1st August - 31st December, 1942

  'How . . . could anyone who had really studied imagine that . . . a vast number of light craft of all kinds would not be needed in war?'
    Richmond. National Policy and Naval Strength (1928).

A brief review of the strength available to both sides shortly before the start of this phase will help the reader to understand the difficulties which the Home Fleet had to face. In mid July the American contribution to the war in the eastern Atlantic had been reduced by the withdrawal of the battleship Washington and four destroyers. Admiral Giffen, U.S.N., then transferred his flag to the heavy cruiser Wichita, which, together with the Tuscaloosa, remained part of Admiral Tovey's fleet for a short time longer. In August the Wichita was recalled. The Tuscaloosa carried out one more operation in the Arctic (to be recounted shortly), and then she too left British waters. 'Task Force 99', which had, in Admiral Tovey's words, been 'a welcome reinforcement to the Home Fleet', thus came to an end. Before these withdrawals took place the King George V had completed her refit and rejoined the fleet, which then comprised two battleships (King George V and Duke of York) and one battle cruiser (Renown). The new battleship Anson was, however, working up efficiency and would soon be ready to play her full part. On the enemy side the Tirpitz, Scheer and Hipper were all fit for service and were now using Narvik instead of Trondheim as their main base. On the 13th of July the light cruiser Köln sailed north from Oslo, and on the 6th of August she too joined the Narvik squadron; on the l0th the pocket-battleship Lützow, which had been damaged by grounding near Narvik on the 3rd of July1, returned from Trondheim to Germany. Two of our submarines tried unsuccessfully to catch her off Egersund, while No. 18 Group's intended air attacks were frustrated by fog.

Meanwhile the urgency of getting a convoy through to Malta was considered by the Cabinet to override all other tasks, including the


despatch of another convoy to Russia. The story of that operation ('Pedestal') will be told in another chapter.2 Here we need only note that the Nelson and Victorious, the cruisers Nigeria, Kenya and Manchester and eleven destroyers of the powerful escort all came from the Home Fleet. The convoy left the Clyde on the 4th of August and passed the Straits of Gibraltar six days later. In the heavy fighting which marked its eastward progress the old aircraft carrier Eagle, the Manchester and one Home Fleet destroyer were sunk, while the Nigeria and Kenya were both damaged. It was the end of August before the surviving ships rejoined Admiral Tovey.

The only merchant ships to sail for Arctic ports in August were two Russians, which left independently from Iceland and got through unscathed after a very long passage. Meanwhile preparations to run a big convoy in September were being pressed ahead. The Prime Minister had urged on the Admiralty the need for 'a further and intense effort . . . to solve the problem of running convoys by the northern route'. He suggested fighting the next one through by a more southerly course, 'not hugging the ice', but under an air 'umbrella' provided from all our available fleet and escort carriers.3 But to the Naval Staff, which had always to consider each requirement in relation to its other world-wide commitments, this meant hazarding our entire carrier strength for a purpose which could not justify taking such risks with irreplaceable ships. The idea was therefore dropped.

To run a September convoy by more conventional methods required, firstly, the replacement of the stores and ammunition for our ships in North Russia, much of which had been lost in PQ 17. On the 20th of July four destroyers sailed to Archangel for this purpose, and arrived safely. Secondly arrangements had to be made to improve our air cover and striking power, particularly at the Russian end of the route. We could deal with the Narvik squadron from the air only by sending heavy bombers from England to attack it in harbour, and by keeping a torpedo-bomber force in North Russia to strike at the German ships if they followed our convoys into the Barents Sea. Attack with heavy bombers depended on our Allies furnishing a base at which they could land in the far north after their strike; while a torpedo-bomber force would need a properly organised base and ground staff if it was to work efficiently. Admiral Tovey agreed to send out the ground staff and R.A.F. stores as soon as Russian co-operation was obtained. The American cruiser Tuscaloosa and three destroyers accordingly sailed from Greenock on the 13th of August with the men and equipment for Nos. 144 and 455 Hampden Squadrons, and landed them safely. They also carried a


British medical unit to look after our sick and wounded in North Russia, who had been suffering severe privations. Moscow flatly declined to allow the medical personnel to be landed at Archangel, a decision for which no reasons were given, and which Admiral Tovey described, with moderation, as 'astonishing' behaviour by the ally in whose cause our men had been disabled. The medical unit came back in the next westward convoy.

Early in September thirty-two Hampden torpedo-bombers left Sumburgh for North Russia. They were routed first to Afrikanda, a base further behind the front line than Vaenga, from which they would actually operate.4 Six of the bombers crashed in Norway or Sweden during the outward flight, and of two others which lost their way one was seriously damaged in making a forced landing and the other was shot down by Russian fighters when it unluckily arrived over Kola Inlet during an air raid. By the 5th of September twenty-four Hampdens had reached Vaenga safely. At about the same time four photographic reconnaissance Spitfires flew to Vaenga. Finally No. 210 Catalina long-range reconnaissance squadron followed. They were to work from Lake Lakhta and Grasnaya, and their equipment was flown out in advance by other Catalinas. It thus came to pass that, in spite of the great difficulties of climate and distance, a balanced force of reconnaissance planes and strike aircraft was set up by us in North Russia by early September 1942, under the command of Group Captain F. L. Hopps. Finally, after various conferences had been held in Russia, an Area Combined Headquarters was established at Polyarnoe, where the Senior British Naval Officer, now Rear-Admiral D. B. Fisher, was already installed. In London it had meanwhile been agreed that the most important duty for the Catalinas was to watch the enemy surface warships; escort for PQ 18 came second, and, for the westbound QP 14, third in priority.

Before the convoys sailed the Scheer made a brief sortie to attack Russian shipping believed to be using the route north of Siberia. She left Narvik on the 16th of August, passed north of Novaya Zemlya and went as far as about 78° North 100° East; but the only victim she found was one ice-breaker. By the 30th the pocket-battleship was back in Narvik again. His wireless intelligence service had revealed to the enemy our intentions regarding where the next pair of convoys should cross over, and where the escort was to change from the outward to the homeward convoy. He accordingly sent U-boats, destroyers and an auxiliary minelayer to infest the entrance to the White Sea and the shallow waters off Novaya Zemlya with mines. The minelayer Ulm was employed on this purpose during the


Scheer's cruise; but she was caught by the destroyers which, with the Tuscaloosa, were returning home after taking men and stores to North Russia, and was sunk south-east of Bear Island on the 25th of August.5 Towards the end of September and again in early November the Hipper and destroyers made more minelaying sorties along the Barents Sea route, between Novaya Zemlya and Spitzbergen; but the only success achieved by all this minelaying appears to have been the sinking of one Russian tanker.

