Halcyon Class Minesweepers Report of SBNO (extracts) - December 1941
 
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Source: ADM 199/1104

 

The following arrivals and departures from the Kola Inlet have taken place:

1st Dec 1941   

Berwick, Onslow, Offa sailed to sweep between 29 and 26E. Subsequently cancelled by Berwick

2nd Dec 1941   

Sealion sailed for patrol off Tana Fjord.

5th Dec 1941   

Seawolf sailed for patrol Kongsfiord.

13th Dec 1941   

Sealion arrived from patrol.

17th Dec 1941  

Hazard and Speedy engaged by unknown enemy force* vicinity 68 12' N, 41 00' E. Kent with Sokrusmitelni & Grosni carried out sweep to intercept enemy.

20th Dec 1941   

Seawolf arrived from patrol.

21st Dec 1941   

Sealion sailed for patrol ordered by Admiral (Submarines) and for U.K.

Only one successful action (by Sealion on 5th Dec) has been achieved against the enemy during the month.

* In the action on the 17th December in which Hazard and Speedy were engaged by an enemy force estimated as two or more destroyers, Speedy suffered some superficial damage, lost her topmast and had both 4" guns put out of action, with two casualties, one of whom died of wounds in hospital on 18th December...  

H.M. Ships

The 1st Minesweeping Flotilla is now based and operated from the Kola Inlet. Sharpshooter, Hazard and Hebe arrived with convoy PQ5 from United Kingdom. Leda, Seagull and Speedy are returning to UK with convoy QP4...

Arrangements for meeting and berthing of H.M. ships has been satisfactory. Thick local fogs are now prevalent in the Kola Inlet and may last 4 or 5 days, with visibility less than a cable. Under these conditions arrangements are made to meet incoming ships at a point outside the inlet where the visibility is better and where a pilot with a special portable D/F set is sent on board and H.M. Ship conducted to the anchorage following the pilot vessel and using local D/F beacons.   

Convoys

The Russian Dekabrist arrived with Edinburgh on 20th December, and has been discharged. The Dekabrist may be considered as one of the lucky ships. She carried 35,000 drums of octane aviation spirit and two American bombers. She was hit by two bombs when approaching the Kola Inlet. Neither exploded. One of them nicked the edge of three drums and then holed the bulkhead before coming to rest. The bombs were later thrown overboard by the Russians, who when offered assistance by HMS Edinburgh, said, with thanks, that none was required. The bombers were not damaged.

Recreation

The very short hours of daylight and bad weather have made any outdoor recreation almost impossible. Short walks during the middle of the day are still possible and skiing parties have been out fro time to time. Parties from HM Ships anchored in the Inlet have been landed at Vaenga and at Murmansk but the lack of anything to do when ashore have not encouraged a repetition of these visits. The English films at Polyarnoe are much enjoyed by officers and ratings from visiting minesweepers as well as by the submarine crews. Several concerts have been given. 150 officers and ratings from HMS Kent were given a concert by the Russians at Polyarnoe and HMS Kent entertained a number of Russian sailors to their concert party onboard.

Weather

A cold spell at the beginning of the month during which a minimum temperature of minus 18F was reached, was followed by a short mild spell. On 10th December, as the result of South West winds and a fall in temperature (minus 8 to minus 14F), a thick fog enveloped the Inlet and lasted for 3 days. This was followed by cold, stormy weather, accompanied by much snow, and except for an occasional 'bright' day the weather alternated between fog and gales, each spell of 3 or 4 days duration. The long dark hours (on clear days there is a maximum of 4 1/2 days daylight) prove rather trying and everyone will welcome the appearance of the sun which is due to reappear on 17th January. 

Convoys PQ and QP

As anticipated the handling of convoys at Archangel has become very difficult and slow. Apart from the delay to ships and risk of damage, the delay to cruisers and destroyers of ocean escorts is a serious matter. It is difficult to estimate when a convoy will be ready to sail as the date depends entirely on the ice conditions and the availability of ice-breakers, and the former vary considerably with wind and temperature. Once clear of the ice, however, convoys cannot wait.

A plan is, therefore, being proposed whereby PQ convoys are normally routed to a rendezvous off the Kola Inlet and ships diverted to the White Sea only if ice conditions are favourable and ice-breakers ready to meet them in clear water; the remainder of the ships proceeding to Murmansk. QP convoys will assemble in the Kola Inlet and be sailed by the SBNO, North Russia when sufficient ships are collected to form a convoy and ocean escorts are available.

Ships will be escorted from the White Sea to the Kola Inlet by local escort. The local fog in the Kola Inlet will undoubtedly cause delays but these should not be comparable to those caused by ice. The risk of air-attack in the Kola Inlet is always present but the anti-aircraft defences are good and the weather for the most part unsuitable for flying.   

For the present, therefore, the plan has many advantages. The Russian authorities may see in it a way out of their present difficulties and be glad to agree to a plan which they can say is only accepted to oblige us. Otherwise I fear that convoys will cease to function during January, February and March.

N Bevan, Rear Admiral,
SBNO North Russia

 

 
 

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