Convoy PQ 16

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Convoy PQ16 departing May 1942

Convoy PQ 16 was an Arctic convoy sent from Great Britain by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It sailed in May 1942, reaching the Soviet northern ports after five days of air attacks that left eight ships sunk and two damaged. 25 ships arrived safely.


In the winter and spring of 1942, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Union premier Joseph Stalin continually pressed for more convoys to Russia, to deliver War Stores to help them sustain their fight against Germany, despite the knowledge that the naval forces were stretched to the limit. Finally Stalin sent an urgent message to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in May 1942 in which he said, "I am fully aware of the difficulties involved and of the sacrifices made by Great Britain in the matter (the Russian convoys). I feel, however, incumbent upon me to approach you with the request to take all possible measures in order to ensure the arrival of the above-mentioned materials in the USSR".


This convoy consisted of 35 merchant ships: 21 American, 4 Soviet, 8 British, 1 Dutch and one of Panamanian registry. It also had one auxiliary vessel, the CAM ship Empire Lawrence. The convoy was led by Commodore H. N. Gale in Ocean Voice.

The close escort was led by the destroyer HMS Ashanti (Cdr. RG Onslow) and consisted of the destroyers ORP Garland, HMS Volunteer , Achates, and Martin, the anti-aircraft ship HMS Alynbank, four Flower class corvettes, one minesweeper and four trawlers.

There were two support groups; a Cruiser Cover Force led by R.Adm. HM Burrough in the cruiser HMS Nigeria, and comprising the cruisers HMS Kent, Liverpool, and Norfolk, and destroyers HMS Onslow, Marne, and Oribi, and a Distant Covering Force of the battleships HMS Duke of York and USS Washington, the carrier HMS Victorious, the cruisers HMS London and USS Wichita, and 13 destroyers.


PQ 16 left Hvalfjord in Iceland on 21 May under the protection of the Local Escort, meeting the Ocean Escort on 23 May. At this time of the year the convoy would be operating in the period of perpetual daylight of the Arctic summer; this lessened the effectiveness of U-boat attack, but make round-the-clock air attack more likely. It also increased the chance of early detection by German reconnaissance aircraft.

On 25 May, PQ 16 met its cruiser escort, but on the same day was spotted by a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 reconnaissance plane, which commenced shadowing. That evening the Luftwaffe commenced a series of attacks which continued for the next five days, until the convoy was in range of Soviet fighter cover. One ship was damaged and forced to return under escort; on 26 May all air attacks were repulsed, but one ship Syros, was torpedoed by U-703. By 27 May the air attacks began to break through; three ships were sunk and another damaged around mid-day; another sunk and one damaged in mid-afternoon. That evening two more ships were sunk, and another damaged. On 28 May, the convoy was joined by the Eastern Local escort; three Soviet destroyers and four minesweepers. Their extra fire-power enabled all further air attacks to be beaten off. On 29 the convoy divided, six ships making for Archangel, while the remainder docked at Murmansk.

Eight merchant ships were lost: six by air attack, one by submarine U-703 and one by a mine. Two U-boats were damaged during attacks by escorts, and an unknown number of attacking aircraft shot down.


When Convoy PQ16 was assembled off Iceland Churchill declared it would be worthwhile if even 50% got through; despite the losses the majority of the ships of Convoy PQ16 did arrive, most ships to Murmansk (30 May 1942) and eight ships to Archangelsk (1 June 1942). The convoy was such a success in terms of the War Stores delivered that the Germans made greater efforts to disrupt the following convoys. The Heavy Lift Ships from Convoy PQ16 including SS Empire Elgar stayed at Archangelsk and Molotovsk unloading convoys for over 14 months.

