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Arctic Convoys

Discussion in 'Convoys and Troopships' started by LRusso216, Jul 31, 2015.

  1. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I read a book, oh, 35 years ago (?) called The Destruction of Convoy PQ-17. The Tirpitz merely shifted anchorage in Norway, and the Admiralty ordered the convoy to scatter under the assumption that a German battle group was coming out to intercept them. The scatter order was rigid meaning that many of the vessels had to actually sail south towards Norway (and the German airfields) to obey the command. Most of the convoy was then lost to German planes and submarines in extreme conditions. Each ship was alone, so if they went down the entire crew was lost. Nobody was going to paddle a lifeboat to Scotland or whatever, so they just sat in those boats until they died.

    It's a riveting book and probably still available.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The story of PQ17 was a lot more complex than that, no doubts the weather conditions in the area the convoys had to go through were pretty appalling, but at least ships provided some sort of shelter and cove, and were usually capable of providing the crews with some sort of hot meals. Ground troops often fought in similar conditions without either.
     
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  4. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Read Forgotten Sacrifice. It's the riveting story of these convoys, and the kinds of dangers they faced. Dying in a lifeboat was just one of the perils they encountered. Scary.
     
  5. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Actually, K-Beer, I happen to have that book. It was written by David Irving before he was outed as a Nazi sympathizer. In it he states that quite a few survivors made it to land or were rescued at sea. One crew, from the Carlton was helped by a U-Boat then picked up later by the Germans. Those not having medical issues were put on a troopship with about 1000 German troops headed for Germany (and I suppose the Russian Front). It hit a mine and started slowly sinking. According to Irving's account the German soldiers panicked and the Carlton's crew calmed them down and got them organized to abandon the ship properly. As such only a few of the German's did not survive. A strange tale and I suppose those Carlton survivors could have been, but were not, prosecuted after the war for giving aid and comfort to the enemy!
     
  6. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    For one that has spent of of his 75 winters in Alabama, Georgia or Louisiana I certainly cannot imagine the difficulties of convoys to Murmansk either as Allied or Axis . Ice is reulaed to ice tea or seen in movies. when I see pictures of ships almost frozen into blocks of ice or soldiers on the North East Front I psychologically shiver. winter seems the worst weapon, but together I do not know how men stood it.

    I remember reading a book as a young man , part of a series by a British naval writer, about a cruiser in that area. The descriptions of cold and ice still remaine but I cannot remember the author. Probably in the 50-70 era and he wrote numerous novels on The Royal Navy in WW2. It may come to me, but doubtful. Ring anyone's bell.??

    BTW, who is our best authority on the Imperial Japanese Navy in WW2.
     
  7. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    It may not be the same author, but Douglas Reeman wrote some excellent naval novels including one about the Arctic convoys. He served in the Royal Navy during WWII, including convoy duty in the Atlantic and Arctic.

    And yes, ground troops fought in worse conditions. But the Merchant Navy weren't troops - they didn't have a lot to fight back with.........
     
  8. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    Thank you kindly, It certainly sounds like Douglas Reeman, I will have to check Kindle and see what i9s available .. I use to work for a former Merchant Marine sailor and he mentioned the feeling of feeling virtually defenseless. In 1984 I walked through the British WW 2 destroyer docked near Brighton Pier. Being in it during warfare must have been trying anytime, bring on the Murmansk run frightening. I forget her name but she is now docked ESE of London and is a museum ship.. Crew comfort obviously was not a priority !!!!


    Found it. HMS Cavalier at Chatham Naval museum..........................I had no idea that 11,000 sailors had died in British destroyers in WW2.
    From the pictures she has been nicely restored.

    More research shows she escorted a convoy to the Kola peninsula in February of 1945 so ironically she fits this thread.
     
  9. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I spent some years on cutters out of Alaska. It was miserable, even though nobody was shooting at us! Some of those pictures could be taken today - the crew still has to knock the ice off with sledges or eventually enough weight will build up to turn you over. Another thing that wouldn't occur to anybody who hasn't sailed in the arctic is that in heavy seas (in winter) those waves are throwing pack ice onto your deck and against your superstructure. You can get used to the rhythm of even the largest waves - you're level, then you feel the bow climb, then the crest comes over your bow and hits the "ball breaker" (a curved arc on top of the foc'sle to further break up waves) and the whole ship shudders and you might lose half your speed before speeding up again on the ride down into the next wave. That water from the previous wave is running down the decks the length of the ship and out the scuppers. Well, that's bad enough, but you can get used to that, believe it or not. You pick up the rhythm and time your moves accordingly.

    Yet, when you have pack ice all the above happens, but instead of just an audible crash of sea water hitting your bow and ball breaker, you have tons of ice crashing against steel. An icebreaker bow (and the ball breaker on the deck behind it) are designed to withstand that, yet you still have chunks of ice 4, 6, 8 feet in diameter breaking above that and crashing across your forward decks. When you hear a particularly loud crash you can only wonder what has broken and what will have to be repaired. The guys on the bridge are shining lights down to see what is still there (it's always night in winter), and the duty deckies and snipes are looking along the superstructure from inside for dents or tears.

    This was taken when I was on the Cutter Storis, about 1990. It must be a balmy summer day, because no ice is forming.

