but when the range was down to 800 yards she was recognised as a German destroyer and promptly engaged. The luckless Z 26 quickly increased speed to get away.

There followed a running fight in a snowstorm, the German ship making smoke and altering away whenever HMS Eclipse worked up on his quarter and opened A-arcs. The damage previously inflicted by HMS Trinidad prevented the German ship from replying to the British fire except with occasional shots which did no harm. Conditions were very severe. Spray, which swept over guns and bridge, immediately froze on anything it touched. Gundecks were icy and gun wells full of water and ice. Use of binoulares by bridge and director personnel was almost impossible.

This went on for half an hour, till at 1020/29, having by then been hit six times by 4.7" guns shells the Z 26 came to a stop, her stern almost awash and listing to port. HMS Eclipse was just about to fire her remaining torpedo into the German destroyer, when suddenly Z 24 and Z 25 hove into sight about two miles on her disengaged beam. At the same time the snow stopped and visibility increased rapidly. The two German destroyers immediately opened fire so HMS Eclipse made off at high speed to the north-westward, eventually reaching cover in a snow squall at 1035/29, but not before she had been hit aft by two shells at 1028/29 and holed above the waterline forward by two others which burst close alongside. Her main aerials were also shot away. The Germans made no attempt to follow, but stood by the sinking Z 26, which capsized at 1057/29. After rescuing survivors, Z 24 and Z 25 set course to retire at high speed to Kirkeness, where they arrived in the evening of the same day.

HMS Eclipse meanwhile find herself in an unseaworthy condition, short of fuel, and with nine wounded in urgent need of attention. She accordingly shaped course independently for Murmansk where she arrived the next day with only 40 tons of fuel remaining.

HMS Trinidad, meanwhile, after the explosion of the torpedo (It was later found out to have been her own) had turned to the south-eastward and was steering 130° at 6 knots, when HMS Fury rejoined her. Speed was slowly increased as much as due regard for the strain on her bulkheads permitted. At about 1100/29 the group of merchant ships screened by the Russian destroyers was overhauled and HMS Oribi was ordered to join HMS Fury as A/S screen. Early in the afternoon the minesweeper HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, MVO, DSO, RN) also joined the screen. (The minesweepers HMS Harrier, HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN) and HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. J.J. Youngs, OBE, RNR) had departed the Kola Inlet on 28 March to patrol along the last part of the convoy route.) During the forenoon the list of HMS Trinidad had been gradually reduced and by this time she was on an even keel and making good between 12 to 14 knots. Late that night, however, priming with salt water in the feed water compelled a reduction of speed to only 2 to 4 knots, and threathened to stop her altogether. At 2315/29, HMS Trinidad was in position 70°18'N, 34°55'E, some 70 miles from the entrance to the Kola Inlet. By 0200/30, speed could be increased to 7 knots.

By the early moring the wind, which had been freshening all night, was blowing hard from the northward, with a considerable sea. On the whole HMS Trinidad weathered it well, and she reached to Kola Inlet at 0930/30. Three hours later HMS Trindidad and HMS Fury anchored at Rosta.

During 29 March 1942 the various groups and stragglers pursued their way to the east unmolested, turning to the southward on reaching the 37th meridian. Short visibility and low cloud gave protection from air attack and they were not yet in the area chosen by the enemy for submarine attack.

The western group of eight ships was escorted by the two Russian destroyers and HMS Oribi, ater their fleeting glimpse of Z 26, passed clear to the southwar of the other two German destroyers while they were searching for their leader. The four ships of the eastern group by the time surface actions were over were about to alter course to the south.

The Induna and HMS Silja did not get clear of the ice untill 1500/29. They estimated they were in approximately 72°00'N, 38°00'E and shaped course direct for Murmansk. Five hours later the tow parted and HMS Silja disappeared in a squall. Efforts to find her proved unvailing and the Induna continued her voyage alone. At 0707/30 (0807/30, German time), she was torpedoed by U-376 and sank around 0840/30 after having been hit be a coupe de grâce shortly before.

The Effingham was torpedoed by the German submarine U-456. She did not sink and a coupe de grâce missed. U-456 then lost sight of the damaged merhant vessel but she was found shortly afterwards by U-435 and she was then hit and sunk by the third torpedo fired from this submarine.

By the night of 30 March all the surviving 14 ships had arrived in the Kola Inlet except one which arrived early on 1 April. Nineteen ships had left Reykjavik on 20 March, five had been lost on passage.

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On 21 March 1942 convoy QP 9 departed Murmansk for Reykjavik.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Ashkhabad (Russian, 5284 GRT, built 1917), Barrwhin (British, 4998 GRT, built 1929), City of Flint (American, 4963 GRT, built 1920), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Earlston (British, 7195 GRT, built 1941), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Byron (British, 6645 GRT, built 1942), Empire Magpie (British, 6517 GRT, built 1919), Hartlebury (British, 5082 GRT, built 1934), Kingswood (British, 5080 GRT, built 1929), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1937), Lowther Castle (British, 5171 GRT, built 1937), Makawao (Hunduran, 3545 GRT, built 1921), Marylyn (British, 4555 GRT, built 1930), North King (Panamanian, 4608 GRT, built 1903), Pravda (Russian, 2513 GRT, built 1928), Shelon (Russian, 2310 GRT, built 1918), Stepan Khalturin (Russian, 2513 GRT, built 1921) and Trevorian (British, 4599 GRT, built 1920).

On departured from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), Gremyashchiy and the minesweepers HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), HMS Gossamer, HMS Harrier, HMS Hussar, HMS Niger (Cdr.(ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sharpshooter (Lt.Cdr. D. Lampen, RN) and HMS Speedwell.

The light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, RN) departed the Kola Inlet on 22 March to overtake the convoy which she joined later on the same day. She remained with the convoy until it reached 01°00'E and then she parted company to proceed to Scapa Flow arriving there at 1030/29.

On 23 March most of the convoy escorts parted company to return to the Kola Inlet. The convoy continued on escorted by HMS Offa, HMS Britomart and HMS Sharpshoorter (S.O.).

The convoy had an uneventful passage except for that HMS Sharpshooter rammed and sank the U-boat U-655 on 24 March.

The convoy arrived at Reykjavik on 3 April 1942.

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Cover for these convoys was provided by ships from the Home Fleet.

At 1000/22, the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN) and the escort destoyers HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN) departed Scapa Flow to proceed to the east of Iceland before proceeding to a position from where to provide distant cover for the convoys. HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN) parted company at 1230/22 to return to Scapa Flow due to defects.

Around 2245/22, the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN) and light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow to overtake the ships that had sailed earlier.

At 1600/23, the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN) and HMS Tartar (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN) sailed from Seidisfiord, Iceland to relief the fleet destroyers that had sailed with the Home Fleet from Scapa Flow. The destroyers were exchanged at 2100/23. HMS Faulknor, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Onslow arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel at 2230/23.

At 0400/24, HMS Faulknor, HMS Onslow, HMS Eskimo and HMS Punjabi departed from Seidisfiord to rejoined the fleet. A fifth destroyer was now with them, this was HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN). They rejoined at 0800/24 after which the three escort were detached to Seidisfiord.

At 0530/25, HMS Tartar, when in position 66°14'N, 02°34'W was detached to return to Scapa Flow having sustained damage in the severe weather conditions. She arrived at Scapa Flow at 2000/26.

At 1400/27, the destroyers HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) and HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN) sailed from Skaalefiord, Iceland to join the Home Fleet at 1800/27 in position 63°05'N, 04°20'W to augment the destroyer screen on the Home Fleet's return passage to Scapa Flow which, given the fact that no German heavy units were at sea, was now in the proces of being undertaken.

HMS King George V, HMS Duke of York, HMS Renown, HMS Victorious, HMS Kent, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Inglefield, HMS Faulknor, HMS Onslow, HMS Echo, HMS Escapade, HMS Foresight, HMS Icarus, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Marne returned to Scapa Flow at 0800/28. (3)

20 Mar 1942
The battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN). (4)

27 Mar 1942
Around 1100Z/27, the damaged light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) departed Seidisfjord for Scapa Flow. She was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN). (5)

29 Mar 1942
Around 1200A/29, HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow from Seidisfjord. (6)

2 Apr 1942
HMS P 511 (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises at Scapa Flow with HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, DSC, RN) and later with ML's. (7)

8 Apr 1942

Convoy operation to and from northern Russia, convoy's PQ 14 and QP 10.

Convoy PQ 14 from Reykjavik to the Kola Inlet and convoy QP 10 from the Kola Inlet to Reykjavik.

Timespan: 8 April to 21 April 1942.

8 April 1942.

On this day convoy PQ 14 of 25 merchant vessels departed Reykjavik, Iceland for the Kola Inlet in northern Russia. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. RFA Aldersdale (British, Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker, 8402 GRT, built 1937), Andre Marti (Russian, 2352 GRT, built 1918), Arcos (Russian, 2343 GRT, built 1918), Atheltemplar (British, tanker, 8992 GRT, built 1930), Botavon (British, 5848 GRT, built 1912), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), British Corporal (British, 6972 GRT, built 1922), City of Joliet (American, 6167 GRT, built 1920), Dan-Y-Brin (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Empire Bard (British, 3114 GRT, built 1942), Empire Howard (British, 6985 GRT, built 1941), Exterminator (Panamanian, 6115 GRT, built 1924), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Hopemount (British, 7434 GRT, built 1929), Ironclad (American, 5685 GRT, built 1919), Minotaur (American, 4554 GRT, built 1918), Mormacrio (American, 5940 GRT, built 1919), Pieter de Hoogh (Dutch, 7168 GRT, built 1941), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Sukhona (Russian, 3124 GRT, built 1918), Trehata (British, 4817 GRT, built 1928), West Cheswald (American, 5711 GRT, built 1919), West Gotomska (American, 5728 GRT, built 1918) and Yaka (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920).

Close escort was initially (8 to 12 April) provided by the escort destroyer HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN), the minesweepers HMS Hebe (Lt.Cdr. J.B.G. Temple, DSC, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, DSC, RN), the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. O.B. Egjar, RNR), HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR) and the A/P trawler Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(ret) P. Bevans, RNR).

9 April 1942.

A close cover force for convoy PQ 14 arrived at Seidisfiord, Iceland from Scapa Flow. It was made up of the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN).

10 April 1942.

The close cover force for convoy PQ 14 departed Seidisfiord on this day, as stated before it was made up of the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh and the destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Forester.

Also the close escort for convoy PQ 14 departed Seidisfjord, it was made up of the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), the corvettes HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. W. Hine, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Saxifage (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, RNR) and the A/S trawler HMS Duncton (T/Lt. P.J.G. Christian, RNVR).

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On this day convoy QP 10 of 16 merchant vessels departed the Kola Inlet in northern Russia for Reykjavik, Iceland. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Beaconstreet (British, 7467 GRT, built 1927), Belomorcanal (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Capulin (Panamanian, 4977 GRT, built 1920), Dnepprostroi (Russian, 4756 GRT, built 1919), El Coston (Panamanian, 7286 GRT, built 1924), El Occidente (Panamanian, 6008 GRT, built 1910), Empire Cowper (British, 7164 GRT, built 1941), Harpalion (British, 5486 GRT, built 1932), Kiev (Russian, 5823 GRT, built 1917), Mana (Honduras, 3283 GRT, built 1920), Navarino (British, 4841 GRT, built 1937), River Afton (British 5479 GRT, built 1935), Sevzaples (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1932), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

Close escort was provided by the British destroyers HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN), minesweeper HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. J.J. Youngs, OBE, RNR), A/S trawlers HMS Blackfly (T/Lt. A.P. Hughes, RNR) and HMS Paynter (Lt. R.H. Nossiter, RANVR). The escort was strengthened local escort was provided from departure until 12 April (to longtitude 30°'E) by the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Sokrushitelny and the British minesweepers HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN) and HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN). Close cover for the convoy was provided by the light cruiser HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) which departed the Kola Inlet on the 11th.

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Distant cover for both convoy's (PQ 14 and QP 10) was provided by ships from the Home Fleet; battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN), light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN). These ships departed Scapa Flow on the 12th except for the destroyers Bedouin, Eskimo, Somali and Matchless which left Scapa Flow on the 11th to fuel at Skaalefiord and then to join the Home Fleet at sea.

Also the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN) departed Scapa Flow to patrol in an area about 130 nautical miles south-west of Bear Island from where she could support either convoy during this part of their passages.

11 April 1942.

From the initial close escort of convoy PQ 14, HMS Wilton, HMS Hebe, HMS Speedy and two of the A/S trawlers were damaged by ice and their Asdic gear was out of action as the convoy encountered thick ice during 11 and 12 April.

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Convoy QP 10 was attacked by German aircraft (Ju 88 from III./KG.30) in position 71°01'N, 36°00'E. During this attack the merchant vessel Empire Cowper (cargo; chrome ore & pitprops) was sunk with the loss of nine of her crew.

As stated above the light cruiser HMS Liverpool departed the Kola Inlet to provide close cover for convoy QP 10 and the destroyers HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Matchless departed Scapa Flow to fuel at Skaalefiord in the Faroe Islands.

12 April 1942.

All ships from the close cover and close escort force that had departed Seidisfiord on the 10th joined convoy PQ 14. HMS Wilton and one of the A/S trawlers left the convoy and proceeded to Seidisfiord where they arrived the next day. Also the RFA tanker Aldersdale left the convoy.

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As stated above ships from the Home Fleet departed Scapa Flow on this day to provide cover for convoy's PQ 14 and QP 10. Later this day the destroyers that had departed Scapa Flow yesterday and that had fuelled at Skaalefiord in the Faroe Islands joined the fleet at sea after which the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Onslow and HMS Offa left the fleet to also fuel at Skaalefiord.

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Also around 1645 hours this day the German submarine U-435 reported being shelled by three destroyers. This was however most likely HMS Liverpoo which reported firing on a surfaced submarine at exactly this time.

13 April 1942.

HMS Speedy, which was damaged by ice, parted company with convoy PQ 14 and proceeded to Reykjavik.

HMS Hebe, which was also damaged by ice, also parted company with convoy PQ 14 and proceeded to Akureyri, providing escort for tanker Aldersdale for part of the way.

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In the morning, HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Onslow and HMS Offa, rejoined the Home Fleet at sea after fuelling at Skaalefiord in the Faroe Islands. The four 'Hunt-class' destroyers then parted company with the Home Fleet and HMS Belvoir, HMS Ledbury and HMS Middleton proceeded to Scapa Flow while HMS Wheatland was to make rendez-vous with the RFA oiler Aldersdale and escort her to Seidisfiord, Iceland.

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German aircraft were heard homing U-boats on convoy QP 10 which resulted in two of them attacking the convoy shortly after midnight.

At 0059 hours the German submarine U-436 torpedoed and sank the Russian merchant Kiev (cargo; chrome ore and timber) which sank with the loss of six of her crew. The survivors were picked up by HMS Blackfly.

Then at 0129 hours the German submarine U-435 torpedoed and sank the Panamanian merchant El Occidente (cargo; chrome ore,but only as ballast). 20 of her crew crew lost their lives and 21 survivors were picked up by HMS Speedwell. Following this attack U-435 was depth charged by the destroyer HMS Oribi but she sustained no damage.

Then at 1127 hours, U-435 attacked a destroyer with one torpedo which missed. This apparently was HMS Eclipse which then counter attacked with depth charges which slightly damaged U-435.

At 1530 hours, U-435 came across the abandoned wreck of the British merchant vessel Harpalion. This ship had been heavily damaged by German Ju 88 aircraft and had been abanadoned. A reported scuttling attempt by the convoy escort must have failed. Three torpedoes were fired at the wreck of which the third torpedo struck aft. The vessel was seen to sink slowly by the stern after about 20 minutes.

14 April 1942. Convoy PQ 14 was now finally clear from the ice. Only nine merchant vessels were left that were able to continue the passage to north Russia. Six more stagglers were unaccounted for and eventually joined convoy QP 10 and returned to Iceland.

15 April 1942.

Convoy PQ 14 was detected by enemy aircraft and shadowed intermittently from then on. The enemy aircraft homed in U-boats on the convoy.

