Source: ADM 199/1104
arrived from Archangel at 2300 on 23rd August bringing about 402 survivors with
them including 30 hospital cases.
On account of the
increasing air activity in the Kola Inlet, the prospect of having these ships
here was not one that I enjoyed. Their arrival was timed for the darkest part of
the night ( it is still light enough to read a newspaper between 2300 and 0100
in clear weather) when German air activity was at its lowest, allowing the safe
transfer of survivors and stores. After
completing their transfers the four Halcyon minesweepers moved out to 'hide'
under Kildin Island before daylight.
On 29th August a
Russian convoy including three minesweepers from MS1 proceeded to assist in the
westerly passage from the Far East of a small flotilla of Russian destroyers.
The British escort proceeded as far as Yugorski Strait and returned without
Minesweeping has been
regularly carried out in the Kola Inlet approaches but with negative results;
the first definitive magnetic mine to have been swept in Northern waters being
the one exploded by HMS Hazard in
the White Sea on 29th August, though some were thought to have been laid by
aircraft off Mishukov in mid-June.
Owing to the
suspension of convoys after PQ17, there are more HM ships than usual at
Archangel and all will have been there nearly two months by the time QP14 (of
which they are the escort) sails. Altogether there have been 4 destroyers, 2 A/A
ships, 7 Fleet minesweepers, 4 corvettes and 4 trawlers in the port for most of
the time. Few of them were stored for such a period and as the Russians
have been unable to supply in any great quantity, they have been on short
rations since the middle of August.
The number of
survivors has been as many as 1261 (RN 276, Merchant Navy 399, US Navy 117, US
Merchant Navy 469). These have been supplied by the Russians but it has been
necessary to provide for the return passage to UK, as neither HM Ships nor
merchant ships could cater for any extra numbers embarked. Some of the latter
have also been short of food for their own crews.
To meet this
situation about 70 tons of provisions were brought out by
Tuscaloosa and destroyers in Operation EU.
The whole of this amount was allocated to Archangel, but it is estimated that by
the time QP14 sails on 11th September all stocks will have been issued or
consumed. Arrangements have been made by Admiralty for maximum quantities to be
sent out in PQ18. The prompt action taken removes any immediate anxiety.
It is essential,
however, that good stocks are built up in Archangel before the winter, both for
ships frozen in and for the shore staff. It is unlikely that supplies will be
available from Russian sources as they themselves may suffer an acute shortage
and even famine. It will, therefore, be necessary for considerable quantities to
be sent in each convoy up till December. It is estimated that by the time the
White Sea closes a stock of not less than six months requirements for 600 men
must be achieved.
VICTUALLING - KOLA
The situation here
has been satisfactory and there remains at the present date sufficient standard
ration items of provisions for 100 men for about four months. In addition the
Russians are for the moment able to provide reindeer meat about once a week,
also adequate supplies of bread, tinned milk, tea, coffee and sugar, but there
have been no fresh vegetables or fruit since June. The possibility of Russian
supplies diminishing or ceasing has to be considered, however, together with the
possibility of a further large influx of survivors, demands from HM Ships and
losses through incendiaries and bombs and a reserve of one month's supplies for
1,000 men will, therefore, be built up if possible. Two storehouses are
available in which to disperse stocks.
Stocks of clothing in
Archangel and Polyarnoe have largely been absorbed by survivors. A certain
amount of Naval clothing and survivors clothing (Merchant Navy) was brought out
in EU and sufficient warm and Arctic clothing for 500 men is expected in PQ18.
A large quantity of
ammunition was brought out in EU but the balance which will remain after
distribution to ships in QP14 has not been determined. A reserve of about 450
depth charges and a small amount of ammunition is maintained at Polyarnoe,
spread over several Russian magazines. As none of my staff are allowed access to
the magazines, and as the Russians do not understand our descriptions of the
various components, the monthly return of stocks signalled to the Admiralty is
not necessarily accurate.
Rear Admiral Douglas
Senior British Naval
Officer, North Russia.