PQ 8 consisted of eight merchant ships; five British,one Soviet, one American, one of Panamanian registry. The convoy was escorted by two minesweepers, joined by an Ocean escort of two destroyers Matabele and Somali, supported by the cruiser Trinidad. The convoy was joined in the last stage of the voyage by two Royal Navy minesweepers based at Murmansk.
PQ 8 sailed from Hvalfjord on 8 January 1942. and was joined on 10 January by the Ocean escort. The German navy (Kriegsmarine) had established a patrol line of four U-boats from Kirkenes to search for the convoy, but it was undetected by German aircraft or U-boats in the continuous darkness of the polar night, until the last day of the voyage. On 16 January the Eastern Local Escort joined; on 17 January the convoy was found by U-454, which attacked and torpedoed the freighter Hamatris. She was taken in tow by the minesweeper Speedwell, and brought into Kola escorted by Matabele. However U-454 struck again, torpedoing and sinking Matabele. Just two of her 200 crew survived. All other ships of PQ 8 arrived safely.