BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

The scattering of Convoy PQ.17

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Victor Davies
Location of story: 
North Atlantic
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 July 2005

This story was sumbitted to the People's War website by Garry Lloyd onbehalf of Victor Davies. He has given his permission for his story to go onto the website and understands the terms and conditions of the site.

As a Royal Navy signalman in HMS Palomares, an anti-aircraft cruiser, we were escorting the ill-fated PQ.17 convoy which became one of the worst marine disasters of the war. Thirty four merchant ships left Iceland to take vital supplies to Russia through the enemy-infested Atlantic. In close protection were 21 Naval vessels, included ours.

But on the fourth of July 1942, after the German super-battleship Tirpitz,had been sent out to attack us, the convoy was ordered to scatter. It was every ship for herself. We steamed north into the Arctic heading for Novaya Zemlya, a Russian island. Fearing we were German, a weather station on the harbour spit challenged us, though they were armed with nothing more than a three-inch gun. Satisfied with our identity they let us in.

When our sister ship HMS Pozarica also found our haven I signalled her in morse code with an Aldis lamp: “Welcome to our base.” They replied: “May we anchor in your back garden?” to which I responded: “Certainly, anchor on my port bow where our guns can command the entrance.”

A dozen other merchantmen and escorts found the same sanctuary, until three days later a fog descended and we stole out under its cover heading south for the Russian port of Archangel. But we ran into pack ice, and when the fog lifted German reconnaissance planes found us. They sent in their Junkers 88 dive-bombers. There were moments when I wished I was in the army and wore khaki trousers.

Two merchantmen were damaged but we managed to reach Archangel otherwise unscathed. But of the original PQ.17 convoy of 34 merchant ships only 11 survived.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill described it as one of the most melancholy naval episodes in the whole of the war.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Royal Navy Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy