Operation QP

'QP' was the designation of Allied Arctic convoys (together with a numerical suffix) plying the route from ports in the northern USSR to Iceland and later the UK, and as such reciprocals of the 'PQ' series (September 1941/November 1942).

There were 18 such convoys before the 'QP' series was replaced by the 'RA' series. all of these merchant ships were loaded with timber.

The first of the 'QP' convoys was QP.1 of 28 September/10 October 1941 with the 4,427-ton Dutch Alchiba, 3,611-ton Soviet Alma Ata, 3,417-ton British oiler Black Ranger, 2,482-ton Soviet Budyonny, 1,931-ton British Esneh, 1,914-ton British Lancastrian Prince, 11,340-ton Llanstephan Castle, 2,981-ton Soviet Mossovet, 4,747-ton British New Westminster City, 4,441-ton Soviet Rodina, 3,974-ton Soviet Sevzaples, 3,974-ton Soviet Stary Bolshevik, 3,124-ton Soviet Sukhona and 4,817-ton British Trehata.

Escort was provided by the heavy cruisers London and Shropshire, destroyers Active, Anthony and Electra, minesweepers Halcyon, Harrier and Salamander, and trawlers Hamlet, Macbeth and Ophelia.

The last of the convoys was QP.15 of 17/30 November 1942 with the 2,352-ton Soviet Andrei Marti, 2,900-ton Soviet Belomorkanal, 6,027-tons US Charles McCormick, 1,426-ton British Copeland serving as the convoy’s rescue ship, 5,117-ton British Dan-y-Bryn, 6,798-ton British Empire Baffin, 7,092-ton British Empire Morn CAM-ship, 6,327-ton British Empire Snow, 7,167-ton British Empire Tristram, 7,191-ton US Esek Hopkins, 4,969-ton US Exford, 3,972-ton Soviet Friedrich Engels, 5,851-ton British Goolistan, 5,498-ton US Hollywood, 5,685-ton US Ironclad which had to turn back, 3,962-ton Soviet Komiles, 3,964-ton Kuznets Lesov, 5,887-ton US Lafayette, 6,061-ton US Meanticut which had to turn back, 7,177-ton US Nathaniel Greene, 7,174-ton British Ocean Faith, 7,191-ton US Patrick Henry, 3,771-ton Soviet Petrovsky, 5,028-ton US Sahale, 4,971-ton US Schoharie, 7,191-ton US St Olaf, 7,169-ton Soviet Tbilisi, 5,138-ton British Temple Arch, 7,177-ton US Virginia Dare, 5462-ton Panamanian White Clover and 7,177-ton US William Moultrie.

The local escort on departure comprised the anti-aircraft ship Ulster Queen, minesweepers Britomart, Halcyon, Hazard and Sharpshooter, Soviet flotilla leader destroyers Baku and Soviet destroyer Sokrushitelnyi, while the ocean escort comprised the corvettes Bergamot, Bluebell, Bryony and Camellia, and minesweeper Salamander.

The convoy was met in the Barents Sea on 20 November by the British destroyers Echo (which accompanied it until 22 November), Faulknor, Icarus, Impulsive (until 26 November) and Intrepid, and then Middleton (22/30 November), Musketeer, Oakley (23/30 November) and Orwell. Farther to the west were the British heavy cruisers London and Suffolk and the destroyers Forester, Obdurate and Onslaught.

The British submarines Trespasser and Seadog, Free French Junon, Free Norwegian Uredd and Soviet L-20 were in position off the northern Norwegian fjords to counter any breakout by German surface ships.

On 20 November the convoy became widely scattered in a heavy storm. Parts of Baku's superstructure were blown into the sea and, with serious leaks in her bows and boiler rooms, the ship reached harbour only with difficulty. Sokrushitelnyi fared worse and broke in two. The destroyers Razumnyi, Kuibyshev and Uritskyi were sent to help, and were able to rescue 187 men in very heavy seas, and Sokrushitelnyi foundered on 22 November.

German air reconnaissance was unable to locate the convoy in the prevailing bad weather, but even so Oberleutnant Hans Benker’s U-625 and Oberleutnant Peter-Ottmar Grau’s U-601 each managed to sink one ship, Goolistan and Kuznets Lesov respectively.