For the passage of PQ 18 the naval plans were entirely recast. In Admiral Tovey's opinion covering the convoy with the battle fleet after it had passed Bear Island did not provide really effective protection, and he was strongly opposed to taking his heavy ships into the Barents Sea. If the battle fleet was kept at sea a large number of long-endurance destroyers was absorbed in screening it, and he much preferred to use them to strengthen the convoy's escort. The Commander-in-Chief was confident that, provided the inevitable losses were accepted, we could fight a convoy through, but he thought it essential that it should take its chief defence against surface ship attack along with it; and that meant a very powerful escort of destroyers armed with torpedoes. These would reinforce the close anti-submarine and anti-aircraft escorts until such time as enemy surface ships appeared, when they would at once devote their full effort to attacking them. He considered that 'a fighting destroyer escort' of twelve to sixteen ships would probably deter the enemy surface ships altogether; if they persisted in trying to attack the convoy, it was strong enough to defeat them. Rear-Admiral R. L. Burnett, flying his flag in the light cruiser Scylla, was accordingly put in command of the whole escort, including the sixteen additional fleet destroyers allocated to accompany the outward and the homeward convoys during the critical parts of their journeys. Furthermore an escort carrier, the Avenger (Commander A. P. Colthurst), which carried a dozen fighters and three anti-submarine Swordfish, was included in the escort for the first time. The size of the operation which these convoys and the concurrent reinforcement of Spitzbergen involved will be best indicated by tabulating all the ships taking part.

Table 21. Convoy PQ 18. Escort and Covering Forces.
(1)  Convoy. Thirty-nine merchantmen, a rescue ship, an oiler and three minesweepers bound for Russia, and two fleet oilers. Under Commodore (Rear-Admiral, Retired) E. K. Boddam-Whetham.

(2)  Close Escort. Two destroyers, two anti-aircraft ships, two submarines, four corvettes, three minesweepers and four trawlers.
(3)  Carrier Force. Avenger and two destroyers.
(4)  'Fighting Destroyer Escort'. Scylla, and sixteen destroyers, divided into two separate forces.
(5)  Spitzbergen Fuelling Force. Two fleet oilers and four destroyers, for Lowe Sound.
(6)  Cruiser Covering Force. Norfolk (flag of Vice-Admiral S. S. Bonham Carter), Suffolk and London.
(7)  To carry reinforcements and stores to Spitzbergen. Cumberland, Sheffield and one destroyer.
(8)  Distant Covering Force (from Akureyri in north Iceland) Anson (flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, Second-in-Command Home Fleet), Duke of York, Jamaica and five short-endurance destroyers.
(9)  Submarine Patrols. Four off Lofoten Islands, three off north Norway.


The Commander-in-Chief himself stayed at Scapa in the King George V, and controlled the operation from that base. He reported later that he found this arrangement advantageous. The sea-keeping capacity of the distant covering force was naturally much restricted by the lack of a proper screen; but that handicap had been deliberately accepted. One other change was made in the plans. To give both convoys full protection while they most needed it, namely in the Barents Sea, the earlier custom of sailing them so that they crossed in the neighbourhood of Bear Island had to be abandoned. The west-bound convoy, QP 14, was therefore ordered not to sail till the east-bound convoy had nearly reached its destination. This, of course, greatly extended the whole operation, with all the additional strain on ships and crews. Furthermore at this time of year the ice edge had receded far to the north, which permitted the convoys to pass north of Bear Island, but also lengthened their time on passage. It was the increased duration of the operation caused by these factors which made it necessary to send so many oilers with, or ahead of, the convoy. The escorts were to refuel from the two oilers in the convoy, or would be sent in turn to replenish from the two in Lowe Sound, Spitzbergen. It has been mentioned that the enemy became aware, from our wireless traffic, of the revised plans for the next pair of convoys.

The main body of the outward convoy sailed from Loch Ewe on the 2nd of September. To conserve the long-range escorts' fuel, ships from the Western Approaches command looked after it as far as the Denmark Strait. On the 7th the long-range escort relieved the Western Approaches group, and two days later Admiral Burnett joined with the Scylla, Avenger and half the 'fighting destroyer escort'. The other half of the latter had gone ahead to Lowe Sound to fuel from the oilers, which had left Scapa on the 3rd.

The enemy was determined to do his best to repeat his success against PQ 17.6 He first devoted a great deal of flying to the attempt


to find PQ 18, before it had actually sailed; but on the 8th of September his air searches succeeded in locating it north of Iceland. Twelve U-boats were disposed in three groups along its anticipated course. On the 10th the Scheer, Hipper, Köln and some destroyers moved from Narvik to Altenfiord. They were sighted by our submarine patrols, but only the Tigris got in an attack, and she missed. The Tirpitz stayed behind in Narvik. On the 13th the German Group Command, North, wished to sail the Altenfiord squadron to attack QP 14; but Hitler warned Raeder that, because the ships were so important to the defence of Norway, he must not accept undue risks. Raeder thereupon cancelled the operation, and the surface ships remained idle throughout the convoys' passages. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, was ordered to make a great effort against PQ 18. Once again the German failure to integrate sea and air operations is to be remarked. There were now ninety-two German torpedo-bombers and 133 long-range and dive-bombers in north Norway. The enemy knew that a carrier was accompanying the convoy, and decided to single her out as the chief target.

Between the 9th and 13th of September the escorts refuelled by


Map 26

Map 26. Convoy PQ 18.  Typical cruising Order with Full Escort.


detachments in Lowe Sound or from the convoy oilers, and by the afternoon of the latter date all had rejoined; the escort was thus at full strength for the most hazardous stretch. The convoy was then about 150 miles north-west of Bear Island. A typical formation of the convoy and its unusually powerful and assorted escort when at full strength is shown on the diagram on page 282.

