Convoy PQ 16
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 on 25 May 1942, reaching the Soviet northern ports on 30 May after five days of air attacks that left seven ships sunk and three damaged; 25 of the ships arrived safely.
- 1 Background
- 2 Prelude
- 3 Convoy PQ 16
- 4 Aftermath
- 5 Ships in the convoy
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 Footnotes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
In October 1941, after Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the USSR, which had begun on 22 June, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made a commitment to send a convoy to the Arctic ports of the USSR every ten days and to deliver 1,200 tanks a month from July 1942 to January 1943, followed by 2,000 tanks and another 3,600 aircraft more than already promised.[a] The first convoy was due at Murmansk around 12 October and the next convoy was to depart Iceland on 22 October. A motley of British, Allied and neutral shipping loaded with military stores and raw materials for the Soviet war effort would be assembled at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, convenient for ships from both sides of the Atlantic.
By late 1941, the convoy system used in the Atlantic had been established on the Arctic run; a convoy commodore ensured that the ships' masters and signals officers attended a briefing before sailing to make arrangements for the management of the convoy, which sailed in a formation of long rows of short columns. The commodore was usually a retired naval officer, aboard a ship identified by a white pendant with a blue cross. The commodore was assisted by a Naval signals party of four men, who used lamps, semaphore flags and telescopes to pass signals, coded from books carried in a bag, weighted to be dumped overboard. In large convoys, the commodore was assisted by vice- and rear-commodores who directed the speed, course and zig-zagging of the merchant ships and liaised with the escort commander.[b]
The British Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) based at Bletchley Park housed a small industry of code-breakers and traffic analysts. By June 1941, the German Enigma machine Home Waters (Heimish) settings used by surface ships and U-boats could quickly be read. On 1 February 1942, the Enigma machines used in U-boats in the Atlantic and Mediterranean were changed but German ships and the U-boats in Arctic waters continued with the older Heimish (Hyrda from 1942, Dolphin to the British). By mid-1941, British Y-stations were able to receive and read Luftwaffe W/T transmissions and give advance warning of Luftwaffe operations. In 1941, interception parties code-named Headaches were embarked on warships and from May 1942, computers sailed with the cruiser admirals in command of convoy escorts, to read Luftwaffe W/T signals which could not be intercepted by land stations in Britain. The Admiralty sent details of Luftwaffe wireless frequencies, call signs and the daily local codes to the computers. Combined with their knowledge of Luftwaffe procedures, the computers could give fairly accurate details of German reconnaissance sorties and sometimes predicted attacks twenty minutes before they were detected by radar. In February 1942, the German Beobachtungsdienst (B-Dienst, Observation Service) of the Kriegsmarine Marinenachrichtendienst (MND, Naval Intelligence Service) broke Naval Cypher No 3 and was able to read it until January 1943.
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 SS Empire Lawrence. The convoy was led by Commodore N. H. 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 aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, the cruisers HMS London and USS Wichita, and 13 destroyers.
Convoy PQ 16
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 midnight sun 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 at 6:00 a.m.was spotted by a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 reconnaissance aircraft, which commenced shadowing. That evening the Luftwaffe began 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 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.
When Convoy PQ 16 was assembled off Iceland Churchill declared it would be worthwhile if even 50 per cent got through; despite the losses the majority of the ships of Convoy PQ 16 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 the delivery of war material that the Germans made greater efforts to disrupt the following convoys. The Heavy Lift Ships from Convoy PQ 16 including SS Empire Elgar stayed at Archangelsk and Molotovsk unloading ships for over 14 months. In The Year of Stalingrad (1946) the British war correspondent Alexander Werth described his participation in Convoy PQ 16 on SS Empire Baffin, which was bombed but reached Murmansk under its own power.
Eight merchant ships were sunk, six by air attack, one by U-703 and one by a mine. Two U-boats were damaged by the escorts and the Royal Navy claimed the certain destruction of a Junkers Ju 88 by the Hawker Sea Hurricane of P/O Hay (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve) from the CAM ship Empire Morn, who was killed and four more by anti-aircraft fire, with 16 aircraft claimed as probably destroyed.
Ships in the convoy
The following information is from the Arnold Hague Convoy Database.
