Halcyon Class Minesweepers

HMS Hazard 1942

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HMS Hazard 1942 IWM FL4579 HMS Hazard - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Hazard 1942 (IWM FL4579 and FL4580)

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc


At sea


HAZARD sighted by Edinburgh escorting a merchant ship that was desperately short of fuel to Murmansk

Among her local duties in North Russia in Jan./Feb.1942, HAZARD met PQ7B (9 ships) and PQ11 (13 ships). She then acted as Senior Officer's ship for the escort of QP8 (15 ships), which sailed homeward on 1 March 1942.  


17/1 Convoy PQ8 was joined by eastern local escort of HAZARD and SHARPSHOOTER despite the thick fog that kept BRITOMART and SALAMANDER in Kola.

At 1945 on 17/1 the freighter Harmatris was hit by a torpedo from U454 which passed underneath HARRIER. SPEEDWELL was ordered to drop back and stand by the stationary Harmatris. An hour later a second torpedo hit Harmatris but failed to explode, the captain thought he had hit a mine. SPEEDWELL was ordered alongside to evacuate some of Harmatris’s crew. After much effort a towing wire was passed but SPEEDWELL was unable to move her as the starboard anchor had let go when the torpedo struck and stuck in the sea bed.

At 2200, as SHARPSHOOTER had joined the screen, the destroyer Matabele was sent back to Harmatris. U454 fired another salvo of torpedoes which missed their target, a tanker, but hit Matabele. Although about 60 of the 200 crew escaped alive most were killed by the destroyer’s own depth charges and the cold. Only two survived. HARRIER recovered the dead from the sea.  The volunteer crew withdrew from Harmatris to the relative safety of SPEEDWELL and she circled the freighter all night.


At 0600 with both ships alone in the ocean the crew went back to Harmatris and slipped the anchor chain, reconnected the tow wire and at 0800 got under way again. They were now joined by SHARPSHOOTER and HAZARD. At noon a Heinkel He111 made a half hearted low level attack but was driven off by the AA armaments of the minesweepers and the DEMS gunners on Harmatris. A second plane dropped her bombs a mile away.

At about 14.30 a high pressure steam pipe on SPEEDWELL burst, badly scalding three men and Youngs signalled for a Soviet tug, which arrived within the hour. SPEEDWELL left at speed to seek medical assistance for her injured crew members. Two further tugs arrived and Harmatris got to Murmansk early on 20/1.

Extracts from Arctic Convoys by Richard Woodman


HAZARD and SPEEDWELL provided local eastern escort for PQ9 (8 ships) from Murmansk 12/2 until 13/2 when BRITOMART and SHARPSHOOTER took over from them until 15/2. No enemy activity.




17/2 From SO 6th MSF: Intend to sail HAZARD and SALAMANDER for UK with QP8. HAZARD due for annual refit.

23/2 From SBNO N. Russia: Sails 26/2 with QP8

27/2 Arrangements can be made for HAZARD to be taken in hand at Messrs Hall Russels Aberdeen for refit on 16/3


The Commodore of QP8 (15 ships) sailed in the EMPIRE SELWYN; the Ocean escort comprised just four ships, the 'Halcyons' HAZARD (Lt Commander J R A Seymour, Senior Officer Escorts) and SALAMANDER and the 'Flowers' SWEETBRIAR and OXLIP, the cruiser NIGERIA sailing in support was not sighted. HARRIER (MS6) and SHARPSHOOTER and the Russian destroyers GREMYASHCHI (Commodore) and GROMKI sailed as local escort for two days. SALAMANDER’s asdic was defective, Sweetbriar’s packed up on 3/3 and Oxlip’s refused to work. For the first three days, the sea was flat calm and sheeted with ice. Thereafter there were gale-force 10 south-westerlies then westerly winds which scattered the convoy. The empty, lightly ballasted ships presented a big surface to the wind making progress slow. On 5/3 clear visibility allowed the convoy to reform, but the merchant ships LARRINAGA and IJORA did not reappear, and the latter was sunk by prowling enemy destroyers.  By noon on 6/3 the convoy was again lashed by a Force 10 gale with waves 40 feet high. The remaining 13 ships managed to reform on 7/3 and at noon, 200 miles south-west of Bear Island, in falling snow, passed through convoy PQ12. A position check between HAZARD and Kent revealed a longitudinal discrepancy of 95 miles. The convoy later altered course to avoid the ice that had given PQ12 problems. On 6 March the German battleship TIRPITZ was sighted at sea by the British submarine SEAWOLF and convoys PQ12 and QP8 were in fact given distant cover by the Home Fleet. The TIRPITZ passed 50 miles ahead of QP8 with one of the destroyers, Z25, was less than 12 miles ahead. It was one of Tirpitz’s destroyers who snapped up the IJORA. The convoy began to disperse to their destinations on 9/3. SALAMANDER and HAZARD sailed into Scapa Flow.  

