Source: ADM 199/1104
The eastbound ships were directed
to proceed to Archangel, and not to Kola Inlet as at first ordered; the
favourable ice conditions in the White Sea making this possible.
It was arranged with the C in C
Northern Fleet that HMS Harrier and Gleaner, working from Iokanka, should
assist in escorting incoming Merchant ships, and that the minesweeping in the
White Sea would be done by Soviet minesweepers. Favourable reports were
subsequently received from MS6 about the cooperation during escort movements.
The first two Eastbound ships to
arrive were the Richard H Alvey and Empire
Gallard. They were met by Russian escorts, and sighted by Russian
aircraft, in company with their escorts, about 100 miles NNW of Cape Kanin, and
within a few miles of each other, at 1050 5th Nov. They were escorted
to Dvina Bar where, on 8th Nov, Richard H Alvey
The ss John
Walker arrived at the Bar on 8th Nov, and on the 9th
went aground. The Richard H Alvey was refloated on
A Russian aircraft reported one
Merchant ship, probably Hugh Williamson, in the
vicinity of Cape Kanin at 1508 on 9th and at 2230 that day she was
met by Harrier and
Two British trawlers, after recall
from rescue patrol, were employed south of position G in searching for incoming
Merchant ships. Generally bad visibility hindered this work.
John Walker was refloated on the 13th
Local escort for the
Empire Scott and Empire Sky
was arranged in collaboration with the Russians in the same manner as for
earlier Merchant ships, but visibility was so poor that it was not until 1730 on
the 17th when Empire Scott arrived off
Semi Island, on the Murman coast, that she was sighted. Russian destroyers and
escort vessels brought her to the Kola Inlet, to which she had been re-routed on
passage. On her arrival, the Master reported having no sight of the Empire Sky and having herself been sighted by a
Blohm & Voss aircraft, upon which she opened fire. The aircraft did not attack.
Nothing is known of the Empire Sky.
Westbound Russian ships:
On the 26th October the
Russian Staff announced the concurrence of the authorities in Moscow to the plan
for sailing independently the eight ships from Byelushaya, though the interval
between sailings of individual ships was variously given as being between 25 and
40 hours. The first ship was to leave at 1400 on the 28th.
The first Westbound ship,
Mossoviet, left Byelushaya at 1415 on the 29th
and it was learned on that day from the Russian staff that the total number of
ships was not eight but nine. The second ship, Azerbaidjan,
sailed at 1400 on the 31st.
AM1947/4 referring to active enemy
air and U-boat operations along the route and recommending the suspension of
further Westbound sailings, was communicated to the Russian Staff, who took the
necessary action as regards the ships in Byelushaya Bay and endeavoured to
recall to tanker Donbass, who sailed at 1340/4.
Their signals were probably not received by this ship, who was attacked by
aircraft at 0947/5 (position 73˚ 35’ N, 48˚ 30’E) and again at 1030/7 (in
position 76˚ 24’ N, 41˚ 30’E). Nothing more was heard of her.
The purport of AM 1710/6, advising
the re-routing of westbound ships to eastward of Jan Mayen Island and thence to
Akureyri, was conveyed to the Russian authorities, who took action in
Rescue ships in the Barents Sea
The Russians were at first
disinclined to employ two submarines on rescue duty, but by the 27th
October they had agreed to do this, and S101 and S102 were detailed, as well as
two trawlers for the furthest North positions. Two British trawlers were
allocated for rescue patrol in the southward area, being required later to act
as escort for Convoy QP15.
The performance of the British
trawlers when using Russian coal, deteriorated to the extent that their speed
was reduced to a doubtful 8 knots and the coaling facilities at Iokanka involved
considerable delays. Nevertheless, during the early stages of the operation all
rescue craft were in position at the required time.
The Russian Staff reported that on
the 5th November both of the Russian trawlers had been attacked by
aircraft. Subsequently one of these ships failed to return and the other reached
Iokanka in damaged condition.
On receipt of AM 1225/6,
recommending the recall of rescue craft, the Russians were advised to withdraw
their trawlers but not the two submarines and this was acted on. The British
trawlers were recalled and Harrier and
Gleaner were instructed not to proceed North of
position ‘G’. HM Trawler Argona was attacked by
aircraft at 1040A/8 in the Southern Barents Sea, but sustained no damage.
