Convoy PQ 15

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HMS Punjabi sunk after collision

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 convoy consisted of 25 merchant ships and was accompanied by one auxiliary, the oiler RFA Gray Ranger, which travelled with her own escort of destroyers.

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.

The convoy was also covered by a patrol of four submarines off Norway, guarding against a sortie by German warships.


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.

On 1 May the German Luftwaffe made its first attack on PQ 15, by six Junkers Ju 88s. The German bombers were unsuccessful, and lost one of their number.

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.[1] 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.

Deteriorating weather on 4 May prevented any German further attacks; an Arctic gale quickly turning into a snowstorm. PQ 15 arrived at the Kola Inlet at 2100 on 5 May with no further losses.


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[edit]

The following information is from the Arnold Hague Convoy Database.[2]

Merchant ships[edit]

Name Flag Tonnage (GRT) Notes
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
Capira (1920)  Panama 5,625
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
Replenishment oiler
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

Escort forces[edit]

The following information is from the Arnold Hague Convoy Database.[3]

Name Flag Ship Type Notes
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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Macintyre, p. 270.
  2. ^ "Convoy PQ.15". Arnold Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Convoy PQ.15". Arnold Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 16 October 2013.


  • 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

External links[edit]