The catastrophe of convoy PQ.17 at Barents
In July 1942 two British convoys, one, PQ.17, heading from Iceland into Northern Russia with Anglo-American supplies for the Soviet Union, the other, QP.13, with a reverse course of unloaded ships, met a tragic fate when crossing the Barents Sea. The fear that German ships, particularly the dreaded battleship TIRPITZ, concentrated in northern Norway might attack convoy PQ.17, in an area where the large ships of the Home Fleet were not supposed to go, led the First Sea Lord, Admiral Dudley Pound, to order the convoy’s disbandment and the retreat of its direct escort units (4 cruisers and 10 destroyers), with the result that most of the merchant ships were attacked and sunk by German air force and submarines. Only 11 of the 35 ships that left Iceland with convoy PQ.17 reached their destination. The other 24 were lost. For the Allied convoys, this was a huge tragedy, so much so that it earned the nickname ‘death convoy’. Instead, it was one of the greatest successes for the German submarine units and Luftwaffe aircraft.
By Francesco Mattesini, 100 pages
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