PQ-17, The greatest Convoy disaster of WW-II

When the Wehrmacht smashed into the Soviet Union in June 1941 Russia and Britain found themselves in alliance against Germany. As a result Britain agreed to supply the Soviet Union with material and goods via convoys through the Arctic Seas.

The destinations were the northern ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. To reach them, the convoys had to travel dangerously near the German occupied Norwegian coastline.
Convoys headed for Russia were known as PQ convoys and those heading back from Russia were designated as QP convoys.

PQ-17 disembarks from Iceland
On June 27, 1942 the ships of convoy PQ-17 left the berth in Hvalfjordur, Iceland and headed northwards. The convoy consisted of 35 ships and was heavily loaded with 297 aircraft, 594 tanks, 4246 lorries and gun carriers and additional 156,000 tons of cargo. This was enough to equip an army of 50,000 men and valued at 700 million dollars at the time. After two days at sea 2 ships had to return to Iceland, leaving 33 ships en route to Russia.

The convoy was heavily escorted (although not as strong as the numbers suggested) including 4 cruisers, 3 destroyers and two British submarines and two tankers which would fuel the ships when needed.

Once at sea the convoy was spotted by the Germans who launched a combined attack by the Luftwaffe and the following U-boats,U-88, U-251, U-255, U-376, U-456, U-457 and U-703 all Type VIIC, U-334 Type XB.

The Losses

All in all 24 ships were sunk out of the 33 which made up the convoy. 153 merchant men lost their lives. The loss of material was extremely heavy; 22 merchant ships had been lost for a total of 142,518 tons of shipping and with them 3,350 motor vehicles, 430 tanks, 210 bombers and 99,316 tons of general cargo including radar sets and ammunition to name a few.

Image Country Year Description
Marshall Is. 1992 German U-Boat
Marshall Is. 1992 British merchant ships
Marshall Is. 1992 Connvoy PQ-17 destroyed 1942.German U-Boat (2 stamps printed se-tenant)
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