Halcyon Class Minesweepers Report of SBNO (extracts) - February 1942
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Source: ADM 199/1104


1st to 4th February: HMS Harrier, Speedwell and Hazard carried out sweeping operations between Svyatol Nos and Cape Gorodetski. No mines swept.

5th to 7th February: HMS Sharpshooter and Britomart carried out submarine patrol off Kola Inlet prior to meeting convoy PQ9 and PQ10.

Soviet destroyers have again shown inactivity. On 20th Feb USSR Grozni and Gromki sailed with HMS Nigeria to meet convoy PQ11. After 8 hours at sea the soviet captain in Grozni decided that the weather was too bad to continue and returned to harbour although weather conditions did not appear to justify this course. On return the Commander in Chief ordered the destroyers to proceed sea again but after 5 hours  they again returned to the shelter of the Inlet. They went out again on the 22nd, and after anchoring under the ice of Kildin Island until early morning, they eventually sailed and met the convoy 40 miles from the entrance. Officers and men are reported to have been very sea sick.

HMS Nigeria flying the flag of Rear Admiral H M Burrough CB, commanding the 10th Cruiser Squadron arrived Kola Inlet on the 8th February. 

HM Minesweepers Harrier (MS6), Sharpshooter, Hazard, Speedwell, Salamander, Britomart continued to operate from Kola Inlet for minesweeping, A/S duties and for local escort of PQ and QP convoys. HMS Niger and Hussar arrived on 23rd February and will relieve HMS Hazard and Salamander who return to United Kingdom as Ocean escort to convoy QP8.  HMS Sharpshooter and Britomart provided additional escort for convoy QP7 as far as 16 degrees east.

PQ9 & PQ10 10 ships arrived 10th February (also one on 9th and two on 11th).
QP7 8 ships sailed on 12th February
PQ11 13 ships arrived 23rd February
QP8 13 ships, was ready to sail 25th February but was ordered by the Admiralty not to sail. This convoy, with probably 16 ships, is expected to sail 1st March. 

SS El Ona, Explorer and El Oceano left Molotovsk and were broken through the White Sea by ice breakers, reaching clear sea where they were met by HMS Speedwell and Britomart on 23rd February. Thick for prevented entry into the Kola Inlet. The tanker El Ona grounded but was refloated. El Oceano was lost sight of in the fog on 24th February; although a thorough search was carried out by HMS Britomart, she has not since been sighted and has failed to answer R/T signals. It appears that the Master had every intention of proceeding independently should a chance offer, and has openly stated that he disliked convoys. (The ship later arrived at Akureyri on 1st March).

The discharging of ships at Murmansk has continued to be satisfactory and no undue congestion of the docks has occurred. The railway still seems to be able to deal with the situation.

There has been one air attack on the Murmansk district and Kola Inlet by six Ju88 escorted by Me110 on 26th Feb but no bombs were dropped and this may have been a reconnaissance in force. 


Four mines were exploded by Russian minesweepers between  16th and 19th February. Four ships leaving on 23rd Feb were swept out by HMS Speedwell and Britomart. The area in which the mines were found was not swept earlier in the month as it was then covered by ice. Sweeping by Russian minesweepers continues and the area will be cleared, if ice free, by British minesweepers as soon as they are available from escort duties.


Although the weather conditions have not been so favourable to flying, there has been considerable air activity on both sides during the month, and the ever increasing hours of daylight make air attack a potential menace to our shipping.

More interest is now being taken by the Commander in Chief , Northern Fleet, in the convoys to and from North Russia but it was only after pressure had been brought to bear from higher authority that consent was given to the employment of soviet destroyers as additional escorts for these convoys, and their present value in the role, due to lack of sea experience, is not great.

The lack of long range fighters and reconnaissance aircraft for protection of convoys from air and submarine attack is keenly felt.    


Several football games have been played on the ground constructed on the frozen lake which has, when the snow is not too thick, provided a good ground. Skiing is still the favourite recreation for officers and for a number of ratings. Libertymen were landed from HMS Nigeria at Murmansk on two occasions. The lack of amusements there do not make it likely that there will be great demand to repeat the visits.


The submarine spare crew and repair party were embarked in HMS Salamander and Hazard for passage to UK on 25th February. Their cheerfulness and general conduct during the 6 to 7 months that the majority of them have been here has been excellent. They have adapted themselves to strange conditions well and their relations with the Red Navy has always been good. Their loss will be felt.

Signed N Bevan
Rear Admiral, Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia             

Polyarnoe, 1942

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