So far things had gone well. The Faulknor had sunk U-88 ahead of the convoy on the 12th, but next morning two ships in the starboard wing column were torpedoed and sunk. Other U-boat attacks were foiled by the destroyers and air patrols. Foggy weather, rain and snow storms had so far shielded the convoy from the air, but by the 13th enemy shadowers were in continuous touch with it. The Avenger's Sea Hurricanes could do little against the heavily protected German aircraft.7 The first air attack took place that afternoon, and what was very ominous about it was that the convoy was then at least 450 miles from the German shore air bases. It was evident that even with the ice edge at its furthest northern limit our convoys could not be kept outside air striking distance from north Norway. After preliminary and ineffective bombing by a number of Ju-88s, about forty torpedo planes came in low on the convoy's starboard bow, in line abreast 'like a huge flight of nightmare locusts'. The merchantmen and escorts threw up an intense barrage and the Commodore ordered an emergency turn to starboard which, in the excitement of the moment seems not to have been executed. The enemy pressed in very boldly, and the attack was over in seven or eight minutes. In the two starboard wing columns of the convoy only one ship survived. Eight ships in all were sunk, at a cost to the enemy of five aircraft. Two more attacks, but of a much less dangerous nature, were beaten off later that evening without further loss; but the convoy had taken a hard knock in the massed attack. The Avenger's aircraft were engaged with shadowers or high-level bombers at the time, and thus no fighter defence was available. Her Captain decided in future to reserve his small fighter strength to break up large formations. In the early hours of the 14th the oiler Atheltemplar in the convoy was damaged by a U-boat, and had to be sunk. But she was avenged when, not many hours later, coordinated action by one of the Avenger's Swordfish and the destroyer Onslow led to the destruction of U-589.

Meanwhile the possibility that the Tirpitz was at sea was causing anxiety in London. On the 14th a reconnaissance aircraft sent from Britain found that she was not in her usual berth in Narvik, while a similar reconnaissance from North Russia had only located the


Scheer, Hipper and Köln. In fact the Tirpitz was only exercising inside Vestfiord, but the uncertainty as to her whereabouts, and a gap in the long-range patrols off north Norway during the night of the 13th-14th, led to the Hampden torpedo striking force being sent out on an offensive sweep. However they sighted nothing. Doubts regarding the Tirpitz's movements were not dispelled until she was seen back in her old anchorage on the 18th.

In the early afternoon of the 14th the air battle around the convoy was renewed by a torpedo attack similar to that which had wrought such destruction the previous day, but smaller. This time the torpedo-bombers concentrated against the Avenger and the escorting warships. The carrier and the A.A. ship Ulster Queen stood out from the convoy to gain freedom of manoeuvre, and the former flew off half a dozen Hurricanes. The fighters drove off some enemies, while the escorts' gunfire forced others to drop their torpedoes at long range. No ships were hit and thirteen torpedo-bombers were shot down. 'It was a fine sight', wrote Admiral Burnett, 'to see [the] Avenger peeling off Hurricanes whilst streaking across the front of the convoy . . . Altogether a most gratifying action'. Next came more bombing by Ju-88s. Though some ships, including the invaluable carrier, had narrow escapes, none was hit. Then more torpedo-bombers arrived, and again they made a dead set at the Avenger; but she was ready for them, and by clever organisation managed to get ten of her twelve Hurricanes in the air at the critical moment. They and the escorts' guns destroyed nine enemies. One merchantman-again in the ill-fated starboard wing column-was torpedoed and blew up, and three Hurricanes were lost when they most gallantly accepted the risk of flying through our own ships' barrage. Happily all the pilots were rescued. The last event of the day was another ineffectual bombing attack.

Next day, the 15th, was comparatively quiet-if such an expression can ever be used to describe a day with a Russian convoy in the Barents Sea. Only about half a hundred bombers attacked, and they were well harried by fighters and gunfire. No ships were hit. Though a lull in the air battle followed, there were still a large number of U-boats to contend with. About a dozen were in contact with the convoy, but their attempts to penetrate the screen were promptly and successfully countered. The presence of escorting Catalinas after the 15th of September certainly contributed to this favourable result. No attacks got home, and early on the 16th the destroyer Impulsive sank U-457.

That same afternoon Admiral Burnett and the greater part of his force left PQ 18, to take over protection of the homeward convoy. PQ 18 received, however, a welcome reinforcement of four Russian destroyers by way of replacement. On the 18th, when at the entrance


to the White Sea, the convoy was again attacked by a combination of bombers and torpedo-bombers. One ship was lost, but four enemies were destroyed-one of them by the Hurricane of the C.A.M. ship Empire Morn.8 The fighter pilot (Flying Officer A. H. Barr) then drove off other enemies by making dummy attacks, and finally flew 240 miles to an airfield near Archangel. He landed with four gallons of petrol left. A last enemy attempt was made on the 20th while the convoy, as though it had not already endured enough, was trying to shelter from a full gale which had blown up. Luckily no damage was done.

So ended the battle of PQ 18. It had been chiefly fought between the escorts and the Luftwaffe, and the latter, urged on personally by Marshal Goring, had done its worst. Though enemy aircraft sank ten ships, they lost about forty of their number in doing so; and they entirely failed in their purpose of breaking up the convoy in the way that they had, as they erroneously believed, broken up PQ 17. U-boats sank three more ships, but lost three of their number in the battle. Twenty-seven of the original forty ships in the convoy reached Archangel.

Convoy QP 14, of fifteen ships, left Archangel on the 13th of September under Commodore Dowding, R.N.R., who had been in charge of the ill-fated PQ 17 and had seen it through its agony most heroically.9 QP 14 had an escort of two anti-aircraft ships and eleven corvettes, minesweepers and trawlers. It was joined by Admiral Burnett's force on the 17th in about 75° North and 48° East. The next three days were comparatively uneventful. The weather was thick at first, and this, combined with a diversion made up the west coast of Spitzbergen, defeated shadowing aircraft and U-boats. The two fleet oilers which had been with the outward convoy had by this time emptied their tanks in supplying the escorts, so one of the Spitzbergen oilers was fetched out by destroyers to join the homeward convoy.

