Allied Warships

HMS Vizalma (FY 286)

ASW Trawler

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeASW Trawler
Class[No specific class] 
PennantFY 286 
Built byCook, Welton & Gemmill (Beverley, U.K.) 
Ordered 
Laid down 
Launched11 Apr 1940 
CommissionedAug 1940 
End service 
History

Displacement: 608 tons.

Sold in December 1945.
Scrapped at Dunston on 4 November 1964.

 

Commands listed for HMS Vizalma (FY 286)

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CommanderFromTo
1T/Lt. Ronald Ian Taylor McEwan, RNR6 Aug 194015 Nov 1940
2T/Lt. Maurice Murrowood Firth, RNVR15 Nov 19403 Sep 1941
3T/A/Lt. John Reginald Anglebeck, RNVR3 Sep 1941early 1943

4T/Lt. Basil James, RNVR26 May 1943

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Notable events involving Vizalma include:


27 Feb 1941
HMS H 32 (Lt. B.G. Heslop, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR). (1)

25 Mar 1941

Convoy HG 57.

This convoy departed Gibraltar on 25 March 1941 and arrived in U.K. waters on 11 April 1941.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Aghios Spyridon (Greek, 3338 GRT, built 1905), Aldergrove (British, 1974 GRT, built 1918), Anneberg (Finnish, 2537 GRT, built 1902), Ardeola (British, 2609 GRT, built 1912), Baltallinn (British, 1303 GRT, built 1920), Baron Newlands (British, 3386 GRT, built 1928), Bollsta (Norwegian, 1832 GRT, built 1934), Caledonia (British, 1268 GRT, built 1913), Cantal (British, 3178 GRT, built 1916), Cervantes (British, 1810 GRT, built 1916), Chantilly (British, 9986 GRT, built 1923), Egyptian (British, 2868 GRT, built 1920), Empire Strait (British, 2841 GRT, built 1940), Gothland (British, 1286 GRT, built 1932), Marvia (British, 1989 GRT, built 1914), Mimosa (Greek, 3071 GRT, built 1905), Moscha D. Kydoniefs (British, 3874 GRT, built 1915), Newton Pine (British, 4212 GRT, built 1925), Octane (British, 2034 GRT, built 1939), Polo (British, 1950 GRT, built 1919), Runa (British, 1575 GRT, built 1930), Scania (Swedish, 1980 GRT, built 1901), Scottish Monarch (British, 4719 GRT, built 1938) and Trio (Swedish, 1482 GRT, built 1922).

The rescue ship Zamalek (British, 1567 GRT, built 1921).

On departure from Gibraltar the convoy was escorted by the destroyer HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN), sloop HMS Rochester (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Allen, RN), corvettes HMS La Malouine (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) R.W. Keymer, RN), HMS Verbena (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, RNVR)and the submarine HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. G.B.M. van Erkel, RNN).

The Aghios Spyridon returned to Gibraltar the same day the convoy had sailed.

On 27 March, HMS Wrestler was detached.

On 3 April, HrMs O 23 was detached and the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN joined.

At 0920Z/4, HMS La Malouine was detached.

At 0845Z/5, the armed boarding vessel Hilary (Cdr. T.L. Owen, RD, RNR) joined the convoy.

At 1930Z/5, the armed boaring vessel Cavina (Cdr. C.B. Osborne, RD, RNR) joined the convoy.

On 8 April the destroyers HMS Broke (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, RN), HMS Douglas (Cdr. W.E. Banks, DSC, RN), HMS Roxborough (Lt. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN), HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. H.M.R. Crichton, RN), corvettes HMS Abelia (T/Lt. F. Ardern, RNR), HMS Clarkia (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Jones, RNR) and auxiliary A/S trawlers HMS St. Elstan (T/Lt. G. Butcher, RNVR), HMS St. Kenan (T/Lt. R.R. Simpson, RNR), HMS St. Zeno (T/Lt. J.K. Craig, RNVR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR).