16 April 1942.

HMS Speedy and two A/S trawlers with nine merchant ships (stagglers) from convoy PQ 14 returned to Reykjavik.

HMS Hebe arrived at Akureyri from the escort of convoy PQ 14.

Also on this day the German submarine U-403 torpedoed and sank the ship of the convoy commodore of PQ 14, the British merchant Empire Howard in position 73°48'N, 21°50'E. Survivors from this ship were picked up by the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Middleton and Northern Wave.

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Convoy QP 10 was again spotted by enemy and shadowed. HMS Kent left the Home Fleet and joined the close cover force for this convoy.

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Also the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow to fuel at Skaalefiord before joining the Home Fleet at sea.

Four destroyers from the screen of the Home Fleet; HMS Faulknor, HMS Somali, HMS Bedouin and HMS Matchless also proceeded to Seidisfiord, Iceland to fuel.

17 April 1942.

What remained of convoy PQ 14 was joined by a eastern local escort made up of the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Sokrushitelny and the British minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar and HMS Niger (Cdr.(ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN).

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The destroyer HMS Eclipse from the close escort of convoy QP 10 left to fuel at Seidisfiord.

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HMS Norfolk left her patrol position to proceed to Hvalfiord, Iceland.

HMS Faulknor, HMS Somali, HMS Bedouin and HMS Matchless arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. After doing so they left in the afternoon and rejoined the Home Fleet at sea later the same day.

Also HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton and HMS Hursley arrived at Skaalefiord where they fuelled and then departed to join the Home Fleet at sea.

18 April 1942.

HMS Eclipse arrived at Seidisfiord. After fuelling she departed for Scapa Flow in the afternoon.

HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton and HMS Hursley joined the Home Fleet at sea.

HMS Eskimo, HMS Offa and HMS Escapade then parted company with the Home Fleet to fuel at Skaalefiord where the arrived in the afternoon. After fuelling they departed for Scapa Flow later the same day.

The Home Fleet; battleships King George V, Duke of York, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, light cruiser HMS Nigeria, destroyers HMS Punjabi, HMS Bedouin, HMS Matchless, HMS Faulknor, HMS Onslow and the escort destroyers HMS Middleton, HMS Ledbury, HMS Lamerton and HMS Hursley returned to Scapa Flow late in the evening.

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The two cruisers from the close cover force for convoy QP 10 left this convoy in position 67°43'N, 12°56'W. HMS Kent set course for Scapa Flow, HMS Liverpool for Seidisfiord, Iceland to fuel there.

19 April 1942.

HMS Edinburgh, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester arrived in the Kola Inlet.

HMS Eskimo, HMS Offa and HMS Escapade arrived at Scapa Flow.

HMS Liverpool arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. After doing so she departed for Scapa Flow in the afternoon.

20 April 1942.

HMS Kent arrived at Scapa Flow.

21 April 1942.

What remained of convoy PQ 14 arrived at Murmansk.

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HMS Liverpool arrived at Scapa Flow.

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Convoy QP 10, 11 ships and 6 ships from PQ 14, arrived at Reykjavik escorted by HMS Oribi, HMS Marne, HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury. (8)

12 Apr 1942
The ' Battlefleet' made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN), light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN) departed Scapa Flow for convoy cover operations for convoys PQ 14 and QP 10.

[For more info on these convoys see the event ' Convoy operation to and from northern Russia, convoy's PQ 14 and QP 10 ' for 8 April 1942.] (9)

16 Apr 1942
HMS L 23 (Lt. M.G.R. Lumby, RN) participated in A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, DSO, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN). (10)

18 Apr 1942
HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow after convoy cover duty. (11)

26 Apr 1942

Convoys PQ 15 and QP 11 and the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi.

Convoy PQ 15 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 11 from Northern Russia to Iceland. Also includes an account on the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi.

On 26 April 1942 convoy PQ 15 departed Reykjavik for Murmansk where it arrived on 5 May 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alcoa Cadet (American, 4823 GRT, built 1919), Alcoa Rambler (American, 5500 GRT, built 1919), Bayou Chico (American, 5401 GRT, built 1920), Botavon (British, 5858 GRT, built 1912), Cape Corso (British, 3807 GRT, built 1929), Cape Race (British, 3807 GRT, built 1930), Capira (Panamanian, 5625 GRT, built 1920), Deer Lodge (American, 6187 GRT, built 1919), Empire Bard (British, 3114 GRT, built 1942), Empire Morn (British, CAM ship, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Expositor (American, 4959 GRT, built 1919), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Jutland (British, 6153 GRT, built 1928), Lancaster (American, 7516 GRT, built 1918), Mormacrey (American, 5946 GRT, built 1919), Mormacrio (American, 5940 GRT, built 1919), Paul Luckenbach (American, 6606 GRT, built 1913), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Southgate (British, 4862 GRT, built 1926), Texas (American, 5638 GRT, built 1919) and Zebulon B. Vance (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942).

Two icebrakers were also part of the convoy, these were the Krassin (Russian, 4902 GRT, built 1917) and Montcalm (Canadian, 1432 GRT, built 1904, to be transferred to the Russians)

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) was also with the convoy.

On departure from Reykjavik the convoy was escorted by the minesweepers HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, RN), HMS Leda (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Cape Palliser (Lt. B.T. Wortley, RNR), HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.R. Cornish, RNR), HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR) and the A/P trawler Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(ret) P. Bevans, RNR).

Around 0300Z/28, ' Force Q ' a refuelling force for the convoy escorts, made up of the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) departed Seidisfiord with her escort, the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN). With them were the AA ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN) and the submarine HMS Sturgeon (Lt.Cdr. M.R.G. Wingfield, RN). They joined the convoy during the night of 28/29 April.

Around 0500Z/29, A close cover force made up of the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfiord to join the convoy which they did early on 30 April.

The heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) also joined the convoy (close cover force), she had departed Scapa Flow around 1645B/28.

around 0635B/1, the submarine HMS Sturgeon parted company with the convoy to take up a patrol position in the Artic Sea. ' Force Q ', the refuelling force made up of the tanker Grey Ranger and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury also parted company with the convoy on 1 May.

Around 2220B/1, Six German Ju.88 torpedo bombers attacked the convoy but no hits were obtained. One of the attackers was shot down by AA fire.

During the night of 1/2 May, HMS London was detached to provide close cover for convoy QP 11.'

At 1000B/2, HMS Nigeria also parted company with the convoy to join convoy QP 11. The Admiralty had decided that there was no need for the cruisers to proceed further to the east as the enemy destroyers operating in Northern Norway had been sunk or damaged in action with the cover force of convoy QP 11 (see below).

At 2009B/2, HNoMS St. Albans and HMS Seagull attacked an A/S contact with depth charges in position 73°01'N, 17°32'E. The submarine was forced to the surface but turned out to be the Polish submarine ORP Jastrzab (Lt.Cdr. B. Romanowski). She was way out of position and in waters where German submarines were expected to be operating. No blame could possibly be taacked to HNoMS St. Albans and HMS Seagull. Five of the crew of the Polish submarine died while the others were picked up.

At 0120B/3, the convoy was again attacked by enemy torpedo bombers. Visibility was bad and the enemy planes were not sighted until it was too late. Also radar had not picked them up. The succeeded in sinking two merchant vessels, the Botavon (the ship of the Convoy Commodore) and the Cape Corso. A third merchant vessel, the Jutland was damaged and was abandoned by her crew. The drifting ship was shortly afterwards torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-251.

At 2230C/3, a final German air attack took place while the convoy was in position 73°00'N, 31°15'E. A bomb near missed the A/S trawler HMS Cape Palliser which sustained some slight damage. One German Ju.88 aircraft was shot down. Visibility deteriorated in the evening of the 4th and a south-easterly gale sprang up bringing heavy snow. This provided the convoy with excellent cover for the remainder of the passage. The convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet around 2100C/5.

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On 28 April 1942 convoy QP 11 departed Murmansk for Reykjavik where it arrived on 7 May 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atheltemplar (British (tanker), 8992 GRT, built 1930), Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Dan-Y-Bryn (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Dunboyne (American, 3515 GRT, built 1919), El Estero (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Eldena (American, 6900 GRT, built 1919), Gallant Fox (Panamanian, 5473 GRT, built 1918), Mormacmar (American, 5453 GRT, built 1920), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Trehata (British, 4817 GRT, built 1928), Tsiolkovsky (Russian, 2847 GRT, built 1935) and West Cheswald (American, 5711 GRT, built 1919).

On departure from Murmansk the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), corvettes HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. W. Hine, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Saxifage (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, RNR) and the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR) and HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR). Cover was provided by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN).

Besides these ships there was a local escort by the Russian destroyers Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchiy until at least 30°E and by the minesweepers HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN) and HMS Niger (Cdr.(ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN) until the evening of the 29th.

The convoy was sighted and reported by enemy aircraft and submarines on the 29th, but no attacks took place that day. The following afternoon (30 September), however, HMS Edinburgh, then zigzagging at high speed some 15 nautical miles ahead of the convoy, in approximate position 73°09'N, 32°45'E, was struck by two torpedoes from the German submarine U-456. Her stern was blown off and her steering gear was wrecked. She was able to steam at slow speed on two shafts. The explosion was seen from the convoy and the destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Forester were detached to her assistance, followed shortly afterwards by the two Russian destroyers. Escorted by these destroyers HMS Edinburgh started in the 250 nautical mile return passage to Murmansk.

The presence of the destroyers prevented U-456 from finishing the cruiser off. She continued to shadown and report the Edinburgh's movements. These reported tempted the German Flag Officer, Northern Waters to sent three destroyers from Kirkenes to attack convoy QP 11 with its depleted escort and the destroyers Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 24 and Z 25 put to sea and steered to the north.

Convoy QP 11, meanwhile, continued its passage. At 0540/1, being then about 150 miles to the east-south-east of Bear Island it was unsuccesfully attacked by four torpedo aircraft. At the same time an enemy submarine was sighted and forced to dive by HMS Amazon. Frequent HF/DF bearings indicated that four enemy submarines were keeping pace with the convoy on different bearings, and at 0820/1, course was altered 40° to starboard (to 320°) in an endeavour to shake them off. Then ice was sighted in large quantities ahead. This was found to extend some 20 miles to the southward of the route, and course was again altered to the westward.

The forenoon passed without incident. The weather was moderate, wind north-north-east, force 3. Frequent snow squalls caused the visibility to vary between ten and two miles.

At 1345/1, the convoy was in course 275°, skirting heavy drift ice to starboard, when HMS Snowflake reported three radar contacts bearing 185°. At the some moment, HMS Beverley, screening on the port bow, reported enemy in sight, bearing 210°. The enemy proved to be three large destroyers. In the course of the next four hours they made five separate attempts to reach the convoy, each of which wass foiled by the aggressive tactics of the escorting destroyers desipite their great inferiority in gun power to the Germans.

On receipt of the Beverley's sighting report, Commander Richmond who was on the starboard bow of the convoy, moved across to the threatened flank and ordered the destroyers to concentrate on him. The convoy (with the corvettes and trawlers) at once carried out an emergency turn of 40° to starboard, the destroyers making smoke to cover it.

At 1400/1, HMS Bulldog turned towards the enemy on a south-westerly course, with the destroyers in line ahead in the order HMS Beagle, HMS Amazon and HMS Beverley. The Germans were at this time in line of bearing formation, about 10000 yards distant, heading towards the convoy. At 1407/1, both sides opened fire, the Germans turning together to starboard to open 'A' arcs, and the British destroyers to port to a similar course. Both sides fired torpedoes but none of them found its mark, but a track was seen to pass close astern of HMS Bulldog. After three minutes (1410/1), the Germans turned away asnd the British destroyers returned towards the convoy, making smoke. In this brief engagement HMS Amazon was hit. Her steering gear, telegraphs and one gun being put out of action, but she managed to keep control and was stationed at the rear of the line.

A quarter of an hour after this action ceased, the convoy suffered its only loss, when the Russian merchant vessel Tsiolkovsky, which was staggling from the convoy, was hit by torpedo and sink rapidly. The survivors were rescued by the Lord Middleton.

Commander Richmond, meanwhile, was keeping his destroyers between the convoy and the estimate position of the enemy. At 1433/1 they were again sighted, bearing 160° about 15000 yards off, and the second attack developed. The British destroyers again steered for them and at 1440/1 fire was opened at 12000 yards range. No hits were obtained by either side, but after five minutes the enemy turned away and the British once more retired on the convoy. By this time the convoy was well within the ice and ' in order to maintain touch the destroyers were led through lanes of open water as opportunity offered, bearing in mind that sufficient sea room to manoeuvre in action must be maintained. The presented a nice problem.'

About an hour elapsed before the enemy's next attempt. Then at 1558/1, he was sighted six miles away coming in from the eastward, bearing 115°. Commander Richmond repeated his tactics, and both sides opened fire at 1600/1. HMS Bulldog was straddled several times and slightly damaged, but after ten minutes the enemy turned away under smoke to the southward and the British again closed the convoy, by then spread out over a distance of some seven miles, as it picked its way through the heavy drift ice in single line formation.

Shortly before 1700/1 the Germans were again sighted, following a radar report from HMS Snowflake, this time bearing 146°, 20000 yards. HMS Bulldog led round towards them, fire was opened at 1658/1 and after seven minutes the enemy made smoke and turned away.

Half an hour later the Germans made their fifth and last attempt to break through. Fire was exchanged between 1736/1 and 1742/1, when they once more turned away. The British held on towards them for a few minutes till the rear destroyer disappeared into the smoke to the south-east. This was the last seen of them, shortly afterwards they were ordered to attack the damaged Edinburgh some 200 nautical miles to the eastward, and altered course accordingly. Commander Richmond of course could not know this, and for the next three hours he kept his force cruising between the supposed direction of the enemy and the convoy, while the latter was breaking its way through the ice. By 2155/1, the convoy was in open water and the destroyer resumed their screening stations.

The remainder of the passage was uneventful. Convoy PQ 15 was sighted proceeding to the eastward at 1000/2. QP 11 arrived at Reykjavik at 0700/7.

In the meantime, while convoy QP 11 was being subjected to the attacks by the German destroyers, the damaged HMS Edinburgh had been making the best of her way towards Murmansk. The first torpedo had hit the starboard side forward, causing considarable flooding. The second torpedo hit right aft and virtually blew her stern off. She had lost her rudder and the two inner shafts, but could steam at about 8 knots with the outer propellers.

HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchiy arrived about an hour after she had been hit. An attempt by HMS Forester to take her in tow failed, with no stern and seven feet down by the bow, she came rapidly into the wind as soon as she gathered headway, and parted the tow. Further attempts to aid her were then delayed while the destroyers hunted a German submarine that was sighted on the surface four miles away.

During the night of 30 April / 1 May some progress at about three knots was made by the Edinburgh taking HMS Foresight in tow and using her to control the steering. At 0600/1, however, the Russian destroyers reported that they had to return to harbour for fuel and parted company. German submarines were known to be about and in these circumstances Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter deemed it essential that both the remaining destroyers should be used for screeing. So HMS Foresight was cast off and HMS Edinburgh struggled on, steering as best she could with her engines. Left to her own devices, a persitent swing to port could only be countered by gathering sternway every few minutes and the speed of advance fell to two knots. Thus she proceeded for about 23 hours. That no enemy submarine succeeded in attacking during this anxious period is the measure of alterness of HMS Forester and HMS Foresight.

That afternoon the Bulldog's report of the German destroyer attacks came in. The probability of their shifting their attentions to HMS Edinburgh was at once realised and Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter and he gave the following instructions; ' In event of attack by German destroyers, HMS Forester and HMS Foresight are to act independently, taking every opportunity to defeat the enemy without taking undue risks to themselves in defending HMS Edinburgh. HMS Edinburgh is to proceed wherever the wind permits, probably straight into the wind. If minesweepers are present they will also be told to act independently retiring under smoke screen as necessary. HMS Edinburgh had no RDF or Director working.'