After the relative quiet of the first week the luck changed on the 20th. Firstly the fleet minesweeper Leda was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat. Though the Avenger's Swordfish and the destroyers hunted and harried the enemies which were trailing the convoy, they did not actually succeed in destroying any of them at this time. In the evening a merchantman, the Silver Sword, which had survived PQ 17, was sunk. As the danger from air attack had now passed Admiral Burnett transferred his flag to the destroyer Milne, and sent home the Avenger and Scylla escorted by three destroyers. He considered that to keep these valuable ships longer with the convoy would only offer tempting targets to the U-boats; but his decision deprived the


merchantmen of the regular air anti-submarine escort which only a carrier could provide, and the consequences were quickly felt. Hardly had the warships parted company when the destroyer Somali, which was with the convoy, was torpedoed. Her sister ship, the Ashanti, took her in tow, and they struggled west for eight hours. Then, when 420 miles had been covered, a gale blew up and the Somali broke in half. Another of the splendid pre-war Tribal class destroyers, originally sixteen strong had gone.10

Very soon after the Avenger had been detached Admiral Burnett signalled for long-range shore-based aircraft 'to escort QP 14 and assist in keeping submarines down'. Next day, the 21St, Catalinas and Liberators from the Shetlands and Iceland were with the convoy for about four hours; but the slow Atlantic convoy SC 100 was meanwhile being subjected to heavy U-boat attacks, and was in urgent need of air escort. This made it more difficult than ever for Coastal Command to look after QP 14.

Admiral Burnett in the Milne parted company with the convoy on the 22nd, leaving it in charge of Captain Scott-Moncrieff in the Faulknor. He had eleven destroyers and nine smaller ships left to screen the merchantmen, but weather conditions made it impossible for shore-based aircraft from either the Shetlands or Iceland to fly any sorties that day. An hour after the Milne had gone three ships were sunk by U-435 in a matter of a few minutes. One was the Bellingham, another survivor of PQ 17, one was the Commodore's ship and the third was a fleet oiler. This was a hard blow, coming after so many trials and perils had been successfully surmounted. The lack of air cover and the inevitable exhaustion of the crews of the escorting warships, which had been at sea in conditions demanding perpetual vigilance and producing unparalleled physical and mental strain for about eighteen continuous days and nights, both probably contributed to the U-boat getting inside the screen.


Happily it was the last attack. On the 23rd air escorts reached the convoy, a Catalina of No. 210 Squadron sank U-253, and the U-boat attacks ceased. The twelve survivors of QP 14 reached Loch Ewe on the 26th.

It remains to mention that the main battle force of the Home Fleet had put to sea for two periods from Akureyri to try to produce the illusion that heavy ship cover was being afforded while the convoys were east of Bear Island; that the cruiser covering force had revictualled the Spitzbergen garrison for the winter and had then covered the returning convoy; that photographic aircraft had kept a constant watch on the German warships, and that Catalinas had patrolled off north Norway throughout the convoys' passages.

There was certainly ground for reasonable satisfaction over the outcome of these operations. True, the losses of merchantmen and warships had been serious, but the escorts had hit back hard and effectively. Not only did the enemy lose a total of four U-boats, but out of 337 air sorties flown by the Luftwaffe against PQ 18, thirty-three torpedo planes, six long-range bombers and two reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed. Moreover it seemed clear that, in Admiral Tovey's words, 'the constant [air] reconnaissance [of Altenfiord], together with the strength of the destroyer covering force, the presence of torpedo aircraft in north Russia and of our submarines off the coast, probably all contributed to the enemy's decision not to venture on a surface attack'. Lastly special mention must be made of the Avenger's work. Just as the Audacity had first closed the 'air gap' on the Gibraltar route in September 194111, and others of her class were soon to close the 'Atlantic air gap'12, so had the Avenger first performed the same inestimable service on the North Russia run. The meeting of the need for convoys to carry their own air defences along with them had been abundantly justified.13

After QP 14 had been brought home, the Coastal Command Catalinas were recalled from Russia. Only one had been lost, and they had done invaluable work escorting the outward convoy and watching for the enemy surface ships. The surviving Hampdens, of which ten had been destroyed in air raids on Vaenga, and also the photographic reconnaissance Spitfires, were turned over to the Russians with all their equipment. We do not know anything about their subsequent services. The light cruiser Argonaut and two destroyers were sent to Kola Inlet in mid-October, calling at Spitzbergen on the way; they landed a medical unit, which the Russians had now permitted to come out to look after our sick and wounded,


and returned with the Royal Air Force Hampden crews. They all reached Scapa without incident on the 28th of October.

Though the Admiralty could not possibly have realised it at the time, we now know that the success achieved in the passage of PQ 18 and QP 14, was, in a way, decisive. Never again did the enemy deploy such great air strength in the far north. Before the next pair of convoys sailed, events in Africa had forced him to send south his entire heavy bomber and torpedo striking forces of Ju-88s and He-111s. Thus did a strategic success obtained thousands of miles away, when Allied soldiers landed in North Africa, have favourable repercussions inside the Arctic Circle; and because the African landings drew the Luftwaffe south more British and American tanks, vehicles and aircraft were before long helping the Russians in their great counter-offensive on the eastern front.

Finally it is worth recording the enemy's post-war comment regarding his failure to repeat the success achieved against PQ 17. He considered that 'the smaller successes [against PQ 18 and QP 14] were due to the fact that the convoys maintained their close formation in the face of heavy and persistent attacks'. Though it is of course undeniable that in certain circumstances, of which the Jervis Bay's action in defence of HX 84 against the Scheer is a notable example14, a convoy should undoubtedly be ordered by the senior officer present to scatter, it is interesting to find the enemy stressing the advantages of maintaining formation.

Although, therefore, in terms of strategy the developments of the autumn of 1942 were favourable to the Allied cause, in terms of meeting Russia's pressing needs the immediate consequences were less favourable. Because the North African landings caused a great proportion of the Home Fleet's strength to be diverted south, it was impossible to run another convoy to North Russia for a time. Forty ships were ready loaded by the end of September, but to send them would have meant postponing Operation 'Torch' for three weeks. Very heavy pressure was applied by the Russians to get us to send the convoy; but the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet held firmly to the need to place first strategic requirements first. On the 22nd of September Mr. Churchill told President Roosevelt that the time had come to tell Stalin that there would be no PQ 19, and that we could not run any more PQ convoys until January. The President, however, considered this 'a tough blow for the Russians' and urged that the convoy should be sailed in several successive groups, which Mr. Churchill described as impossible of fulfilment. By way of compromise, from the end of October onwards a number of ships were sailed independently from Iceland to Russia, taking advantage of the


Map 27

Map 27. Convoys JW 51B & RA 51. General Movements 28th to 31st Dec. 1942


long nights. British and American ships were sent off alternatively at intervals of about 200 miles. Trawlers were spaced out along the route for life-saving purposes, and submarines were sent to patrol north of Bear Island. These independent sailings were more successful than some people had expected. They are tabulated below:

Table 22. Independent Sailings to North Russia, October-December 1942

  Sailed Turned
Sunk Wrecked Arrived
To Russia 13 3 4 1 5
From Russia 23 Nil 1 Nil 22

As large numbers of Allied merchantmen had been waiting many months in Russian ports for homeward escort, in November it was decided to mount a comparatively small operation to bring home about thirty of them. The passage would be made in almost continuous darkness, the ice conditions still permitted a route to be taken north of Bear Island, and the Luftwaffe's strength was known to be greatly reduced. Accordingly on the 17th of November convoy QP 15, of which twenty-eight ships actually got to sea, sailed from Archangel. The escort consisted of an A.A. ship and ten smaller vessels. It was to be reinforced by five destroyers in the Barents Sea, and they were to be relieved by five others later. The cruisers London and Suflolk, with three destroyers, provided cover west of Bear Island while four submarines patrolled off Altenfiord to discourage the Hipper and Köln from sailing.

The convoy was severely buffeted by a succession of gales which, combined with the almost continuous darkness, caused it to become very scattered. It was not found by either of the destroyer reinforcements, and by the time it reached Bear Island it was broken up into a number of small groups. Fortunately the weather not only defeated the German air reconnaissance but also prevented German surface ships putting to sea, as had been intended. U-boats sank two ships, but all the rest ultimately reached Iceland, whence they were escorted on to Loch Ewe.

This was the last of the convoys in the famous PQ-QP series. For security reasons their designations were now changed to JW and RA, both starting at number 51.

Before continuing with the Home Fleet's story, it is perhaps worth reviewing German strategic purposes as 1942 drew to a close. Hitler's obsession about a pending invasion of Norway, or of north Europe, was still the dominant factor; and it had been enhanced by our raids on the French and Norwegian coasts. Troops were moved


Editors Note:  The source document was incomplete for this page, with the right margin cut off such that words were missing or partially missing. I made a "Best Effort" attempt to fill in the missing pieces based on the context of the text, but in some cases I was unable to decipher the missing pieces. Where I was unable to determine the correct text, I marked the affected section with the following: "[*]". For the most part, the missing text does not materially affect the overall story line.
- HyperWar Editor

west in large numbers, and fortifications started on a pr[*] scale. His restrictive orders regarding the use of the surface ships especially of the Tirpitz, remained in force. Finally the shortage of fuel was now seriously cramping all German maritime purpose operations. The Scheer went back to Germany to refit [*] November, but the Nürnberg arrived at Narvik on the 2nd of December in her place. Early in the same month the Lützow came f[*] Baltic firstly to Narvik and then, on the 18th, joined the Hipper and Köln in Altenfiord, where there were also from three to [*] destroyers. The Tirpitz sailed from Narvik to Trondheim on the 23rd of October, and remained there for the rest of this phase. She was suffering from numerous defects and was badly in need of dockyard refit, but Hitler's insistence on her remaining in [*] prevented her being brought back to Germany for docking. The repair facilities at Trondheim were therefore employed, and several yard workmen were sent there by ship from Germany to hasten the great ship's refit as much as possible.

The appearance of the Lützow in the north caused Admiral[*] to re-establish the Denmark Strait patrol, which had more or less lapsed on account of the shortage of cruisers, and to move the battleship Anson to Hvalfiord. The enemy did actually intend to send the pocket-battleship out into the Atlantic, but not until the next operation against our Arctic convoys.

During the interval between the passage of PQ 18 and the [*] convoy, the Admiralty and the Commander-in-Chief once again reviewed the whole question of these intricate and hazardous operations. The Admiralty wished to sail one large convoy as fully escorted as PQ 18 had been; but the Commander-in-Chief pressed for two smaller ones. He considered that the lack of [*] during the winter months would put a stop to the enemies reconnaissance, and that small, easily-handled convoys might [*] for escape both air and submarine attacks. The possibility of the weather breaking up a large convoy into scattered groups across many miles of ocean, as had occurred with QP 15, was always present at that time of year; if that happened it would be easier for the enemy to find and attack the merchantmen. Small convoys were, in Admiral Tovey's view, more easily kept together, and also more easily re-formed if scattered by storms. The Admiralty accepted his views on the size of the convoys, but the First Sea Lord ordered that the covering force of two cruisers should not turn back a[*] 25° East, but should go well into the Barents Sea with the convoy. Events were to show that in this matter the Admiralty's judgement was correct.

The chief danger to the convoys now came from U-boats, which there were more in the far north than ever before. Se[*]


them came the surface ships in the Norwegian fiords. As usual the latter made it necessary that the main Home Fleet should cover the operation from a position some 350 miles north-west of Altenfiord. Submarines patrolled off north Norway as before.

Convoy JW 51A, of fifteen ships and a fleet oiler, escorted by seven destroyers and five smaller ships, sailed from Loch Ewe on the 15th of December and had a fine passage, passing south of Bear Island. It was not sighted at all and arrived safely and appropriately off Kola Inlet on Christmas Day. Admiral Burnett, with the Sheffield (Captain A. W. Clarke), the Jamaica (Captain J. L. Storey) and two destroyers, went right through with the merchantmen. Convoy JW 51B, of fourteen ships, left a week after JW 51A, with an escort of six destroyers and five smaller ships under Captain R. St. V. Sherbrooke in the Onslow.15 The first six days passed quietly, but then a gale caused two of the escort and five merchantmen to lose touch with the remainder. The minesweeper Bramble (Commander H. T. Rust), one of the only two ships in the escort fitted with radar, was detached to look for the missing merchantmen on the 29th, but she never found them, and was finally caught and sunk in unequal combat with the Hipper on the 31st. Four of the merchantmen and one escort actually rejoined the convoy; the fifth and the other escort reached Kola Inlet separately, but safely.