HMS Nigeria parted company with the convoy around 1900A/9.

The convoy arrived in U.K. waters on 11 April 1941.

16 Apr 1941

Convoy HX 121.

This convoy departed Halifax on 16 April 1941.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Antar (British, 5222 GRT, built 1941), Beechwood (British, 4987 GRT, built 1940), Belinda (Norwegian (tanker), 8325 GRT, built 1939), British Endurence (British (tanker), 8406 GRT, built 1936), Caledonia (British, 9892 GRT, built 1936), Capsa (British (tanker), 8229 GRT, built 1931), Capulet (British (tanker), 8190 GRT, built 1932), City of Barcelona (British, 5787 GRT, built 1930), Cornwall (British, 10605 GRT, built 1920), Danby (British, 4281 GRT, built 1937), Darina (British, 8113 GRT, built 1939), Denbydale (British, (Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker), 8145 GRT, built 1941), Dordrecht (British, 4402 GRT, built 1928), El Ciervo (British (tanker), 5841 GRT, built 1923), Empire Puma (British, 7777 GRT, built 1920), Empire Snow (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Empire Wildebeeste (British, 5631 GRT, built 1918), Ensis (British (tanker), 6207 GRT, built 1937), Grena (British (tanker), 8117 GRT, built 1934), Hilda Knudsen (British (tanker), 9178 GRT, built 1928), Indochinois (British, 6966 GRT, built 1939), King Arthur (British, 5224 GRT, built 1928), Kolsnaren (Swedish, 2465 GRT, built 1923), La Pampa (British, 4149 GRT, built 1938), Langleebrook (British, 4246 GRT, built 12930), Langleetarn (British, 4908 GRT, built 1929), Lombardy (British, 3379 GRT, built 1921), Manchester Division (British, 6048 GRT, built 1918), Manchester Spinner (British, 4767 GRT, built 1918), Mary Kingsley (British, 5021 GRT, built 1930), Mirza (Dutch (tanker), 7991 GRT, built 1929), Moena (Dutch, 9286 GRT, built 1923), Oilfield (British (tanker), 8516 GRT, built 1938), Opalia (British (tanker), 6195 GRT, built 1938), Polartank (Norwegian (tanker), 6356 GRT, built 1930), Port Hardy (British, 8897 GRT, built 1923), Rembrandt (British, 5559 GRT, built 1941), Rookley (British, 4998 GRT, built 1940), Saint Bertrand (British, 5522 GRT, built 1929), San Emiliano (British (tanker), 8071 GRT, built 1939), San Felix (British (tanker), 13037 GRT, built 1921), Sourabaya (British (tanker), 10107 GRT, built 1915), Stanford (British, 5969 GRT, built 1941), Stanley (British, 6463 GRT, built 1919), Tahchee (British (tanker), 6508 GRT, built 1914), Trehata (British, 4817 GRT, built 1918), Tresillian (British, 4743 GRT, built 1925) and Tudor Prince (British, 1914 GRT, built 1940).

On departure from Halifax the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS California (Capt. C.J. Pope, RAN) and the corvettes HMCS Chambly (T/A/Cdr. J.D. Prentice, RCN), HMCS Collingwood (T/Lt. W. Woods, RCNR) and HMCS Orillia (T/Lt.Cdr. W.E.S. Briggs, RCNR). The corvettes however soon returned to Halifax.

Around 1000PQ(+3.5)/19, the battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN) joined the convoy. She had departed Halifax on 17 April 1941.

HMS Revenge parted company with the convoy around 2245ON(+1.5)/23 to return to Halifax.

In the afternoon of 25 April the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, RN, HMS Malcolm (Cdr. C.D. Howard-Johnston, DSC, RN), HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN) and corvette HMS Violet (Lt.Cdr. K.M. Nicholson, RNR) joined the convoy.

Around 0930Z/27, HMS California parted company with the convoy to proceed to Iceland escorted by HMS Malcolm.

