The Heroic Story of the Arctic Convoys in World War II
In 1941 Russia desperately needed supplies to maintain its fight against Nazi Germany. In August 1941 convoys of merchant ships, gathered in Scottish ports or at Reykjavik. From there they crossed the Arctic Ocean carrying war materials, arms and ammunition, explosives, tanks and aircraft. They also carried Red Cross supplies for the besieged Russian cities of Murmansk and Archangel. It was one of the most brilliant, and dangerous, campaigns of the War.
There were 78 voyages in all. Each was a struggle for survival. They had to get through treacherous seas, ice-packs, snowstorms and the Arctic darkness. The sailors struggled against German bomber planes, U-Boats and destroyers, as well as the battleship Tirpitz. To survive the sea crossing was just the beginning. They also had to survive the brutal Arctic winter.
“For in their ordeal, each and every one of them – the cool, the brave, the terrified, the sick – has known the touch of glory.”
Georges Blond describes the destruction of convoy PQ17, in July 1942, when 33 merchant ships, protected by 6 destroyers, two submarines and 11 corvettes fought off attacks by German U-Boats, dive-bombers and a naval force that included the battleship Tirpitz. Of 33 merchant ships 22 were destroyed. The American battleship Washington was also destroyed and survivors spent a week rowing to safety before being rescued by a surviving ship of the convoy. Remarkably, none of the crew of the Washington died in the attack or during their desperate attempt to reach safety.
Georges Blond recreates these voyages, and the heroism of the ships’ crews, through official documents, ships’ logs and eye-witness testimony. He conveys the drama and feats of endurance, and captures the role of the Arctic convoys in maintaining the Allied effort (and eventually winning the War). In drawing on eye-witness accounts Georges Blond recreates the drama with an unparalleled intensity and immediacy.