At 1800/1, the Russian escort vessel Rubin joined and six hours later the minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar and Niger arrived with a Russian tug. Disappointingly, the tug was not powerful enough to tow. Eventually at 0530/2, HMS Edinburgh was again making three knots under her own power and holding a fairly steady course of 150°. She was steered by the tug fine on the starboard bow and HMS Gossamer acting as a drogue on the port quarter. HMS Niger had been detached during the night to make rendezvous with the Russian destroyers which would return after fuelling. However they did sail long after they were expected to do so and HMS Niger rejoined at 1020/2. HMS Harrier, HMS Hussar, Rubin, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester patrolled around the damaged cruiser in a circle.

The wind was north-north-east, force three. As usual there were frequent snow squalls and the visibility varied from ten to two miles. Despite the fact that enemy submarines were known to be taking up positions to intercept, and the probability of destroyer attack there seemed to be a chance of making port. But it was not to be.

At 0627/3 gunfire from HMS Hussar, then on the starboard quarter, heralded the approach of the enemy, which proved to be the three destroyers. HMS Hussar was almost immediately straddled, and fell back on HMS Edinburgh.

There ensued a series of individual actions, ships engaging whenever visibility permitted. The Germans kept about seven miles to the north-north-east of HMS Edinburgh making full use of snow squalls and smoke to get within torpedo range, and it was seldom that more than one of them was in sight at the same time.

At the first alarm HMS Edinburgh cast off the tows and went on to her maximum speed - about eight knots. Unable to steer, she circled round to port, sometimes rapidly, sometimes on a wider curve, firing with 'B' turret whenever it could be directed from the bridge on to a fleeting target. The minesweepers remained near her, engaging the enemy with their one gun salvoes whenever they appeared and looking out for enemy submarines. HMS Foresight at once steered for the gunflashes at 24 knots while HMS Forester, which was two or three miles to the westward, went on to 30 knots and steered to join her.

First blood on either side was drawn by HMS Edinburgh, which opened fire on the Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann at 0636/2. Her first salvo fell within 100 yards. The German destroyer increased speed to 31 knots, made smike and turned away, but the second salvo scored a hit, which put both engines out of action and destroyed all control instruments. This fortunate hit had a marked effect on the events of the day. She came to a stop and remained virtually out of action, while from then onwards the efforts of her consorts were largely directed towards succouring and screening her.

Meanwhile HMS Foresight had sighted an enemy destroyer, Z 24, 10000 yards off, steering straight towards her, just as HMS Edinburgh opened fire at 0836/2. At 0640/2 the range was down to 8000 yards and Commander Salter opened fire on Z 24, altering course to the eastwards to open 'A' arcs. For the next eight minutes all three enemy destroyers were playing hide and seek in the snow and their own smoke screens. Targets were engaged as and when they came into vision, ranges varying between 6000 and 8000 yards.

HMS Forester was also fighting under much the same conditions, but shestood on to the northward when HMS Foresight turned to open her 'A' arcs. At 0650/1 she fired torpedoes. almost at the same moment she received three hits. One in No.1 boiler room brought her to a standstill. One put 'B' gun out of action and killed the Commanding Officer and one on 'X' gun shattered its breech mechanism. At 0653/2, torpedoes were seen passing underneath the ship in the direction of HMS Edinburgh which was then about five miles north-west of HMS Foresight which had just, at 0648/2, altered away from the enemy to the westward, in order to close HMS Edinburgh. Seeing HMS Forester stopped and on fire, Commander Salter steered to her assistance. HMS Forester with her sole remaining gun and her 1st Lieutenant now in Command, was engaging the stationary Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann some three miles to the northward, and shifted to the other destroyers whenever they appeared from the snow. HMS Foresight had closed to within half a mile by 0700/2, and then turned to an easterly course, so as not to foul the Forester's range, and engaged on of the destroyers which had been firing on her.

Just at this time, 0702/2, HMS Edinburgh was torpedoed. The torpedoes were seen breaking surface as they approached. These was nothing she could do to avoid them but it looked as if her eccentric gyrations would take her clear. However her 'luck' was out. One torpedo, which was running deep, struck her port side amidships at a point practically opposite one of the former hits. She immediately listed to port and gradually came to a standstill. The ship was 'open from side to side'. It was clear that she might break in two and sink at any moment, and Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter ordered HMS Gossamer alongside to take off the wounded and passanger. HMS Edinburgh nevertheless continued to engage the enemy whenever they appeared. Her shooting was described by the Z 24 as 'extra-ordinarily good' and twice deterred her from going to the assistance of the Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann. However the list was increasing and when it reached 17° her guns would no longer bear. The Rear-Admiral then directed Captain Faulkner to abandon ship.

Meanwhile HMS Foresight after engaging her opponent for five minutes again turned to the westward and seeing HMS Forester being heavily straddled, passed between her and the enemy, drawing their fire. At 0714/2, Commander Salter, altered course to close the range, and a few minutes later fired a salvo of torpedoes (which missed) at the Z 7 / Herman Schoemann. Just afterwards he came under a heavy concentration of fire from Z 24 and Z 25 at 4000 yards range. He increased to full speed and tried to get away under smoke, but received four hits, one of them in No.3 boiler, which brought the ship to a standstill at 0724/2 in welter of steam and smoke with only one gun still in action.

The Edinburgh, Foresight and Forester were thus all stopped with their gun power much reduced. There seemed nothing to prevent the two comparatively undamaged German destroyers from sinking each of them separately and afterwards dealing with the slow, lightly armed minesweepers at their leisure. But though they made repeated attacks on the destroyers with heavy but fortunate inaccurate fire, they did not press home their advantage. Their main concern was with the Hermann Schoemann. Already thee attempts by the Z 24 to go alongside and take off her ship's company had been foiled by British gunfire, and they let the opportunity pass.

Ten minutes after HMS Foresight stopped, HMS Forester managed to get underway (0735/2). At the same time Z 24 and Z 25 again opened fire on her but they soon disappeared into smoke, emerging a few minutes later to concentrate on HMS Foresight. This gave HMS Forester an opportunity to repay the debt she owned for the respite HMS Foresight had afforded her earlier in the day, and, zigzagging between her and the enemy, she covered her with a heavy efficient smoke screen. This was the close of the action. Shortly afterwards Z 24 finally managed to get alongside Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann and took off about 200 survivors. The latter - already in a sinking condition - was then scuttled, and the Z 24 and Z 25 (which had received a hit in her wireless room) withdrew at high speed to the north-west and were lost to view by the British around 0820/2.

Meanwhile HMS Foresight had effected temporary repairs and by 0815/2 was proceeding slowly on the port engine. HMS Edinburgh had been abandoned by 0800/15, HMS Gossamer taking about 440 men and HMS Harrier, in which Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter hoisted his flag, about 350. Meanwhile HMS Hussar was screening them and laying a smoke screen. Attempts by HMS Harrier to sink the cruiser by gunfire and depth charges failed so HMS Foresight was ordered to finish her off with her last remaining torpedo. This she did and all ships then shaped course for the Kola Inlet where they arrived without further incident the next day.

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To provide distant cover for these convoys a heavy cover force was deployed which departed Scapa Flow around 2200/28 and was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruisers USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN), USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. L.P. Johnson, USN), light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN), destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), USS Wilson (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Sturges, USN), USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN), USS Madison (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Ammon, USN), USS Plunkett (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Standley, Jr., USN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN).

At 0600/30, they were joined by the destroyers HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) which came from Seidisfiord. HMS Inglefield, USS Wilson, USS Wainwright, USS Madison and USS Plunkett then proceeded to Seidisfiord to refuel.

They rejoined the fleet in the afternoon. Another destroyer, HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), had come with them. The four escort destroyers were then detached to return to Scapa Flow.

At 1550/1, in very bad visibility, HMS Punjabi ended up in front of HMS King George V which could not avoid a collision and cut HMS Punjabi in half. The aft part sank immediately and there was no time to set the ready depth charges to safe which as a result exploded also causing damage to HMS King George V. The front part of HMS Punjabi took 40 minutes to sink during which time HMS Martin and HMS Marne managed to take off 5 officers and 201 ratings.

As a result of the damage to HMS King George V, the battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet) departed from Hvalfiord, around 2045/1, to take her place in the cover force. HMS Duke of York was escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN) and HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN). They made rendezvous with the cover force around 2330/2 after which HMS King George V parted company at 0006/3 and proceeded to Seidisfiord escorted by HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi. They arrived at Seidisfjord around 1100/3. HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi then rejoined the fleet, having also fuelled at Seidisfiord, around 0610/4.

At 1800/4, USS Washington, HMS Wichita, USS Tuscaloosa, USS Wilson, USS Wainwright, USS Madison and USS Plunkett were detached to Hvalfiord where they arrived around 0815/6.

Around 2100/5, HMS Duke of York, HMS Victorious, HMS Kenya, HMS Inglefield, HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Eskimo, HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi arrived at Scapa Flow. (12)

28 Apr 1942
Early in the morning, HMS Sturgeon (Lt. M.R.G. Wingfield, RN) departed Seidisfjord together with HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Ulster Queen and a tanker to join convoy PQ 15. In the evening they joined convoy PQ 15 but not before Sturgeon was attacked by a friendly aircraft receiving some bullet hits on her bridge. (13)

12 May 1942
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN). (14)

21 May 1942

Convoy operation to and from northern Russia, convoy's PQ 16 and QP 12.

Convoy PQ 16 from Reykjavik to the Kola Inlet and convoy QP 12 from the Kola Inlet to Reykjavik.

Timespan: 21 May 1942 to 1 June 1942.

21 May 1942.

On this day convoy PQ 16 of 35 merchant vessels departed Reykjavik for northern Russia. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. Alamar (American, 5689 GRT, built 1916), Alcoa Banner (American, 5035 GRT, built 1919), American Press (American, 5131 GRT, built 1920), American Robin (American, 5172 GRT, built 1919), Arcos (Russian, 2343 GRT, built 1918), Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Carlton (American, 5127 GRT, built 1920), Chernyshevski (Russian, 3588 GRT, built 1919), City of Joliet (American, 6167 GRT, built 1920), City of Omaha (American, 6124 GRT, built 1920), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Elgar (British, 2847 GRT, built 1942), Empire Lawrence (British, 7457 GRT, built 1941), Empire Purcell (British, 7049 GRT, built 1942), Empire Selwyn (British, 7167 GRT, built 1941), Exterminator (Panamanian, 6115 GRT, built 1924), Heffron (American, 7611 GRT, built 1919), Hybert (American, 6120 GRT, built 1920), John Randolph (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Lowther Castle (British, 5171 GRT, built 1937), Massmar (American, 5828 GRT, built 1920), Mauna Kea (American, 6064 GRT, built 1920), Michigan (Panamanian, 6419 GRT, built 1920), Minotaur (American, 4554 GRT, built 1918), Mormacsul (American, 5481 GRT, built 1920), Nemaha (American, 6501 GRT, built 1920), Ocean Voice (British, 7174 GRT, built 1941), Pieter de Hoogh (Dutch, 7168 GRT, built 1941), Revolutsioner (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Richard Henry Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Shchors (Russian, 3770 GRT, built 1921), Stary Bolshevik (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1933), Steel Worker (American, 5685 GRT, built 1920), Syros (American, 6191 GRT, built 1920) and West Nilus (American, 5495 GRT, built 1920).

Close escort was initially provided by the western escort which was made up of the British minesweeper HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN) and the A/S trawlers St. Elstan (Lt. R.M. Roberts, RNR), Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, RNVR), HMS Northern Spray (T/Lt. G.T. Gilbert, RNVR) and (until 23 May) Retriever (Free French).

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Also on this day convoy QP 12 of 15 merchant vessels departed northern Russia for Reykjavik. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. Alcoa Rambler (American, 5500 GRT, built 1919), Bayou Chico (American, 5401 GRT, built 1920), Cape Race (British, 3807 GRT, built 1930), Empire Morn (British, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Expositor (American, 4959 GRT, built 1919), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Ilmen (Russian, 2369 GRT, built 1923), Kuzbass (Russian, 3109 GRT, built 1914), Paul Luckenbach (American, 6606 GRT, built 1913), Scotish American (British, 6999 GRT, built 1920), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Southgate (British, 4862 GRT, built 1926), Texas (American, 5638 GRT, built 1919) and Topa Topa (American, 5356 GRT, built 1920).

Close escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN), escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), AA-ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN), minesweeper HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Cape Palliser (Lt. B.T. Wortley, RNR), HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.R. Cornish, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).

Furthermore a eastern local escort escorted the convoy as far as 30°E. This was made up of the Russian destroyers Grozniy, Sokrushitelny and the British minesweepers HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, RN), HMS Leda (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), and HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN).

22 May 1942.

The British heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN), HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN) and light cruiser HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) left Hvalfiord to make rendez-vous with Rear Admiral Commanding, Tenth Cruiser Squadron in position 66°00'N, 13°00'E the next day and then form the cruiser covering force for convoy's PQ 16 and QP 12.

The US destroyers USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN), USS Mayrant (Cdr. C.C. Hartman, USN), USS Rhind (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Read, USN), and USS Rowan (Lt.Cdr. B.R. Harrison, Jr., USN) left Hvalfiord for Seidisfiord to fuel before joining the battlefleet at sea.

Force Q; RFA tanker Black Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and her escort, the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) as well as the close escort for convoy PQ 16 the AA ship HMS Alynbank (A/Capt.(rtd.) H.F. Nash, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), FFS Roselys, HMS Starwort (Lt.Cdr. N.W. Duck, RD, RNR), HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, RN)and the submarines HMS Seawolf (Lt. R.P. Raikes, RN)and HMS Trident (Lt. A.R. Hezlet, DSC, RN) left Seidisfiord to join convoy PQ 16 at sea.

23 May 1942.

The battlefleet, made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, with Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN on board), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiers USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN), HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN), destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), and HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN) left Hvalfiord to provide distant cover for convoy's PQ 16 and QP 12.

Light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, DSO, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN), and ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. H. Eibel, ORP) left Seidisfiord and joined the escort of PQ 16 P.M. heaving made rendez-vous with HMS Norfolk, HMS Kent and HMS Liverpool before joining the convoy.

Force Q (RFA Black Ranger and HMS Ledbury and the close escort HMS Alynbank, HMS Honeysuckle, FFS Roselys, HMS Starwort, HMS Hyderabad, HMS Seawolf and HMS Trident also joined convoy PQ 16 P.M.

The US destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind and USS Rowan arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel before joining the battlefleet at sea sailing P.M.

24 May 1942.

The US destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind and USS Rowan joined the battlefleet in position 65°50'N, 13°01'E.

British destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury, HMS Eclipse, HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus were detached from the battlefleet to fuel at Seidisfiord, arriving A.M. and rejoining the battlefleet at sea P.M. HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney were then detached from the Battlefleet to fuel at Seidisfiord, arriving P.M.

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One merchant vessel of convoy QP 12 had to return with engine defects, this was the American Hegira.

25 May 1942.

Both convoy's were reported by enemy aircraft this day.

Also several German U-boats from the 'Greif-wolfpack' were able to make contact with convoy PQ 16 during the day.

First one was U-209 at 0620 hours (All times of the U-boats are Berlin time). She was however driven off with gunfire from HMS Martin a little over an hour later. She again made contact briefly around 1750 hours.

Then at 0645 hours, U-436 also made contact. She however lost contact around 0800 hours.

At 0655 hours, U-703 briefly made contact but was driven off.

At 0751 hours U-591 briefly made contact.

At 1200 hours U-703 again made contact but lost contact soon afterwards.

At 1500 hours U-591 was detected and engaged with gunfire by HMS Martin. She dived and was then depth charged but sustained no damage.

U-436 again made contact at 1522 hours but lost contact again soon afterwards.

At 1615 hours, U-586 made contact also to loose contact soon afterwards.

At 2005 hours U-591 briefly made contact with the convoy but lost it soon afterwards.

PQ 16 was also attacked by torpedo and dive bombers, many near misses were obtained, The American merchant ship Carlton had a fractured a steam pipe and proceeded to Seidisfiord in tow of the A/S trawler HMS Northern Spray.