  Arrived back safe and sound and were told to stand by and try and bring an empty convoy back to England. It wasn’t very big and away we went around the North Cape of Norway and were told to keep well out from the coast. After about four days we had word that one of the ships had broken down with engine trouble. It was a Russian ship but she said she would catch us up. After, we ran into a snow storm, it was coming down that heavy we could not see each other and then we heard some heavy guns. The Russian ship reported being attacked by the Scharnhorst and of course we altered course, the convoy put further out to sea. And in the afternoon our convoy ran through the lines of ships of the full convoy going up to Murmansk. We shouted to the Admiral in the cruiser Kenya that the German battleship was out, and both convoys altered course again. He ordered two cruisers and two destroyers to head her off, but she was away into harbour somewhere in Norway. Another two days and we were getting near to Iceland but that night we had to ease down to be guided in through the minefield around Iceland. The ships of the convoy went into harbour but we had to do a bit of sweeping. A German sub was supposed to have laid mines inside of ours but we did not find any. And then we got orders to carry on back to Scapa Flow. We passed the Faroe Islands during the night and I was wondering what was bumping against the ship’s side every so often. I went up on deck and laid down to look over the side, it being dark. I shouted up to the Bridge that we had gone into a minefield that had broken adrift in the last heavy gale. The captain told all the crew below decks to come up on deck and to batten down all doors and hatches just in case we did hit one, which as not safe. You see they were our mines and should have been safe on being adrift, but you can’t always tell.





      Well we got to Scapa alright and were told to stand by to pick up a small convoy that was going down the East Coast. And the next day we picked it up just outside the Pentland Firth and carried on down close to the land within the four mile limit as our minefield stretched from Scapa to Dover. We were just passing the Tyne and getting dark, and then the air raid started. One of the bombers dropped his bombs well short of Tynemouth and nearly caught us. But anyway we still carried on. While a raid is on the Coastguards do not put a light on but we could see the dim lights on the minefield but they would not see them up in the ships. A dull yellow light every four miles flashing so many times to let the ships’ captains know where they were passing. They were marked on the ships’ charts




12/3 From F O i/c Aberdeen: HAZARD can be taken in hand for refit at Aberdeen by Alex Hall & Co Ltd on 16/3. HAZARD will be dry docked on 27/4 for approximately 14 days








For Hvalfjord, detailed as additional escort to PQ16






When I got to the ship we had orders to return to Scapa Flow, and then it came, Orders to go to Iceland and wait. And the night we got into harbour a storm blew up and our ship drifted into another sweeper and made a 6 ft hole in our ship’s side. I thought that would be the end of us going on the convoy but the next day we were told to go alongside the Repair Ship and they welded a new plate over the other one and we were ready once more. Ships were coming in from all over the place full up with planes, tanks, ammunition, food and clothes. Well the day came and away we went up the Denmark Straits right over as far as Greenland. After a few hours an Icelandic trawler went through the lines of ships and when we were out of sight we heard him getting in touch with the Germans in Norway, how many ships and how many escorts. The captain told the crew that we would have company after another two days, and we did. A German flying boat going around the whole convoy but keeping out of gun range and he would get relieved every four hours. It was no good keep on changing course, if we did he would report our position.  

After two days the raids started. High level attacks every 20 minutes. That night there was a submarine attack and the ship at the back of the convoy got a hit right in the bows where there was stored 250 ton of explosives. We heard the lookout shouting torpedo but it was too late. A ship there one minute and the next none. We had to pick up survivors, there was 28, they lost 10 men with the captain. On that day the crew requested with the captain if they could move their sleeping quarters in the bows to one in the stern as they had a queer feeling which turned out to be true. All the survivors were on a raft, some hanging on the side. One chap felt himself sinking so he drove his hand on a large nail so he wouldn’t sink.  

The next morning with another seaman went below decks to get ready. Two crew who had died, we put them each in a blanket and a heavy weight and sowed them up all ready to be buried at sea by their own crew between air raids. There was a ship in the middle of the convoy who had the latest radar gear and she could tell us when the planes were even leaving the ground bases and that gave us a good chance to be ready for them. That day they had a torpedo attack on the convoy. There were nine planes, each with three torpedoes and at the same time there was a low level attack on us. And god we were lucky to of had a good captain on board. He turned the ship to run in between the torpedoes and miss the four bombs, two dropped on either side of the ship which nearly turned us over. While all this was going on the ship with all the radar gear had an aircraft on a catapult, a hurricane fighter which could fly off but could not land again. He flew off after the torpedo bombers and shot three down and then came across the convoy which was the quickest way to get at the other ones above the convoy. But the Yanks opened up on him and shot him down. He was wounded in the leg. He came down alongside the Polish Destroyer who picked him up. And that afternoon his ship was hit quite a few times and was sinking. One of our trawlers went alongside and was taking off as many crew as she could. And while she was doing that the big ship alongside of her blew up and we all thought that was the last of the trawler and the brave men. But when it all cleared away she was alright, loaded up with men. That was our worst day. We lost five ships, one of those was ablaze from end to end. One of our subs was alongside of her shouting for the crew to jump, which a lot of them did. Their clothes was on fire but the sub picked them up. And while this was going on the bombers were still bombing the ship but the sub, the Seahorse, would not give in until it got too bad for her and she just sank and came up behind the convoy having picked up the men of the ship’s crew.  

