Halcyon Class Minesweepers Report of SBNO (extracts) - September 1943
Nov 1941
Dec 1941
Jan 1942
Feb 1942
Mar 1942
Apr 1942
Jun 1942
Aug 1942
Sep 1942
Oct 1942
Nov 1942
Dec 1942
Jan-Feb 1943
Feb-Apr 1943
May 1943
June 1943
July 1943
Aug 1943
Sep 1943
Oct 1943
Nov-Dec 1943
Dec 43-Jan 44
Feb 44
Mar 1944



25th MONTHLY REPORT – 1st September to 30th September 1943 (Extracts) 

…HMS Britomart sailed form the Kola Inlet for Archangel on the 1st September with personnel, mail and stores ex destroyers of Operation ‘Lorry’, and arrived there on 3rd September. Two groups of merchant ships were sailed from Archangel to the Kola Inlet during the month with cargoes, chiefly timber, for Russian requirements. The usual endless wrangles and arguments, notably on the subject of coal, accompanied the movements, and much energy was expended in the effort to make sure that our allies kept to their side of the bargain. The first group, composed of Empire Scott, Empire Fortune and Empire Bard left the Dvina on the 11th September, escorted by Russian destroyers and HMS Britomart, and arrived in the Kola Inlet on the 13th September. Enemy aircraft were active in the approaches at the time of their arrival and shot down an MBR flying boat on A/S patrol. No damage was done to the ships as the attack was not pressed home, the only other casualty being one Russian hurricane shot down by the Empire Fortune. As regards the latter incident it was the same old story of the fighter escort flying close to and over the convoy during air attack despite repeated requests to keep at least 1500 yards distant, with full reasons given for the necessity for this, but apparently they will not be told. However there is some hope that now the lesson may sink in as the Russians themselves admit it was the fighter’s own fault; it is alleged that stern disciplinary measures will be taken in future with any offender in this respect. Fortunately on this occasion the pilot was uninjured.  

The second group, the Atlantic, Empire Kinsman and Empire Elgar, left the Dvina on the evening of 16th September escorted by Russian destroyers reinforced along the Murman coast by HMS Britomart, and arrived at the Kola Inlet early on the 19th September. Their sailing time had been adjusted to bring them to their destination during the hours of darkness so as to avoid the risk of air attack. 

Group one, accompanied by the tanker British Governor, who was at last ready to leave the Kola Inlet, sailed on the 21st September for Archangel. Admiralty’s 211616 was received as the convoy was passing Toros Island and Empire Bard was recalled to Kola Inlet where she remains. Russian destroyers provided escort with Britomart in company as far as the White Sea entrance whence she returned to the Kola Inlet. This group arrived Dvina River on 23rd September. Group two, consisting of Empire Kinsman and Atlantic, escorted by Russian destroyers and Britomart returned to the Dvina River on the 29th September, arriving on the 2nd October.    


There can be n doubt that the Russians generally are not security conscious. They appear to be unable to keep their mouths shut in regard to forthcoming movements with the result ( as at Archangel) that the whole town is talking convoy dates, for example, many days before the arrival or departure. The only people who are unaware of such dates, until told of them by some civilians in the street or club, are the crews of HM Ships or merchant ships who are to form part of the escort or convoy itself. Every effort is made to keep this information secret and to impress on the Russians the necessity for doing likewise but under the very extraordinary system which prevails in this country a number of quite separately controlled organisations get to know – the different port authorities, those connected with trade, Frontier Guard for passports, the Customs, the Post Office and so on. The Russian Naval Staff, however willing to cooperate, simply dare not exclude the above organisations for fear of political repercussions. The junior members of the Naval staff are also not above suspicion of talking and the same applies to the crews of Soviet warships which may be taking part.     

The truth is that these people have so little interest in their drab lives, their newspapers like their radio are extremely dull affairs full of propaganda, Stalin’s Orders of the Day and how this or that collective farm or factory has exceeded their quota. Even a dyed in the wool 100% communist must get heartily sick of the endless repetition of that fare. 

The Russian attitude that they have liquidated all fifth columnists does not impress the British, more especially when their convoys are attacked as they have been recently… On the other hand the Russians are most secretive, particularly on subjects in which we have a mutual interest. Security on their own local affairs is paramount and we are watched carefully as if we were spies; passes are needed to move off the beaten track even to our own provision and ammunition stores, all carefully guarded by numerous sentries…. 

…An incident took place at Vaenga on the 30th August when the locals representative of the Frontier Guard questioned the transfer of men ex Archangel direct from Britomart (in whom they had been brought) to destroyers bound for the UK. He claimed that he would have to inspect all their papers, demanding to be put on board Britomart for this purpose. He was told that this could not be allowed, and all necessary formalities were completed at Archangel and that the bulk of the men were British and American merchant seamen who in any event did not require exit visas. He then made the insinuation that the British at Archangel were sending men round to the Kola Inlet ostensibly for duty there, and then shipping them to the UK thus dispensing of the necessity for obtaining exit visas. In other words smuggling them out of the country. A strong written protest was made against this base accusation which seems to have had the desired effect as this official has taken a back seat since. The idea of making such a charge, as if the British would do such a thing – still it is something to bear in mind. 

The case of Sergeant Ryan, Maritime AA Regiment, has at last been settled. He was the NCO who gave his opinions on the Russians at the International Club at Murmansk as far back as June. Now he has been turned over to the British to be dealt with and has been sent back to the UK. I actually have no jurisdiction over him but as he had his leave stopped for such a long period I feel that honour is satisfied – in addition however for good measure, I have inflicted the heaviest possible punishment on him, namely that he never again should set foot on Soviet Russian soil… 

The general situation as regards merchant ships in North Russia is unsatisfactory and has been reported by signal. Every effort has been made to do what is possible in the way of recreation, provision of games, reading matter and so on during their enforced idleness but facilities are limited. There is no doubt what the personnel of these ships think of our Allies – even the reddest of the red (in UK) drawn say from the Clyde district, have altered their views of Communism, these gentry (in Soviet Russia) now being among its most bitter opponents. 

All provisions in North Russia have been pooled and issues made on a per capita basis to the merchant ships, canteen stores as far as they will go have also been issued to them, as has Services and survivors clothing. There is no doubt that every effort should be made to get these ships away as soon as possible. The long dreary winter has commenced… 

Polyarnoe had a few bombs dropped on it on the evening of 19th September when one falling near Navy House caused an injury to Paymaster Lieutenant C J B Chalkey… Another and heavier raid took place on the morning of 24th September, about eleven Messerschmitt 109’s taking part. The small bombs dropped caused no casualties but a fair amount of glass was broken including practically all that on one side of Navy House. The Russian appreciation was that the raid was directed at the submarine base, but if so their aiming was incredibly poor. There might however be a connection between this raid and Operation Source.

E R Archer
Rear Admiral, SBNO North Russia

3rd October 1943

Home | Nov 1941 | Dec 1941 | Jan 1942 | Feb 1942 | Mar 1942 | Apr 1942 | Jun 1942 | Aug 1942 | Sep 1942 | Oct 1942 | Nov 1942 | Dec 1942 | Jan-Feb 1943 | Feb-Apr 1943 | May 1943 | June 1943 | July 1943 | Aug 1943 | Sep 1943 | Oct 1943 | Nov-Dec 1943 | Dec 43-Jan 44 | Feb 44 | Mar 1944

This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012