Halcyon Class Minesweepers Report of SBNO (extracts) - July 1943
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23rd   MONTHLY REPORT – 1st July to 31st July 1943 (Extracts)

… A convoy of three British ships bringing timber from the White Sea to Kola Inlet on behalf of the Russians was bombed when approaching Kildin Island, SS Llandaff being hit aft and set on fire. There were no casualties., HMS Britomart (Lt Commander S Stamwitz DSC) one of the escort, stood by and escorted the ship to an anchorage behind Kildin Island and then helped to get the fire under control. Llandaff eventually entered harbour, though it was three days later before the fire was out. 

The attack was made by four ME109’s in conditions of low cloud, and was all over in a few seconds. Fighters escorting the convoy were unable to intercept, though the Russian Naval Staff report that another group of fighters sent from Vaenga did intercept and drive off a force of seven Ju’s and fifteen FW190’s which was attempting to attack from seaward…  


HMS Jason spent the period from the 13th June to 1st July in Kola Inlet where she was retained to accommodate mail during protracted negotiations for its release. She was thus not available to join the escort for Russian icebreakers who were being moved from the Dvina River to the Kara Sea, though HMS Britomart took part (see Britomart’s letter of Proceedings). I received from the Chief of Staff, Northern Fleet, a pained letter on this subject, complaining that my action was resulting in valuable ships being sent to sea with insufficient escort. I replied in equally pained but conciliatory terms… HMS Jason sailed from the Kola Inlet for Archangel on the 1st July, forming part of the escort for the Russian merchant ship Tblisi, and arrived at the Dvina Bar on the 3rd July.  

Agreement having been reached for the loan of British merchant ships to transfer Russian cargo from Archangel to the Kola Inlet, the first three ships… sailed from the Dvina Bar on the 22nd July. They were escorted by three Russian destroyers and HM Ships Jason and Britomart; the minesweepers were required in the Kola Inlet to stand by for the escort of the tanker Pontfield whose repairs seemed at long last to be on the verge of completion, and it was therefore convenient that they should be attached to this escort…. 

As a result of the experience we have now had of Russian naval co-operation at sea, which recent coastal movements have enlarged, it is quite clear that if any serious work is to be undertaken we must do it ourselves. The Russian Navy is keen enough no doubt, subject to the intention of the high command not to risk its forces if it can possibly be avoided, but the technical and professional abilities of soviet ships are of a very low standard. 

In spite of the advice and assistance they have been given, and the material that has been supplied to them, they are still incapable of carrying out efficient A/S work or minesweeping, and have no idea whatever of convoy procedure as we understand it. Their one obsession is gunnery, in particular to be able to fire the maximum number of guns of the heaviest possible calibre in the right direction, if this can be determined, but in any direction rather than none. Or, if U-boats are the target, even the suspicion of a U-boat (which is all there had been in coastal waters for about twelve months), to drop the maximum number of depth charges, more or less at random, in the shortest possible time. Anti-aircraft fire from their ships is always energetic and often good, but when fighters are present is hampered by lack of fighter direction. 

E R Archer
Rear Admiral, SBNO North Russia

31st July 1943

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