Well during the night the cruiser left us, a signal had come through saying part of the German Navy had come out from Norway and were heading towards the convoy, but we did not see any of them. Perhaps it was just to take part of the escort away, well that was six ships we had lost. The following day during a raid a Russian ship was hit in the bows but she still carried on. We went over to her and asked if he wanted any help but he said he would be alright. His lifeboats were lowered to just above the water, there was women in them. She got into harbour OK. The next day we lost two more ships and we shot down a bomber which landed in the sea close to our ship. The German crew got out onto the wings. They were waving their arms. We just left them as one of their flying boats would pick them up. If we had stopped the American survivors would of killed them.  



PQ16 (36 ships) sailed from Hvalfjord on 21/5. HAZARD and four trawlers provided the initial close ocean escort. The Battle Fleet provided distant cover against the TIRPITZ and the cruisers KENT, NORFOLK, NIGERIA and LIVERPOOL with three destroyers, were in close proximity to the convoy west of Bear Island (against the battleships ADMIRAL SCHEER and LUTZOW who were known to be lying at Narvik). Thick fog closed round the convoy.


Shadowing enemy aircraft stayed almost continuously with the convoy for five days from 25 May. The convoy then engaged in a six day running battle during which few on board were able to get much sleep. A small party of RAF airmen onboard one of the escorts spoke fluent German and, armed with HF receivers monitored the Luftwaffe’s air traffic. They monitored the pilots chatting prior to take off and were able to give forewarning of attack. At 0305 on the 25th U703 torpedoed the merchant ship Syros - HAZARD helped with the rescue of 28 survivors from a crew of 37.

1500 A surfaced U boat was seen on the convoy’s starboard flank but it crash dived.

At 1910, in the continuous daylight, He111 torpedo bombers and Ju88 dive-glide bombers attacked alternately. EMPIRE LAWRENCE's Hurricane fighter destroyed one enemy aircraft and damaged another before being hit by fire from an American merchant ship. The anti-submarine escort chased off the U-boats and the cruisers' AA batteries held off the air attacks, destroying some enemy aircraft. No torpedoes hit the convoy but bombs damaged two merchantmen with near misses. Later, the convoy passed through drifting ice.


Air attacks began early on 26/5 consisting of Ju88’s and He111’s, the last attack being at 1800.


The first air attack of the day began at 0320. Heavy pack ice forced the convoy further south, closer to the German airfields. The weather was fine and clear with thin layers of cloud to hide aircraft. The cruisers departed on the 27th, whereupon 108 enemy aircraft attacked the convoy. Four merchant ships, including the CAM ship EMPIRE LAWRENCE, were sunk and two merchant ships and the destroyer GARLAND (Polish-manned) were badly damaged. Renewed air attacks occurred that evening (27/5), two more merchant ships being sunk. OCEAN VOICE, the Commodore's ship, was badly damaged. The merchant ships maintained perfect station the whole time, but a fifth of their number had already been lost with three days sailing still to go.


It grew colder, ice formed on the ships’ upper works, icebergs dotted the sea and the ships ploughed on through the sea smoke. The air attacks resumed at 2130 but were ineffective partly because three Russian destroyers had joined to supplement the AA fire.


Early on 29/5 a further air attack took place. On the evening of the 29th, 140 miles NE of the Kola Inlet,  Captain Crombie commanding the 1st MSF based at Kola joined the convoy in HMS BRAMBLE, together with LEDA, SEAGULL, NIGER, HUSSAR and GOSSAMER. The convoy divided and at 2330 Crombie's section, escorting six of the merchant ships to Archangel, was attacked by 15 Ju88’s while 18 attacked the Murmansk bound ships.


Main part of PQ16 arrived at Kola.

Crombie's division, proceeding in line ahead and led by the Empire Elgar, arrived at the estuary of the Dvina on 30/5 where it met the ice breaker Stalin. They began a passage through the ice lasting 40 hours. Confined to the narrow lead cut by the Stalin, they were attacked by Ju87 Stukas in a noisy but useless attack.  This section of PQ16 passed Archangel and secured alongside at Bakarista, a new wharf two miles upstream.

  After tea that day our ship got orders to carry on into Kola Harbour and put them all ashore to go to the Camp where all the other survivors were. There was hundreds of them all different nationalities. We were glad to put in and have a good nights rest after six days and nights bombing, eating and resting behind the guns.

Well the next night the Russians invited us to the Pictures in their Opera House, it was very good. There was English sub titles. You were not allowed to smoke but at the interval came out into the corridors. We were made very welcome by the Russians and after a couple of days we went along to the White Sea and up the river to Archangel. It did not look much of a place and while we were there had a raid or two. And the officer in charge sent us down to the mouth of the river on guard against the dropping of mines by parachute. And during the night we heard aircraft but could not see them as the clouds were that low. But we had to get up anchor quick and get out of the way as they were dropping mines and one came right down in our path. It was drifting down on us with the down river tide. As soon as the mine entered the water it tripped a lever and started up the clock, they were magnetic mines. And that was our job the next day blowing them up as they were at the entrance of the river. The Russians had no minesweepers for use on the magnetic mines until we let them have one. Our convoy was the PQ16 and the empty ships were getting ready for the return journey home. They were tied up to the jetty.


Commander Onslow, Senior Officer close escort reported that four fifths of the convoy had got through....  ‘ due to the gallantry, efficiency and tireless zeal of the officers and men of the escorts and to the remarkable courage and determination of those of the merchant vessels. No praise can be too high for either’.


Kola Inlet


BRAMBLE and HAZARD departed Kola Inlet to escort the merchant ships KRASSIN and MONTCALM to Archangel.





  We left the jetty and anchored under a high cliff. The next morning at 10.30 we had an air raid by stukas. You see the German front line was only a few miles away but they did not hit any ships. And at 4.30 we were told to change places with HMS Gossamer. The next morning at the same time we had another raid and the Gossamer was hit and went down in two minutes, a direct hit. There were about thirty lost. We were very lucky to have changed places. The next day we went to sea in a gale and put into a small harbour but the ships were drifting into each other and we had to go to sea again and ride out the storm. We went along to the White Sea but could not go right in as it was frozen up and the ships that came up in our convoy was stuck right in the middle, but later on they were unloaded. The Russians got the cargoes off by getting large sleds up to the ships’ sides. Of course they knew the thickness of the ice.


At sea


BRAMBLE, HAZARD, LEDA and SEAGULL formed part of the local escort for QP13 (36 ships)  from 26/6 to 28/6. Ocean escort included NIGER (to 5/7 when she sank) and HUSSAR (to 7/7). Thick weather meant the convoy was not attacked.


HAZARD and LEDA escort the tanker Hopemount from Murmansk to Archangel.





HAZARD acted as local escort to PQ17 whose ships had scattered. With LEDA, BRAMBLE & SEAGULL she spent much of July and August searching for surviving ships and boatloads of seamen from Convoy PQ17 which entailed working in the Kara, White and Barents Seas, and visiting Archangel. Among the several merchant ships helped by HAZARD were the WINSTON SALEM and the HOPEMOUNT.

  The next morning we went out to help the escort but all that was left of the convoy, PQ17, was seven ships and plenty of lifeboats sailing into harbour with survivors. There was only a couple of corvettes and a trawler guarding the ships. On one of the corvettes was the late Godfrey Wynne writing for one of the papers. I’ll bet it gave him an eye opener and a big thrill. All night long there were wireless messages about some ships running away. After they got word to scatter some got caught in the ice and we could not get to them. We went as far in the pack ice as we could but could not help them. It was pitiful. So we had to come back to Archangel.





HMS Hazard  - Archangel 6th July 1942

HMS Hazard, Archangel 6th July 1942

HMS Hazard - Archangel 6th July 1942 HMS Hazard - Archangel,6th July 1942


HAZARD and LEDA met BRITOMART, HALCYON, Samuel Chase, Ocean Freedom, Lotus, Lord Middleton and Northern Gem and took the weary survivors of PQ17 in to Archangel.

The survivors from the Honomu were rescued by HALCYON, SALAMANDER and HAZARD  - extract from PQ17 Convoy to Hell by Paul Lund and Harry Ludlum

‘One of the most dramatic rescues was made high up in the Barents Sea by SALAMANDER and HALCYON, along with a third minesweeper, HAZARD. A Russian Catalina out on patrol had spotted three rafts and radioed back their position with an estimate of the direction on which they would drift. The three sweepers were sent out from Archangel to find them. They were given nine days for the search as they were needed for minesweeping work. This gave them three days to reach the area, three days to look for the rafts, and three days to return. 

On reaching the area of search the three ships found perfect weather but the first twenty-four hours of vigilance slipped fruitlessly by and everyone was beginning to feel disheartened. 'What sort of fools errand is this?' was the question asked on HALCYON. Every man was badly strained and tired after the activities of the past two weeks; no one had had more than four hours sleep for what seemed years. However, they were fortunate in having absolute quiet for their search on the sunlit sea, for no U-boat echoed on the Asdics, no bomber marred the blue sky. As they got back into regular routine men's spirits rose and they began to take an interest.