26 May 1942.

Shortly before 0300 hours U-703 attacked convoy PQ 16 and managed to torpedo and sink the American merchant Syros in position 72°35'N, 05°30'E.

During the remainder of day enemy aircraft were in contact and were homing in U-boats.

At 0400 hours (All U-boat times are Berlin time) U-209 briefly made contact.

At the same time U-436 was also in contact and fired one torpedo which missed.

At 0427 hours U-436 fired two torpedoes at the A/S trawler HMS Lady Madeleine. Both missed and Lady Madeleine then counter attacked with depth charges causing damage to the German submarine forcing her to break off her patrol.

At 0846 hours U-591 attacked HMS Achates with three torpedoes which missed. Achates then counter attacked but the depth charges fell way off.

At 0930 hours U-586 was driven off with gunfire by HMS Martin.

At 1400 hours U-703 briefly made contact.

At 2212 hours U-703 was detected by HMS Martin and engaged with gunfire. On diving she was depth charged but sustained no damage.

27 May 1942.

During the day convoy PQ 16 was attacked many times by emeny aircraft. Three of the merchant vessels were sunk by bombs; Empire Lawrence, Empire Purcell and Mormacsul. The Alamar was heavily damaged by bombs and was scuttled by HMS Trident. Also the merchant vessel Lowther Castle was sunk by enemy torpedo aircraft.

The merchant vessels Stary Bolshevik, Ocean Voice (with the Convoi-Commodore Capt. Gale on board), Empire Baffin and City of Joliet were damaged during the air attacks.

The destroyer ORP Garland was also damaged and detached to Murmansk. It is possible the destroyer was damaged by her own depth charges while attacking U-703 shortly before noon.

The already damaged merchant vessel Carlton, in tow of HMS Northern Spray towards Seidisfiord is also attacked by enemy aircraft but no hits were obtained on her.

Also on this day Russian destroyers from the eastern local escort sailed from Murmansk to join convoy PQ 16. It was made up Grozniy, Sokrushitelny, Valerian Kyubishev. Also four British minesweepers sailed to join the escort as well, these were HMS Bramble, HMS Leda, HMS Seagull and HMS Gossamer. They all joined the convoy escort the next day.

Force Q (RFA tanker Black Ranger escorted by HMS Ledbury is detached to Scapa Flow.

HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney departed Seidisfiord to make rendez-vous with the battlefleet in position 66°50'N, 11°25'W.

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The merchant vessels Cape Race, Empire Morn and Southgate split off from convoy QP 12 and set course for the Clyde escorted by HMS Ulster Queen, HMS Venomous and HMS Badsworth.

28 May 1942.

HMS Victorious was detached from the battlefleet to Hvalfiord escorted by HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse.

HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney joined the battlefleet at sea.

HMS Kent detached from the cruiser cover force and set course for Hvalfiord.

The damaged American merchant vessel City of Joliet had to be abandoned and was scuttled.

29 May 1942.

HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus left the battlefleet for Skaalefiord to fuel, arriving A.M. and after fuelling sailed independently for Scapa Flow.

HMS Victorious end her escort HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse arrived at Hvalfiord.

Force Q (RFA Black Ranger and HMS Ledbury) was ordered to proceed to Sullom Voe instead of Scapa Flow.

The cruiser cover force HMS Nigeria, HMS Liverpool, HMS Norfolk, HMS Onslow, HMS Oribi and HMS Marne arrived at Scapa Flow.

The battlefleet, which at that time was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York, USS Washington, heavy cruisers HMS London, USS Wichita, destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind and USS Rowan and the escort destroyers HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney also arrived at Scapa Flow.

HMS Kent arrived at Hvalfiord.

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Convoy QP 12 (minus the three merchants and their escort that had been detached on the 27th) arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland.

30 May 1942.

The merchant vessels Cape Race, Empire Morn and Southgate (Ex QP 12) escorted by HMS Venomous and HMS Badsworth arrived at the Clyde. Ulster Queen had been ordered to proceed to Belfast where she arrived also on this day.

Convoy PQ 16 arrived at Murmansk. Six merchant ships continued on to Archangel where they arrived on 1 June. (8)

6 Jun 1942
HMS P 45 (Lt. H.B. Turner, RN) participated in A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. J.J. Youngs, OBE, RD, RNR), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMAS Nepal (Cdr. F.B. Morris, RAN) and HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Kruys, RNethN). (15)

24 Jun 1942
HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow.

Later the same day, around 2215/24, HMS Renown departed Scapa Flow for Hvalfiord. She was escorted by the destroyer HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury and HMS Wilton. (16)

27 Jun 1942

Convoy operations PQ 17 / QP 13

Convoys to and from Northern Russia

On 27 June 1942 Convoy PQ 17 departed Reykjavik Iceland bound for northern Russia. This convoy was made up of the following merchant ships;

American
Alcoa Ranger (5116 GRT, built 1919), Bellingham (5345 GRT, built 1920), Benjamin Harrison (7191 GRT, built 1942), Carlton (5127 GRT, built 1920), Christopher Newport (7191 GRT, built 1942), Daniel Morgan (7177 GRT, built 1942), Exford (4969 GRT, built 1919), Fairfield City (5686 GRT, built 1920), Honomu (6977 GRT, built 1919), Hoosier (5060 GRT, built 1920), Ironclad (5685 GRT, built 1919), John Witherspoon (7191 GRT, built 1942), Olopana (6069 GRT, built 1920), Pan Atlantic (5411 GRT, built 1919), Pan Kraft (5644 GRT, built 1919), Peter Kerr (6476 GRT, built 1920), Richard Bland (7191 GRT, built 1942), Washington (5564 GRT, built 1919), West Gotomska (5728 GRT, built 1919), William Hooper (7177 GRT, built 1942), Winston-Salem (6223 GRT, built 1920),

British
Bolton Castle (5203 GRT, built 1939), Earlston (7195 GRT, built 1941), Empire Byron (6645 GRT, built 1941), Empire Tide (6978 GRT, built 1941), Hartlebury (5082 GRT, built 1934), Navarino (4841 GRT, built 1937), Ocean Freedom (7173 GRT, built 1942), River Afton (5479 GRT, built 1935), Samuel Chase (7191 GRT, built 1942), Silver Sword (4937 GRT, built 1920),

Dutch
Paulus Potter (7168 GRT, built 1942),

Panamanian
El Capitan (5255 GRT, built 1917), Troubadour (6428 GRT, built 1920),

The Russian tankers Azerbaidjan (6114 GRT, built 1932), Donbass (7925 GRT, built 1935),

The British (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941).

Also with the convoy was a British rescue ship
Zaafaran (1559 GRT, built 1921).

The US merchants Exford and West Gotomska had to return both arrived back damaged at Reykjavik on 30 June. The first one due to ice damage and the second one due to damaged engines.

Escort was provided by the minesweepers HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), HMS Halcyon (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Corbet-Singleton, DSC, RN), HMS Salamander (Lt. W.R. Muttram, RN), 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) and HMS Northern Gem (Skr.Lt. W.J.V. Mullender, DSC, RD, RNR) and the submarine HMS P 615 (Lt. P.E. Newstead, RN).

The convoy was joined at sea by a close escort force made up of the following warships; destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN / in command of the close escort of the convoy) , HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt. B.M.D. L’Anson, RN), escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN), corvettes HMS Lotus (Lt. H.J. Hall, RNR), HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.G. Rankin, RNR), HMS La Malouine (T/Lt. V.D.H. Bidwell, RNR), Auxiliary AA ships HMS Palomares (A/Capt.(rtd.) J.H. Jauncey, RN) and HMS Pozarica (A/Capt.(rtd.) E.D.W. Lawford, RN) and submarine HMS P 614 (Lt. D.J. Beckley, RN). Also two more British rescue ships sailed with this force to join the convoy at sea; Rathlin (1600 GRT, built 1936) and Zamalek (1567 GRT, built 1921).

The RFA tanker Grey Ranger, which was to fuel the escorts, was now sailing independent from the convoy, she was escorted by the destroyer HMS Douglas (Lt.Cdr. R.B.S. Tennant, RN). Another RFA tanker, the Aldersdale, had now joined the convoy. It had originally been intended that the Aldersdale would take the role the Grey Ranger was now performing but Grey Ranger had been damaged by ice to the north of Iceland so both tankers swapped roles.

Meanwhile on June 26th the Archangel section of the return convoy QP 13 had departed that port. This section was made up of 22 merchant ships;

American
American Press (5131 GRT, built 1920), American Robin (5172 GRT, built 1919), Hegira (7588 GRT, built 1919), Lancaster (7516 GRT, built 1918), Massmar (5828 GRT, built 1920), Mormacrey (5946 GRT, built 1919), Yaka (5432 GRT, built 1920),

British
Chulmleigh (5445 GRT, built 1938), Empire Mavis (5704 GRT, built 1919), Empire Meteor (7457 GRT, built 1940), Empire Stevenson (6209 GRT, built 1941), St. Clears (4312 GRT, built 1936),

Dutch
Pieter de Hoogh (7168 GRT, built 1941),

Panamanian
Capira (5625 GRT, built 1920), Mount Evans (5598 GRT, built 1919),

Russian
Alma Ata (3611 GRT, built 1920), Archangel (2480 GRT, built 1929), Budenni (2482 GRT, built 1923), Komiles (3962 GRT, built 1932), Kuzbass (3109 GRT, built 1914), Petrovski (3771 GRT, built 1921), Rodina (4441 GRT, built 1922), Stary Bolshevik (3794 GRT, built 1933)

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN), ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. H. Eibel), the corvettes HMS Starwort (Lt.Cdr. N.W. Duck, RD, RNR), HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), the auxiliary AA ship HMS Alynbank (A/Capt.(rtd.) H.F. Nash, RN) and a local escort of four minesweepers; HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, DSO, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), HMS Leda (A/Cdr.(rtd.) A.H. Wynne-Edwards, RN) and HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN).

the next day (27th) the Murmask section of convoy QP 13 also went to sea. This was made up of 12 merchant ships;

American
City of Omaha (6124 GRT, built 1920), Heffron (7611 GRT, built 1919), Hybert (6120 GRT, built 1920), John Randolph (7191 GRT, built 1941), Mauna Kea (6064 GRT, built 1919), Nemaha (6501 GRT, built 1920), Richard Henry Lee (7191 GRT, built 1941),

British
Atlantic (5414 GRT, built 1939), Empire Baffin (6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Selwyn (7167 GRT, built 1941),

Panamanian
Exterminator (6115 GRT, built 1924), Michigan (6419 GRT, built 1920),

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, DSO, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN), the minesweepers HMS Niger (Cdr.ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN), the corvettes HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, RN), FFS Roselys and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, RNVR) and St. Elstan (Lt. R.M. Roberts, RNR). Also three Russian destroyers (Grozniy, Gremyashchiy and Valerian Kyubishev) joined the escort of convoy QP 13 as far as 30 degrees East.

To cover these convoy operations a close cover force departed Seidisfjord, Iceland around midnight during the night of 30 June / 1 July to take up a position to the north of convoy PQ 17. This force was made up of the British heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN), as well as the American heavy cruisers USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. L.P. Johnson, USN) and USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN). They were escorted by the British destroyer HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN) and the American destroyers USS Rowan (Lt.Cdr. B.R. Harrison, Jr., USN) and USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN).

A distant cover force had meanwhile sailed from Scapa Flow late on the 29th to take up a cover position north-east of Jan Mayen Island. This force was made up of battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, with the Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, Admiral Sir J. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN on board), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, with Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN on board), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, with Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, second in command Home Fleet on board), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN), light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN, Capt. 8th Destroyer Flotilla), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN). The destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN, Capt. 17th Destroyer Flotilla), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), USS Mayrant (Cdr. C.C. Hartman, USN) and USS Rhind (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Read, USN) meanwhile arrived at Seidisfiord, Iceland from Scapa Flow to fuel before joining the Battlefleet at sea later.

Earlier on the 29th Force X, which was to act as a decoy convoy to fool the Germans, had departed Scapa Flow. This force was made up of; the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. J. Cresswell, RN), Agamemnon (Capt.(rtd.) F. Ratsey, RN) , Port Quebec (A/Capt.(rtd.) V. Hammersley-Heenan, RN) , Menestheus (Capt.(rtd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN) and four merchant vessels (colliers ?). They were escorted by the light cruisers Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN), Curacoa (Capt. J.W. Boutwood, RN), minelayer Adventure (Capt. N.V. Grace, RN), destroyers Brighton (Cdr.(rtd). C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN), St. Marys (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN), HMAS Nepal (Cdr. F.B. Morris, RAN), HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Kruys. RNethN), the escort destroyers Oakley (Lt.Cdr. T.A. Pack-Beresford, RN), Catterick (Lt. A. Tyson, RN), and 4 A/S trawlers. This force sailed eastward twice, on 30 June and 2 July, to about position 61°30’N, 01°30’E but was not spotted by the Germans.

First contact with the enemy occurred on 1 July 1942 when escorts from convoy PQ 17 twice attacked German submarines that were spotted on the surface several miles from the convoy. These were U-456 that was depth charged by HMS Ledbury and sustained light damage and U-657 that was depth charged by HMS Ledbury and HMS Leamington, she sustained no damage. That evening convoy PQ 17 also suffered its first attack from the air. Nine torpedo aircraft approached the convoy at about 1800 hours in position 73°30’N, 04°00’E. Some dropped torpedoes but they exploded wide of the convoy. One aircraft was shot down, most likely by the destroyer USS Rowan which was en-route from the cruiser force to the convoy to fuel from the Aldersdale.

The next night the convoy ran into for which persisted until the forenoon of the 3rd. In the afternoon of 2 July, U-255 made a torpedo attack on one of the escorts, HMS Fury, two torpedoes were fire but both missed. Fury then counter attacked with depth charges but U-255 sustained no damage. At more or less the same time U-376 was also depth charged by two or three escorts, she was not damaged. Shortly afterwards U-334 was also depth charged but she also escaped without damage.

On the 3rd several U-Boats were in contact for short periods but three were driven off by the escorts in the afternoon. When the mist cleared shadowing aircraft soon regained contact on the convoy.

By the early morning of the 4th convoy PQ 17 was about 60 nautical miles north of Bear Island where it sustained its first loss. Just before 0500 hours the new American merchant vessel Christopher Newport was torpedoed by a single aircraft. Damage was serious and the ship was finished off by the British submarine HMS P 614 which was part of the convoys escort while the rescue ship Zamalek took off the crew. The ship however remained afloat and was finally finished off by U-457.

In the evening of the 4th German aircraft made a successful attack on the convoy hitting the British merchant vessel Navarino, the American merchant William Hooper and the Russian tanker Azerbaidjan. The Azerbaidjan was able to proceed at 9 knots and in the end reached port. The other two ships had to be sunk, most of their crews were picked up by the rescue vessels. William Hooper in fact remained afloat and was finally finished off by U-334.

The situation was now as follows. Convoy PQ 17 was now about 130 nautical miles north-east of Bear Island and had just come through the heavy air attack remarkably well. The convoy discipline and shooting had been admirable and a substantial toll had been taken on the enemy. Rear-Admiral Hamilton was still covering the convoy with his cruiser force some ten miles to the north-eastward, with orders by the Admiralty to do so until ordered otherwise. Some 350 miles to the westward the main cover force was cruising in the area south-west of Spitzbergen.

Now turning to the Germans. The approval of the Führer to sail the heavy ships to attack the convoy had still not been obtained. The Tirpitz and Admiral Hipper meanwhile had joined the Admiral Scheer at the Alternfjord but noting further could be done without the Führer’s approval.

Meanwhile at the Admiralty it was known that German heavy surface units had gone to sea from Trondheim (battleships Tirpitz and heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper) and Narvik (pocket battleships Lützow and Admiral Scheer) but they had not been detected at sea. Fearing an attack on the convoy by these ships was imminent the convoy was ordered to scatter at 2123/4. Shortly before that the close cover force had been ordered to withdraw to the west as it was obviously no match for the German heavy ships.

