Operation Shallow

This was the British initial shipment of 63 Hawker Hurricane fighters to the USSR via the ‘Dervish’ (i) convoy (21/28 August 1941).

The Hurricane fighters were intended for the use of the RAF’s No. 151 Wing, which was to operate alongside Soviet air units for the defence of Murmansk and Arkhangyel’sk, the destinations for the first Arctic convoys. Some 48 of the aircraft were embarked on the old aircraft carrier Argus, which had already several times done similar service for Malta and otherwise embarked only two Grumman Wildcat fighters for her own protection, and the other 15 as well a spares and other equipment were carried in merchant ships. The convoy assembled at Reykjavik in south-western Iceland and sailed to the north on the 21 August with a close escort of six flotilla vessels and more distant cover in the form of Rear Admiral W. F. Wake-Walker’s force comprising the fleet carrier Victorious and heavy cruisers Devonshire and Suffolk. The merchant vessels with the crated fighters reached Arkhangyel’sk safely on 28 August, and Argus had already successfully flown off its assembled fighters to Murmansk.

As the British ships returned to the UK, an abortive attempt was made to strike at German coastal shipping to the north of Tromsø in German-occupied Norway with Victorious’s aircraft on 3 September and, after the ships had fuelled at Spitsbergen, a second attempt was made farther to the south on 12 September. This time the carrier’s Fairey Albacore torpedo bombers sank two ships and damaged the aluminium works in the Glomfjord.