|Alamar (1916)||United States||5,689||Sunk by aircraft|
|Alcoa Banner (1919)||United States||5,035|
|American Press (1920)||United States||5,131|
|American Robin (1919)||United States||5,172|
|Arcos (1918)||Soviet Union||2,343|
|Atlantic (1939)||United Kingdom||5,414|
|RFA Black Ranger (A163)||United Kingdom||3,417|
|Carlton (1920)||United States||5,127||Damaged by near-misses. Towed back to Iceland by Northern Spray.|
|Chernyshevski (1919)||Soviet Union||3,588|
|City Of Joliet (1920)||United States||6,167||Sunk by aircraft|
|City Of Omaha (1920)||United States||6,124|
|Empire Baffin (1941)||United Kingdom||6,978||Damaged by near-misses.|
|Empire Elgar (1942)||United Kingdom||2,847|
|Empire Lawrence (1941)||United Kingdom||7,457||Sunk by aircraft. Carried a catapult and one Hawker Sea Hurricane|
|Empire Purcell (1942)||United Kingdom||7,049||Sunk by aircraft|
|Empire Selwyn (1941)||United Kingdom||7,167|
|Heffron (1919)||United States||7,611|
|Hybert (1920)||United States||6,120|
|John Randolph (1941)||United States||7,191|
|Lowther Castle (1937)||United Kingdom||5,171||Sunk by aircraft (aerial torpedo)|
|Massmar (1920)||United States||5,828|
|Mauna Kea (1919)||United States||6,064|
|Minotaur (1918)||United States||4,554|
|Mormacsul (1920)||United States||5,481||Sunk by aircraft|
|Nemaha (1920)||United States||6,501|
|Ocean Voice (1941)||United Kingdom||7,174||Convoy Commodore|
Damaged by bombs but reached port safely
|Pieter De Hoogh (1941)||Netherlands||7,168|
|Revolutsioner (1936)||Soviet Union||2,900|
|Richard Henry Lee (1941)||United States||7,191|
|Shchors (1921)||Soviet Union||3,770|
|Stari Bolshevik (1933)||Soviet Union||3,974||Damaged by bombs but reached port safely|
|Steel Worker (1920)||United States||5,685||Reached port but was later bombed in harbour and sunk.|
|Syros (1920)||United States||6,191||Sunk by U-703|
|West Nilus (1920)||United States||5,495|
|HMS Alynbank||Royal Navy||Escort 23–30 May AA ship|
Close Convoy Escort
|HMS Hazard||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||21–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Lady Madeleine (FY 283)||Royal Navy||ASW Trawler||21 May; Western Local Escort|
|HMS St Elstan (FY 240)||Royal Navy||ASW Trawler||21 May; Western Local Escort|
|HMS Retriever (FY 261)||Royal Navy||ASW Trawler||21–25 May; Western Local Escort|
|HMS Northern Spray (FY 129)||Royal Navy||ASW Trawler||21–26 May; Western Local Escort|
|HMS Achates||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Ashanti||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
Senior Officer Escort
|HMS Martin||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Volunteer||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|ORP Garland||Polish Navy||Destroyer||23–27 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Honeysuckle||Royal Navy||Corvette||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Roselys||Royal Navy||Corvette||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Starwort||Royal Navy||Corvette||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Hyderabad||Royal Navy||Corvette||23–30 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Seawolf||Royal Navy||Submarine||23–29 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Trident||Royal Navy||Submarine||23–29 May; Ocean Escort|
|HMS Bramble||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||28–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|HMS Gossamer||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||28–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|HMS Leda (J93)||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||29–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|HMS Seagull||Royal Navy||Minesweeper||28–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|Grozni||Soviet Navy||Destroyer||28–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|Kuibyshev||Soviet Navy||Destroyer||28–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|Sokrushitelny||Soviet Navy||Destroyer||28–30 May; Eastern Local Escort|
|RFA Black Ranger (A163)||United Kingdom||Fleet Oiler||Force "Q"|
|HMS Ledbury||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–30 May; Force "Q", escorted RFA Black Ranger|
Cruiser Cover Force
|HMS Kent||Royal Navy||Heavy Cruiser||23–26 May|
|HMS Norfolk||Royal Navy||Heavy Cruiser||23–26 May|
|HMS Liverpool||Royal Navy||Light Cruiser||23–26 May|
|HMS Nigeria||Royal Navy||Light Cruiser||23–26 May|
|HMS Marne||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–26 May|
|HMS Onslow||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–26 May|
|HMS Oribi||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–26 May|
Distant Covering Force (Home Fleet)
|HMS Victorious||Royal Navy||Aircraft Carrier||23–29 May|
|HMS Duke of York||Royal Navy||Battleship||23–29 May|
|USS Washington||United States||Battleship||23–29 May|
|USS Wichita||United States||Heavy Cruiser||23–29 May|
|HMS London||Royal Navy||Heavy Cruiser||23–29 May|
|HMS Blankney||Royal Navy||Escort Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Eclipse||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Faulknor||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Fury||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Icarus||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Intrepid||Royal Navy||Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Lamerton||Royal Navy||Escort Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Middleton||Royal Navy||Escort Destroyer||23–29 May|
|HMS Wheatland||Royal Navy||Escort Destroyer||23–29 May|
|USS Mayrant||United States||Destroyer||24–29 May|
|USS Rhind||United States||Destroyer||24–29 May|
|USS Rowan||United States||Destroyer||24–29 May|
|USS Wainwright||United States||Destroyer||24–29 May|
- HMS Ulysses (novel)
- Finnish radio intelligence intercepted planned route of the convoy.
- List of shipwrecks in May 1942
- In October 1941, the unloading capacity of Archangel was 300,000 long tons (304,814 t), Vladivostok 140,000 long tons (142,247 t) and 60,000 long tons (60,963 t) in the Persian Gulf ports.
- By the end of 1941, 187 Matilda II and 249 Valentine tanks had been delivered, comprising 25 percent of the medium-heavy tanks in the Red Army, making 30–40 percent of the medium-heavy tanks defending Moscow. In December 1941, 16 perent of the fighters defending Moscow were Hawker Hurricanes and Curtiss Tomahawks from Britain and by 1 January 1942, 96 Hurricane fighters were flying in the Soviet Air Forces (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily, VVS). The British supplied radar apparatus, machine tools, Asdic and commodities.
- Woodman 2004, p. 22.
- Howard 1972, p. 44.
- Woodman 2004, p. 14.
- Woodman 2004, pp. 22–23.
- Edgerton 2011, p. 75.
- Hinsley 1994, pp. 141, 145–146.
- Hinsley 1994, pp. 126, 135.
- Woodman 2004, pp. 465, 145–146.
- Woodman 2004, pp. 146–148.
- Woodman 2004, pp. 149–158.
- "Convoy PQ.16". Arnold Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- "Convoy PQ.16". Convoyweb. Archived from the original on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
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- Edgerton, D. (2011). Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World War. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-9918-1.
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- Werth, A. (1946). The Year of Stalingrad: An Historical Record and a Study of Russian Mentality, Methods and Policies. London: Hamish Hamilton. OCLC 901982780.