Convoy PQ 15
Convoy PQ 15 was an Arctic convoy sent from Iceland by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union during World War II. It sailed in late April 1942, reaching the Soviet northern ports after air attacks that sank three ships. Twenty-two ships arrived safely.
The Close Escort was led by Commander J. Crombie in the minesweeper HMS Bramble and consisted of two other minesweepers and four trawlers, joined later by four destroyers and the antiaircraft ship HMS Ulster Queen.
There were two support groups: a Cruiser Cover Force led by Rear Admiral H. M. Burrough in the light cruiser HMS Nigeria, with the heavy cruiser HMS London and two destroyers; and a Distant Covering Force led by Admiral John Tovey, comprising the battleships HMS King George V and USS Washington (BB-56), (Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen, USN, commanding), the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, the heavy cruisers USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), and USS Wichita (CA-45), the light cruiser HMS Kenya, and 10 destroyers.
PQ 15 sailed from Reykjavík, Iceland, on 26 April 1942 with its local escort. This was joined on 28 April by the ocean escort, giving the convoy an immediate total escort of 12 warships.
German aircraft sighted the convoy on 28 April while it was 250 nautical miles (463 km) southwest of Bear Island. However no attack developed for two days as the attention of German forces focused on the reciprocal Convoy QP 11, which left Murmansk in the Soviet Union on 28 April.
Also on 1 May, the Distant Cover Force suffered two losses when King George V and the destroyer HMS Punjabi collided in fog. Punjabi sank and King George V was forced to return to port. Her place in the group was taken by the battleship HMS Duke of York, which steamed from Scapa Flow to reinforce the task force.
The escorts made an asdic contact on 2 May, which the destroyer HMS St. Albans and minesweeper HMS Seagull attacked. The submarine was damaged and forced to the surface; it was found to be the Polish Jastrzab, which was assigned to patrol off Norway but was some way out of position. Jastrzab was too badly damaged to continue and was abandoned and scuttled.
On 3 May at 01:30 in the half light of the Arctic summer nights, six Heinkel He 111 bombers of I. Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 26, the Luftwaffe's new torpedo bomber force, attacked the convoy, making the first German torpedo bomber attack of World War II. Three ships were hit. Two were sunk, and one was damaged and later sunk by the German submarine U-251. Two aircraft were shot down and a third damaged, which subsequently crashed. A further attack by German high-level bombers at dusk was unsuccessful.
Three of PQ 15's ships had been sunk, Botavon and Cape Corso by torpedo bombers and Jutland damaged by torpedo bombers and later sunk by U-251. Of the escorting warships, the submarine Jastrzab and destroyer Punjabi had been sunk and the battleship King George V had been damaged. However, 22 fully laden merchant ships had arrived safely in Murmansk, the largest Allied convoy yet to arrive in the Soviet Union.
The convoy was regarded by the Allies as a success, although it gave them a taste of the difficulties to come on the Arctic convoy run.
Ships in the convoy
The following information is from the Arnold Hague Convoy Database.
|Alcoa Cadet (1919)||United States||4,823||Lost in N.Russia after arrival|
|Alcoa Rambler (1919)||United States||5,500||At Reykjavik 15–26 Apr|
|Bayou Chico (1920)||United States||5,401|
|Botavon (1912)||United Kingdom||5,848||Torpedoed and sunk later by convoy escort|
Capt H J Anchor OBE RD RNR (Commodore)
|Cape Corso (1929)||United Kingdom||3,807||Sunk by aircraft torpedo|
|Cape Race (1930)||United Kingdom||3,807||At Reykjavik 15–26 Apr|
|Deer Lodge (1919)||United States||6,187||At Reykjavik 16–26 Apr|
|Empire Bard (1942)||United Kingdom||3,114||Joined From Reykjavik. Heavy-lift crane ship N Russia|
|Empire Morn (1941)||United Kingdom||7,092||CAM ship at Reykjavik 16–26 Apr|
|Expositor (1919)||United States||4,959||Reykjavik 15–26 Apr|
|Francis Scott Key (1941)||United States||7,191|
|Gray Ranger (1941)||United Kingdom||3,313||Detached, Arrived Lerwick 8 May|
|Hegira (1919)||United States||7,588|
|Jutland (1928)||United Kingdom||6,153||Bombed, Wreck Sunk By U-251|
|Krassin (1917)||Soviet Union||4,902||Icebreaker on passage|
|Lancaster (1918)||United States||7,516|
|Montcalm (1904)||United Kingdom||1,432||Icebreaker on passage|
|Mormacrey (1919)||United States||5,946|
|Mormacrio (1919)||United States||5,940|
|Paul Luckenbach (1913)||United States||6,606|
|Seattle Spirit (1919)||United States||5,627|
|Southgate (1926)||United Kingdom||4,862||At Reykjavik 16–26 Apr|
|Texas (1919)||United States||5,638|
|Topa Topa (1920)||United States||5,356|
|Zebulon B Vance (1942)||United States||7,177|
The following information is from the Arnold Hague Convoy Database.