The Admiralty decision was conveyed to Rear-Admiral Hamilton in the following three signals;
Most immediate. Cruiser force withdraw to the west at high speed. (2111B/4)
Most immediate. Owning to threat of surface ships, convoy is to disperse and to proceed to Russian ports. (2123B/4)
Most immediate. My 2323B/4. Convoy is to scatter. (2136B/4)
To Rear-Admiral Hamilton these signals could only mean that further information the admiralty had been hoping for had indeed come in and was of such a nature as to render imperative the drastic measures now ordered. Actually the reason for use of high speed by the cruisers was due to the massing of enemy submarines between 11°E and 20°E and the order to scatter was intended merely as a technical amendment of the term disperse that was used in the previous signal. This could not be known by the recipients, and the cumulative effect of these three signals – especially as the last one had a more important marking as the middle one – was to imply that pressing danger was actually upon them. As Commander Broome put it he expected to see the cruisers open fire and the enemy’s mast appear on the horizon at any moment. In this belief he decided to take the destroyers of his escort group to reinforce the cruiser force, and ordered the two submarines to stay near the convoy when it scattered and to try to attack the enemy, while the rest of the escorting ships were to proceed independently to Archangel.

At 2215/4 Commander Broome passed the signal to scatter to Commodore Dowding. The convoy was then in position 75°55’N, 27°52’E. Commander Broome then departed with the destroyers of the close screen to join the cruiser force of Rear-Admiral Hamilton.

Rear-Admiral Hamilton received the Admiralty orders at 2200/4. HMS Norfolk had just flown off her aircraft on an ice patrol. He therefore stood to the eastward for half an hour while attemps were made to recall it but these were without success and at 2230 hours the force turned to a westerly course at 25 knots steering to pass to the southward of the convoy so as to be between it and the probable direction of the enemy. An hour later they passed the merchant vessels which were now on widely divergent courses.

Rear-Admiral Hamilton was much concerned at the effect of the apparent desertion of the merchant ships had on morale. Had he been aware that the Admiralty had no further information of the enemy heavy units then he himself possessed he would have remained in a covering position until the convoy was widely dispersed.

As time went on without further developments Rear-Admiral Hamilton became more and more puzzled as to what have led to the sudden scattering of the convoy. But whatever the reason, the orders for his own force were clear, so he remained his westerly course at 25 knots. Thick fog was encountered soon after midnight, which persisted with brief intervals till 0630/5. Commander Broome, equally mystified by the course of events, soon began to feel that his place was with the merchant ships but he thought Rear-Admiral Hamilton was acting on fuller information then himself. As soon as the fog lifted sufficiently for visual signalling he informed the Rear-Admiral of his last hurried instructions to PQ 17 and requested that they should be amplified or amended as nessesary.

Actually Rear-Admiral Hamilton, who was still under the impression that enemy surface forces were in close proximity, argued that once the convoy had been scattered the enemy would leave it to their air forces and submarines to deal with it (and this was exactly what the Germans did). He feared the enemy surface forces would be ordered to deal with his force and reinforced by Commander Broome’s destroyers he felt that he could fight a delaying action, and had a good chance of leading the enemy within reach of the aircraft of HMS Victorious and possibly the heavy ships of the force of the Commander-in-Chief.

At 0700/5, while in position 75°40’N, 16°00’E, Rear-Admiral Hamilton reduced to 20 knots and at 0930 hours set course for Jan Mayen Island. It was not until that forenoon that the situation as regards the enemy heavy ships was made clear to him. Meanwhile he had to decide what to do with Commander Broome’s destroyers. Accordingly he ordered them to fuel from HMS London and HMS Norfolk. By 1630 hours the fueling of HMS Ledbury, HMS Wilton, USS Rowan and HMS Keppel had been completed. At 1740 hours a German Focke Wulf aircraft made contact and correctly reported the force in position 74°30’N, 07°40’E. Having been located, Rear-Admiral Hamilton broke wireless silence and at 1830/5 informed the Commander-in-Chief of his position, course, speed and the composition of his force. This was the first time the Commander-in-Chief was informed of the fact the Commander Broome’s destroyers with with the force of Rear-Admiral Hamilton, a fact which he regretted.

The Commander-in-Chief, having spent 4 July cruising about 150 nautical miles north-west of Bear Island, had turned to the south-westward in the early morning of the 5th, and was then on his way back to Scapa Flow some 120 nautical miles south-west of the force of Rear-Admiral Hamilton. Shortly afterwards there came news at last of the German heavy ships. The Russian submarine K-21 reported at 1700/5 the Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer and eight destroyers in position 71°25’N, 23°40’E, steering course 045°. She claimed to have hit the Tirpitz with two torpedoes. An hour or so later, at 1816 hours, a reconnoitring aircraft reported eleven strange ships in position 71°31’N, 27°10’E steering 065°, speed 10 knots. And finally HMS P 54 (Lt. C.E. Oxborrow, DSC, RN), at 2029/5 reported the Tirpitz and Admiral Hipper escorted by at least six destroyers and eight aircraft in position 71°30’N, 28°40’E steering a course of 060° at a speed of 22 knots.

Actually the cruise of the German ships was of short duration. Hitler’s permission to lauch the operation had only been obtained in the forenoon of the 5th and the executive order was given at 1137 hours. Rear-Admiral Hamilton’s cruisers were then known to be moving to the westward and Admiral Tovey’s covering force was some 450 miles away from the convoy. It seemed there would be no immediate danger for the German heavy ships provided they could approach the merchant ships unseen and engage them for a time as short as possible. But the Allied sighting reports were intercepted and the Naval Staff calculated that Admiral Tovey would be able to close sufficiently to launch an air attack before they would be able to return to port I they continued operations against the merchant ships after 0100/6. Air and U-boat attacks were meanwhile taking a heavy toll on the convoy and it did not seem that it was worth the risk. At 2132/5 orders were given to abandon the operation. At 2152 hours, while in position 71°38’N, 31°05’E the German ships reversed course and returned to Altafjord.

During the night of 5/6 July the Admiralty made three signals to the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet suggesting that the Tirpitz might be ‘reluctant to go as far as the convoy’ if the battlefleet was sighted steering to the eastward, and that aircraft from HMS Victorious might be able to attack her if she had ben damaged by the Russian submarines. The latter appeared to Admiral Tovey unlikely, for as it seemed certain that the Tirpitz, especially if damaged, would not be sailed down the Norwegian coast until adequate fighter cover and seaward reconnaissance were available. However, arrangements were made for the fleet to reverse its course if the approach of enemy aircraft was detected and at 0645/6 course was altered back to the north-eastward. An hour later an enemy aircraft passed over the fleet above the clouds but endeavours to attract its attention by gunfire and fighters were unsuccessful. That forenoon Rear-Admiral Hamilton’s force joined the fleet at 1040/6. Weather was unsuitable for air reconnaissance and Admiral Tovey felt that nothing was to be gained by continuing to the north-eastward. Rear-Admiral Hamilton’s cruisers and eight destroyers were detached to Seidisfjord at 1230 hours and the battlefleet turned to the southward again shortly afterwards. All ships reached harbour on the 8th.

The last news of the enemy ships came on 7 July, when a British aircraft working from Vaenga, near Murmansk, reported the Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper and some destroyers followed by an oiler from a neighbouring fjord turning out of Lang Fjord in Arnoy (70°N, 20°30’E). By this time the Allied ships were well on their way home but an attempt to attack the enemy was once again made by submarines. Anticipating their return to Narvik, HMS Sturgeon (Lt. M.R.G. Wingfield, RN) and FFS Minerve (Lt. P.M. Sonneville) had been ordered on 6 July to leave the main patrol line and to patrol to the mouth of the Vest Fjord on the 7th and the 8th, one at a time, in case the Tirpitz should pass on the outside of the Lofoten Islands, owning to her heavy draught due to possible damage. Nothing came of this, however, nor of a further patrol carried out by HMS Sturgeon on the night of 9/10 July close inshore some 70 nautical miles north of Trondheim in case of any German ships going to that port.

Now back to the ships of convoy PQ 17. The sudden order to scatter came to Commodore Dowding as an unpleasant surprise. Like Rear-Admiral Hamilton and Commander Broome he did not doubt that it heralded the immediate appearance of enemy heavy ships, and as the escorting destroyers parted company to join the cruisers, he signalled to HMS Keppel ‘Many thanks, goodbye and good hunting’ to which Commander Broome replied ‘It’s a grim business leaving you here’. It was indeed a grim business and the gravity of the situation was clear to all. Weather attack by surface craft developed in a few minutes or by aircraft and submarines during the next few days, the plight of the individual merchant ships – deprived of mutual support of their escort - was parlous in the extreme.

The convoy scattered as laid down in the instructions, in perfect order, though it must have been apparent to the ships that had to turn to the south-west that they were heading towards where the most trouble might be expected. The merchant ships proceeded mostly alone, or in groups of two or three. The anti-aircraft ships HMS Palomares and HMS Pozarica each took charge of a group, each collecting also two or three minesweepers or corvettes to act as a screen. They joined company the next day and proceeded towards Novaya Zemlya. HMS Salamander accompanied two merchantmen and a rescue ship. HMS Daniella was escorting the submarines, HMS P 614 and HMS P 615. She stood them clear of the convoy, when they separated to patrol in its wake, while the corvette went on by itself. At first the different groups spread on courses ranging from north to east, a few steering afterwards for Archangel, most seeking shelter in Novaya Zemlya. But less than half the merchant ships reached even ‘horrid Zembla’s frozen realms’, for 17 in addition to the oiler Aldersdale and the rescue ship Zaafaran were sunk during the next three days by bombing aircraft and U-boats. The bulk of the losses took place on the 5th while the ships were still far to the north, six being sunk by bombs and six were torpedoed by submarines. One ship was bombed on the 6th. Four were torpedoed by U-boats off the south-west coast of Novaya Zemlya between the evening of the 6th and the early morning of the 8th.

By the 7th of July, most of the escort, the rescue ship Zamalek and five merchant ships, the Ocean Freedom, Hoosier, Benjamin Harrison, El Capitan and Samual Chase, had reached Matochkin Strait. Commodore Dowding, whose ship the River Afton had been sunk by a U-boat on the 5th, arrived in HMS Lotus, which had rescued him and 36 survivors, including the Master after 3.5 hours on rafts and floats. After a conference on board HMS Palomares, these merchantmen were formed into a convoy into a convoy and sailed that evening, escorted by the two AA ships, HMS Halcyon, HMS Salamander, HMS Britomart, HMS Poppy, HMS Lotus and HMS La Malouine and three A/S trawlers. The Benjamin Harrison soon got separated in fog and returned to the Matochkin Strait but the remainder were still in company when the fog temporarily cleared during the forenoon of the 8th, and course was shaped to pass east and south of Kolguyev Island. It was an anxious passage, much fog and ice was encountered and U-boats were known to be about. From time to time boatloads of survivors from other ships already sunk were encountered and picked up. A remainder of the fate that might be in store for any of them. During the night of 9-10 July some 40 bombers carried out high level attacks on this small convoy. The attacks lasted for four hours, the Hoosier and El Capitan were sunk by near misses some 60 nautical miles north of Cape Kanin. Four aircraft are believed to have been shot down. The attacks ended at 0230/10 and half an hour later two Russian flying boats appeared. The surviving ships arrived at Archangel the next day, 11 July. Three ships out of thirty-seven were now in port, not a very successful convoy so far. Things were however not that bad as Commodore Dowding thought at that moment. The rescue ship Rathlin with two merchant ships, the Donbass and the Bellingham had arrived on the 9th, having shot down an aircraft the day before, and before long the news of other ships sheltering in Novaya Zemlya came in.

At his special request, Commodore Dowding, despite all he had been through, left Archangel in HMS Poppy on 16 July, in company with HMS Lotus and HMS La Malouine, to form these merchant ships into a convoy and bring them to Archangel. After a stormy passage they arrived at Byelushya Bay on the 19th. There 12 survivors from the merchant Olopana were found. During the day the coast was searched and in the evening the Winston Salem was found agound and later the Empire Tide was found at anchor. The next morning Motochkin Strait was entered and five merchant ships were found at anchor, the Benjamin Harrison, Silver Sword, Troubadour, Ironclad and the Azerbaidjan. A Russian icebreaker (the Murman) was also there as was a Russian trawler (the Kerov). Also, one of the escorts of convoy PQ 17 was found there, the British A/S trawler Ayrshire.

Commodore Dowding wasted no time. A conference was held that forenoon and in the evening all ships sailed, the Commodore leading in the Russian icebreaker Murman. The Empire Tide, which had a lot of survivors from sunken ships aboard joined the convoy early the next day. The Winston Salem was however still aground with two Russian tugs standing by. Much fog was encountered during the passage which was uneventful except for two U-boat alarms. The escort was reinforced by HMS Pozarica, HMS Bramble, HMS Hazard, HMS Leda, HMS Dianella and two Russian destroyers on the 22th. The convoy arrived safe at Archangel on the 24th.

Four days later (on the 28th) the Winston Salem was finally refloated. She managed reached harbour as the last ship of the ill-fated PQ 17 convoy making a total of 11 survivors out of a total of 35 ships. It was realised afterwards by the Admiralty that the decision to scatter the convoy had been premature.

The disastrous passage of convoy PQ 17 tended to throw into the background the fortunes of the westbound convoy, QP 13. This convoy of 35 ships sailed in two parts from Archangel and Murmansk and joined at sea on 28 June under Commodore N.H. Gale. Thick weather prevailed during most of the passage, but the convoy was reported by enemy aircraft on 30 June while still east of Bear Island and again on 2 July. No attacks developed, the enemy focus was on the eastbound convoy. That afternoon the ill-fated convoy PQ 17 was passed.

After an uneventful passage, convoy QP 13 divided off the north-east coast of Iceland on 4 July. Commodore Gale with 16 merchant ships turned south for Loch Ewe while the remaining 9 merchant ships continued round the north coast of Iceland for Reykjavik. At 1900/5 these ships formed into a five column convoy. They were escorted by HMS Niger (SO), HMS Hussar, FFL Roselys, HMS Lady Madeleine and HMS St. Elstan. They were now approaching the north-west corner of Iceland. The weather was overcast, visibility about one mile, wind north-east, force 8, sea rough. No sights had been obtained since 1800/2 and the convoys position was considerably in doubt. At 1910/5 Commander Cubison (C.O. HMS Niger) suggested that the front of the convoy should be reduced to two columns in order to pass between Straumnes and the minefield off the north-west coast of Iceland. This was the first the convoy Commodore had heard of the existence of this minefield. Soon afterwards, Commander Cubison gave his estimated position at 2000/5 as 66°45’N, 22°22’W and suggested altering course 222° for Straumnes Point at that time. This was done. About two hours later, at 2200 hours, HMS Niger which had gone ahead to try to make landfall leaving HMS Hussar as a visual link with the convoy, sighted what she took to be North Cape bearing 150° at a range of one mile and ordered the course of the convoy to be altered to 270°. Actually what HMS Niger sighted was a large iceberg but this was not realised for some time. At 2240/5 HMS Niger blew up and sank with heavy loss of life, including Commander Cubison. Five minutes later a last signal from her, explaining her mistaken landfall and recommending a return to course 222° was handed to the convoy Commodore. But it was too late, already explosions were occurring amongst the merchant ships. The westerly course had led the convoy straight into the minefield. Considerable confusion prevailed, some thinking that a U-boat attack was in progress, other imagining a surface raider. Four ships were sunk, the Heffron, Hybert, Massmar and the Rodina and two were seriously damaged, the John Randolph and the Exterminator. Good rescue work was carried out by the escorts, especially the FFL Roselys which picked up 179 survivors from various ships. Meanwhile HMS Hussar had obtained a shore fix, led out the remaining merchant ships, which reformed on a southerly course for Reykjavik where they arrived without further misadventure.

8 Jul 1942
HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, second in command Home Fleet), HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow from convoy escort / cover operations. (17)

16 Jul 1942
HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow during which she was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN).

