Operation Silberstreif (i)

silver lining

This was a German unrealised naval operation to operate heavy warships against British merchant vessels proceeding independently through the Arctic Ocean and Norwegian Sea (19/22 November 1942).

On 17 November the QP.15 convoy departed Arkhangyel’sk with 31 unladen ships, of which two had to turn back. The eastern local escort force comprised the auxiliary anti-aircraft ship Ulster Queen, minesweepers Britomart, Halcyon, Hazard and Sharpshooter, and Soviet destroyers Baku and Sokrushitelnyi, and 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 (up to 22 November), Faulknor, Icarus, Impulsive (up to 26 November), Intrepid, Middleton (22/30 November), Musketeer, Oakley (23/30 November) and Orwell. Farther to the west as a covering force were the British heavy cruisers London and Suffolk, and destroyers Forester, Obdurate and Onslaught. The British submarines Seadog and Trespasser, Free French Junon, Free Norwegian Uredd and Soviet L-20 were also on patrol off German-occupied Norway’s northern fjords to counter any break-out attempt by German surface warships.

On 20 November the convoy became widely scattered in a heavy storm. Parts of Baku’s superstructure was blown into the sea and, with serious leaks in her bow and boiler rooms, the ship only just reached harbour. Sokrushitelnyi broke in two, but the destroyers Kuybyshev, Razumnyi and Uritskyi, sent to help, managed to rescue 187 men in very heavy seas. Sokrushitelnyi sank on 22 November.

German air reconnaissance was unable to locate the convoy in the bad weather, so none of the German surface warships was despatched to intercept. Nevertheless, Kapitänleutnant Peter-Ottmar Grau’s U-601 managed to sink the 3,974-ton Soviet Kuznets Lesov and Oberleutnant Hans Benkers’s U-625 the 5,851-ton British Goolistan.