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.

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 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 on 1 March 1942.

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 2 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 wscorted 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 London 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)

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 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.

Later in te day 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, 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 Forester, HMS Icarus, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Marne returned to Scapa Flow at 0800/28. (2)

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. (3)

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) 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 ofthe 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 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, 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 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.

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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 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. (4)

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). (5)

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. (6)

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). (7)

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 (A/Capt. 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. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral 10th C.S., Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, 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. (4)

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). (8)

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. (9)

27 Jun 1942
Convoy operations PQ 17 / QP 13

Convoy’s 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 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 swappd 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 Hvalfjordur, Iceland on 30 June 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), 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, with Rear-Admiral Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN, commanding Cruiser Squadron 10 on board). 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 attrack 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 and FFL Minerve 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 RFA 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 noght 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.

10 Aug 1942

Convoy WS 21S, 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., Sir 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), 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 (which). He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. They arrived at Gibraltar on the 15th.

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. ‘ (10)

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). (11)

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. (12)

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). (13)

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). (14)

Sources

  1. ADM 234/340
  2. ADM 234/369
  3. ADM 173/17493
  4. ADM 199/427 + ADM 234/369
  5. ADM 173/17283
  6. ADM 199/1837
  7. File 2.12.03.6389 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  8. ADM 173/17407
  9. ADM 53/116524
  10. ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
  11. ADM 53/116528
  12. ADM 53/117877
  13. ADM 173/18003
  14. ADM 173/18160

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


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