These exercises started with a range and inclination exercise (RIX) with HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN) which on completion of the exercise set course to proceed to Greenock. (18)

2 Aug 1942

Convoy WS 21S and Operation Pedestal.

Convoy WS 21S and the concentration of the escort forces

Convoy WS 21S departed the Clyde on 2 August 1942. The convoy was made up of the following ships;
American freighters;
Almeria Lykes (7773 GRT, built 1940), Santa Elisa (8379 GRT, built 1941), British freighters;
Brisbane Star (12791 GRT, built 1937), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Dorset (10624 GRT, built 1934), Empire Hope (12688 GRT, built 1941), Glenorchy (8982 GRT, built 1939), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933), Rochester Castle (7795 GRT, built 1937), Waimarama (12843 GRT, built 1938), Wairangi (12436 GRT, built 1935), and the American tanker;
Ohio (9264 GRT, built 1940).

These ships were escorted by light cruisers HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral 10th C.S., H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) and the destroyers HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Stewart, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. P.W. Gretton, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) and HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN).

A cover force made up of departed Scapa Flow on the same day. This force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) and HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). They were to rendez-vous with convoy WS 21S at sea on 3 August. HMS Penn was delayed by a defect and after topping off with fuel at Moville, Northern Ireland overtook the force and joined at sea.

The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) meanwhile had already left Scapa Flow on 31 July 1941 to rendez-vous with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN). These ships were joined at sea on 1 August 1942 by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, RN), loaded with spare fighter aircraft for the operation, and her two escorts the destroyers HMS Buxton (Lt.Cdr. I.J. Tyson, RD, RNR) and HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RNR). HMS Argus and her two escorting destroyers had departed the Clyde on 31 July. HMS Buxton later split off and proceeded towards Canada and HMS Sardonyx proceeded to Londonderry.

The last ships to take part in the operation to depart the U.K. (Clyde around midnight during the night of 4/5 August) were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), loaded with Hurricane fighters for Malta, and her escorts, the light cruiser HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN) and the Polish destroyer ORP Blyscawica (Lt.Cdr. L. Lichodziejewski, ORP). They were joined at sea, around dawn, by HMS Sardonyx coming from Londonderry. The destroyers parted company around midnight during the night of 5/6 August. They arrived at Londonderry on 7 August. HMS Furious and HMS Manchester then joined convoy WS 21S around midnight of the next night but HMS Manchester parted company shortly afterwards to proceed ahead of the convoy and fuel at Gibraltar.

On 1 August 1942 the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), light cruiser HMS Phoebe (Capt. C.P. Frend, RN) and the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN) and HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) departed Freetown to proceed to a rendez-vous position off the Azores.

On 5 August 1942, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) and the the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN) departed Gibraltar also to the rendez-vous position off the Azores.

The convoy conducted maneuvering and AA exercises with the escorts between the Azores and Gibraltar during the period of 6 to 9 August. (Operation Berserk). Also dummy air attacks were carried out by aircraft from the carriers.

Passage of the Straits of Gibraltar and organization of escort forces.

The convoy then passed the Straits of Gibraltar during the night of 9/10 August 1942 in dense fog but despite this the convoy was detected by German and Italian spies and reported.

After passing the Straits of Gibraltar the convoy was organized as follows;
The actual convoy was protected a large force of warships until the whole force would split up before entering the Sicilian narrows after which ‘Force X’ under command of Rear-Admiral Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN was to accompany the convoy to the approaches to Malta where they would be met by the Malta Minesweeping Flotilla, which was then to sweep the convoy into the harbour. Force X was made up of the following ships:
Licht cruisers: HMS Nigeria (flagship), HMS Kenya,, HMS Manchester.
AA cruiser: HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN).
Destroyers: HMS Ashanti, HMS Fury, HMS Foresight, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Penn.
Escort destroyers: HMS Derwent, HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, RN). Also the rescue tug HMS Jaunty was to be part of this force.

After the escort was to be split up cover was provided by ‘Force Z’ under Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN. This force was made up of the following ships:
Battleships: HMS Nelson (flagship) and HMS Rodney.
Aircraft carriers: HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable and HMS Eagle.
Light cruisers: HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius and HMS Charybdis.
Destroyers: HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Lookout, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Quentin, HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair), HMS Wishart and HMS Vansittart. Escort destroyer: HMS Zetland. Also attached were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (for Operation Bellows, the launching of Hurricane fighters for Malta. HMS Furious only carried four Albacore aircraft for A/S searches after the Hurricanes had been launched) and the ‘spare’ destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Malcolm, HMS Venomous, HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott, HMS Wolverine, HMS Wrestler and HMS Amazon. These ‘spare’ destroyers were to take the place of destroyers in the screen ‘Force Z’ if needed, escort HMS Furious during her return passage to Gibraltar after she had completed Operation Bellows and / or strengthen the escort of ‘Force R’.

Then there was also ‘Force R’, the fuelling force. This force was made up of the following ships:
Corvettes: HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Spiraea (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Miller, DSC, RNR), HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).
Rescue tug: HMS Salvonia.
RFA tankers: RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, Master D.B.C. Ralph) and RFA Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, Master R.T. Duthie).

Before we give an account of the passage of the main convoy we will now first describe the operations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean (Operations MG 3 and MG 4), the launching of the Hurricane fighters for Malta by HMS Furious (Operation Bellows) and the return convoy from Malta (Operation Ascendant) as well as on submarine operations / dispositions.

Diversion in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As part of the plan for Operation Pedestal the Mediterranean Fleet had to carry out a diversion in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Before we go to the operations in the Western Mediterranean we will first give an account of the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It was at this time not possible to sent any supplies from Egypt to Malta as all supplies and forces were much needed for the upcoming land battle at El Alamein it was agreed that ‘a dummy convoy’ would be sent towards Malta with the object of preventing the enemy to direct the full weight of their air and naval power towards the Western Mediterranean.

In the evening of 10 August 1942 a ‘convoy’ (MG 3) of three merchant ships departed Port Said escorted by three cruisers and ten destroyers. Next morning one more merchant ship departed Haifa escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers. The two forces joined that day (the 11th) and then turned back dispersing during the night. The Italian fleet however did not go to sea to attack ‘the bait’.

The forces taking part in this operation were:
From Port Said:
Merchant vessels City of Edinburgh (8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938) and City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton(Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN).

From Haifa:
Merchant vessel Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN).

After dark on 11 August 1942 the force turned back and the City of Pretoria returned to Port Said escorted by HMS Eridge and HMS Hursley. The City of Edinburgh, escorted by HMS Beaufort and HMS Belvoir proceeded to Haifa. The City of Lincoln escorted by HMS Dulverton and HMS Hurworth proceeded to Beirut and finally the Ajax, escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Croome returned to Haifa. HMS Dido had to return to Port Said with hull defects. She was escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin and HMS Jervis.

HMS Cleopatra, HMS Arethusa, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin then proceeded to carry out another diversion (Operation MG 4). They bombarded Rhodos harbour and the Alliotti Flour Mills during the night of 12/13 August but did little damage. On the way back HMS Javelin attacked a submarine contact in position 34°45’N, 31°04’E between 0654 and 0804 hours. She reported that there was no doubt that the submarine was sunk but no Axis submarines were operating in this area so the attack must have been bogus. This force returned to Haifa at 1900/13.

Operation Bellows.

During operation Bellows, the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, started 37 Spitfire which were to proceed to Malta, when south of the Balearic Islands. The Admiralty had decided to carry out this operation at the same time as Operation Pedestal.

HMS Furious remained with the convoy until 1200/11. She then launched the Spitfires for Malta in 5 batches between 1230 and 1515 hours. During these flying off operations she acted independently with the destroyers HMS Lookout and HMS Lightning. After having launched the last batch of Spitfires she briefly re-joined to convoy until around 1700 hours when she split off and set course for Gibraltar escorted by the destroyers HMS Malcolm, HMS Wolverine and HMS Wrestler. These were joined shortly afterwards by HMS Keppel and HMS Venomous.

Around 0100/12, HMS Wolverine, rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur which was trying to attack HMS Furious. Around 0200 hours, HMS Wolverine reported that she was stopped due to the damage she had sustained in the ramming. HMS Malcolm was detached to assist her.

At 1530/12, the destroyer HMS Vidette joined the screen. The force then entered Gibraltar Bay around 1930/12. The damaged HMS Wolverine arrived at Gibraltar at 1230/13 followed by HMS Malcolm around 1530/13.

Operation Ascendant

On 10 August 1942 the empty transports Troilus (7648 GRT, built 1921) and Orari (10107 GRT, built 1931) departed Malta after dark for Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN). They first proceeded to the south of Lampedusa, then hugged the Tunisian coast as far as Galita Island. Near Cape Bon they encountered the Italian destroyer Lanzerotto Malocello that was laying a minefield. They had a brief gunfight but this was soon ended as both sides were thinking the enemy was Vichy-French. The remained of the passage to Gibraltar was uneventful and the convoy arrived at Gibraltar shortly before noon on 14 August 1942.

Submarine operations / dispositions.
Eight submarines took part in the operation; these were HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN), HMS P 31 (Lt. J.B.de B. Kershaw, DSO, RN), HMS P 34 (Lt. P.R.H. Harrison, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 44 (Lt. T.E. Barlow, RN), HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN), HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 222 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. MacKenzie, RN). Two of these were to carry out normal dived patrol to the north of Sicily, one off Palermo, the other off Milazzo which is futher to the east. The other six submarines were given alternative patrol lines south of Pantelleria, one od which they were to take up at dawn on 13 August 1942, according to the movements of enemy surface ships that might threathen the convoy from the westward. When the convoy had passed the patrol line, which it should have done by that time, the submarines were to proceed on the surface parallel to the convoy as a screen and to dive away clear of the convoy at noon. It was expressly intended that they should be seen on the surface and reported by enemy aircraft in order to deter enemy warships from attacking the convoy.

Enemy warships did go to sea but as soon as it was clear that the enemy ships could not reach the convoy the sunmarines were ordered to dive and retire. These six sumarines had no contact with the enemy. One of the the two submarines off the north coast of Sicily, HMS P 42, managed to torpedo two Italian cruisers near Stromboli on the morning of 13 August 1942.

Now we return to the main convoy to Malta.

Passage eastwards after passing the Straits of Gibraltar.

10 and 11 August 1942.

After passing through the Straits of Gibraltar in the early hours of 10 August 1942, in dense fog, the convoy was first sighted by an Italian passenger aircraft, which sighted the convoy in the afternoon of the same day. German reconnaissance aircraft started shadowing the convoy from dawn on the 11th, and thereafter they or Italian aircraft kept the convoy under continuous observation, despite the effort of the fighters from the carriers to shoot them down or drive them off. At 1315 hours, HMS Eagle, was hit an sunk by torpedoes from the German submarine U-73 which had penetrated the destroyer screen. At that moment there were thirteen destroyers in the screen, the remainder was away from the main convoy, escorting HMS Furious during the flying off operations of the Hurricane fighters for Malta or oiling from and screening ‘Force R’ which was several miles away. Between 1430/10 and and 2030/11 no less then three cruisers and twenty-four destroyers fuelled from the two oilers of ‘Force R’.

At the time of the torpedoing of HMS Eagle the convoy was in four columns, zigzagging at 13 knots, with the heavy ships stationed close round it and a destroyer screen ahead. HMS Eagle was on the starboard quarter of the convoy. She was hit on her starboard side by four torpedoes which had dived through the destroyer screen and the convoy columns undetected and then torpedoed and sank the Eagle in position 38°05’N, 03°02’E (Another source gives 03°12’E but this might be a typo). The carrier sank quickly in about 8 minutes, 926 of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued by the destroyers HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout and the rescue tug HMS Jaunty. At the time of her sinking, HMS Eagle had four aircraft on patrol. These landed on the other carriers. All other aircraft were lost with the ship. The survivors picked up were later transferred to the destroyers HMS Keppel, HMS Malcolm and HMS Venomous that were to escort HMS Furious back to Gibraltar. The tug HMS Jaunty that had been involved in picking up survivors was never able to rejoin the convoy due to her slow speed.

Late in the afternoon air attacks were expected so Vice-Admiral Syfret ordered the destroyer to form an all-round screen. Indeed the air attacks started around sunset, 2045 hours. The last destroyers had just returned from oiling from ‘Force R’. The enemy aircraft that were attacking were 36 German bombers and torpedo aircraft, Ju 88’s and He 111’s, most of which attacked the convoy but a few attacked ‘Force R’ to the southward. The Junkers arrived first, diving down from 8000 feet to 2000 / 3000 feet to drop their bombs. They claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier and one of the merchant ships. Then the Heinkels attacked, they claimed to have torpedoed a cruiser but during the attacks no ship was hit. The British fighter cover was unable to attack / find the enemy in the failing light. Four enemy aircraft were claimed shot down by the ships AA fire but it appears only two JU 88’s were in fact shot down.

12 August 1942

At 0915/12 another wave of German aircraft attacked the convoy. Some twenty or more JU 88’s approached the convoy out of the sun ahead. They were intercepted by fighters about 25 miles from the convoy. About a dozen got through to the convoy, making high-level or shallow dive-bombing attacks individually but without any result. Eight German aircraft were claimed to be shot down by the fighters and two more by AA guns from the ships. The fighters meanwhile were also busy dealng with shadowers, three of which are claimed to have been shot down before the morning attack. Around this time destroyers were also busy with numerous submarine contact which were attacked by depth charges.

Around noon the enemy launched heavy air attacks from the Sardinian airfields. Seventy aircraft approached which were heavily escorted by fighters. They attacked in stages and employed new methods.

First ten Italian torpedo-bombers were each to drop some sort of circling torpedo or mine a few hundred yards ahead of the British force, while eight fighter bombers made dive-bombing and machine-gun attacks. The object at this stage was clearly to dislocate the formation of the force and to draw anti-aircraft fire, making the ships more vulnerable to a torpedo attack which soon followed with over forty aircraft. They attacked in two groups, one on either bow of the convoy. The next stage was a shallow dive-bombing attack by German aircraft, after which two Italian Reggiane 2001 fighters, each with a single heavy armour-piercing bomb were to dive bomb on one of the aircraft carriers, whilst yet another new form of attack was to be employed against the other carrier, but defects in the weapon prevented this attack from taking place.

The enemy attack went according to plan besides that the torpedo attack was only made half an our after the ‘mines’ were dropped instead of five minutes. British fighters met the minelaying aircraft, they shot down one of them as they approached. The remaining nine aircraft dropped their ‘mines’ at 1215 hours in the path of the force, which turned to avoid the danger. The mines were heard to explode several minutes later. Only three of the fighter-bombers of this stage of the attack appear to have reached as far the screen, but HMS Lightning had a narrow escape from their bombs.

The torpedo-aircraft appeared at 1245 hours. Their number were brought down a bit due to British fighters. The remaining aircraft, estimated at 25 to 30 machines, attacked from the port bow, port beam and starboard quarter. They dropped their torpedoes well outside the screen some 8000 yards from the merchant ships which they had been ordered to attack. The force turned 45° to port and then back to starboard to avoid the attack.

In the next stage, around 1318 hours, the German bombing attack, the enemy scored their one success. These aircraft were also intercepted on their way in but about a dozen of about twenty aircraft came through. They crossed the convoy from starboard to port and then dived to 3000 feet. They managed to damage the transport Deucalion which was leading the port wing column. More bombs fell close to several other ships.

Finally, at 1345 hours, the two Reggiane fighters approached HMS Victorious as if to land on. They looked like Hurricanes and HMS Victorious was at that time engaged in landing her own fighters. They managed to drop their bombs and one hit the flight deck amidships. Fortunately the bomb broke up without exploding. By the time HMS Victorious could open fire both fighters were out of range.

The Deucalion could no longer keep up with the convoy and was ordered to follow the inshore route along the Tunisian coast escorted by HMS Bramham. Two bombers found these ships late in the afternoon, but their bombs missed. At 1940 hours, however, near the Cani Rocks, two torpedo aircraft attacked and a torpedo hit the Deucalion. She caught fire and eventually blew up.