Meanwhile Admiral Burnett had sailed from Kola on the 27th to cover and support the convoy. He first swept well to the west, then sent his two destroyers home while he himself with the two cruisers turned east again on the 29th, keeping some way to the south of the convoy route. Next day, in the longitude of Kola Inlet, he turned north-west, with the intention of crossing the convoy's route early on New Year's Eve.16 His plan was to cover the convoy from a position about forty miles astern, thus avoiding the U-boats which might well be trailing it. The Admiral's guess was that the enemy would know the approximate course of JW 51B, but would not know how far along it the convoy had steamed. The most likely action by the surface ships from Altenfiord would be to sweep along the route from west to east. Admiral Burnett considered that the last day of the year would be the most critical. By covering the convoy from its northern flank he would gain 'the advantage of light', because enemy ships would stand out against such daylight as there was in the southern sky. Things did not, however, turn out at all as the Admiral expected, chiefly because an estimated position of the convoy signalled by the Commander-in-Chief at 4 p.m. on the 29th was


considerably in error. Admiral Burnett was thereby led to believe that the convoy was 150 miles further east, and slightly further north than was actually the case. In consequence the cruisers crossed ahead instead of astern of the convoy, and at 8:30 a.m. on the 31st were about thirty miles due north of it.17 So far our forces had received no indication that the enemy knew anything about the convoy's progress. That, in spite of all scientific advances, conditions at sea can still leave plenty of room for doubt and confusion is well shown by the fact that, throughout all the confused fighting which followed, Admiral Burnett never sighted the convoy which he was protecting, and never discovered exactly where it was. Our ships were constantly plagued by uncertainty whether a radar contact, or a ship dimly discerned in the Arctic twilight, was a friend, an enemy, or a straggler from the convoy. Knowledge that the recent gale might well have scattered the merchantmen, as in fact it had, made the uncertainties still more acute.

We will now temporarily take leave of JW 51B and its covering force to see what the enemy knew, and what he was doing. A U-boat had reported the convoy south of Bear Island on the 30th, and the Hipper (flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Kummetz), the Lützow and six destroyers at once put to sea. The German Admiral knew nothing about Admiral Burnett's covering cruisers; and he had received orders to the effect that he must not accept action with equal or superior forces, nor risk his heavy ships in a night battle in which our escorts might use their torpedoes. The German Naval Staff, though no doubt pressed in that direction by Hitler, seems to have shown remarkable aptitude for depriving its sea-going commanders of all initiative. But quite apart from the effect of these cramping restrictions, the German plan lacked singleness of purpose; for the Lützow was under orders to break out into the Atlantic after the attack on the convoy, and this may well account for the marked timidity with which she was handled in the fighting shortly to be described.

Admiral Kummetz intended to approach the convoy from astern, as his British opponent had anticipated. The attack was, however, to be made from both flanks, for which reason the German forces were divided. The Hipper and three destroyers were to approach from the north-west, the Lützow and the other three destroyers from the south. Kummetz hoped that the British escorts would be drawn off by the first attackers, and so leave the convoy at the mercy of the second. Though the German Admiral has been criticised for dividing his forces, it is to be remarked that events worked out almost exactly as he planned; the Lützow's force passed very close indeed to the south of the convoy while almost all its escorts were engaged with


Map 28

Map 28. The Defence of Convoy JW 51B. 8:30 - 10:30 a.m., 31st December 1942.


the Hipper's force on the other flank. It seems that only the over-caution of the Lützow's Captain then saved the convoy from utter destruction.

At 8:30 a.m. on New Year's Eve there were four groups of British ships all in the vicinity of about 73° North 29° East, none of which knew the exact position of the others. The main convoy of twelve ships with eight escorts was steering about east; some forty-five miles north of it was the trawler Vizalma with one merchantman, while the minesweeper Bramble was about fifteen miles north-east of the convoy. Finally Admiral Burnett, with the Sheffield and the Jamaica, was about thirty miles north of the convoy and fifteen miles south-east of the Vizalma.18 Quite unknown to all our forces the Hipper's group had just passed across the convoy's wake, twenty miles astern of it, while the Lützow's was fifty miles away and closing from the south. The weather was clear, except during snow squalls, and visibility varied between seven and ten miles. It was freezing hard, and although the sea was calm the spray which swept over the destroyers when they steamed at more than about twenty knots was freezing as it came on board. This made it very difficult for them to fight their forward guns.

Before sailing Captain Sherbrooke had decided what his tactics would be if the convoy was attacked by enemy surface forces, and he had described them at the convoy conference. The fleet destroyers would, in such an event concentrate with their flotilla commander on the threatened flank of the convoy, while he would at once steer to intercept the enemy, keeping between the attackers and the merchantmen. The convoy was to turn away from the enemy and drop smoke floats, while the remaining escorts would form a close screen and lay smoke between the enemy and the convoy. When the moment arrived all ships acted precisely as Sherbrooke had prescribed, and his foresight reaped a splendid reward in saving the merchantmen from a most dangerous situation.

At about 8:20 a.m. the corvette Hyderabad, one of the close escort, sighted two strange destroyers. She took them to be the expected Russian reinforcements, and therefore made no report. Ten minutes later the destroyer Obdurate, which was on the starboard beam of the convoy, sighted and reported the same ships crossing astern of the convoy. Sherbrooke at once answered the Obdurate's report with an order to her to 'investigate', and she thereupon hauled round towards the unidentified ships. At the same time Sherbrooke sent his own ship's company to breakfast and ordered them to change into clean underclothing. It must have been one of the few occasions when that traditional order before battle was actually given during the last war.


The Obdurate was meanwhile closing at her best speed and trying to identify the ships, which were actually the three destroyers of the Hipper's group, against a background of dark snow-laden clouds. Though she was cutting off a corner as she closed, it was not until 9:30 that she was within four miles of the ships, which then identified themselves as enemies by opening fire on the Obdurate.19 The British destroyer turned away towards the convoy, and the enemy made no attempt to follow her. Captain Sherbrooke saw the gun flashes, at once altered course towards them and told the Orwell, Obedient and Obdurate to join him. At 9:41 Sherbrooke made the first definite enemy report. It was received in the cruiser flagship five minutes later, and as a previous message had given the destroyer leader's position Admiral Burnett now knew that enemy forces were in contact with the convoy escorts, and also the whereabouts of the latter.

The movement of Captain Sherbrooke's four ships towards the enemy left only the destroyer Achates (Lieutenant-Commander A. H. T. Johns) and three smaller escorts with the convoy. They moved out to lay a smoke screen between the merchant ships and the enemy. At 9:39 a more formidable opponent - actually the Hipper - was sighted by the Onslow, which at the time only had the Orwell with her. The German heavy cruiser opened fire on the Achates, and Captain Sherbrooke's two British destroyers followed round and engaged her. For half an hour the two forces skirmished in and out of the smoke, while Sherbrooke took every opportunity to threaten the enemy with his torpedoes. The convoy, shielded by the escorts' smoke screen, meanwhile held on to the east. Captain Sherbrooke was now anxious lest the three German destroyers should get among the merchantmen, so he sent the Obedient and Obdurate back to rejoin the convoy. Soon after 10 a.m. a signal came from the Sheffield that she was approaching on a southerly course. This news was received 'with acclamation' by the destroyers, which had believed Admiral Burnett's cruisers to be a long way off. But in fact, for reasons to be discussed later, reinforcement of the small ships was not yet close at hand.

