Operation Flatow

This was the British undertaking to ensure the safe passage of the QP.15 convoy from the northern USSR to Scotland (17/30 November 1942).

The last of the 18 convoys of the QP series, the QP.15 convoy comprised 31 unladen merchant vessels and 30 escort vessels returning to the UK after delivering their cargoes to the USSR in the PQ.18 convoy.

Initially comprising 32 merchant ships and 12 escorts, though many more escorts joined during the course of the voyage, the convoy departed Arkangyel’sk on 17 November. On 20 November there developed a storm which became so severe that the convoy was scattered. The two Soviet destroyers escorting the convoy were hard hit. Baku was badly damaged but managed to limp back to port. A large wave hit the other destroyer, Sokrushitelnyi, and tore off her stern. Three other Soviet destroyers were sent to assist, and managed to rescue 187 men from Sokrushitelnyi, which sank on 22 November.

Two U-boats attacked the convoy on 23 November. Oberleutnant Hans Benker’s U-625 attacked first, sinking the 5,851-ton British freighter Goolistan, and later on the same day, Kapitšnleutnant Peter-Ottmar Grau’s U-601 fired a spread of torpedoes of which one struck and sank the 3,974-ton Soviet freighter Kuznets Lesov.

The rest of the convoy reached Scotland on 30 November.