The Arctic Convoys of World War II
By Michael G. Walling
This book covers the sailing of the Arctic Convoys which kept the Russian Bear on the Allied side during World War II. During the time that these convoys were in operation, (April 1941 through May 1945) some Sixty-Seven convoys made the journey between Great Britain and the Soviet Union. These convoys composed some 1,400 ships, of these some 104 were lost with the loss of 829 lives. The British Navy lost eighteen warships and some 1,944 of their crewmen. This story has been partially told before, with convoy PQ-17 being sited in many histories. In this volume, the author goes into more detail as to the methods used by the Luftwaffe and Kreigsmarine in the interception of these lifelines to Soviet Russia.
The book contains ten chapters covering the times from 1941 to 1945. Although the British began convoys after war was declared the convoys to Murmansk and Archangel did not begin until after the Germans conquered France and turned their attention to Soviet Russia. The original method of getting supplies to Russia was by sending single ships or small groups of un-escorted ships through the North Sea, along the Norwegian coast and into the White Sea and finally to the Soviet ports. After the Germans set up their airbases and submarine patrols off Norway, the began to sink ships in earnest.
The British began to send convoys to Russia as a way of thwarting the efforts of the Luftwaffe and Kreigsmarine, but their escorts were relatively weak and ships were destroyed on a continuing basis. Convoys were suspended during the Winter months due to the narrow passage off Norway due to the extensive ice fields and again in the Summer when the sun shown 24 hours per day giving the advantages to the German forces.
This book is not for the feint of heart, descriptive details are graphic and the ordeals experienced by the crews of the ships sunk are heart wrenching. Being dumped into 30 degree waters gave the crew members, without heavy clothing, about ten minutes before hypothermia set in and their ultimate death ensued.
I can recommend this book to those who want to broaden their knowledge of the actions of World War II. This book shows the heroism of the Merchant Marines of the United States, Great Britain and Soviet Russia. This volume fills in a part of history little known to the average student of the Second World War and is important in the wider knowledge of that time.