The Hipper had meanwhile conducted herself in a very uncertain manner, though this may have been partly done intentionally in order to conform to Kummetz's plan to lure our escorts away to the north. But her gunnery had so far been 'aimless and erratic'. True, light conditions were very difficult with 'sea and cloud all merging into a uniform silver-grey', against which the camouflaged ships of Sherbrooke's flotilla showed up but dimly. Furthermore a lame tanker straggling astern of the convoy seems to have distracted the Hipper's attention and disorganised her gunnery control. However at


Map 29

Map 29. The Defence of Convoy JW 51B. 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon, 31st December 1942.


about 10:20, in the words of Lieutenant-Commander D. C. Kinloch of the Obedient, 'she suddenly pulled herself together', quickly found the Onslow's range, put half Sherbrooke's armament out of action, holed his ship in the engine room, set her on fire - and severely wounded her Captain. He, however, continued to direct his ships until another hit forced him to disengage. Only when he had learnt that Kinloch had effectively taken over command of his flotilla did he leave his bridge. Captain Sherbrooke was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of his gallant and determined leadership, and of his successful defence of the merchantmen in this action. The Hipper's report also pays tribute to the skill with which the British destroyers shielded their charges. It was 10:35 a.m. when Lieutenant Commander Kinloch learnt that he was in command of the close escort. His main adversary, the Hipper, disappeared in a snow squall at about the same time.

To turn now to the covering cruisers, Admiral Burnett's southward movement towards the convoy was first delayed by investigation of a radar contact, which was actually the Vizalma and her single merchantman. At 9:30 the cruisers sighted gun flashes over the southern horizon, but the Admiral thought that they must come from 'H.A. fire, probably at Russian aircraft'. At 9:46 heavy gunfire was observed to the southward, and Captain Sherbrooke's first definite enemy report, already mentioned, was received at about the same time. Nine minutes later the cruisers hauled round to a southerly course, increased speed to twenty-five knots and signalled their approach to the destroyers.

As the Sheffield and Jamaica steamed south and worked up speed to thirty-one knots, they caught glimpses of the fight between the destroyers and the Hipper, but could not make out friend from foe. Nor did two radar contacts obtained at long range help to elucidate matters. At 10:32 the Admiral felt the need to identify and track these contacts. He therefore turned from the course which would have brought him rapidly into touch with our destroyers, and steered in an easterly direction.20 Then came a burst of fire on his starboard bow-probably caused by the Hipper sinking the unfortunate little Bramble - and the Admiral closed towards it. An enemy ship was sighted by the flagship at 10:45, and Admiral Burnett 'followed [this target] around' to the south nine minutes later. At 11:05 the cruiser flagship obtained another radar contact to starboard. We shall return shortly to this ship. At about the same time Commander Kinloch gave the Admiral his position, and reported that he would 'home' the cruisers by wireless.21 It is therefore evident that neither


force at that time knew the position of the other. At 11:12 the cruisers returned to a southerly course. Though the situation with which Admiral Burnett was confronted was certainly very confusing, and allowance must be made both for the arctic conditions and the uncertain efficiency of the radar sets then in use, it does now seem that the British cruisers should have been able to intervene earlier. The failure of the Hyderabad to report the first unidentified ships sighted, and the long interval which elapsed before the Obdurate was certain that they were enemies, both contributed to the cruiser Admiral's perplexities; but the main cause was the two easterly diversions made by Admiral Burnett from 9 to 9:55 a.m. and from 10:35 to 10:55.22 The reason why these changes of course were made has already been explained.

The hour following on Kinloch's assuming command of the escort was a very anxious one for him. After disengaging from the Hipper he steered south with his three destroyers to overtake the convoy, which had altered to the south-east at 10:20 a.m. and was still shielded by the Achates with her smoke. The damaged Onslow had meanwhile taken station ahead of the merchantmen.

The next development came quickly, but in no way lessened the escort commander's anxieties. At 10:45 the corvette Rhododendron reported unidentified ships close at hand to the south. Actually the Hyderabad had sighted these - the Lützow's force - a little earlier, but again had made no report. Only a providential snow squall, and the timidity of the German pocket-battleship's Captain, saved the convoy from a most unpleasant predicament; for the powerful German force had got within a couple of miles of its quarry before being sighted. Fortunately the Lützow stood away, 'to wait for the weather to clear'.

While the convoy was thus narrowly escaping destruction by the Lützow, the Hipper was steering E.N.E. at high speed. It was this movement that led to the destruction of the Bramble, already mentioned. Her enemy report was picked up by the Hyderabad, but once more the latter maintained silence.

At about 11 a.m., by which time Kinloch's destroyers had overtaken the convoy, the weather cleared and the Lützow's force was once again sighted.23 The Obedient and her consorts at once steered to keep between her and the convoy, and shielded the latter with smoke. Then the Hipper also suddenly loomed up, just when the Achates was getting clear of her own smoke and setting course to join the Onslow ahead of the convoy. The German cruiser opened fire on her second diminutive adversary, quickly crippled the Achates, killed her Captain and caused many casualties among her crew.


Admiral Sir Max Horton (left), Commander-in-Chief Western Approaches, 19th November 1942 to 15th August 1945, and Admiral Sir John Tovey, Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, 2nd December 1940 to 8th May 1943, on board H.M.S. King George V.


Convoy to North Russia PQ 18, September 1942. Destroyer Eskimo in foreground. See pp.280-285.


Convoy PQ 18, September 1942. A merchant ship blows up. Taken from H.M.S. Avenger.


Then she shifted fire to Kinloch's Obedient, which apparently, and understandably, thought she was again engaged with the Lützow. Though she escaped serious damage from her redoubtable adversary, the Obedient's wireless was put out of action, and Kinloch therefore ordered the Obdurate (Lieutenant-Commander C. E. L. Sclater) to take over command, while he himself took station astern of the Orwell. Meanwhile the threat from the destroyer's torpedoes caused the Hipper to haul off.

