Operation Blutrausch

blood lust

'Blutrausch' was a U-boat wolfpack operation off the north-western and northern coasts of German-occupied Norway against the PQ.14 convoy (15/19 April 1943).

The wolfpack comprised U-209, U-376, U-377, U-378, U-403, U-436, U-454, U-456, U-589 and U-592, and for the loss of none of its own number sank one 6,985-ton ship.

Escorted by the destroyers Ambuscade, Bulldog, Richmond and Free Polish Błyskawica, and the trawler Tango, the PQ.14 convoy departed western Scotland for Iceland on 26 March, and then left Iceland on 8 April with 26 ships, escorted from 8 to 12 April by the destroyer Wilton, minesweepers Hebe and Speedy, and trawlers Chiltern and Northern Wave. On 9 April, at a point to the south-south-west of Jan Mayen island, the convoy was joined by the light cruiser Edinburgh and the ocean escort group of four destroyers and four corvettes.

From 12 to 19 April the ocean escort comprised the destroyers Amazon, Beagle, Beverley and Bulldog, the corvettes Campanula, Oxlip, Saxifrage and Snowflake, and the trawlers Duncton, Lord Austin and Lord Middleton, close escort being provided by Vice Admiral Sir Stuart Bonham-Carter’s force (the heavy cruiser Norfolk and the light cruiser Edinburgh supported by the destroyers Foresight and Forester), though Edinburgh and the destroyers were unable to join and sailed alone. Near Jan Mayen island the convoy encountered pack ice, and 16 merchant vessels and two minesweepers had to turn back after suffering damage.

On 10 April the QP.10 reciprocal convoy departed the Kola Inlet with 16 ships and, between 10 and 12 April, the local escort of the Soviet destroyers Gremyashchy and Sokrushitelny and British minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier and Hussar. From 10 to 21 April the convoy’s ocean escort comprised the light cruiser Liverpool, the destroyers Oribi, Eclipse, Fury, Marne and Punjabi, the minesweeper Speedwell, and the anti-submarine trawlers Blackfly and Paynter.

Six of the PQ.14 convoy’s ship had to return with the QP.10 convoy as a result of ice damage. Between Iceland and Norway the British also provided a distant cover force comprising the battleships Duke of York and King George V, the fleet carrier Victorious, the heavy cruiser Kent, the light cruiser Nigeria, the destroyers Bedouin, Escapade, Eskimo, Faulknor, Matchless, Offa, Onslow and Somali, and the escort destroyers Belvoir, Ledbury, Middleton and Wheatland.

On 11 April Soviet warplanes attacked the German airfield at Kirkenes, but had little effect, and Junkers Ju 88 twin-engined medium-range bombers of Major Helmut Störchel’s III/Kampfgeschwader 30 sank the 7,164-ton British Empire Cowper of the QP.10 convoy, but a search for the convoy by the destroyers Hermann Schoemann, Z-24 and Z-25 was unsuccessful.

During the night of 12/13 April U-435 missed the destroyer Punjabi but sank the 6,008-ton Panamanian El Occidente and 5,823-ton Soviet Kiev. Toward morning there was an unsuccessful attack by U-209, but Ju 88 warplanes of the III/KG 30 sank the 5,486-ton British Harpalion. German air reconnaissance then located the PQ.14 convoy, but sporadic air attacks on the convoy between 15 and 17 April were unsuccessful, and Commander J. E. M. McBeath’s escort for the QP.10 convoy defeated attacks by U-376, U-377 and U-456. U-376 narrowly missed Edinburgh on 17 April in a position to the east of Bjørnøya. U-403 sank the 6,985-ton British Empire Howard of the PQ.14 convoy. Further attempts by Kapitän Gottfried Pönitz’s 8th Zerstörer-Flottille to locate the two convoys were unsuccessful, largely as a result of adverse weather.

From 17 April the PQ.14’s local escort was provided by the Soviet destroyers Gremyashchy and Sokrushitelny together with the British minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar and Niger, and the eight surviving ships reached Murmansk.