    View attachment 22824
     

    Attached Files:

  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Sounds like Alistair Maclean HMS Ulysses https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Ulysses_(novel)

    Other accounts are "The Convoy is to scatter" by Jack Broome - instructor in ASW and then commander of the close escort on PQ17. His "Make a signal" is good as well.

    Arctic Victory: Story of Convoy PQ18 by Peter C. Smith

    ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman,

    The Kola Run: A Record of Arctic Convoys 1941-1945 by Vice-Admiral Sir Ian Campbell and Captain Donald Macintyre


    My father in law served on HMS Milne PQ 18 and invalided our of the RN after being impaled on a deck cleat by a wave. His story was that he was lucky. The other seaman on deck was never seen again. It wasn't until I tracked down the ship and passage that I workied out it was PQ18. I confronted him with the statement that the history books say the convoy was under ceaseless and and submarine attack and only 27 out of 52 merchantmen arrived. His response. I thought that happened every voyage. The Russians finally awarded him one of their Admiral Ushakov (?) medals but the presentation to his widow took place aten days after his death this January. (Sorry if i have posted this before, but I am proud of the old man.)

    I M R Campbell author of the Kola run was Captain of HMS Milne.
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    IIRC 156 merchant seamen were lost on P17, from about 22 ships sunk, so the majority of crewmen did survive. For all the propaganda about nasty evil U-boats, the Germans frequently assisted survivors, something we rarely hear about from other nations' submarines.
     
  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Did the U Boats assist any of the ships lost on PQ17?
     
  13. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Ships-no. Survivors-yes! In my post above I referred to how the survivors of the Carlton were given blankets, water, food and navigational help to get to land. The U-Boat was U-376, commanded by KaLu Friedrich-Karl Marks. He told the survivors that he regretted that he couldn't take them on board because there was no room on the boat.
     
  14. 15thusinfantry

    15thusinfantry New Member

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    My dad was a part of these convoys to Russia. He only told me a little about them. He was out of Londonderry, NI. Not someplace I would want to be, especially at sea, in the frozen north.
     
  15. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Some info I found during the years of reading books...

    [SIZE=small]Convoy battles[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12pt]Here´s one example:

    SC-104

    Sydney - UK
    12 Oct, 1942 - 16 Oct, 1942


    The Convoy 48 ships

    U-boats
    The wolfpack Wotan of 10 boats U-216 (Kptlt. Schultz), U-221 (Kptlt. Trojer) *, U-258 (Kptlt. von Mässenhausen), U-356 (Kptlt. Wallas), U-410 (Kptlt. Sturm), U-599 (Kptlt. Breithaupt), U-607 (Kptlt. Mengersen) *, U-615 (Kptlt. Kapitzky), U-618 (Kptlt. Baberg) *, U-662 (Korvkpt. Hermann)

    The wolfpack Leopard of 7 boats: U-254 (Kptlt. Loewe), U-353 (Oblt. Römer) ++, U-382 (Kptlt. Juli), U-437 (Kptlt. Schulz), U-442 (Korvkpt. Hesse), U-620 (Kptlt. Stein), U-661 (Oblt. von Lilienfeld) *

    * U-boats that fired torpedo or used the deck gun

    18 ships sunk for a total of 44.729 tons from convoy SC-104

    The details and more convoy battles:


    http://uboat.net/ops...voys/sc-104.htm[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=12pt]---------[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=12pt]From Belton Y Cooper´s book Death traps something he learnt on the way over the Atlantic to Europe

    When a hospital ship approached a convoy
    , the convoy[/SIZE] would open up and let it pass through. Knowing this, the German submarines would surface at night and follow the hospital ship closely and could thus enter the convoy.In an attempt to counter this, Allied navies would drop several charges behind any hospital ship that approached a convoy.
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    [SIZE=small]Greatest Convoy Battle of All Time

    In March 1943, Convoys HX229 and SC122 with 88 merchant ships and 15 escorts, were bound for Europe from New York, via Halifax, on parallel courses. In mid-Atlantic, they were relentlessly attacked by 45 U-Boats operating individually and in "wolfpacks," who fired 90 torpedoes, sinking 22 ships, and resulting in 372 dead. Germany called it the "greatest convoy battle of all time."

    British and U.S. escorts used 298 depth charges to sink one German submarine and to damage several others, while suffering 1 casualty. Escort vessels were overwhelmed by the simultaneous need to hunt submarines and pick up survivors.
    [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=small]http://www.usmm.org/...l#anchor1638580[/SIZE]

    ----------

    Interesting if Stalin considered the convoys important...

    [SIZE=12pt]David Wragg Sacrifice for Stalin

    Interesting book on the lend lease although 90% concentrates on the convoys themselves.

    Anyway, it does seem rather awkward the the convoys were blamed by the Soviets 1.too little too late 2. poor material for warfare was received.

    And why is that awkward. According to the book:

    1. The USSR did not prepare any air force cover for the convoy during any part of the trip

    2. Only two destroyers were sent for the closing in on the harbour part

    3. the vehicles for lifting the vehicles (in Murmansk), tanks etc were totally useless for the job. The allied brought ships with suitable lift systems to Russia.And even so the ships waited for unnecessary long times to get their cargo out of the ships.

    4. there were no dry docks or hospitals for the convoy to use.

    So the Soviets (Stalin?!) did nothing to protect the convoys, nothing to speed up the material being delivered to the front, nothing to fix the ships and men to get back to to job. Interesting....
    [/SIZE]
     

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