Source: ADM 1/14347 Sixth MSF. Service in
Northern Waters 1942.
(Towards the end
of 1942, HMS Harrier and HMS
Gleaner gained unique experience when they were placed under Russian command
operating from Iokanka. The following extracts are summarised from the Report.)
Date: 31st December 1942
Commander A D S Jay,
Senior Officer, Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla.
of Proceedings from 4th November to 12th December
4th November HM Ships Harrier and
Gleaner sailed from Archangel and at 1330 on
the 5th arrived at Iokanka to take part in Operation F.B.. HM Ships Cape
Cape Mariato and St Kenan were already at sea acting as rescue ships along the
route of the merchant ships. The two minesweepers were to act under the orders
of Rear Admiral Abramov, commanding Iokanka base, as part of the force escorting
HM Ships Harrier and Gleaner were
directed to meet John Walker.
They sailed at 1730 on the 5th but did not
sight John Walker
either on the 6th or 7th. Russian PE 111's and MDR 111's were expected but the
only aircraft sighted was an HE 111 at 1315 on the 6th.
Ships Harrier and
entered Iokanka at daylight on 8th and fuelled from the oiler
Jeliabov at the rate of 40 tons per hour.
Information was exchanged with the Russian staff, among that supplied to them
was: (a) a list of casualties contained in signal from the SBNO Archangel timed
1330/6th, (b) distress message from
Chulmleigh read on 78 k/cs at 0708/6th, (c)
distress message from Hugh Williamson read
on 300 k/cs at 1248/7th.
the 9th the Minesweepers were requested to search for a ship from whom a
distress message had been received. Both ships proceeded at 1545 with the rescue
proceeded later. At 2205 Hugh
Williamson was located and escorted to
Dvina Bar by HMS Gleaner.
HMS Harrier parted company at Terski Orlov
and returned to Iokanka. In reply to signals Hugh
Williamson stated that she had made no
distress message but had 'reported a doubtful aircraft'. She also reported that
her compasses were 'in bad shape'. When located she was proceeding at slow speed
to wait for daylight before making a landfall.
the forenoon of 10th November, wind force 10 from SSW was experienced in
Iokanka. HMS Harrier's
anchors held with 5 and 4 shackles out and the trawlers did not drag seriously. Razumni
after weighing and re-anchoring several times proceeded to sea for safety.
0900/13th HM Ships Harrier
and Gleaner sailed
to meet Empire Scott
and Empire Sky
whose 'farthest on' position was estimated as position F at 1200/14th. A
position 35 miles south of F was reached at 1030/14th. From then until 1800/16th
a patrol along the route was maintained steering northward in daylight and good
visibility and zigzagging southward in dark or bad visibility, covering a width
of 25 miles with a speed of advance of 7 knots. On the afternoon of 16th the
wind freshened to a gale from North-East, raising a heavy sea. At 1800 I
estimated that we were north of the merchant ships' 'farthest north' position
and in view of this and the weather decided to steer for Kharlov and thence
along the route to Kola.
Kola information was received that two merchant ships had been sighted by shore lookout
between Iokanka and Kharlov and the minesweepers proceeded at 1300/17th in
search for them. Empire Scott
was duly met but as she was already being escorted by Rubin
the search was continued for the second ship. She was also located but proved to
be Russian and HM Ships Harrier and
entered Iokanka at 0900/18th. Fuelling from Jeliabov
was accomplished with some difficulty on account of the swell and would probably
have been impossible the previous day.
the night of 19th to 20th November in a final effort to locate
Empire Sky, HMS
Harrier patrolled the coast between
Svyatoi Nos and Kharlov Island, HMS
Gleaner (while taking an injured man to
hospital at Vaenga) covered the section of the route west of Kharlov.
At 2000/20th HMS
Cape Argona sailed to rendezvous with Meanticut
9 miles north of Svyatoi Nos at 2200. Her instructions from me were that if Meanticut
should not me sighted by 0100/21st HMS Cape Argona
should proceed along the route. If 'Not met' during daylight of 21st Cape
Argona was to enter Kola Inlet, report the general state of trawlers and
bring back any available stores and provisions. During the night information was
received that Meanticut was more than four hours
late and was being brought into Iokanka by the Russian escorting trawler. HMS
Cape Argona was recalled but was unable to comply because she was hove to
in a north-easterly gale. During this gale, with the temperature between 13º
and 30º F., ice formed to a thickness of 2 feet on her decks abreast the engine
On 30th November
the Minesweepers reached Iokanka after sweeping two Russian ships into the White
Sea. By now their boiler hours were 60% above the number allowed and urgent
arrangements were made for some boiler cleaning to be carried out. Because of
the bad weather at Iokanka it was considered essential for safety to have steam
for full speed available at short notice.
On 5th December
attempts were made by Harrier to meet two Russian
ice breakers and sweep them through the White Sea. At 0430 two ships were
sighted but when challenged with first red then white Aldis lamp, no reply was
received. Because they were 15 miles out of position and enemy destroyers had
twice previously been encountered in this vicinity it was decided that to close
further was an unjustifiable risk for a single minesweeper and Harrier
was ordered to return to Iokanka.
Three groups of
merchant ships including the Hugh Williamson, John
Walker, Richard Alvey,
Campfire and Empire Galliard were escorted, the merchant ships, owing to their
unreliable compasses and lack of local knowledge requested the Senior Officer of
the escort to act as a guide. The following signals give a good indication of
the methods adopted:
TO: MS6 FROM: Empire
cannot rely on his compass
TO: Empire Galliard
astern of me. I will adjust my speed to yours. Reduce a little to let Campfire
What is your maximum continuous speed?
Harrier FROM: Campfire
10 1/2 knots
Then I beg you not to be so suicidal as to get astern
of station again.
FROM: HMS Cape Aragona
Both these merchantmen's compasses are
unreliable, course needs to be checked after alteration. I had to lead them up
from the Bar.
TO: Cape Aragona
Thank you; I am taking guide.
TO: Hugh Williamson FROM:
Keep in my wake.
After dark I will burn dim light which only shows directly astern. Maintain 9
Alvey FROM: Harrier
Speed 9 knots. Keep
TO: John Walker
to lead you clear of suspected minefield. Please follow me more closely.
FROM: Hugh Williamson
thanks for splendid assistance.
TO: Hugh Williamson
All part of
Minesweepers' job. Thanks for following so well.
Harrier FROM: Richard Alvey
period in Northern Waters, Commander Jay,
Lt Commander Hewitt, Captain of HMS Gleaner and
seven other members of Gleaner's crew received
awards.( See 'Crew' sections in Ships' Histories of
Gleaner for details.)
from the award citation:
'Their work has been strenuous, weather
conditions have been bad, and the usual hazards inherent to minesweeping
have been encountered. Both ships have been intelligently handled and have
earned much praise and respect from the Russian naval staff.'
Admiral Douglas Fisher.