Arctic Convoys 75


The story behind the journey Churchill called "the worst in the World"

Two years into the Second World War, the Soviet Union was under enormous pressure and in need of supplies. When Germany invaded on 22 June 1941, the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, asked for help from Britain and her allies.

Providing much-needed supplies would not be easy, with many sea routes defended by Nazi Germany. The most direct route was through the Arctic Circle by sea, around northern Norway to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk.

The treacherous route passed through a narrow channel between the Arctic ice pack and the Norwegian coast dotted with German naval ports. This course was extremely dangerous, especially in winter when the ice pack swells in size and creeps further south. The first convoy set sail from Liverpool on 12 August 1941, headed for Iceland where it departed on 21 August, and finally arrived in Arkhangelsk 10 days later. Codenamed Operation ‘Dervish’, the convoy delivered 48 RAF Hurricane fighters for the defence of Polyarnoe and Murmansk. Shortly after, the first Anglo-Soviet Protocol was signed, detailing the materials to be shipped to the USSR.

For the next four years, 78 convoys made the journey to Russia. Conditions were among the worst faced by any Allied sailors. As well as facing the Nazi German Navy, they battled extreme temperatures, gales and pack ice. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships (two cruisers, six destroyers, eight other escort ships) were lost.

My Grandfather sailed on the Artic convoys. Some of the photographs showing sailors hitting ice of the Guns with pickaxes....... unbelievable.


I too am the Grandson of an Arctic Convoy Sailor. I have to confess that with lots of things going on I have not got round to sorting out his Arctic


Book Reviewer
Were any ships lost to the elements? I imagine a fair chance of headbutting an iceberg at times?


Not sure - I do know my Grandfather told of seeing an Escort Carrier getting her flight deck ripped off by a wave. Which was unsettling as they depended on air cover from the carrier to deal with the Luftwaffe.
My old man was on PQ 17, that was the one that took a real hammering.
I'm not joking but my grandfather was on that convoy as well . As a chef on U355. He died in 1998 and the war badly affected him. Hell for both sides I think.
My first impressions of this element came from reading HMS Ulysses as a boy.

The thought of a wave buckling an armoured flight deck brought a shudder to me even then. IIRC such an event did happen
I too am the Grandson of an Arctic Convoy Sailor. I have to confess that with lots of things going on I have not got round to sorting out his Arctic
A great Uncle was an Arctic Convoy sailor.
His son has all relevant documentation and applied for an Arctic Star, but the Medal Agency has bounced his request.
My old man was in the RN, spent most of his war in the Med and Middle East. After the Boxhead surrender he spent some time in Germany and North Sea. He had a lot of respect for the guys on the Arctic Covoys and was probably glad he mamaged to avoid them.


My maternal Grandfather spent some particularly unpleasant months aboard this "Armed Merchant Cruiser" in the North Atlantic. Didn't like to talk about that bit at all.

Allied Warships of WWII - Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Alaunia -

That would be a requisitioned passenger ship, month in the shipyard to stick a few guns on top, some AA and off you go to "Escort" convoys.

It got better when they scooted off to warmer places but one of the crew promptly contracted smallpox and the whole ship was put in quarantine for some considerable time.

Load of photographs, his medals and all personal effects vanished when he died.


My first boss told lies about his age to get merchant navy radio training. He was on the convoys.
My grandad was part of the flotilla in Russia tasked with meeting the survivors of that convoy. He was eventually dunked on the way back on qp14.
There was a book on pq 12 written by Godfry Wynn who was on the same ship as my dad, HMS Pozarica which was converted into a flak ship.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Local news on Granada reports has shown the first sea lord, presenting Arctic Star's and Russian medals to survivors of the Arctic Convoys.
We can not underestimate the hardship endured by the men who took part in the Arctic Convoy and their courageous achievements helped bring about the end of the worst conflict in history.
"It is a privilege to see these gallant men receive the Ushakov Medal, we should all feel proud that so many veterans of the Arctic Convoy live here in and around Manchester, no honour is too great to reflect their bravery and determination. "


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