In the morning of the 28th the corvettes, HMS Abelia (T/Lt. F. Ardern, RNR), HMS Gladiolus (Lt.Cdr. H.M.C. Sanders, DSC, RNR), HMS Veronica (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) D.F. White, RNR), A/S trawlers HMS St. Elstan (T/Lt. G. Butcher, RNVR), HMS St. Kenan (T/Lt. R.R. Simpson, RNR), HMS St. Zeno (T/Lt. J.K. Craig, RNVR), HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR) and the rescue ship Zaafaran (British, 1559 GRT, built 1921) joined the convoy.

In the afternoon of the 28th the destroyers HMS Douglas (Cdr. W.E. Banks, DSC, RN), HMS Roxborough (Lt. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN) and HMS Leamington (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN) joined the convoy.

Also on 28 April 1941, German submarines attacked the convoy. The tanker Capulet was torpedoed and damaged by U-552. Later on the 28th, the tankers Caledonia, Oilfield and transport Port Hardy were torpedoed and sunk by U-96.

On 2 May 1941, the drifting wreck of the abandoned Capulet was finshed off by the German submarine U-201.

The convoy arrived in British waters on 3 May 1941.

23 Apr 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. J.H. Geijs, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Keppel (Cdr. A.M. Sheffield, RN), HMS Douglas (Cdr. W.E. Banks, DSC, RN), HMS Roxborough (Lt. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN), HMS Gladiolus (Lt.Cdr. H.M.C. Sanders, DSC, RNR), HMS Veronica (Lt.Cdr. (retired) D.F. White, RNR), HMS St. Elstan (T/Lt. G. Butcher, RNVR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR). (2)

30 Apr 1941

Convoy HX 124.

This convoy departed Halifax on 30 April 1941 for Liverpool where it arrived on 20 May 1941.

Upon departure from Halifax the convoy was made up of the following merchant ships: Aalsum (Dutch, 5418 GRT, built 1922), Alchiba (British, 4427 GRT, built 1920), Algenib (British, 5483 GRT, built 1937), Asbjorn (British, 4387 GRT, built 1935), Athelviscount (British (tanker), 8882 GRT, built 1929), Atlantian (British, 6549 GRT, built 1928), Auditor (British, 5444 GRT, built 1924), Baron Ogilvy (British, 3391 GRT, built 1926), Barrington Court (British, 4910 GRT, built 1924), Beaconstreet (British (tanker), 7467 GRT, built 1927), Botavon (British, 5848 GRT, built 1912), British Faith (British (tanker), 6955 GRT, built 1928), British Fortune (British (tanker), 4696 GRT, built 1930), British Industry (British (tanker), 4297 GRT, built 1927), British Resolution (British (tanker), 8408 GRT, built 1937), Charlton Hall (British, 5200 GRT, built 1940), Daytonian (British, 6434 GRT, built 1922), Delphinula (British (tanker), 8120 GRT, built 1939), Echodale (British (tanker), 8150 GRT, built 1941), Empire Hawk (British, 5033 GRT, built 1919), Empire Steel (British (tanker), 8138 GRT, built 1941), Gitano (British, 3956 GRT, built 1921), Harmala (British, 5730 GRT, built 1935), King Lud (British, 5224 GRT, built 1928), Kingswood (British, 5080 GRT, built 1929), Korsholm (Swedish, 2647 GRT, built 1925), Madrono (Norwegian (tanker), 5894 GRT, built 1917), Morska Wola (Polish, 3208 GRT, built 1924), Pacific Enterprise (British, 6736 GRT, built 1927), Pomella (British (tanker), 6766 GRT, built 1937), Queen City (British, 4814 GRT, built 1924), Redgate (British, 4323 GRT, built 1929), Souliotis (Greek, 4299 GRT, built 1917), Varand (British (tanker), 6023 GRT, built 1927), Vera Radcliffe (British, 5587 GRT, built 1925), Vivi (Norwegian (tanker), 6546 GRT, built 1932) and Wearwood (British, 4597 GRT, built 1930).