|HMS Badsworth (L03)||Royal Navy||Escort destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
Rescued survivors from Jutland
|HMS Belvoir||Royal Navy||Escort destroyer||28 Apr – 28 Apr|
|HMS Boadicea (H65)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Bramble (J11)||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||26 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Cape Palliser (FY256)||Royal Navy||ASW trawler||26 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Chiltern||Royal Navy||?||26 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Duke of York (17)||Royal Navy||Battleship||2 May – 5 May|
|HMS Escapade (H17)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||2 May – 5 May|
|HMS Faulknor (H62)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||2 May – 5 May|
|Gray Ranger (1941)||United Kingdom||Replenishment oiler||Detached, Arrived Lerwick 8 May|
|HMS Hursley (L84)||Royal Navy||Escort destroyer||28 Apr – 28 Apr|
|HMS Inglefield (D02)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Kenya (14)||Royal Navy||Cruiser||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS King George V (41)||Royal Navy||Battleship||28 Apr – 2 May|
|HMS Lamerton (L88)||Royal Navy||Escort destroyer||28 Apr – 4 May|
|HMS Leda (J93)||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||26 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Ledbury (L90)||Royal Navy||Escort destroyer||26 Apr – 27 May|
|HMS London (69)||Royal Navy||Heavy cruiser||30 Apr – 1 May|
|HMS Marne (G35)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||29 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Martin (G44)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||29 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Matchless (G52)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Middleton (L74)||Royal Navy||Escort destroyer||28 Apr – 4 May|
|Minerve||Free French Naval Forces||Submarine||1 May – 5 May|
|HMS Nigeria (60)||Royal Navy||Light Cruiser||28 Apr – 2 May|
|HMS Northern Pride (FY105)||Royal Navy||ASW trawler||26 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Oribi (G66)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||29 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Unison (P43)||Royal Navy||Submarine||1 May – 5 May|
|ORP Jastrząb (P551)||Polish Navy||Submarine||2 May 1942, lost in friendly fire incident. 5 crew killed and 6 injured. The ship was badly damaged and had to be scuttled.|
|HMS Punjabi||Royal Navy||Destroyer||29 Apr – 1 May|
Lost in collision with HMS King George V
|HMS Seagull (J85)||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||26 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Somali (F33)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HNoMS St. Albans (I15)||Royal Norwegian Navy||Destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Sturgeon (73S)||Royal Navy||Submarine||28 Apr – 1 May|
|HMS Ulster Queen||Royal Navy||AA Auxiliary Cruiser||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HNoMS Uredd (P-41)||Royal Norwegian Navy||Submarine||1 May – 5 May|
|USS Madison (DD-425)||United States||Destroyer||28 Apr – 6 May|
|USS Plunkett (DD-431)||United States||Destroyer||28 Apr – 6 May|
|USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37)||United States||Heavy cruiser||28 Apr – 6 May|
|USS Wainwright (DD-419)||United States||Destroyer||28 Apr – 6 May|
|USS Washington (BB-56)||United States||Battleship||28 Apr – 6 May|
|USS Wichita (CA-45)||United States||Heavy cruiser||28 Apr – 6 May|
|USS Wilson (DD-408)||United States||Destroyer||28 Apr – 6 May|
|HMS Venomous (D75)||Royal Navy||Destroyer||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMS Victorious (R38)||Royal Navy||Aircraft carrier||28 Apr – 5 May|
|HMT Vizalma||Royal Navy||ASW trawler||26 Apr – 5 May|
- Blair, Clay. Hitler's U-Boat War Vol I. (1996) ISBN 0-304-35260-8.
- Kemp, Paul. Convoy! Drama in Arctic Waters (1993) ISBN 1-85409-130-1.
- Macintyre, Donald. The Naval War Against Hitler. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971. No ISBN number.
- Schofield, Bernard. The Russian Convoys BT Batsford, 1964. ISBN (none)
- PQ 15 at Convoyweb