In the afternoon that began the third day of the box search the atmosphere was tense. The night hours passed quietly, the sun just on the horizon shedding on the ripples of the sea a path of crinkling gold liquid. It was an eerie scene and there was a sudden inexplicable feeling that they might find the lost seamen after all. This despite the fact that the survivors had been afloat for thirteen days, and the minesweepers were only going on calculations made a week before by the Russian pilot. Though they were tackling the impossible, excitement mounted and hopes rose as the short time grew shorter.  

But at 7.30 a.m. the black Arctic fog descended. This seemed the end. Their time was up at noon and they were helpless in the fog. All they could do now was to feel their way and hope. At 8.15 a.m. on HALCYON there was the usual anti-freeze routine on the guns, a few test rounds being fired by each. Now, all those not on watch below came and stood shivering on the upper deck, either cursing the fog or silently praying for it to rise. Sometimes it would lift just enough to let them see SALAMANDER, but not HAZARD which lay 200 yards farther off. At 11 a.m. the coxswain served the rum and all went below for their tot, then returned. There was no argument or lively banter as usual, just a strained silence.

HALCYON's captain had ordered the Very pistols fired. He now sent the signal for the last lap. For this last half hour everyone lined the rails, watching waiting, praying; and at a quarter to twelve, just fifteen minutes to go, a miracle happened. The fog lifted. First they saw SALAMANDER, and then HAZARD's ghostly shape appeared. A faint cheer sounded - or was it their overstretched imagination? No, it was not, for right between each ship was a raft crammed with men waving weakly. They began to shout 'God Save the King! We knew you would save us'. They had heard the gunfire and paddled wearily towards it.

The sweepers dropped their scrambling nets. On SALAMANDER a seaman missed with his first attempt to throw a line to one of the rafts. 'Limey', said a cracked and dry voice, 'I have been on this raft for thirteen days and could do better than that!' After taking thirteen men from one raft - there were more than thirty survivors in all from S.S. Honomu - SALAMANDER moved off to drop depth charges in case a U-boat was near. Aboard HALCYON the survivors were too weak, and their feet too swollen, to stand, but otherwise they were in surprisingly good shape; from the first day they had taken turns at four hours on the paddles and four off, and during the off period had washed their deadening feet with salt water. Only a coloured who would not do this later lost part of his foot with frostbite. The U-boat which sank Honomu had surfaced on the third and sixth days of their ordeal, giving them more water.’  



BRAMBLE, HAZARD, LEDA and four other ships met some more of the surviving ships from PQ17 and escorted them into Archangel, arriving on the evening of 24/7.










The tanker Hopemount sailed for Port Dickson with a heavy escort of two icebreakers and 9 other escorts including BRAMBLE, HAZARD, and SEAGULL. At the edge of the icepack the escorts turned back leaving Hopemount and the icebreakers to continue towards the Pacific by the northern route, fuelling soviet escorts and merchant ships, turning back on 18/9.

  Our ship and another were told to go up to Nova Zembla, two large islands right above the White Sea. We had to wait for the Russian Ice Breakers and store ships. There were three icebreakers and what a size they were, they had more guns between them than days in the year. While we were there a wire got caught around our propeller shaft. Our captain asked the Russian Admiral if he could lend us a diver to go down and take it off, which he did after about an hour. While we waited for that being done I went up on the bridge and had a look at the Base Camp ashore through the Captain’s big glasses and in the camp were hundreds of German prisoners. I’ll bet they were cold up there not that far off the North Pole. Well we were all ready for the journey along the top of the world, latitude 78, longitude 98, to a place on the map called Cape Chelyushkin, and by golly it was cold. And then us two minesweepers couldn’t go any further. We came up against cliffs of ice. Now the three ice breakers got behind each other and started pushing against the ice. Of course the ice breakers are nearly all engines and very powerful. Well after a good while of pushing they started making a passage through the ice and after the ice breakers came the little store ship SS Montcalm and lastly the big oil tanker the Hopemount. All her crew were Tynesiders. We sent them all kinds of books and papers to read on the journey across the top of the world to Vladivostok. It took them nine months to get there and back. The last we saw of them was the tops of their masts over the cliffs of ice. And off we went back to Murmansk and on the way back a German attacked us and dropped a few bombs but none hit us.  






Kola Inlet








BRITOMART, HALCYON, HAZARD and SALAMANDER joined QP14 (20 ships) from Archangel as local eastern escort. The ocean escort included BRAMBLE, SEAGULL (until 26/9) and LEDA (sunk on 20/9).


BRITOMART, HALCYON, HAZARD and SALAMANDER joined PQ18 as local eastern escort.

With other ships of the flotilla, including HALCYON and SHARPSHOOTER, HAZARD performed local duties in September and most of October. 




Dvina Bar



17.10.42 On the 17th the Russian Naval Staff reported that the Merchant vessel Shchors had been sunk by a mine off Yugorski Strait and enquired whether the minesweepers could be diverted in order to sweep first the Yugorski area on their way to Matochkin. The ships coming through the Yugorski Strait, which included the Hopemount and Icebreakers from the Northern passage, were felt to be of much greater importance than those at Matochkin. The minesweepers were therefore instructed on the 17th to leave the two Merchant ships which they had been escorting and to proceed at best speed to Yugorski. On completion of operations there, they were to proceed in execution of previous orders. They were further instructed that, after sweeping the Matochkin Strait area, they were to return to Yugorski in order to escort back to Archangel any Russian ships which might be ready to sail.

