Operation Panther (x)

THis was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Norwegian Sea against the JW.61 and RA.61 convoys (16 October/10 November 1944).

The wolfpack comprised U-293, U-295, U-310, U-312, U-315, U-363, U-365, U-387, U-425, U-636, U-668, U-737, U-771, U-956, U-965, U-968, U-992, U-995, U-997 and U-1163, and for the loss of none of its own number succeeded only in damaging the British frigate Mounsey.

It was on 20 October that the JW.61 convoy of 29 laden ships, a rescue ship and six submarine chasers on Lend-Lease delivery to Vitse Admiral Yuri A. Panteleyev’s Soviet Northern Fleet departed Loch Ewe. The Allies rightly reckoned that with the threat of the battleship Tirpitz checked by the damage she had sustained in the RAF’s ‘Paravane’ attack of 15 September, and the Luftwaffe now seriously weakened, the principal threat faced by the convoy was that posed by U-boats. The convoy’s primary escort element, under the command of Vice Admiral H. G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, was therefore centred on the escort carriers Nairana, Tracker and Vindex, light anti-aircraft cruiser Dido, the 17th Destroyer Flotilla (Obedient, Offa, Onslow, Opportune, Oribi and Orwell), the 21st Escort Group (frigates Byron, Conn, Deane, Fitzroy, Redmill and Rupert) and the 24th Escort Group (frigates Inglis, Lawson, Loring, Louis, Mounsey and Narborough), as well as a close escort comprising the destroyer Walker, sloops Lark and Lapwing, and corvettes Camellia, Oxlip and Rhododendron of the 8th and 20th Escort Groups.

The convoy passed through the patrol line of the ‘Panther’ (x) wolfpack, and on 26 and 27 October U-295, U-365, U-956, U-995 and U-1163 launched unsuccessful torpedo attacks on the escorts. On 28 October the convoy, by this time further escorted by Soviet destroyers, minesweepers and submarine chasers, approached the mouth of the Kola inlet, and the convoy reached Murmansk without loss.

On 2 November the RA.61 return convoy of 33 unladen ships and the same escort force as the JW.61 convoy supplemented by the 3rd Escort Group, departed Murmansk, initially with a Soviet escort in the form of the Soviet destroyers Zhguchy and Dostoiny as well as several submarine chasers. Oberleutnant Günter Wieboldt’s U-295 attacked and damaged Mounsey, but the boats of the ‘Panther’ (x) wolfpack were not able to get into the convoy because of the strength of the escort. However, poor radar conditions severely hampered the capability of the escorts to search out and destroy the U-boats.

The RA.61 convoy reached Loch Ewe without loss on 9 November.