Ships in the convoy[edit]

Name Flag Tonnage (GRT) Notes
HMS Achates  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
Alamar (1916)  United States 5,689 Sunk by aircraft off Bear Island
Alcoa Banner (1919)  United States 5,035
HMS Alynbank  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
American Press (1920)  United States 5,131
American Robin (1919)  United States 5,172
Arcos (1918)  Soviet Union 2,343
HMS Ashanti  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
Atlantic (1939)  United Kingdom 5,414
RFA Black Ranger (A163)  United Kingdom 3,417
HMS Blankney  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
HMS Bramble  Royal Navy Escort 28–30 May
Carlton (1920)  United States 5,127 Bombed and detached
Chernyshevski (1919)  Soviet Union 3,588
City Of Joliet (1920)  United States 6,167 Sunk
City Of Omaha (1920)  United States 6,124
HMS Duke of York  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
HMS Eclipse  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
Empire Baffin (1941)  United Kingdom 6,978
Empire Elgar (1942)  United Kingdom 2,847
Empire Lawrence (1941)  United Kingdom 7,457 Bombed and sunk
Empire Purcell (1942)  United Kingdom 7,049 Sunk by aircraft
Empire Selwyn (1941)  United Kingdom 7,167
Exterminator (1924)  Panama 6,115
HMS Faulknor  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
HMS Roselys  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
HMS Fury  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
ORP Garland  Polish Navy Escort 23–27 May
HMS Gossamer  Royal Navy Escort 28–30 May
Grozni  Soviet Navy Escort 28–30 May
HMS Hazard  Royal Navy Escort 21–30 May
Heffron (1919)  United States 7,611
HMS Honeysuckle  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
Hybert (1920)  United States 6,120
HMS Hyderabad  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
HMS Icarus  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
HMS Intrepid  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
John Randolph (1941)  United States 7,191
HMS Kent (54)  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
Heavy cruiser
Kuibyshev  Soviet Navy Escort 28–30 May
HMS Lady Madeleine (FY 283)  Royal Navy Escort 21 May
ASW trawler
HMS Lamerton  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
HMS Leda (J93)  Royal Navy Escort 29–30 May
HMS Ledbury  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
HMS Liverpool  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
Light cruiser
HMS London  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
Heavy cruiser
Lowther Castle (1937)  United Kingdom 5,171 Sunk by aircraft using aerial torpedo
HMS Marne  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
HMS Martin  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
Massmar (1920)  United States 5,828
Mauna Kea (1919)  United States 6,064
Michigan (1920)  Panama 6,419
HMS Middleton  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
Minotaur (1918)  United States 4,554
Mormacsul (1920)  United States 5,481 Sunk by German aircraft Off North Cape On 27 May
Nemaha (1920)  United States 6,501
HMS Nigeria  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
Light cruiser
HMS Norfolk  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
Heavy Cruiser
HMS Northern Spray (FY 129)  Royal Navy Escort 21–26 May
ASW Trawler
Ocean Voice (1941)  United Kingdom 7,174 Bomb-damaged but reached port safely
HMS Onslow  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
HMS Oribi  Royal Navy Escort 23–26 May
Pieter De Hoogh (1941)  Netherlands 7,168
HMS Retriever (FY 261)  Royal Navy Escort 21–25 May
ASW trawler
Revolutsioner (1936)  Soviet Union 2,900
Richard Henry Lee (1941)  United States 7,191
HMS Seagull  Royal Navy Escort 28–30 May
HMS Seawolf  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
Shchors (1921)  Soviet Union 3,770
Sokrushitelny  Soviet Navy Escort 28–30 May
HMS St Elstan (FY 240)  Royal Navy Escort 21 May
ASW trawler
HMS Starwort  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
Stari Bolshevik (1933)  Soviet Union 3,974 Bomb-damaged but reached port safely
Steel Worker (1920)  United States 5,685 Reached port but was later bombed in harbour and sunk.[1]
Syros (1920)  United States 6,191 Sunk
HMS Trident  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
USS Mayrant  United States Escort 24–29 May
USS Rhind  United States Escort 24–29 May
USS Rowan  United States Escort 24–29 May
USS Wainwright  United States Escort 24–29 May
USS Washington  United States Escort 23–29 May
USS Wichita  United States Escort 23–29 May
Heavy cruiser
HMS Victorious  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May
Aircraft carrier
HMS Volunteer  Royal Navy Escort 23–30 May
West Nilus (1920)  United States 5,495
HMS Wheatland  Royal Navy Escort 23–29 May

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Convoy PQ.16". Convoyweb. Archived from the original on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 

In popular literature[edit]

British war correspondent Alexander Werth describes his journey to Soviet Russia via the PQ 16 convoy in his 1946 book The Year of Stalingrad. He traveled on SS Empire Baffin, which was damaged in the bombings but managed to arrive to Murmansk under her own power.