HALCYON (SO) (Cdr C H Corbet-Singleton DSC RN) with Sharpshooter and Hazard were detailed for special sweeping operations with Russian convoys and sailed from Archangel in a gale. On the 18th they carried out an acoustic sweep – an Oropesa sweep was impossible because of the ice – and this completed they proceeded through thick fog, possibly only because of skill and nerve and the use of the echo-sounder, to the convoy anchorage to await the convoy. The next day, still in thick fog, the three HALCYONs swept LL in negative visibility, with the 24 inch searchlights giving only a faint glimmer at one and a half cables. Two more days of sweeping followed, fortunately in better conditions, before the Russian convoy arrived.

Source: Fleet Sweepers at War, Jack Williams


Three ships of the 6th MSF – HMS Halcyon, Sharpshooter and Hazard – were detailed for special sweeping operations with Russian convoys. A Russian Captain of the third rank and an interpreter embarked in HALCYON for the operation and the three ships sailed from Archangel on the 16th October 1942 in a southerly gale. 

The Flotilla was to rendezvous with two Russian ships South East of Kolguev Island but. as the ships did not put in an appearance at the appointed time, the Flotilla continued in execution of their further orders. 

In the small hours on the 18th the Flotilla ran into brash ice North of Matveey Island; ice strong enough to stop the ships and choke the condenser inlets. Here, the Flotilla had to carry out an Oropesa and Acoustic search. 

The former was out of the question because of the ice but the Acoustic sweep was exercised with vigour in the hope that lots of mines would go up and of course there was always the hope that the ice would go up too! But, there were no mines, and the ice continued to impede progress so the flotilla proceeded to the convoy anchorage and, to add to the difficulties, a thick fog enveloped them. 

They call it 'sea smoke’ in ice waters. Solid stuff, nearly always present under most conditions when ice is about. One just cannot see a yard ahead when it is about. But in view of the urgency ordered for sweeping the Russian convoy out of their assembly anchorage the Senior Officer Minesweepers in HMS HALCYON, Commander C.H. Corbet‑Singleton, D.S.C.,RN (the United Services forward) carried out a noteworthy fine piece of pilotage by forging ahead entirely on time‑and‑distance‑run and echo sounding machine, into the harbour through a narrow channel with two sharp turns. Fortunately, a good fix had been obtained before entering the ‘smoke’, but the operation required nerve and ability. The three ships arrived safely. 

On arrival, Commander Corbet‑Singleton went over to the Russian Flagship LYDKE with his Russian Captain to call upon Commodore Annin. It was learned that the convoy was due to sail at 1230 the next day and, 'sea smoke' or no 'sea smoke’ the Russian Commodore expected the English minesweepers to do their stuff. Commander Corbet‑Singleton quite naturally felt rather dubious about sweeping into the patch of ‘smoke' especially as it would be getting dark when the sweep would be due to commence. However, he realised that the 'English minesweepers' were expected to do something about it so he played up knowing he had two good Commanding Officers in the SHARPSHOOTER and HAZARD. They swept 'LL' round the bends in negative visibility, but fortunately without incident. 24 inch searchlights produced only a faint glimmer at 11 cables. Nevertheless, the channel to the harbour was swept and no mines resulted, and the Minesweepers returned to harbour for the night. 

Next day, they proceeded to sea at dawn and they promptly commenced sweeping mines, the detonation of which, of course, delayed the convoy's sailing until a full clearance sweep had been carried out. Fortunately, high winds had cleared a great deal of ice and after a full day's sweeping the area was considered safe for the convoy to proceed the next day. But, due to local delays, the convoy did not sail the next day and in fact not until two days later. Then, although the convoy was due to sail early in the day, when it did sale it was late in the afternoon, and the delay badly hampered making an important landfall by the next day. Fortunately the weather was good at the start, but not for long. Ice was again met, together with low visibility and snowstorms, but the British minesweepers escorted the convoy safely to the Dvina River, and swept them through the Archangel sea approaches safely. 

Source: The Minesweepers Victory, Hilbert Hardy


Yugorski Shar


HALCYON, HAZARD and SHARPSHOOTER arrived to sweep the area ahead of the returning Hopemount. A number of air laid mines were detonated.

  And we got ordered to go back to where we had left the ice breakers months beforehand. But all we could see was cliffs of ice. We waited and I wish I could have had a camera as the cliffs opened up and out came the ice breakers, the little store ship, four Russian destroyers and the oiler, the Hopemount, from Vladivostok. We left them at their Base and carried on back to Archangel to wait for the big convoy that had left England and Iceland. We left for the entrance to the White Sea and wait.




