Ross & Cromarty War Memorials

Russian Arctic Convoys

This modest monument, erected on Rubha nan Sasun, which overlooks the entrance to Loch Ewe where the convoys assembled. It is difficult to put together a remembrance which is adequate in the light of the extreme heroism shown by the crews of these Merchant ships.

However, an attempt has been made in the following pages to show what these incredible people endured in what Churchill described 'as the worste journey in the world'. The links below will take you some of the places which also took part in it.

These are the words on the above monument


"IN MRMORY OF OUR SHIPMATES
WHO SAILED FROM LOCH EWE
DURING WORLD WAR II.
THEY LOST THEIR LIVES
IN THE BITTER ARCTIC SEABATTLES
TO NORTH RUSSIA
AND NEVER RETURNED
TO THIS TRANQUIL ANCHORAGE
WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THEM".

What is a 'Convoy'
Convoys varied in size from as few as 3 vessels to as many as 100. Each merchant ship in convoy was typically assigned a station so the convoy formation consisted of several columns of three to five ships. The lead ships of the columns were spaced at intervals of 1,000 yards (910 m) along a line perpendicular to the convoy course. Each ship in the column followed the ship ahead at a distance of 800 yards (730 m).[2] The typical convoy would be approximately 8 to 10 kilometers (5.0 to 6.2 mi) wide and 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) long.

There were two series of Arctic Convoys. The first ran from September 1941 to September 1942 and was coded as PQ(outbound) and QP(inbound). This coding came from the initials of the naval officer in charge of convoy planning, Commander P Q Edwards. The PQ17 Disaster terminted that first series. The second series started again in December 1942 and continued until the end of the war in 1945. Coding was changed to JW(outbound) and RA(inbound).

The rescue plan for early convoys was to have the last ship of each column rescue survivors of other ships in that column.[3] If the last ship in column was hit, the rescue task fell to the escorting warships. In practice, the escorting warships performed rescue tasks more often than the 25% suggested by random hits on a four-ship column; because some merchant ships refused to leave the protection of the convoy formation to fall back and remain a stationary target while rescuing survivors. Merchant ships were not well suited to maneuver to pick up survivors, and those attempting rescue were hampered by lack of suitable rescue equipment.

Warships attempting rescue were diverted from the task of defending the rest of the convoy from the attacking U-boats or aircraft. The first specially equipped rescue vessel went into service in January 1941. When rescue ships were unavailable, large, ocean-going tugboats or converted trawlers were sometimes designated to perform rescue duty.

See in Wikipedia for full report, and there are many others such as

Aultbea     Poolewe     Inverasdale     Museum     PQ17 Disaster

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