Convoy PQ 13

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PQ-13 was a British Arctic convoy that delivered war supplies from the Western Allies to the USSR during World War II. The convoy was subject to attack by German air, U-boat and surface forces and suffered the loss of five ships, plus one escort vessel. Fifteen ships arrived safely.

Ships[edit]

PQ 13 comprised 19 merchant ships; seven British, four American, one Polish, four of Panamanian and one of Honduran registry. It was commanded by Commodore D.A. Casey in River Afton. The convoy was escorted for the first stage of its voyage, from Scotland to Iceland, by a Local Escort Group, of two destroyers and an ASW Trawler. For the second stage, from Iceland to the Soviet Union, the Ocean escort was two destroyers, and two trawlers, augmented by three whalers being transferred to the Soviet Navy. The Ocean escort was commanded by Capt. LS Saunders, in the cruiser Trinidad. In support of the convoy escort, and guarding against a sortie by the German battleship Tirpitz, was a Heavy Cover Force, comprising the battleships Duke of York (V. Adm. ATB Curteis commanding), King George V, the battlecruiser Renown, the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, two cruisers, Kent and Edinburgh, and sixteen destroyers. (Ashanti, Bedouin, Echo, Escapade, Eskimo, Faulknor, Foresight, Icarus, Inglefield, Ledbury, Marne, Middleton, Onslow, Punjabi, Tartar and Wheatland) This force was intended to accompany PQ 13 at a distance until it was past Bear Island.

Action[edit]

The convoy sailed from Loch Ewe in Scotland on 10 March 1942 and arrived in Reykjavík on the 16th March, 1942. After dropping out a contingent of three ships, bound from Loch Ewe to Reykjavík only, and the first stage escort, and collecting a further three bound from Reykjavík to Murmansk and the close escort for the voyage, PQ 13 left Reykjavík on the 20th March, 1942.

The voyage was uneventful until 24 March, when the convoy was struck by a violent four day storm, which left the convoy scattered and in disarray. The ships were dispersed over a distance of 150 miles. Over the next few days the ships coalesced into two groups, of eight and four, with four others proceeding independently.

On 28 March the ships were sighted by German aircraft, and attacked. Two ships were sunk, Raceland and Empire Ranger. Also on the 28th a German force of three Narvik class destroyers, Z24, Z25 and Z26, under the command of KzS G Ponitz, sortied from Kirkenes. They intercepted Bateau, which was sunk, in the evening of 28/29 March, before falling in with Trinidad and Fury in the early hours of 29 March. Z26 was badly damaged by HMS Trinidad, sinking later, but in the course of the action Trinidad was hit by her own torpedo (the torpedo's gyroscope froze). The remaining German ships broke off the action, and Trinidad, escorted by Fury and Eclipse, limped into Kola Inlet, arriving midday on 30 March.

In the meanwhile the ships of PQ 13 came under U-boat attack. Two ships were found and sunk by U-boats, Induna by U-376, and Effingham by U-435. Fury attacked an asdic contact and was credited with the destruction of U-585; however post-war analysis found that U-585 was lost elsewhere.

By 30 March most ships had arrived at Murmansk; the last stragglers came in on 1 April. 6 ships were lost in this convoy. The Germans sank five freighters. One whaler, (HMS Sulla), was lost, probably due to heavy icing, and the cruiser, Trinidad, was damaged. Against this one German destroyer had been sunk. Fourteen ships had arrived safely, more than two-thirds of the convoy.

Ship list[edit]

The convoy to Russia consisted of 19 freighters, a Fleet Oiler, and 3 whalers,

PQ13 main body: Loch Ewe to Murmansk
Ship Captain Tonnage (GRT) Flag Merchant Marines Total Armed Guard or DEMS
SS Dunboyne Ernest Prahter 3,515  United States 35 11, Ensign Brinn
SS Effingham Charles H. Hewlett 6,421  United States 34 9, Ensign Gamblin
SS El Estero Ivo Beatovic 4,219  Panama 39 none
SS Eldena Ole M. Nilsen 6,900  United States 37 13, Ensign Fink
SS Empire Cowper J.H. Wigham 7,164  United Kingdom 36 11
SS Empire Ranger Maurice E. Sadler 7,008  United Kingdom 43 7
SS Empire Starlight William H. Stein 6,850  United Kingdom 66 12
SS Gallant Fox Eric Lundh 5,473  Panama 39 none
SS Harpalion Henry W. Williams 5,486  United Kingdom 44 8
SS Induna William N. Collins 5,086  United Kingdom 50 10
SS Mana Oermulff Berg-Johannessen 3,283  Honduras 36 1?
SS Mormacmar Wilfred H. Senior 5,453  United States 30 9, Ensign Smith
SS New Westminster City   William J. Harris 4,747  United Kingdom 44 6
SS Raceland Sverre Brekke 4,815  Panama 45 None
SS River Afton Harold W. Charlton 5,479  United Kingdom 43 10
SS Tobruk Bronislaw Harko 7,048  Poland 47 At least 1
Reykjavík to Murmansk group
Ship Captain Tonnage (GRT) Flag Merchant Marines Total Armed Guard or DEMS
SS Ballot Henry Bejer 6,131  Panama 38 2
SS Bateau Johan A. Haltlid 4,687  Panama 44 2
SS Scottish American P. Sun 6,999  United Kingdom 38 6
Loch Ewe to Reykjavík group
Ship Captain Tonnage (GRT) Flag Merchant Marines Total Armed Guard or DEMS
Groenland b 1,220  United Kingdom
Lars Kruse b 1,807  United Kingdom
Mano b 1,418  United Kingdom
PQ13: Fleet replenishment oiler
Ship Captain Tonnage (GRT) Flag Merchant Marines Total Armed Guard or DEMS
RFA Oligarch A.V. Barton 6,897  United Kingdom
PQ13 Whalers
Ship Captain Tonnage (GRT) Flag Merchant Marines Total Armed Guard or DEMS
HMS Silja 251  Royal Navy 21
HMS Sumba 251  Royal Navy
HMS Sulla John Edward Thundercliffe 251  Royal Navy
  • Three whalers: HMS Silja, HMS Sulla and HMS Sumba were under transfer to the Soviet Navy and would become magnetic mine minesweepers.