The convoy passed some 20 miles north of Galita Island and spent the afternoon avoiding enemy submarines which were known to be concentrated in these waters. There were innumerable reports of sightings and Asdic contacts and at least two submarines proved dangerous. At 1616 hours, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Zetland attacked one on the port bow of the convoy and hunted her until the convoy was out of reach. HMS Ithuriel, stationed on the quarter, then attacked, forced the enemy to surface and finally rammed her. She proved to be the Italian submarine Cobalto. Meanwhile HMS Tartar, on the starboard quarter, saw six torpedoes fired at close range at 1640 hours, and the next destroyer in the screen, HMS Lookout sighted a periscope. Together they attacked the submarine, continuing until it was no longer dangerous. There was no evidence this submarine was sunk.

At 1750 hours, HMS Ithuriel, which was on her way back to the convoy after sinking the Italian submarine Cobalto was attacked by a few dive-bombers, when still a dozen miles astern of the convoy. At this time the convoy came under attack by aircraft stationed on Sicily. This force numbered nearly 100 aircraft. Ju.87 dive-bombers as well as Ju.88’s and SM-79’s all with a strong escort of fighters. The enemy started attacking at 1835 hours, the bombers attacking from both ahead and astern which last was the direction of the sun. The torpedo aircraft came from ahead to attack on the starboard bow and beam of the convoy.

The Italian SM-79’s torpedo bombers dropped their torpedoes from ranges of about 3000 yards outside the destroyer screen, and once again the convoy turned away to avoid them. However the destroyer HMS Foresight was hit by a torpedo and disabled. The bombers chose HMS Indomitable as their main target. She was astern of HMS Rodney at the time on the port quarter of the convoy. Four Ju.88’s and eight Ju.87’s came suddenly out of the sun and dived steeply towards HMS Indomitable from astern. Some of the Ju.87 came down to 1000 feet and the carrier received three hits and her flight deck was put out of action. Her airborne fighters eventually had to land on HMS Victorious. HMS Rodney meanwhile had a narrow escape when a bomber attacked from ahead. One enemy aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by AA fire from the ships while the fighters claimed nine more although there were about twice as much enemy fighters in the air then British.

HMS Tartar took the damaged HMS Foresight in tow and proceeded westward for Gibraltar. Next day, as they were shadowed by enemy aircraft, and enemy submarines were known to be in the area, it was decided to scuttle the cripple before both ships might be lost. HMS Tartar then torpedoed HMS Foresight a few miles from Galita Island.

Passage through the narrows, 12-13 August 1942, and the loss off HMS Manchester.

These last air attacks took place about 20 nautical miles west of the Skerki Channel and at 1900 hours, when the attacks were clearly over, Vice-Admiral Syfret turned away with ‘Force Z’. It was now up to Rear-Admiral Burrough with ‘Force X’ to take the convoy to Malta.

At 2000 hours, when the convoy was changing it’s formation from four to two columns, the convoy was attacked by Italian submarines. The submarine Dessiè attacked a freighter with four torpedoes and claimed three hits. The sound of the torpedo hits was however not caused by her attack but by an attack by the Axum which hit three ships, HMS Nigeria, HMS Cairo and the tanker Ohio.

HMS Nigeria had to turn back to make for Gibraltar escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Derwent, HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester. Rear-Admiral Burrough transferred his flag to the destroyer HMS Ashanti. The stern of HMS Cairo had been blown off and she had to be sunk as she was beyond salvage with both engines also out of action. She was scuttled by HMS Pathfinder. The Ohio meanwhile managed to struggle on.

At this time the convoy was still trying to form up the the submarine attacks messed things up and right at thus time the convoy was once more attacked from the air in the growing dusk at 2030 hours. About 20 German aircraft, Ju-88’s made dive bombing and torpedo attacks, hitting the Empire Hope with a bomb and the Clan Ferguson and Brisbane Star with torpedoes. The first of these ships had to be sunk (by HMS Bramham, the second blew up but the last eventually reached Malta. Soon after this attack, at 2111 hours, HMS Kenya was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Alagi. She was able to evade three of the four torpedoes but was hit in the bow by the fouth. She was however able to remain with the convoy.

The situation was then as follows. HMS Kenya and HMS Manchester with two merchant ships, and with the minesweeping destroyers HMS Intrepid, HMS Icarus and HMS Fury sweeping ahead, had passed the Skerki Channel and were steering to pass Zembra Island on the way to Cape Bon. HMS Ashanti, with Rear-Admiral Burrough on board was fast overhauling these ships. The other two destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury, were rounding up the remaining nine merchant ships. The escort destroyer HMS Bramham was also catching up after having escorted the single Deucalion until she sank.

On learing about the fate of HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo, Vice-Admiral Syfret detached HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Rear-Admiral Burrough. It would take these ships several hourse to catch up with the convoy.

The main body of the convoy passed Cape Bon around midnight. Fourty minutes later enemy Motor Torpedo Boats appeared and started to attack. Their first victim was HMS Manchester which was torpedoed at 0120/13 by the Italian MS 16 or MS 22. She had to be scuttled by her own crew. Many of her ships company landed in Tunisia and were interned by the Vichy-French but about 300 were picked up by destroyers (first by HMS Pathfinder, and later by HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. These last two destoyers then set off towards Gibraltar.)

Four and possibly five of the merchant ships were also hit by the Motor Torpedo Boats. These were the Wairangi, Rochester Castle, Almeria Lykes, Santa Elisa and probably the Glenorchy. They were attacked between 0315 and 0430 hours about 15 nautical miles south-east of Kelibia whilst taking a short cut to overhaul the main body of the convoy. Four were lost, only the Rochester Castle survived and she managed to catch up with the main body of the convoy at 0530 hours. The Glenorchy was sunk by the Italian MS 31, the other four, of which the Rochester Castle survived as mentioned earlier, were hit by the German S 30 and S 36 as well as the Italian MAS 554 and MAS 557.

Shortly before 0530 hours HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali had joined the main body of the convoy making the force now two cruisers and seven destroyers with the transports Rochester Castle, Waimarama and Melbourne Star. The damaged tanker Ohio was slowly catching up. With her was the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury. Astern of the main body was the Port Chalmers escorted by the destroyer HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Bramham. The destroyers recued the crew of the Santa Elisa when the passed by the abandoned ship which was afterwards finished off by a German bomber. The Dorset was proceeding without escort and lastly the damaged Brisbane Star was still keeping close to the Tunisian coast independently, intending to steer towards Malta after nightfall.

At 0730 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, sent back HMS Tartar and HMS Somali to Kelibia to assist HMS Manchester and then go to Gibraltar. When they arrived they found out that the Manchester had been scuttled several hours earlier so they rescued those of her crew that had not reached the shore yet and then made off to Gibraltar as ordered. Besides crew of the Manchester they also picked up survivors from the Almeria Lykes and Wairangi.

The next encounter with the enemy was an air attack on the main body of the convoy at 0800 hours by German bombers. About 12 Ju.88’s made a shallow diving attack coming down from 6000 feet to 2000 feet to drop their bombs. Two dived on the Waimarama hitting her several times and she blew up immediately, one of the bombers was even destroyed in the explosion. HMS Ledbury saved some of her crew out of the blazing sea. At 0925 hours, when the Ohio, Port Chalmers and Dorset where with the main body again, a few Ju.87’s escorted by Italian fighters attacked. They dived down to 1500 to 1000 feet. HMS Kenya leading the port column, and the Ohio last ship but one in the starboard column, had narrow escapes. One of the enemy aircraft crashed on board the Ohio just after having released it’s bomb after being damaged by gunfire from the Ohio and HMS Ashanti. Another aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by fighters from Malta that had been patrolling overhead since daybreak.

Arrivals at Malta 13-15 August 1942.

At 1050 hours, about 20 bombers, mostly Ju.88’s with a few Ju.87’s, came in to attack. Target was the Ohio and she received four or five near misses and her engines were disabled. At the same time the Rochester Castle in the port column was near-missed and set on fire but she continued with the convoy. The Dorset which was astern of her was hit and stopped. The convoy went on leaving the Dorset behind with the Ohio and two destroyers.

At 1125 hours the last air attack on the main body took place. Five Italian SM.79’s attacked with torpedoes and almost hit the Port Chalmers as the torpedo got stuck in the paravane. Further attacks on the main body were held of by fighters from Malta. At 1430 hours, four minesweepers from Malta joined the main body of the convoy, these were HMS Speedy (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Doran, RN, with the group’s commander A/Cdr. H.J.A.S. Jerome, RN on board), HMS Hebe, HMS Rye and HMS Heyte. Also with them were seven Motor Launches; ML 121, ML 126, ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462. HMS Rye and two of the ML’s were sent towards the damaged Ohio which was ‘vital for Malta’, according to A/Cdr. Jerome.

At 1600 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, set course to the west with his two cruisers and with five destroyers. The Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Rochester Castle arrived in Grand Harbour around 1800 hours with the force of A/Cdr. Jerome. The Rochester Castle was by that time very low in the water, she had just made it into port on time.

Out were still the Ohio, Dorset and the Brisbane Star. The valuable Ohio had been helpless with HMS Penn and HMS Bramham. When HMS Rye arrived at 1730 hours, HMS Penn took the Ohio in tow. Meanwhile HMS Bramham was sent to the Dorset but soon afterwards German bombers came again and the ships were attacked repeatedly until dark. Both merchantman were hit around 1900 hours and the Dorset sank.

At daylight on the 14th HMS Ledbury arrived to help bringing the Ohio to Malta. HMS Speedy also soon arrived on the scene with two ML’s. The rest of his force he had sent to search for the Brisbane Star. At 1045 hours, enemy aircraft made their last attempt, causing the parting of the tow. Fighter from Malta shot down two of the attackers. The tow was passed again and the slow procession went on and in the morning of the 15th the vital tanker finally reached Malta.

The Brisbane Star had by then also arrived. She left the Tunisian coast at dusk on the 13th. Aircraft had attacked her unsuccessfully and one of the attackers was shot down by a Beaufighter escort that had been sent from Malta. She arrived at Malta in the afternoon of the 14th.

Italian surface ships to operate against the convoy ?

The convoy had experienced the violence of the enemy in every shape except that of an attack by large surface ships. Yet Italian cruisers and destroyers had been at sea to intercept and attack it. Two light cruiser had left Cagliari in the evening of 11 August 1942 and the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano from Messina, and a light cruiser from Naples had sailed on the morning of the 12th. That evening reconnaissance aircraft reported one heavy and two light cruisers with eight destroyers about 80 nautical miles to the north of the western tip of Sicily and steering south. It would have been possible for this force to meet the convoy at dawn on the 13th so the shadowing aircraft was therefore ordered in plain language to illuminate and attack. This apparently influenced the Italians as they had limited air cover and they turned back at 0130/13 when near Cape San Vito. At 0140 hours the aircraft reported that it had dropped its bombs but no hits had been obtained. Similar orders were signalled, in plain language, to relief shadowers and to report the position of the enemy force to the benefit of imaginary Liberator bombers in case the Italians would change their minds and turn back. They however held on to the eastward.

The submarine HMS P 42 sighted them around 0800/13 off Stromboli and attacked with four torpedoes claiming two hits. She had in fact hit the heavy cruiser Bolzano which was able to proceed northwards and the light cruiser Muzio Attendolo which managed to reach Messina with her bows blown off. The other cruisers went to Naples. Following the attack P 42 was heavily depth charged by the destroyers but managed to escape.

In fact the following Italian ships had been at sea; heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trieste, Bolzano, light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo. They were escorted by eleven destroyers; Ascari, Aviere, Camicia Nera, Corsaro, Fuceliere, Geniere, Legionaro, Vincenzo Gioberti, Alfredo Oriani, Grecale and Maestrale.

The return to Gibraltar.

The British ships returning to Gibraltar had better fortune. Having left the convoy off Malta in the afternoon of the 13th, they rounded Cape Bon around 0130/14 and from that point until past Zembra Island they successful ran the gauntled of E-boats laying in wait.

at 0450/14, near the Fratelli Rocks, a submarine fired torpedoes at HMS Ashanti from the surface. She was nearly rammed by HMS Kenya, which was next astern of the ‘flagship’ (Rear-Admiral Burrough was still in HMS Ashanti). The inevitable shadowers arrived soon after daylight to herald their air attacks that began at 0730 hours. They lasted until around 1315 hours. German bombers came in first with three attemps by a few Ju.88’s. This was followed by a more severe attack with about 30 bombers, Ju-88’s and Ju-87’s between 1030 and 1050 hours. An hour later 15 Savoia high-level bombers attacked followed until 1315 hours by torpedo-carrying Savoia’s. Around 20 aircraft attacking single or in pairs. Also aircraft are though to be laying mines ahead. Several ships were near missed, but no further damage was sustained. After these attacks the British were left alone and in the evening they joined ‘Force Z’.

Vice-Admiral Syfret had gone as far west as 01’E where he ordered the damaged carrier HMS Indomitable to proceed to Malta with HMS Rodney and a destroyer screen made up of HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland. He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. HMS Rodney, HMS Indomitable, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland arrived at Gibraltar in the evening of the 14th.

A few hours before they arrived the damaged HMS Nigeria and her escort had also entered port, as had HMS Tartar, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. On her way back HMS Nigeria had been attacked by torpedo-bombers and a submarine but she had not been hit.

Conclusion.

Out of the fourteen ships that had sailed only five arrived ‘safe’ at Malta. This was not a very high score also given the very heavy escort that had been provided also taken in mind that an aircraft carrier, a light cruiser, an AA cruiser an a destroyer had been lost and two heavy cruiser had been damaged. But the convoy had to meet very heavy air attacks by over 150 bombers and 80 torpedo aircraft, all in the space of two days. Also these aircraft were protected by fighter in much greater strength that the carriers and Malta could provide. And there were also the enemy submarines and E-boats.

The spirit in which to operation was carried out appears in Vice-Admiral Syfret’s report: ‘ Tribute has been paid to the personnel of His Majesty’s Ships, both the officers and men will desire to give first place to the conduct, courage, and determination of the masters, officers, and men of the merchant ships. The steadfast manner in which these ships pressed on their way to Malta through all attacks, answering every maneuvering order like a well trained fleet unit, was a most inspiring sight. Many of these fine men and their ships were lost. But the memory of their conduct will remain an inspiration to all who were privileged to sail with them. ‘ (19)

23 Oct 1942
HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. She was escorted by the destroyer HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) and HMS Melbreak (Lt. G.E.C.G. Baines, RN). (20)

17 Nov 1942

Convoy QP 15.

This convoy departed the Archangelsk on 17 November 1942 and arrived at Loch Ewe on 30 November 1942.

The convoy was made up the following merchant vessels; Andre Marti (Russian, 2352 GRT, built 1918), Belomorcanal (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Charles R. McCormick (American, 6027 GRT, built 1920), Dan-Y-Brin (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Morn (British, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Empire Snow (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Empire Tristram (British, 7167 GRT, built 1942), Esek Hopkins (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Exford (American, 4969 GRT, built 1919), Friedrich Engels (Russian, 3972 GRT, built 1930), Goolistan (British, 5851 GRT, built 1929), Hollywood (American, 5498 GRT, built 1920), Ironclad (American, 5685 GRT, built 1919), Komiles (Russian, 3962 GRT, built 1932), Kuznetz Lesov (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1933), Lafayette (American, 5887 GRT, built 1919), Meanticut (American, 6061 GRT, built 1921), Nathaniel Greene (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Faith (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Patrick Henry (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Petrovski (Russian, 3771 GRT, built 1921), Sahale (American, 5028 GRT, built 1919), Schoharie (American, 4971 GRT, built 1919), St. Olaf (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Tblisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912), Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940), Virginia Dare (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), White Clover (Panamanian, 5462 GRT, built 1920), William Moultrie (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942) and

The rescue vessel (British, 1526 GRT, built 1923) is also part of the convoy.

On departed from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the AA ship Ulster Queen, destroyers Baku, Sokrushitelny, 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), HMS Sharpshooter (Lt.Cdr. W.L. O'Mara, 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).

The merchant vessels Ironclad and Meanticut soon returned to the Kola Inlet with defects.

