From: The Senior Officer, Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla, HMS
Date 1st October 1942
To: The Senior British Naval Officer,
Copies to: The Rear Admiral (Destroyers), Home
Fleet, The Director of Minesweeping, Admiralty.
Report of Proceedings of HMS Harrier as Close
Escort to PQ18
At 0830 on Monday 8th September, HMS
Harrier weighed and proceeded out of Hvalfjord as part of escort
for local portion of PQ18 sailing from Iceland, and was in station
on the port side of the combined convoy by 1900. During the night
it was appreciated that the three trawlers detailed were
experiencing difficulty in towing the three Motor Minesweepers
although weather conditions were favourable.
During the night the weather deteriorated and
by daylight four of the convoy was found to have straggled
At 1100 on 8th September 4 merchant
ships, 5 trawlers and 3 motor minesweepers were sighted well
astern of the convoy and about 4 miles to the west of the route.
The merchant ships had to be repeatedly chased closer to the North
Cape, as they appeared to be in danger of running into the
minefield, the existence of which they seemed unaware.
The Motor Minesweepers were now proceeding
independently and were clearly much happier than when in tow. They
remained with the convoy throughout, having ample fuel for the
voyage. They withstood some severe weather but no ice was
encountered, which would undoubtedly have hampered them severely.
At 1100 on 14th September HMS
Harrier was ordered alongside HMS Scylla to transfer survivors.
HMS Scylla reduced speed to 8 knots with sea 25 astern and HMS
Harrier was secured with a spring and a breast as for oiling at
sea. Unfortunately HMS Harrier’s starboard .5 inch gun came
exactly abreast HMS Scylla’s Oerlikon platform which caused some
damage to former. This might have been avoided if the spring could
have been veered quickly. It is suggested that it is advisable to
load the spring to the cruiser’s capstan rather than a bollard.
At 0035 on 15th September, Motor
Minesweeper No. 90 who had reported that she was very short of
coal for cooking and of drinking water, came alongside and 5 cwt
of coal was transferred and 3 tons of drinking water were then
pumped across comfortably with both ships under way steaming at 9
knots: sea, calm.
A detailed list of aircraft seen to have
crashed astern of the convoy is as follows:-
Sunday 15th September: 15.15
approximately, one HE111 torpedo bomber which had passed through
the convoy crashed into the sea about ¾ mile on HMS Harrier’s
starboard beam. 2038 Aircraft, probably HE115 torpedo bomber seen
to crash in flames about three miles on starboard quarter.
Monday 14th September: 1416 HE111
torpedo bomber which had passed through convoy crashed into the
sea ½ mile on the starboard beam. Motor Minesweeper No 212 states
definitely that this was the aircraft which torpedoed SS Mary
Friday 18th September. One Ju88
torpedo bomber which had passed through the convoy crashed into
the sea and blew up about ½ mile on port beam.
No survivors were rescued from any of these
aircraft which crashed. In all cases but the second, HMS Harrier’s
Oerlikons were hitting, but as these aircraft had already passed
through a hail of fire from the convoy and the other escorts, it
is considered that they represented victories shared by a large
number of ships.
At 1830 on 18th September, HM Ships
Halcyon, Britomart, Salamander and Hazard were sighted off Cape
Gorodetski and the following signals were exchanged:-
TO Halcyon FROM Harrier
Do you consider it necessary for convoy to be swept through
TO Harrier FROM Halcyon
Do not consider it necessary as we have been sweeping for past
seven days. Propose going ahead now or early morning to sweep
Dvina approaches for ground mines. Enemy air minelaying active
TO Malcolm FROM Harrier
Halcyon reports channel clear. In view of this and unsuitable
weather propose cancelling tonight’s sweep. 1844
TO Harrier FROM Malcolm
TO Malcolm FROM Harrier
Halcyon reports ground minelaying in Dvina approach channel. If
you can spare us from AA duties propose parting company at Pori
and proceeding with all available sweepers to search approach
channel before arrival of convoy. Alternatively detach local
sweepers now for this purpose.
TO Halcyon FROM Harrier
When detached proceed as you propose. Have the sweeper marking
edge of swept channel for convoy.
After heading the convoy into the searched
channel off Cape Gorodetski, the four local minesweepers were
detached at 1740 in accordance with my previous message.
On being asked whether the Group 1A lights had
been requested, HMS Halcyon replied that the SBNO Archangel had
arranged for the lights to conform with the convoys NTA signal.
Out of respect to Russian wishes, however, these lights were not
shown. It is submitted that it is impossible to keep the convoy
within the searched channel without shore lights under the
conditions which were found to prevail, namely, unfamiliarity with
the coast, a dark night, low visibility and strong tides. Radio
beacons alone are not considered sufficient for such accurate
navigation. In this connection it may be useful to recall that
Group 1A lights were instituted for use by heavy ships and convoys
at the suggestion of Rear Admiral Wake –Walker after he had had
personal experience with QP2 in October 1941.
In addition to the arrangements of the SBNO
Archangel, the following provisions were made for the arrival of
the convoy at the Fairway buoy.
TO: S.O. Escort & Commodore FROM:
Have told Halcyon to have one ship marking outer end Dvina
approach channel on convoy’s approach. Anticipate convoy will need
to anchor in this channel leading ships near Fairway Buoy. A/S
patrol required. Distribution of pilots will probably be expected
if escort at head of convoy has up to date list of names and
positions of merchant ships. Use of MMS would also expedite pilot
Four minesweepers were anchored at three mile
intervals to mark the swept channel and to act as V/S links. HMS
Harrier anchored close to Fairway Buoy as a leading mark for the
At 1850 on 19th September, HMS
Harrier was forced by a strong westerly gale to weigh and steam to
seaward. At 0205 on 20th the steering engine failed and
the ship was hove to in hand steering. The after ballast tank (32
tons) was already full to reduce racing. The forepeak (7 tons) and
the double bottom compartments (15 tons) between 57 and 65
stations port and starboard were now flooded and this made
steering appreciably easier. Repairs to the steering engine were
effected by 1250 on 20th and HMS Harrier returned to
the convoy in time to organise A/S patrol of Minesweepers.
At 0845 on 21st HMS Harrier
proceeded up river piloted by the Master of S.S. Stalingrad and
landed 24 Russian survivors at Krasny quay.
Commander A D H Jay