On 24/10 HAZARD was slightly damaged by an acoustic mine while working in the Yugorski Strait. 




31st Oct. Shooter and Hazard reported astern ‑ 50 miles ‑ they were dive bombed by 2 planes ‑ no damage. Arrived Archangel 0030. Shooter and Hazard arrived 1600 ‑ we oiled at Buc and stayed night.

Diary of LSBA William Maslen, HMS Halcyon    © Pauline Maslen MMIV


Among ten small escorts, HALCYON, BRITOMART ,SALAMANDER, SHARPSHOOTER & HAZARD were assigned to the close escort of QP15 (28 ships) which left Archangel on 17 Nov 1942 with an AA ship also attached. Two groups of destroyers were to reinforce the escort during the voyage, but they never met the convoy which was battered by a succession of gales. The cruisers LONDON and SUFFOLK with three destroyers provided cover west of Bear Island, and four RN submarines patrolled off Altenfjord to attack the enemy cruisers HIPPER and KOLN if they emerged. U‑boats sank two merchant ships but the gales and darkness thwarted the enemy's aircraft. The convoy was split into small groups by the weather, BRITOMART, HAZARD and others shepherding one group of five ships to safety. The surviving 26 ships of the convoy all reached Loch Ewe by 30 November. HAZARD made good her defects while in Icelandic waters and she carried out a mine sweep before proceeding to Scapa Flow. 

Click Here for Escort Orders


Source: Report on QP15 HMS Hazard, ADM199/712

...the ship being at Nodyuga anchorage anchor was weighed at 1440 and in accordance with previous orders the ship proceeded to join up with the convoy as close escort, this was accomplished at 1800 on the same day.

  During the three following days the convoy maintained a northerly course and no incident of note took place during this time.
20.11.42 ...with the weather fast deteriorating and heavy snow squalls which reduced visibility to one cable, the convoy altered course at 1600 to 270. The ship was unable to stand this course owing to excessive rolling and the best that could be maintained was 290. At 2000 the wind which was force 8 backed to the NE, course was then altered to 260 to rejoin the convoy. As the wind and sea increased it was found necessary to increase speed to 11 knots, this speed placed us well ahead of the convoy.
21.11.42 At 0600 on the Saturday with the heavy sea that was running the best that could be done for the ship was to run before the gale. At 1800 that day the wind had increased to force 10. The Quarterdeck was continuously covered with heavy seas breaking on board. This caused the deck to open up and water leaked below into the after compartments. At 2000 speed was increased to 13 knots, this seemed to ease the ship a little. By 2400 the wind had increased to hurricane force, and the ship was hove to until noon on the Sunday ...
22.11.42 ...when, with the weather moderating, course 270 was set, it was hoped to rendezvous with the convoy the following day at position FF. At 2400 in consequence of an Admiralty signal which was our first knowledge that the convoy had been diverted, course was altered to 180 with the intention of by 0900 the 23rd reaching the farthest on position to the westward that the convoy could have reached.
23.11.42 At 0850 ships were sighted very close in the darkness. These were challenged and proved to be HM Ships Britomart, Bergamot and Bryony in company with the Commodore in Temple Arch and the Empire Morn and Charles McCormack. Acting on orders from HMS Britomart station was taken up and maintained astern of the convoy. At this time the ship was covered with ice, and two depth charges which had been previously prepared for a counter attack were considered dangerous in the racks in that particular state so they were released, and though set at safe exploded at great depth.
25.11.42 On Wednesday the 25th at 1345 the Vice Commodore of the convoy in Dan-y-Bryn joined us with HM Ships Intrepid and Ledbury who left us the next morning. The rescue ship Copeland joining us shortly afterwards.
27.11.42 ...on arriving off Iceland our section was turned over to HMS Intrepid and other destroyers for onward movement to destination. We then proceeded to Seidisfiord to fuel arriving at 1245.

Source: Report on QP15 HMS Hazard, ADM199/712

We had a few quiet days before getting ready for our return trip with an empty convoy, and what a convoy. The biggest yet to come back to Iceland, and of course the worry of bombing again. Well on the way up the bottle neck of the White Sea the sky got that black I knew we were in for a right storm. The Orders before we left to go north on Bear Island and it blew that hard the convoy split up during the night. We got lost. We couldn’t turn in case of going over. A Russian destroyer in the escort trying to turn to go back home capsized and all her crew were lost. I knew we wouldn’t see any planes in this lot. It was bad. As the sea was coming on to the deck it was freezing and the ship was getting top heavy. The crew were banging away at the ice and putting it over the side. We had been out three days and no sign of the convoy, we were lost. The captain was only a Lieutenant. He ordered to take soundings and it was very shallow. He said head to starboard as we were getting too near the North Cape, that was Norway. I went to have a look at the chart and then I spoke to the 2nd Lieutenant and told him that the captain was wrong. If a shallow sounding was on the starboard side it could not be Norway but Spitzbergen Banks and I showed him the chart. If we carried on the way we were going the ship would be aground. So he gave Orders for the ship to steer to port and we gradually got into deeper water while the captain was in his cabin. He came running up on the bridge and him and the 2nd had an awful row. But the captain was going off his head – he could not see what was wrong. I reported black smoke in the distance but we could not get to them till the next day. During the night the Asdic operator told the captain he had heard a ping on his instrument. But the captain ignored it. And later on I was sitting below decks listening to the wireless when there was a gurgling sound under the ship. And being a torpedo man I knew what that was, a submarine was in the area. I dashed to the bridge and reported it to the 1st Lieutenant. We altered course to try and pick up the sound again. But later on that night we heard SOS miles astern from a ship that had come the same way as we had, and we were the only ones to have come the proper way north of Bear Island. She had been torpedoed and got a signal that two destroyers were after the submarine.  