On 19 November 1941 the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN) departed the Kola Inlet to overtake and join the convoy which they did the following day.

On 20 November 1941 the destroyers HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Orwell ( Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, DSO, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN) and HMS Oakley (Lt.Cdr. T.A. Pack-Beresford, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy from the westward.

The Russian escort parted company with the convoy to return to the Kola Inlet, these were; Baku, Sokrushitelny. They were both damaged in the heavy weather, Baku managed to reach port with difficulty while Sokrushitelny almost broke in half. She foundered and sank on 22 November.

Due to the weather conditions the convoy got scattered.

On 23 November the staggling merchant vessels Goolistan and Kusnets Lesov were sunk by the German submarines U-625 and U-601 respectively. There were no survivors from both ships.

Also on 23 November, HMS Musketeer, HMS Orwell and the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton and HMS Oakley joined the convoy.

On 25 November, HMS Ulster Queen, HMS Icarus, HMS Bluebell and HMS Camellia arrived at Seidisfjord to fuel having parted company with the convoy the day before.

On 26 November, the Convoy Commodore with a total of nine ships set course to proceed direct to Loch Ewe. A total of seven stagglers arrived at Akureyri during the day.

Also on 26 November, HMS Faulknor, Echo, HMS Impulsive, HMS Intrepid, HMS Musketeer, HMS Orwell, HMS Ledbury and HMS Middleton arrived at Seidisfjord followed later by HMS Halcyon.

HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive departed Seidisfjord to go the the assistance of HMS Sharpshooter which had engine trouble and was still to the north-east of Iceland in position 68°05'N, 11°40'W.

On 27 November, a staggler escorted by HMS Oakley arrived at Seidisfjord. This ship later departed again escorted by HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Bluebell and HMS Camellia to join the Convoy Commodore and his group of ships. On joining HMS Britomart, HMS Hazard, HMS Bergamot and HMS Bryony parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Seidisfjord to fuel. HMS Ulster Queen later also rejoined the convoy.

Also on 27 November nine more stagglers of the convoy arrived at Akureyri.

HMS Salamander and a staggler arrived at Seidisford as did HMS Forester with HMS Sharpshooter. HMS Impulsive remainded out on patrol off Seidisfjord reinforced by HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN). On arriving at Seidisfjord HMS Sharpshooter collided with another ship. She departed to effect repairs at Hvalfjord later the same day arriving there on 28 November.

On 28 November HMS Impulsive and HMS Obdurate abandoned their patrol proceeding to Seidisfjord and Hvalfjord (arrived 29 November) respectively.

Also on 28 November HMS Faulknor departed Seidisfjord for Scapa Flow while HMS Forester, HMS Echo, HMS Musketeer, HMS Orwell, HMS Oakley, HMS Britomart and HMS Hazard departed Seidisfjord to proceed to Akureyri to pick up the stagglers there and proceed with them to Loch Ewe. Convoy QP 15M, made up of 14 merchant ships, then departed Akureyi on the 29th. They were joined off Seidisfjord by one more merchant ship and a tanker which came out escorted by HMS Impulsive, HMS Bergamot and HMS Bryony.

On 29 November, HMS Halcyon and HMS Salamander departed Seidisfjord for Scapa Flow where they arrived on 1 December.

On 30 November, the Commodore's section of convoy QP 15 (9 ships) arrived at Loch Ewe. HMS Ulster Queen and HMS Ledbury then proceeded to the Clyde arriving later the same day. HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid and HMS Middleton proceeded to Scapa Flow arriving later the same day. HMS Bluebell went to the Tyne arriving on 1 December and HMS Camellia went to Cardiff also arriving on 1 December.

Also on 30 November, HMS Orwell and HMS Oakley were detached from the escort for convoy QP 15M to proceed to Scapa Flow arriving on 1 December.

On 2 December, HMS Echo was detached from the escort of convoy QP 15M to proceed to the Clyde where she arrived on 3 December.

Also on 2 December, HMS Britomart and HMS Hazard were detached from convoy QP 15M with the tanker and escorted her to Scapa Flow where they arrived on 3 December.

On 3 December, HMS Forester, HMS Impulsive and HMS Musketeer were detached from convoy QP 15M to Scapa Flow where they arrived later the same day.

Convoy QP 15M (15 ships) arrived at Loch Ewe on 3 December, HMS Bergamot and HMS Bryony then went to the Tyne arriving there on 4 December.

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To provide cover for this convoy a cruiser force was deployed.

On 14 November the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN) and HMS Obdurate departed Scapa Flow for Seidisfjord where they arrived on 17 November.

On 16 November the heavy cruiser HMS Suffolk (Capt. R. Shelley, CBE, RN) and destroyer HMS Forester departed Hvalfjord for Seidisdfjord where they arrived the following day.

Also on the 16th, HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO and Bar, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Seidisfjord arriving on the 18th.

On the 19th HMS London, HMS Suffolk, HMS Forester, HMS Obdurate and HMS Onslaught departed Seidisford to provide distant cover for the convoy from a position to the south-west of Bear Island.

On 23 November the destroyers were sent to Seidisfjord to refuel. They arrived at Seidisfjord on the 25th. Heavy weather had been encountered so presumably it was not possible to fuel at sea.

On 25 November HMS London and HMS Suffolk discontinued their patrol. They proceeded to Scapa Flow and Hvalfjord respectively both arriving at their destinations on the 27th. HMS Suffolk arrived at Hvalfjord with some weather damage.

Also on the 25th, HMS Onslaught departed Seidisfjord for Scapa Flow arriving on the 27th.

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. (21)

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. (3)

30 Dec 1942

Convoy RA 51.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet on 30 December 1942.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HMS Kent and HMS Berwick returned to Scapa Flow on the 6th. (22)

31 Dec 1942
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), destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) arrived at Seidisfjord. (23)

17 Jan 1943

Convoy JW 52.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 17 January 1943.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Cornelius Barnett (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 Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Clarion (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Portia (British, 7058 GRT, built 1942), Empire Snow (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Empire Tristram (British, 7167 GRT, built 1942), Gulfwing (American (tanker), 10217 GRT, built 1928), Nicholas Gilman (British, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Faith (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

The RFA tanker Oligarch (6894 GRT, built 1918) was also with the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN), minesweeper HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), corvettes HMS Lotus (Lt. H.J. Hall, DSC, RNR), HMS Starwort (Lt. A.H. Kent, RNR) 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 21 January the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) joined the convoy coming from Seidisfjord which the had departed the day before. HMS Blankney, HMS Ledbury and HMS Middleton were then detached to Seidisfjord where they arrived on 22 January.

Also on 21 January the Empire Baffin was detached from the convoy to proceed to Akureyri where she arrived on 23 January. She was unable to keep up with the convoy.

On 24 January 1943, the convoy was attacked by four German HE 115 torpedo bombers. No damage was sustained and two of the attackers were shot down by AA fire. U-boats were also in contact with the convoy. U-302 was driven off before she could attack around 0434B/24. At 2008B/24, U-622 fired four torpedoes at the convoy but no hits were obtained.

At 0820B/25, U-622 was driven off by air cover. Also on the 25th a shadowing aircraft dropped a bomb but no damage was inflicted.

The convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on 27 January 1943.

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To provide close cover for the convoy ' Force R ' was deployed.

' Force R ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN) and the light cruisers HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) and HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) departed Seidisfjord on 21 January.

at 0832B/24, the German submarine U-625 fired four torpedoes at HMS Kent and HMS Bermuda. No hits were obtained. HMS Glasgow appeared to be detached at the time of the attack to oil destroyers from the convoy escort. The attack appeared to be unobserved.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 26 January.

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To provide distant cover for the convoy a ' Battleforce ' was deployed.

The ' Battleforce ', which departed Scapa Flow on 21 January, was made up of the battleship 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 Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Montrose (A/Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN).

On 22 January the destroyers HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) arrived at Seidisfjord to fuel. They departed later the same day to join the Battleforce which they did on 23 January in approximate position 66°12'N, 22°50'W. The original destroyer screen was then detached. HMS Inglefield and HMS Montrose to Akureyri and HMS Faulknor and HMS Eclipse were to return to Scapa Flow.

On 27 January 1943 the ' Battleforce ' arrived at Akureyri. (22)

3 Feb 1943
HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. D.P. Evans, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) conducted tactical exercises off Scapa Flow. (24)

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. (25)

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. (25)

30 May 1943
HMS Sceptre (Lt. I.S. McIntosh, MBE, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) and HMS Crane (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Jenkins, RN). (26)

3 Jun 1943
HMS Syrtis (Lt. M.H. Jupp, DSC, RN) conducted A/S and attack exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN). (27)

21 Jun 1943

Combined convoy WS 31 / KMS 17.

This combined convoy was formed off Oversay on 21 June 1943. The convoy was divided into convoys WS 30 and KMS 15 at sea on 26 June 1943.

The combined convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Britannic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), Clan Macarthur (British, 10528 GRT, built 1936), Clan Macaulay (British, 10492 GRT, built 1936), Cristobal (American, 10021 GRT, built 1939), General George W. Goethals (American, 12093 GRT, built 1942), John Ericsson (American, 16552 GRT, built 1928), J.W. McAndrew (American, 7997 GRT, built 1940), Largs Bay (British, 14182 GRT, built 192), Rangitiki (British, 16698 GRT, built 1928), Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921), Santa Rosa (American, 9135 GRT, built 1932), Silverteak (British, 6770 GRT, built 1930), Stratheden (British, 23722 GRT, built 1937) and Tamaroa (British, 12405 GRT, built 1922).

Also the netlayer HMS Guardian (Capt.(Retd.) H.A.C. Lane, OBE, RN) was part of the convoy.

After assembly of Oversay the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Uganda (Capt. W.G. Andrewes, RN), destroyers HMS Arrow (Lt.Cdr. W.W. Fitzroy, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, DSC, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. R.B.S. Tennant, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Viceroy (Lt. T.F. Hallifax, RN), HMS Wallace (Lt. D. Carson, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN), HMS Hambledon (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN), HMS Mendip (Capt. C.R.L. Parry, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, RN), HMS Blencathra (Lt. E.G. Warren, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Brecon (Lt.Cdr. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.C. Beatty, RN).

On 25 June HMS Arrow and HMS Amazon parted company with the combined convoy to proceed to Casablanca to fuel. They arrived at Casablanca around 1730A/25.

Around 1730B/25, the destroyers HMS Foxhound (Cdr. C.J. Wynne-Edwards, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Blackmore (Lt. H.T. Harrel, RN) were to join the combined convoy in position 36°05'N, 07°54'W. They had departed Gibraltar earlier on the 25th.

When these destroyers joined the destroyer HMS Witherington and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury were to proceed to Casablanca.

Also the convoy was to split. Convoy KMF 17, made up of the transports Britannic, Cristobal, J.W. McAndrew, Largs Bay, Samaria, Santa Rosa, Silverteak, Tamaroa and the netlayer HMS Guardian. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Uganada and the escort destroyers HMS Viceroy, HMS Wallace, HMS Woolston, HMS Hambledon, HMS Mendip, HMS Blankney, HMS Blencathra, HMS Brecon and HMS Brissenden proceeded towards the Mediterranean.

On the 26th, HMS Uganda, HMS Guardian, HMS Viceroy and one of the transports arrived at Gibraltar.

On the 27th, HMS Uganda, which apparently had rejoined the convoy after a brief stopover at Gibraltar, 7 of the transports and HMS Wallace, HMS Woolston, HMS Hambledon, HMS Mendip, HMS Blankney, HMS Blencathra, HMS Brecon and HMS Brissenden arrived at Algiers.

Meanwhile Convoy WS 31, made up of the transports City of Lincoln, Clan Macarthur, Clan Macaulay, General George W. Goethals, John Ericsson, Stratheden and Tamaroa continued on to Freetown.

The convoy was now escorted by the destroyers HMS Foxhound, HMS Bulldog and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

The destroyer HMS Amazon also rejoined after fuelling at Casablanca. It had originally been the intention that HMS Arrow was also to rejoin the convoy but while at Casablanca orders had been received that she was to proceed to Gibraltar instead.

On 1 July the French armed merchant cruiser Quercy joined the convoy.

Convoy WS 31 arrived at Freetown on 4 July 1943.

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Convoy WS 31 departed Freetown on 6 July 1943.

It was now made up of the transports City of Lincoln, Clan Macarthur, Clan Macaulay, General George W. Goethals, John Ericsson, Rangitiki, Stirling Castle (British, 25550 GRT, built 1936) and Stratheden.

The convoy was now escorted by the light cruiser HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN), Quercy, destroyers HMS Foxhound, HMS Bulldog, HMS Wolverine (Lt. I.M. Clegg, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

in the early afternoon of the 7th, in approximate position 03°15'N, 14°54'W the Rangitiki was to be detached to proceed independently to Montevideo.

HMS Despatch was to arrived at Takoradi late in the afternoon of the 9th to fuel and after completion of this on the 10th she was to rejoin the convoy. HMS Wolverine also made a short call at Takoradi on the 10th to fuel and then rejoin the convoy.

On the 10th HMS Bulldog and HMS Blackmore were detached to proceed to Lagos to fuel and then escort transports from there to join the convoy. HMS Corfu was also detached on the 10th to proceed to Ascencion after first calling at Takoradi.

The destroyer HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) and corvette HMS Armeria (Lt. M. Todd, RNR) had joined the convoy on the 10th.

On the 11th the transports Arawa (British, 14462 GRT, built 1922), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928) and Staffordshire (British, 10683 GRT, built 1929) joined the convoy coming from Lagos. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Rapid (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

When these ships joined HMS Foxhound, HMS Witch and HMS Armeria then parted company and proceeded to Lagos arriving there also on the 11th.

HMS Despatch and HMS Rapid arrived at Pointe Noire to fuel at 0700Z/14. They departed again to rejoin the convoy at 1430Z/14.

Meanwhile the destroyers HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Redoubt (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Ropner, DSO, RN) had departed Pointe Noire at 0900Z/14 to join the convoy.

At 1800Z/14, the Quercy, HMS Bulldog and HMS Blackmore arrived at Pointe Noire.

At 0600Z/15, HMS Wolverine arrived at Pointe Noire.

The convoy arrived at Capetown on 21 July 1943. HMS Despatch, HMS Quadrant, HMS Rapid and HMS Redoubt then continued on to Simonstown arriving there later the same day.

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A much reduced convoy WS 31 departed Capetown on 26 July 1943. It was now made up of the transports Arawa, Highland Brigade, Highland Monarch, Staffordshire, Stirling Castle and Stratheden. The convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Despatch and the destroyers HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt.

They were relieved near Mauritius on 4 August 1943 by the heavy cruiser HMS Frobisher (Capt. J.F.W. Mudford, RN) which took the convoy to Bombay where it arrived on 13 August 1943.

HMS Despatch, HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt arrived at Mauritius on 5 August 1943.

Sources

  1. ADM 234/340
  2. ADM 53/115572 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  3. ADM 234/369
  4. ADM 53/115828 + ADM 53/116133
  5. ADM 53/116624 + ADM 199/429
  6. ADM 53/116624 + ADM 199/644
  7. ADM 173/17493
  8. ADM 199/427 + ADM 234/369
  9. ADM 53/115829 + ADM 53/116110 + ADM 53/116134 + ADM 53/116366 + ADM 53/116736
  10. ADM 173/17283
  11. ADM 53/115829 + ADM 53/116134 + ADM 53/116366 + ADM 53/116736
  12. ADM 234/359
  13. ADM 199/1837
  14. File 2.12.03.6389 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  15. ADM 173/17407
  16. ADM 53/116524
  17. ADM 53/115686 + ADM 53/115831 + ADM 53/116368 + ADM 53/116738 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
  18. ADM 53/115322 + ADM 53/116397
  19. ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
  20. ADM 53/116528
  21. ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429 + ADM 199/644
  22. ADM 199/632
  23. ADM 53/115327 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
  24. ADM 53/117877
  25. ADM 199/632 + ADM 234/369
  26. ADM 173/18003
  27. ADM 173/18160

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


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