On departure from Halifax the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Circassia (A/Capt. E.V. Lees, RN) and the corvettes HMCS Cobalt (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.B. Campbell, RCNR) and HMCS Collingwood (T/Lt. W. Woods, RCNR). The corvettes were detached later the same day.

On 2 May the convoy was joined by the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN). She detached from the convoy on 9 May.

On 11 May the destroyer HMS Broadway (Lt.Cdr. T. Taylor, RN) and corvettes HMS Aubretia (Lt.Cdr. V.F. Smith, RNR), HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Nigella (T/Lt. T.W. Coyne, RNR) joined the convoy

On 12 May the destroyers HMS Burwell (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR), HMS Scimitar (Lt. R.D. Franks, OBE, RN), HMS Malcolm (Cdr. C.D. Howard-Johnston, DSC, RN), HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), corvettes HMS Heliotrope (Lt.Cdr. J. Jackson, RNR), HMS Mallow (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Piggott, RNR), HMS Violet (Lt.Cdr. K.M. Nicholson, RNR), and A/S trawlers HMS Northern Gem (Skr.Lt. W.J.V. Mullender, DSC, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR), HMS Notts County (T/S.Lt. R.H. Hampton, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR) joined the convoy.

On 14 May the corvettes HMS Anemone (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Boys-Smith, DSO and Bar, RD, RNR), HMS Clarkia (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Jones, RNR), HMS Verbena (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, RNVR) and HMS Veronica (Lt.Cdr. (retired) D.F. White, RNR) joined the convoy.

The destroyers HMS Burwell, HMS Scimitar, HMS Malcolm, corvettes HMS Aubretia, HMS Heliotrope, HMS Hollyhock, HMS Mallow, HMS Nigella, HMS Vervena, HMS Veronica and all the A/S trawlers were detached on 14 May.

HMS Circassia and HMS Watchman were detached on 15 May while on the same day the destroyers HMS Burnham (Cdr. J. Bostock, DSC, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. H.M.R. Crichton, RN), escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN), minesweepers HMS Hussar ( Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, RN), HMS Niger ( Lt.Cdr. J.M. Bayley, DSC, RN), and catapult ship Ariguani joined the escort.

On 18 May the destroyer HMS Roxborough (Lt. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN) joined the convoy. Also on this day HMS Leamington and HMS Anemone were detached.

On 19 May the destroyer Saladin joined the escort.

The convoy arrived at Liverpool on 20 May.

7 May 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. J.H. Geijs, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR) and HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. H.M.R. Crichton, RN). (2)

8 May 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. J.H. Geijs, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Burnham (Cdr. J. Bostock, DSC, RN), HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. H.M.R. Crichton, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN), HMS St. Elstan (T/Lt. G. Butcher, RNVR), HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR), HMS Gladiolus (Lt.Cdr. H.M.C. Sanders, DSC, RNR) and HMS Veronica (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) D.F. White, RNR). (2)

5 Sep 1941
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Anemone (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Boys-Smith, DSO and Bar, RD, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/A/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR). (3)

1 Nov 1941
HMS H 44 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Vizalma (T/A/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR) and HMS St. Kenan (T/Lt. R.R. Simpson, RNR). (4)

26 Apr 1942

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 May 1942

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

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

Timespan: 21 May 1942 to 1 June 1942.

21 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

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

22 May 1942.

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

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

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

23 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

24 May 1942.

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

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

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

25 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

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

At 0751 hours U-591 briefly made contact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At 1400 hours U-703 briefly made contact.

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

27 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

29 May 1942.

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

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

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

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

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

HMS Kent arrived at Hvalfiord.