On receiving AM 0050/11, ordering
the Empire Scott and Empire
Sky to continue their passage, an effort was made to station two trawlers
in the vicinity of the original patrol positions, but their reduced speed, and
the coaling difficulties referred to above, prevented their reaching them…
Reconnaissance and Patrol of
On the 2nd November a
negative reply was received from the Russian staff to the enquiry as to whether
Russian submarines would be available to occupy areas 2 and 2A during the
passage of QP15.
The necessity for effective air
reconnaissance of Alten Fjord was frequently pressed but it is almost certain
that it was lacking. Of the three PRU Spitfires turned over to the Russians,
only one was operational and it was probable that weather conditions were on the
In view of the possibility of a
sortie by enemy surface forces the Russians sailed submarine K3 for patrol in
area 2A, which was not occupied at the time.
The following 30 merchant ships
were assembled at the Dvina Bar to sail in the convoy.
Temple Arch (Commodore Meek),
Empire Tristram, Dan-Y-Bryn (Vice
Commodore), Empire Snow,
Empire Morn (CAM Ship), Empire Baffin,
Goolistan, Ocean Faith.
Virginia Dare, Sahale,
Nathaniel Green, Exford,
William Moultrie, Patrick
Henry, Essex Hopkins,
Schoharie, St Olaf,
Hollywood, Charles R McCormick,
Lafayette, White Clover.
Andre Marti, Thilisi,
Komiles, Kusnetz Lesov
and the Rescue Ship
The ocean escort from Archangel was
provided by HMS Ulster Queen,
Halcyon (SO), Salamander,
Bryony, Bergamot and
Two Russian destroyers provided
additional local escort as far as 74˚30N
and HMT St Keenan sailed from Iokanka to join the
convoy off Cape Gorodetski. She was unable to maintain the requisite speed due
to the poor quality of the Russian coal and, in accordance with previous orders,
returned to harbour….
Captain (D)8 in
Faulknor, with Intrepid,
Icarus, Impulsive and
Echo, who had fuelled in the Kola Inlet, sailed
from there at 1400/19 in order to join the convoy…
Four D/f fixes of U-boats were
received here from the Russian staff on the 20th and 21st,
all ahead of the convoy, and these were passed to the escort.
Heavy weather was encountered in
the Southern Barents Sea, and persisted for many days, causing all ships to
become widely separated. Signals were received from escorts during the
concluding days of the convoy’s passage indicating the extent of the
The British Tanker Hopemount was
lent to the Russians and sent along the Siberian Coast as far as the Tikse Bay to
fuel the small flotilla of Russian destroyers coming round here from
On the 11th October she
had got back as far as Yugorski Strait and was kept there to fuel Russian escort
vessels who were engaged in bring back to the White Sea and Kola Inlet the large
number of Merchant ships being evacuated from the Kara Sea for the winter.
On 26th November the
Hopemount arrived at Iokanka where she is being
used to fuel small British and Russian vessels escorting ships from the White
Sea to the Kola Inlet for the winter (oil is inaccessible for small vessels in
the White Sea in the winter). It appear that the
Hopemount’s propeller has been damaged and that her bow has been damaged
by ice and that she can only do 6 knots, but so far it has been impossible to
get details. The ship is shortly coming to the Kola Inlet, when a full
inspection and report will be made.
Permits, Passports and Visas
In addition to the ever present
trouble of securing visas for the entry into Russia of the Naval staff necessary
for convoy operations, regulations have been made which make it almost as
difficult to get out of the country as it is to get in to it. These regulations
involve completing a four page declaration form, producing five photographs of
passport size, giving 14 days notice of intention to leave so that the matter
may be referred to Moscow, reporting in person to the police in Murmansk for
scrutiny of documents, and finally having obtained an exit visa, embarking only
in the presence of a representative of the NKVD. Although these regulations have
been in the background in a milder form for some months, they were enforced
without notice at a most inconvenient time just as a draft for the United
Kingdom was about to embark. They are, of course, most inconvenient generally as
the 14 day’s notice, or even 4 days which is the absolute minimum, may result in
relieved personnel missing the opportunity of return to the United Kingdom, on
occasions when their reliefs arrive at short notice, or without notice as they
frequently do. Also the trip to Murmansk from Polyarnoe under winter conditions
may involve an absence of three or four days.
The entry visa and exit visa are in
addition to a registration card which everyone is now being provided with and to
sundry local passes all of which have photographs. It is extraordinary that we
should be subject to so much control (and presumably, suspicion) when in the
country for the sole purposes of assisting it. I trust that the Russians in the
United Kingdom are subject to similar vexations and humiliating formalities…
Rear Admiral SBNO, North