So far the Hipper had had things too much her own way. It was therefore an unexpected shock when she suddenly came under heavy gunfire from the north. The British cruisers had sighted her at 11:30, engaged at about seven miles range and quickly obtained a hit which reduced the German cruiser's speed to twenty-eight knots. She was slow to reply, turned towards the British force, made smoke and then altered right away - receiving two more hits as she did so. Kummetz thus found the tables suddenly turned on him, for he was caught between the British destroyers and cruisers. He ordered all his ships to disengage and retire to the west. The Sheffield and Jamaica at once followed, and the range fell to as little as 8,000 yards. Unluckily the German ship became obscured for several precious minutes, just when a decisive fire might have been poured into her at close range. She escaped without receiving further damage. At 11:43 two German destroyers suddenly appeared about 4,000 yards from our cruisers, in an ideal position to use torpedoes. The Sheffield at once steered for the nearer one, the Friedrich Eckholdt, and quickly reduced her to a shambles. The Jamaica fired on the other, but she turned away unharmed.

At about 11:40 yet another engagement in this long series of quickly-changing, confused actions took place. The Lützow opened fire on the convoy at about nine miles range. One merchantman was damaged - the only casualty suffered by the stubbornly defended ships. The Commodore made an emergency turn away, and it was now Sclater's turn to lead the surviving destroyers out to attack, and to lay more smoke. As soon as the smoke screen was effective the pocket-battleship ceased fire. No sooner had that threat been countered than the Hipper appeared yet again. The three British destroyers at once turned towards the new enemy, and in doing so they came under accurate fire; but the Hipper did not persist. At 11:49 Kummetz repeated his order to withdraw, and that was the last of their two big adversaries seen by our destroyers. Soon after noon, as 'night was drawing on' they steered south to overtake the convoy, which the sinking Achates had all this time continued to shield with smoke. Not till 1:15 p.m. did she call for assistance, but before a rescuing trawler had closed her she suddenly capsized. The last fight of Lieutenant-Commander John's Achates, and the splendid


devotion of her crew in continuing to shield the convoy right to the end, were justly described by Admiral Tovey as 'magnificent'. Her name may worthily be placed alongside those of her sister-ships the Acasta and Ardent, lost in heroic endeavour to defend the Glorious in June 1940.24

The British cruisers had one more brief engagement with both the heavy German ships at about 12:30; but no damage was done to either side. The enemy held on to the west, and Admiral Burnett followed until about 2 p.m. when he finally lost touch. He then swept south, keeping between the convoy and the retiring enemy.

So ended the fighting. We had lost the Achates and the Bramble; but the sinking of the Eckholdt and the damage to the Hipper balanced the material losses fairly evenly; and the convoy had escaped virtually unscathed. The Lützow's account ends with the remark that, in spite of the general situation being at first satisfactory, we had not succeeded in getting at the convoy or in scoring any successes at all' - an admission which a little more thrustfulness and determination on her own part might have substantially altered. The pocket-battleship's intended sortie into the Atlantic was abandoned, and the Hipper, though her damage was repaired, was never again sent on active service.

Convoy JW 51B had no more adventures. The main body entered Kola Inlet on the 3rd of January 1943, and the Archangel detachment reached port three days later.

The west-bound convoy RA 51, of fourteen ships with eleven escorts, sailed from Murmansk on the 30th of December. It was covered in turn by Admiral Burnett's cruisers and by a new force sent out under Rear-Admiral L. H. K. Hamilton, which took over on the 2nd. The Commander-in-Chief put to sea to provide additional cover with the King George V, Howe, Bermuda and six destroyers, as soon as he received reports of the New Year's Eve fighting. But such precautions were in fact unnecessary, for the enemy forces returned direct to Altenfiord. All RA 51's ships arrived safely at Loch Ewe on the 11th of January.

There is no doubt at all that the passages of PQ 18 and of the first two JW convoys, combined with the safe return of most of the ships in the corresponding westward convoys, were important successes to our cause - particularly with regard to the fighting on New Year's Eve. As Admiral Tovey said, 'that an enemy force of at least one pocket-battleship, one heavy cruiser and six destroyers, with all the advantages of surprise and concentration, should be held off for four hours by five destroyers, and driven from the area by two 6-inch cruisers is most creditable and satisfactory'. Nor is the reason far to seek. Whereas the Germans had shown themselves


hesitant of purpose and unwilling to accept risks, our own destroyers had been handled with splendid determination and had protected the convoy in their charge with selfless devotion typical of their class and tradition. The faults in German outlook and in German operational plans were certainly reflected in their individual ship's conduct. Yet, even when every allowance has been made for this, the inactivity of the six enemy destroyers appears, by British standards, quite extraordinary. It was a combination of the German failings and the manner in which our own ships were fought, which resulted in our being let off lightly from the consequences of our mistakes. But in pointing out the latter one should never forget how severe a strain the Russian convoys imposed on the officers and men who took part in them. In such conditions it is indeed surprising that so many difficult decisions were taken with such correct and rapid judgment. The enemy certainly had no illusions, for he later described the engagements as 'obviously unsatisfactory to the Germans, but a complete success for the British'.

The enemy learnt one lesson from this sortie-that no sea commander could possibly fight successfully if he was tied by restrictions such as were imposed on Admiral Kummetz. Because Dönitz was on easier terms with Hitler than his predecessor, he succeeded in obtaining the Führer's agreement to giving senior officers greater freedom. But it was a long time before the new policy was tested in action; for the events here described produced in Hitler the ungovernable rage which led to his 'firm and unalterable resolve' to pay off the big ships. And this brought about the resignation of Grand Admiral Raeder - a considerable seismic disturbance in the enemy camp to result from an action fought by two British cruisers and half a dozen destroyers in the Arctic twilight.

In conclusion the results of the Russian convoys which sailed during this phase are tabulated below:

Table 23. Russian Convoys, 1st August, 1942 - 11th January, 1943

Convoy No.
PQ 18 40 Nil 13 27 Nil 3 U-boats
41 Aircraft
QP 14 15 Nil 3 12 1 Destroyer
1 Fleet Oiler
1 Minesweeper
2 U-boats
QP 15 28 Nil 2 26 Nil Nil
JW 51A 16 Nil Nil 16 Nil Nil
JW 51B 14 Nil Nil 14 1 Destroyer
1 Minesweeper
1 Destroyer
RA 51 14 Nil Nil 14 Nil Nil


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