At daybreak on the horizon I saw black smoke and said jokingly it must be the German Fleet out to the 1st Lieut and the captain heard it. And that was the end of him. He lost control altogether and had to be put in his cabin under guard for the good of the ship’s company. When we got closer we saw it was part of the convoy with two escorts and they were pleased to see us, and later on we picked up other ships. That night which was very dark, and of course no lights on the ship, when all of a sudden star shell were bursting over the convoy. Everybody dashed to action stations, thinking we had run into the Germans as we were well off course. And then I saw some ship flashing to us, it was the HMS London out looking for us. We were well overdue and well off course... Our convoy was put on the proper course through the minefield and to Iceland, but most of the empty ships carried on to America to fill up again. After a while we were told to take the remainder to England, some went to Liverpool others to the Clyde.


…Orwell had previously reported a line of moored mines detected by mine detector unit near the western edge of the swept channel. HALCYON was ordered to consult RNO and clear this up before QP15 M passed (the remnants of the convoy coming from Akureyri).

I consulted with HALCYON (SO Minesweepers) and it was decided to send Britomart and Hazard with QP15M as they were modern ships and were not suffering as many engine room defects as Salamander and Halcyon. 

Source: Report of HMS Faulkner ADM 199/721





Sweeping was carried out off Seidisfiord during Saturday and Sunday (28th and 29th) in a suspected area without contact with mines being made.


Departure was made from Seidisfiord at 1000 on Monday, 30th November with merchant ships and accompanying escort of destroyers. These were left off the Butt of Lewis at 2300 on the 2nd December when, in company with HMS Britomart and the tanker San Ambrosio, course being shaped for Scapa and arrival made at 0900 on 3rd December 1942.

Source: Report on QP15 HMS Hazard, ADM199/712

  Well we got to Scapa alright and were told to stand by to pick up a small convoy that was going down the East Coast. And the next day we picked it up just outside the Pentland Firth and carried on down close to the land within the four mile limit as our minefield stretched from Scapa to Dover. We were just passing the Tyne and getting dark, and then the air raid started. One of the bombers dropped his bombs well short of Tynemouth and nearly caught us. But anyway we still carried on. While a raid is on the Coastguards do not put a light on but we could see the dim lights on the minefield but they would not see them up in the ships. A dull yellow light every four miles flashing so many times to let the ships’ captains know where they were passing. They were marked on the ships’ charts.
Well the next morning we had to go up to Hull Docks for a refit and the crew to go on leave. But on the way up the River Humber we passed the HMS Bramble, her captain was in charge of the Flotilla. Well that was the last time we saw her. As she was taking up her post as scout for the convoy she was going to Russia with, she was caught by one of the German cruisers and had no chance at all. I never heard if there was anybody picked up. Well the ship went into dock in Hull for a small refit and leave for the crew. It was wonderful to be home again. And of course we had our usual air raid nearly every night of our leave.
It did not take long for our leave to go over, and then back to the ship again. That night we went into the canteen for a drink and at the next table were some merchant seamen asking if we knew where we were going. At the time we did not know where we were going but had a good idea. They were scared that their ship was picked to go on the Arctic Convoy If they had known they would have bolted. When I was waiting at York Station for the Newcastle train the sirens went, well the train came in and departed on time. The train was hardly out of the station when a bomb dropped on the spot I had been waiting for the train, outside the station canteen. I saw the damage when I came back off leave.





6/12 Taken in hand Hull – refit, completion 18/1

6/12 Stoker 1st Class Peter Donnelly C/KX105291, age 23 died.


On the 6 Dec my father was on watch and could not leave ship, So  Peter (Donnelly) went ashore and said he would bring some beer back for the Lads. On returning on board he put the beer bottles in his trouser pockets. The guard rail on the ship was broken and waiting repair. He fell overboard and the weight of the bottles pulled him under, they could hear the bangs from the bottles under the ship but because it was dark could not find him or help. They found him in the daylight. It was very sad as he was going to see his Mum and Dad that day.

Source: Sheila Hill


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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012