Two more convoys got through to Russia. But at a cost....One had delivered its cargoes and was on its way back.
The other was on the outward voyage.
For three days, in the lengthening daylight of the Arctic spring, in ice and storms, they were repeatedly attacked from the air, on the surface, and from below it.
The 10,000 cruiser Edinburgh was torpedoed by a U-boat, taken in tow, again hit by a destroyer's torpedo, abandoned, and - because of the
weather - sunk by our own forces. One ship of the homeward-bound convoy and three of those on the way to Russia were sunk.
But 90 per cent, of the convoy's war supplies reached their journey's end.
One German destroyer was sunk, another severely damaged, three planes were destroyed and others hit.
An Admiralty communique last night said that when a U-boat torpedoed the Edinburgh on April 30 her steering gear was disabled. She steamed on at a reduced speed. The following afternoon three destroyers mad five separate attempts to break through the homeward-bound convoy's escort. All five attacked were driven off, but one ship was sunk. On the morning of May 2 the Edinburgh, now in tow, and her escort of destroyers, were attacked by three German destroyers.
The Edinburgh and our destroyers went into action, sinking one enemy destroyer and damaging another. But the Edinburgh was again hit and had to be sunk. Surviving the May 1 destroyer attack, the convoy bound for Russia was attacked by six Ju.88 dive-bombers. No damage or casualties were suffered. On the evening of May 2 six torpedo-carrying aircraft attacked. Three ships of the convoy were sunk.
This convoy was again unsuccessfully dive-bombed on the following evening.
The Edinburgh finished only in 1939, was bombed in the Firth of Forth in October of that year and later fought in the Mediterranean.
SIR – Vice Admiral B.B. Schofield’s excuses on behalf of the Russians (Oct 1) cannot disguise the fact that the destroyers Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchi deserted the Edinburgh in the face of the enemy, proceeded into Murmansk (actually Polyarnoye) at high speed in time for the May Day celebrations and failed to return to the scene of action after refuelling.
SIR – As the author of two books about the convoys to and from Russia during the Second World War, may I comment on the statement by Mr John Bulloch (report Sept, 18) and subsequent correspondence.
As stated by Vice Admiral J.S.C Salter (Sept 24) the cruiser Edinburgh was sunk on May 2 on the orders of Admiral Bonham-Carter after she had received a third torpedo hit and it was obvious that there was no hope of saving her.
When first hit on April 30 the Edinburgh was some 250 miles west of the Kola Inlet, so when at 6am on May 1 the two Russian destroyers forming part of the escort of Convoy QP11 were obliged to return to Murmansk to refuel, they had some 12 hours steaming ahead of them to reach the Kola Inlet.
Allowing them 12 hours to refuel, they could not have re-joined the damaged cruiser before the afternoon of May 2, by which time she had been sunk by the Foresight.
Lower Shiplake, Oxon
Survivors from HMS Edinburgh gathered out in a snow-covered field in North Russia and held an auction to help the relatives of their comrades, lost when
the cruiser was sunk defending a convoy. Auctioneer and buyers were all petty officers and ratings. What was their auction? Just the little personal
possessions saved by men who had lost most of their kit when the ship went down.
A packet of 20 cigarettes. It fetched £10
A petty officer paid £2 for a match to light a cigarette he had bought for £2.
These men have come home. They told me yesterday the story of the auction. For three days, early in May, they had fought U-boats and dive-bombers. Their first thought when they landed in Russia was for the families of their lost comrades.
They spoke warmly of the kindness of the Russians, who gave the clothes to replace the kit they had lost.
The USSR has awarded the Soviet Medal to Royal and Merchant Navy sailors who took part in perilous convoys to Russia during World War II. Hundreds of seaman lost their lives in the convoys from Scapa Flow in Orkney, to Murmansk and Archangel to supply food and arms to the soviets after Hitler’s invasion of Russia. The Admiralty never struck a special medal for the sailors but now the Russian government has decided to honour them.