Convoy PQ 16


Convoy PQ 16

Convoy PQ 16 was an Arctic convoy sent from Great Britain by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union during World War II. It sailed in May 1942, reaching the Soviet northern ports after five days of air attacks that left eight ships sunk and two damaged. 25 ships arrived safely.

Contents

Background

In the winter and spring of 1942, U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Union premier Joseph Stalin continually pressed for more convoys to Russia, to deliver War Stores to help them sustain their fight against Germany, despite the knowledge that the naval forces were stretched to the limit. Finally Stalin sent an urgent message to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in May 1942 in which he said, "I am fully aware of the difficulties involved and of the sacrifices made by Great Britain in the matter (the Russian convoys). I feel, however, incumbent upon me to approach you with the request to take all possible measures in order to ensure the arrival of the above-mentioned materials in the USSR".

Ships

This convoy consisted of 35 merchant ships: 21 American, 4 Soviet, 8 British, 1 Dutch and one of Panamanian registry. It also had one auxiliary vessel, the CAM ship Empire Lawrence. The convoy was led by Commodore HN Gale in Ocean Voice.

The close escort was led by the destroyer HMS Ashanti (Cdr. RG Onslow) and consisted of the destroyers ORP Garland, Flower class corvettes, one minesweeper and four trawlers.

There were two support groups; a Cruiser Cover Force led by R.Adm. HM Burrough in the cruiser HMS Nigeria, and comprising the cruisers Kent, Liverpool and Norfolk and destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi and a Distant Covering Force of the battleships Duke of York and USS Washington, the carrier HMS Victorious, the cruisers HMS London and USS Wichita, and 13 destroyers.

Action

PQ 16 left Hvalfjord in Iceland on 21 May under the protection of the Local Escort, meeting the Ocean Escort on 23 May. At this time of the year the convoy would be operating in the period of perpetual daylight of the Arctic summer; this lessened the effectiveness of U-boat attack, but make round-the-clock air attack more likely. It also increased the chance of early detection by German reconnaissance aircraft.

On 25 May PQ 16 met its cruiser escort, but on the same day was spotted by a FW200 reconnaissance plane, which commenced shadowing. That evening the German air force commenced a series of attacks which continued for the next five days, until the convoy was in range of Soviet fighter cover. On 25 May one ship was damaged and forced to return under escort; on 26 May all air attacks were repulsed, but one ship Syros, was torpedoed by U-703. By 27 May the air attacks began to break through; three ships were sunk and another damaged around mid-day; another sunk and one damaged in mid-afternoon. That evening two more ships were sunk, and another damaged. On 28 May the convoy was joined by the Eastern Local escort; three Soviet destroyers and four minesweepers. Their extra firepower enabled all further air attacks to be beaten off. On 29 the convoy divided, six ships making for Archangel, while the remainder docked at Murmansk.

Eight merchant ships were lost: six by air attack, one by submarine U-703 and one by a mine. Two U-boats were damaged during attacks by escorts, and an unknown number of attacking aircraft shot down.

Aftermath

When Convoy PQ16 was assembled off Iceland Churchill declared it would be worthwhile if even 50% got through; despite the losses the majority of the ships of Convoy PQ16 did arrive, most ships to Murmansk (30 May 1942) and eight ships to Archangelsk (1 June 1942). The convoy was such a success in terms of the War Stores delivered that the Germans made greater efforts to disrupt the following convoys. The Heavy Lift Ships from Convoy PQ16 including SS Empire Elgar stayed at Archangelsk and Molotovsk unloading convoys for over 14 months.

Ship list

  • Alamar,
  • Alcoa Banner,
  • American Press,
  • American Robin,
  • Arcos,
  • Atlantic,
  • Black Ranger,
  • Carlton,
  • Chernyshevski,
  • City of Joliet,
  • City of Omaha,
  • Empire Baffin,
  • Empire Elgar,
  • Empire Lawrence,
  • Empire Purcell,
  • Empire Selwyn,
  • Exterminator,
  • Heffron,
  • Hybert,
  • John Randolph,
  • Lowther Castle,
  • Massmar,
  • Mauna Kea,
  • Michigan,
  • Minotaur,
  • Mormacsul,
  • Nemaha,
  • Ocean Voice,
  • Pieter Van Hoogh,
  • Revolutsioner,
  • edit] Notes

    References

    See also


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