Source: ADM 199/1104
operations in the White Sea off Cape Kachkovski, where Russian sweepers exploded
three mines in February, have not been possible owing to the area being ice
covered. We have at present therefore to rely on the efficacy of the searching
sweep completed by the Russian sweepers in this area.
On 5th March HMS
Niger and Speedwell went to search for the
Russian destroyer Gromki who had run out of fuel
when returning from escorting convoy QP8 and was drifting. They provided an A/S
screen for her at daylight on 6th March when she was in tow of a tug.
A/S patrols have been
carried out in the approaches to Kola Inlet when minesweepers were available.
These are hampered by the inconvenient system of the Russian staff who are
always uncertain at what time Soviet submarines will return from patrol. A/S
patrols receive so many warnings that they are shy of quick action. I have
endeavoured for six months to convert the Chief of Staff to saner methods,
Local escorts for PQ and
QP convoys and stragglers have been provided.
Murmansk has been raided
on three occasions-
(a) on the night of 15th-16th March, when three or four
enemy aircraft dropped 12 bombs on the dock area. HMS
Niger had a narrow escape when the ship's store close alongside was
destroyed, but no actual damage was done to shipping.
(b) at 11.35 on 24th
March, when five JU88 and three ME109 dropped 18 bombs, seriously damaging
SS Lancaster Castle and causing some damage to the Port Office, to
railway crossings and destroying two boxed aircraft.
(c) at 17.05 on the same
day, when eighteen Ju87 and an unspecified number of Me110 dropped more bombs. Subsequent
Russian reports have given the number of enemy aircraft as being over 100, but
although this figure might be questioned, there seems to be no doubt that
Russian Hurricanes, attacking from below out of the sun, shot down five Ju87 and
one Me110.Two Hurricanes made forced landings but the pilots of both machines
The most important
Russian air operation was a two fold daylight attack on Luostari (Petzano); 24
Hurricanes taking part in the first sweep, 22 in the second some three hours
later. The enemy is reported to have lost 12-15 aircraft, possibly more. Two
Russian aircraft were lost and three more made forced landings behind their side
of the lines.
Convoys have been
discharged without serious interference from air attacks. The only raids of any
importance were on the night of 15th-16th March and on 24th March. In the
former, the bombs dropped are said to have been 100 kilos. The jetty to which
HMS Niger, Gossamer and Hussar
were hit and a shed blown to pieces, covering the minesweepers with splinters
Hitherto convoys have
been sailed so as to form up in the failing light before dark, relying on
fighters to keep enemy reconnaissance from reporting their progress down the 25
miles of the Kola Inlet. The convoy has been able, therefore, to be about 70
miles from the coast by daylight. In April. the all night twilight of the spring
commences, when it is dark only from 220 until 0200. If the convoy was delayed
sailing until dark it would therefore be not more than 30 odd miles from the
coast by daylight. It would be unwise relying on fighter protection being
adequate, in my opinion, at such a short range from the enemy's aerodromes at
Petsano and Kirkenes. I therefore intend to continue to sail convoys about 1800
so that they may be 60 miles from the coast by daylight, when the April fogs may
give them some cover and make them more difficult to find; these fogs are said
to be frequent.
Convoy QP9 left the Kola
Inlet on 22nd march with a total escort of one British destroyer, one Russian
destroyer, seven British minesweepers and a Russian torpedo boat two miles
astern of the rearmost ships. The latter should have been accompanied by a wide
screen of Ml's but these failed owing to alleged bad weather conditions.
In order to maintain a
certain volume of W/T traffic after a convoy sails, a number of dummy messages
From 12th-21st March
there was a considerable amount of ice in the Kola Inlet and in Vaenga Bay where
HMS Kenya was icebound throughout her stay until
22nd. For a few days Polyarnoe harbour was covered with thin ice but in the bays
ice was 3-4 inches thick and solid below Murmansk. This held up all traffic
except in tugs, minesweepers or larger craft. At the end of the month the
temperature rose to about 25ºF.
A strong westerly gale
on 6th March caused ships to drag. The metal sheeting on the roof of my quarters
was blown off, windows blown in, aerials broken down and both central heating
and electricity failed.
Finally, I wish to pay
tribute to the recent work of the Minesweeping Flotilla, consisting of
HMS Harrier (Senior Officer), Niger,
Gossamer, Speedwell and Hussar,
under the command of Commander E P Hinton, DSO, MVC,
Senior Officer, 6th Minesweeping Flotilla. These ships have been escorting QP
and PQ Convoys in most severe weather conditions and expected every form of
attack be the enemy at distances up to 300 miles from the base. They have little
rest except when cleaning boilers, and can seldom berth alongside or obtain
relaxation. Their work, especially when meeting convoy PQ13, has been extremely
well done and reflects credit on all concerned.
Signed N Bevan
Rear Admiral, Senior
British Naval Officer, North