Convoy PQ-18


Convoy PQ-18

Convoy PQ-18 was one of the Arctic convoys sent from Great Britain to aid the Soviet Union in the war against Nazi Germany. The convoy departed Loch Ewe, Scotland on 2 September 1942 and arrived in Arkhangelsk on 21 September 1942.

Following the disastrous losses to PQ-17, the British were determined to provide the convoy with air cover. The new escort carrier HMS "Avenger" had arrived from the United States and formed the core of the escorting force. The convoy was postponed because a large part of the Royal Navy was engaged in Operation Pedestal, protecting a vital convoy to Malta in August.

hips

The convoy consisted of forty-four merchant ships: 15 British, 20 US, six Soviet and three Panamanian. The escort was commanded by Rear Admiral Robert Burnett and consisted of "Avenger", the cruiser "Scylla", and the destroyers "Onslow", "Onslaught", "Opportune", "Offa", "Ashanti", "Eskimo", "Somali" and "Tartar". Force B consisted of the destroyers "Milne", "Marne", "Martin", "Meteor", "Faulknor", "Fury", "Impulsive" and "Intrepid". Close escort was provided by destroyers "Malcolm" and "Achates", two anti-aircraft "gunships", "Alynbank" and "Ulster Queen"; four Flower class corvettes ("HMS Bergamot", HMS "Bryony", HMS "Bluebell" and HMS "Camellia"), four A/S trawlers ("Cape Argona, Cape Mariato, Daneman" and "St Kenan") and three minesweepers.

Distant cover was provided by the battleships "Anson" and "Duke of York", and cruisers "London", "Suffolk", "Cumberland", "Sheffield" and "Norfolk", under the command of Admiral Bruce Fraser.

Allied air cover

"Avenger" carried 10 Hawker Hurricane fighter planes and three Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers.

A combined Royal Air Force-Royal Australian Air Force detachment, made up of 32 Hampden torpedo bombers from 144 Squadron and 455 Squadron, nine Catalina maritime patrol aircraft from 210 Squadron and three photo reconnaissance Spitfires, was sent to air bases in the Soviet Union, to fend an attack by the German battleship "Tirpitz", if it should eventuate. Nine Hampdens were lost on route, including one which crash landed in German-occupied Norway; plans for the operation fell into the hands of the Germans as a result.Fact|date=November 2007 The RAF-RAAF force regrouped at Vaenga air base, 40 km north of Murmansk.

Battle

The Luftwaffe provided a formidable opponent with 42 Heinkel He-111 torpedo bombers of KG26 and 35 Junkers Ju-88 dive bombers. Tactics consisted of simultaneous attack by torpedo bombers and dive bombers swamping the defenders. U-Boats began shadowing the convoy; one of them, the "U-88" was sunk by "HMS Faulknor", south of Spitsbergen. The convoy was sighted by a German Blohm & Voss BV 138 flying boat on 12 September and later that day, German torpedo bombers sank eight ships. The next day, the Germans returned, losing five Heinkels to Hurricane fighters; three Hurricanes were also shot down by friendly fire, but their pilots were rescued. The tanker SS "Atheltemplar" was another casualty, being torpedoed on 14 September and abandoned. Later attacks were beaten off at the cost to the Germans of 20 more planes shot down. The convoy was attacked by U-boats on its approach to Kola Inlet and three more ships were sunk by "U-408". British escorts sank U-boats "U-457" and "U-589". Two more merchantmen were sunk by air attack in Murmansk harbour. In total, 13 merchants were lost from the convoy.

The "Tirpitz" did not attack the convoy and the RAF-RAAF Hampden force undertook one patrol, on September 14. They left their 23 aircraft in the USSR before returning to bases in the UK.

hips of the convoy

References

* Richard Woodman, Arctic Convoys 1941-1945 , 1994, ISBN 978-0-7195-5752-1
* [http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/russian/index.html Convoy web]


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