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

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

5th Jan HMS Seawolf sailed for patrol in Vestfiord then to UK. HMS Salamander and Britomart arrive from UK
11th Jan HMS Sturgeon arrived Polyarnoe from UK
17th-18th Jan Convoy PQ8 escorted by HMS Trinidad, Somali, Matabele, Harrier and Speedwell attacked by U-boats off the Kola Inlet. SS Hamatris torpedoed at 2000/17th in position 69 16'N, 36 08'E. Ship taken in tow by HMS Speedwell and later by Russian tugs and arrived Murmansk 19th Jan. Attacks by bombers on passage were unsuccessful. HMS Matabele torpedoed and blown up at 2333/17th in position 69 21'N, 35 24'E. HMS Harrier picked up only two survivors.
18th Jan HMS Harrier (MS6) and Speedwell arrived from UK with PQ8.
23rd-24th Jan HMS Sharpshooter, Britomart and Salamander carried out searching sweep for mines between Svyatol Nos and Gorodetski. Ships attacked by enemy aircraft on both days. On 24th HMS Britomart shot down one Ju 88. HMS Britomart hit by two bombs which failed to explode, suffering only slight damage and two casualties; one killed and one wounded. No mines swept.
24th Jan HMS Bramble (MS1) and Hebe returned to UK sailing with QP6 
27th Jan HMS Sturgeon sailed for patrol off Frohavet.

HM Minesweepers continued to operate from Kola inlet, forming local escorts for PQ and QP convoys and carrying out minesweeping and anti-submarine patrols.

CONVOYS

QP4 was originally intended to sail from Archangel on 9th December but did not do so due to ice and other delays. It left on 26th December, reaching open water and the ocean escort on 5th January.

PQ7A consisting of two ships was not met by their ocean escort of  HMS Britomart and Salamander and proceeded independently.

PQ7B consisting 9 ships arrived 11th January.

QP5 consisting 4 ships sailed 13th January.

PQ8 consisting 7 ships arrived 18th January

QP6 consisting 6 ships sailed 24th January.

Nine British ships remain at Archangel, 3 at Bakaritsa, 5 at Molotovsk, and 1 at Ekonomia. It seems possible that these ships will remain iced-in for the winter, especially as the ice-breaker Stalin is temporarily out of action due to enemy bombing attack.

There has been only one air attack on the district, and that only by a single enemy plane which dropped four bombs from a great height during the night of 29th/30th January. No damage resulted. There have been no deliberate attacks on the port or on shipping in the Inlet although flying conditions have been favourable for approximately 70% of the days during the month. 

Local fog in the Inlet may cause slight delays to convoys. PQ8 was brought into the inlet in thick fog without incident, but it is not intended that this shall be the normal practice. The Senior Officer 1st MSF led PQ8 to safe anchorage, making use of RDF, in a most able manner.

GENERAL SITUATION

Air activity on both sides has been much greater than anticipated. The Russians have made repeated attacks in the Murmansk sector and bombed Kirkenes on several occasions. Their fighters have been increased in number and been active in giving fighter cover. The enemy activity has been chiefly devoted to bombing military objectives and the railway, but the ice breaker Stalin and our minesweepers have been bombed in the White Sea. Aerial combats have been rare...

More interest has been taken in minesweeping. Classes have been out in British minesweepers to see the 'LL' in use. The arrival Norwegian whalers for transfer to the Soviet Navy is keenly awaited. A swept channel has been instituted, though not swept, in the Kola Inlet where the depth of water is less than 50 fathoms...

When the days are longer, air attacks on shipping in Kola Inlet may be expected, but I believe the anti-aircraft defences and fighters are capable of beating off any raiders, unless the scale of air attack is very much increased.

RECREATION

With the lengthening days more facilities for outdoor recreation are now available. Skiing is proving very popular with officers of the base staff, submarines and minesweepers, and also a number of ratings. Difficulty has, however, been experienced in obtaining sufficient skis from the Russians and a request for skis to be sent from England has been signalled.

A football ground has been made on one of the many frozen lakes and  goal posts erected. Trial matches have been played and it is hoped to start a Polyarnoe league. Negotiations are in progress with the Russians to clear a portion of one lake and flood it for skating.

WEATHER

The wind has remained in a south-westerly quarter for most of the month, and no gales and very little snow has been experienced. Local for in the Inlet has been very prevalent.

The average temperature at Polyarnoe for the month has been 8 degrees Fahrenheit and the lowest recorded temperature at noon minus 13 degrees or 45 degrees of frost... The temperature at Murmansk is approximately 5 degrees lower than at Polyarnoe. 

FRESH PROVISIONS

The supply of fresh meat, bread, butter, sugar and tea remains ample. Potatoes, vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese, fruit and chocolate are not obtainable. The minesweepers (6) have been relying largely on cruisers of ocean escorts for their canteen stores, potatoes and vegetables; the latter having been scarce for some weeks...

There is no prospect of potatoes or vegetables being sent here from Russian sources until June. Reindeer meat is plentiful but fish is scarcely provided.

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

Polyarnoe, 4th February 1942

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