In Russia, HMS Silja was renamed T-107 and the HMS Sumba was renamed T-106.

Convoy Escorts[edit]

For the first stage, from Loch Ewe to Reykjavík, PQ 13 had a local escort of two destroyers and an ASW Trawler.

From Iceland to Murmansk the close escort consisted of the cruiser HMS Trinidad and the destroyers HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse, two armed trawlers and three minesweepers.

For the final leg the convoy was supported by the local escort based at Kola; two Soviet destroyers and four RN minesweepers.

Loch Ewe - Reykjavík: 10–16 March.
Leaving Loch Ewe in the afternoon of the 10th, the convoy was escorted by:

On the 11th, another escort joined the convoy:


Reykjavík - Murmansk: 18–31 March.
Leaving Reykjavík in the morning of the 18th, the convoy was escorted by:

On the 23rd, other escorts joined the convoy:

  • Destroyers Fury and Eclipse (left the convoy on the 25th)
  • Light Cruiser Trinidad (left the convoy on the 25th)

The Barents Sea - Murmansk: 27 March - 3 April;
On the 27th, the convoy was joined by two Soviet destroyers:

On 28 March the convoy was assisted by the involvement of the Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla operating here.
HMS Harrier, HMS Gossamer, HMS Speedwell and HMS Hussar of the Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla, under command of commander E.P. Hinton, sailed on the 28 April for a patrol in the Arctic waters. On the 29th Harrier went for a search for survivors of the Empire Ranger. On the 29th Speedwell attempted to intercept Harpalion, but failed to find her. HMS Oribi found abandoned boats of Empire Ranger on the 29th which indicated they were picked up by other boats. ( A German wireless claimed prisoners from a merchant ship, it was obvious they were from the Empire Ranger) On the 30th March, Gossamer found the Scottish American, Effingham and Dunboyne. But Gossamer received orders to proceed to the position of the torpedoed Indua, but failed to find her. Hussar made contact with a group of 9 ships of PQ 13 and a whaler. Escorted by two Russian destroyers and a trawler. Oribi sighted the whaler Silja who had run out of fuel. Oribi was ordered to go to the aid of River Afton which was reported to have been hit by a U-boat. Harrier took Silja in tow and Speedwell escorted them.

On 1 April, Niger (also of the Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla) sailed to search for Sulla, but returned on the 3rd of April, having failed to find her.

Total convoy losses[edit]

After an attack on the 28 March 1942, 16 crewmembers of the Ballot left the ship in a lifeboat. These men were picked up by Silja and put on board Induna.

Merchant ships lost from the convoy
Date Ship Tonnage Flag Sunk by Position Crew POW Died
28 March Raceland 4,815  Panama Luftwaffe 72°40′N 20°20′E / 72.667°N 20.333°E / 72.667; 20.333 45 13 32
28 March Empire Ranger 7,008  United Kingdom Luftwaffe 72°10′N 30°00′E / 72.167°N 30.000°E / 72.167; 30.000 55 55 0
29 March Bateau 4,687  Panama Z-26 72°30′N 27°00′E / 72.500°N 27.000°E / 72.500; 27.000 47 6 41
30 March Induna 5,086  United Kingdom U-376 70°55′N 37°18′E / 70.917°N 37.300°E / 70.917; 37.300 66 0 42*
30 March Effingham 6,421  United States U-435 70°28′N 35°44′E / 70.467°N 35.733°E / 70.467; 35.733 42 0 12
  • 12 of them were former crewmembers of the SS Ballot


whaler lost from the convoy
Date Ship Tonnage Flag Sunk by Position Crew POW Died
29 March HMS Sulla 251  Royal Navy Icing 21 0 21

Aftermath[edit]


New Westminster City and Empire Starlight were bombed in Murmansk port on the 3rd of April.
New Westminster City was lost, Empire Starlight was salvaged post war and renamed Murmansk.
Harpalion and Empire Cowper were lost on the return convoy, Convoy QP 10.

Merchant ships lost in harbour or return convoy
Date Ship Tonnage Flag Sunk by Crew POW Died
3 April New Westminster City 4,747  United Kingdom Luftwaffe 52 0 2
3 April Empire Starlight 6,850  United Kingdom Luftwaffe 68 0 1
11 April Empire Cowper 7,164  United Kingdom Luftwaffe 68 0 19*
13 April Harpalion 5,486  United Kingdom U-435 52 0 0
  • A former crewmember of the New Westminster City died on this ship

References[edit]