Arctic Convoys

World War II in the Arctic

the Arctic 1942.1231

Arctic Convoys

Arctic disputes, Winter War, Weather War, World War II, Cold War, Climate Change (31 December 1942)

Historical Map of the Arctic & the Far North

In early 1942, Germany moved air and naval forces to northern Norway to deal with the increasing shipments of supplies that the western Allies were offloading in northern Russia. Over the next months, the Germans began intercepting these Arctic convoys, culminating in their almost complete destruction of convoy PQ17 in July. This caused the Allies to pause, sending only one convoy in the following six months, before adopting a new strategy and sending two heavily escorted convoys only a few days apart. This time the German interceptors were beaten back, with both convoys making it through unscathed.

Main Events

End of Convoy PQ17

On 27 June 1942, Convoy PQ17 embarked from Hvalfjord, Iceland, for Archangel, Soviet Union. German forces located the convoy on 1 July and began launching aerial and submarine attacks on it. Convinced that the German battleship Tirpitz would soon arrive, the British Admiralty ordered the convoy to scatter on 4 July. Ultimately the attacks sunk 23 of the convoy's original 34 ships, forcing the Allies to suspend Arctic convoys until 2 September.

Operation Wunderland

In Operation Wunderland, the German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer, accompanied by destroyers and U-boats, traveled from Narvik, Norway, to attack Soviet Northern Fleet ships seeking refuge in the icy Kara Sea. Sailing between Franz Josef Archipelago and Novaya Zemlya, the German fleet entered the Kara Sea from the north, sinking ships and bombarding ports and weather stations from the Soviet port of Dikson to Nordenskiöld Archipelago (south of Severnaya Zemlya).

Battle of Stalingrad

As part of their invasion of the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union, German and other Axis forces attempted to capture Stalingrad - a major city on the Volga River on the eastern edge of Europe. After the battle degenerated into street fighting, the Soviets mounted a counteroffensive which broke through the Axis lines and trapped the German 6th Army. The last German units surrendered in February 1943.

Holzauge weather station

In August 1942, a German team under Captain Hermann Ritter established Holzauge weather station in Hansa Bay on the east coast of Sabine Island, Greenland. The station operated successfully and in secret until March 1943 when it was discovered by the North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol. In May, the station was bombed by US aircraft operating from Iceland, forcing the surviving Germans to evacuate to Norway by air in a Dornier Do 18 seaplane launched from the ship Schwabenland.

Operation Torch

Some 100,000 American, British, and Free French troops landed in Vichy French North Africa in Operation Torch. The landings were conducted simultaneously around Casablanca in French Morocco and around the French Algerian cities of Oran and Algiers. After a few days of Vichy French resistance, Admiral François Darlan - the commander of all Vichy French forces and who happened to be in Algiers at the time - agreed to cooperate with the Allies.

Battle of Barents Sea

The Allied convoy JW 51B and its British escort ships, traveling from Loch Ewe, Scotland, to Murmansk, Soviet Union, were attacked by the heavy cruisers and destroyers of the German Kriegsmarine in the Barents Sea. With the support of the Royal Navy, which damaged a German cruiser and sunk a destroyer for the loss of a destroyer and a minesweeper, all fourteen merchant ships in the convoy reached their destinations unscathed. The Kriegsmarine's failure to stop the convoy infuriated Hitler, who threatened to scrap the German surface fleet.

About this map