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

30 May 1942.

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

Convoy PQ 16 arrived at Murmansk. Six merchant ships continued on to Archangel where they arrived on 1 June. (6)

22 Dec 1942

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meanwhile in the afternoon of 27 December 1941, ' Force R ' had departed the Kola Inlet to support the convoy. ' Force R ' was made up of the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). They were to provide cover of the convoy going as far west as 11°00'E.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A distant cover force had also been deployed. It was made up of the battleship the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral B.A. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and the destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and had left Akureyri, Iceland on shortly after noon on 26 December. At 0400/29 they had arrived in position 72°36'N, 13°07'E after which they turned back for Iceland.

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

HMS Anson and the three destroyers then proceeded to Seidisfjord where they arrived early in the afternoon of 31 December but not before they had been joined by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney, HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Ledbury earlier in the day. (7)

29 Jan 1943

Convoy RA 52.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet on 29 January 1943.

On departure it was made up of the following merchant vessels; Beauregard (American, 5976 GRT, built 1920), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Dynastic (British, 5773 GRT, built 1919), El Almirante (Panamanian, 5248 GRT, built 1917), El Oceano (Panamanian, 6767 GRT, built 1925), Empire Meteor (British, 7457 GRT, built 1940), Gateway City (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), Greylock (American, 7460 GRT, built 1921) and Wind Rush (American, 5586 GRT, built 1918).

The damaged destroyer HMS Onslow (Lt.Cdr. T.J.G. Marchant, RN) was also part of the convoy. She was not a part of the escort.

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN), minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC and Bar, RNR), HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, DSC, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (Lt. L.A. Sayers, RNR) and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, DSC, RNVR), HMS Northern Gem (Skr. H.C. Aisthorpe, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).

From 1 February onwards the convoy was shadowed by enemy U-boats.

On 2 February, HMS Onslow was detached to proceed independently to Scapa Flow where she arrived on 4 February.

On 3 February, the merchant vessel Greylock was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-255.

On 4 February, HMS Forester was detached to report the convoy's position and then proceed to Seidisfjord to fuel. Also on this day the destroyer HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did the following day.

After the relief escorts had joined on the 5th, HMS Onslaught, HMS Offa, HMS Matchless, HMS Musketeer, ORP Piorun, HMS Icarus, HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog were then etached from convoy to Seidisfiord to fuel, arriving there later the same day.

HMS Seagull and HMS Honeysuckle were also detached to Seidisfjord for some repairs and fuel. They too arrived at Seidisfjord later on the 5th.

On 6 February, HMS Seagull and HMS Honeysuckle departed Seidisfjord to rejoin the convoy which they did on the 7th.

On 7 February, HMS Vivacious was detached from the convoy to join the ' Battleforce '.

On 8 February, HMS Middleton was detached from the convoy to proceed to the Clyde. HMS Blankney, HMS Harrier and HMS Seagull were detached from the convoy to proceed to Scapa Flow.

Later on 8 February, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Hyderabad, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron were detached from the convoy to proceed to the Clyde while HMS Lady Madeleine, HMS Northern Gem, HMS Northern Wave and HMS Vizalma were detached to proceed to Belfast.

The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on the 9th as did all the escorts at their respective destinations.

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

' Force R ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN) and the light cruisers HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) and HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) departed the Kola Inlet on 30 January.

' Force R ' arrived at Scapa Flow on 4 February.

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

The ' Battleforce ', which departed Akureyri on 30 January, was made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Obedient (Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki).

On 1 February, they arrived in the covering position near 73°45'N, 12°40'E. They left this position for Hvalfjord on 2 February.

On 3 February, HMS Obedient was detached to fuel at Seidisfjord.

On 4 February, HMS Anson, HMS Sheffield, HMS Inglefield, HMS Oribi and ORP Orkan arrived at Hvalfjord.

(8)

Sources

  1. ADM 173/16736
  2. File 2.12.03.6376 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  3. ADM 173/16742
  4. ADM 173/16787
  5. ADM 234/359
  6. ADM 199/427 + ADM 234/369
  7. ADM 234/369
  8. ADM 199/632

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


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