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Arctic Convoys WW2 Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 3/19/2015

The Allies attempted to help the Soviet Union through daring coordinated convoy voyages across the cold and unforgiving waters of the Arctic - the Germans had other plans.

Regardless what Soviet leader Stalin believed (or admitted to after the war), the Soviet Union did, in fact, receive massive amounts of supplies and armaments from the Allied powers. The German invasion of the Soviet Union through Operation Barbarossa in June of 1941 forced the Soviets into a precarious position for they were ill-prepared to absorb the brunt of the Axis army led by Germany. As such, supplies from America and Britain flooded in to help sustain the country until its own facilities could produce enough armaments and training could help restock dwindled supplies of troops to enact an unforgettable series of offensives in the Soviet march to Berlin.


The shipping lanes in the Arctic, from Iceland to Soviet shores, provided the promise of hope but it was not without its dangers. Not only were the natural elements an unforgiving factor in this part of the world - temperatures consistently below freezing, months of pure daylight with months of low light and darkness - but the German foothold in both Norway and Finland provided the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe with many-a-base from which to operate from.


The British took their chances however as not even they could stand to see the Soviets fall to the Germans. The opening of a second front in the East was a godsend to the Allies and a dire mistake by Adolph Hitler. Convoy upon convoy began their journey from the West under the protection of the Royal Navy - a force already spread thin and committed along other fronts - ultimately to arrive at Russian docks. Despite the Royal Navy presence, air- and sea-based attacks from the enemy became common practice as German battleships, destroyers, and other surface vessels along with dreaded U-Boat attack submarines and Luftwaffe torpedo bombers all targeted these vulnerable convoys.


Better tactics, improved Royal Navy protection, and a faltering German defense in Europe ultimately allowed these convoys to survive and, more importantly, allowed the Soviets to continue to save their country from within thanks to the much-needed resupply. In the action, many-an-unsung hero emerged in this mostly forgotten part of World War 2. The Germans lost the irreplaceable battleship KMS Scharnhorst in the action. The Allied convoys supplied the Soviet Union throughout the war years with the last convoy arriving just days after the official German surrender in May of 1945.


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There are a total of 22 Arctic Convoy WW2 Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1941
Thursday
August 21st

The first Royal Navy convoy on its way to deliver supplies through Arctic waters into the Soviet Union leaves Scapa Flow comprised of 7 ships.

1942
Friday
March 20th

British Convoy PQ13 sets sail for Russia but comes under fire from German U-Boats. Five of the 19 ships are lost.

1942
Saturday
June 27th

British convoy PQ17 sets sail from Reykjavik, Iceland.

1942
Saturday
June 27th - July 28th

Convoy PQ17 loses 34 of its 36 ships to Geman U-Boats and surface ships.

1942
Saturday
August 1st - August 31st

Any further convoys passing to the Arctic to Russia are suspended for the time being as resources are pressed for service in the Allied landings occurring in North Africa.

1942
Wednesday
September 2nd

Convoy PQ18 sets sail for Russia, comprised of some 40 ships and beefed up protection through 17 destroyers. The escort carrier HMS Avenger provides air cover.

1942
Wednesday
Setember 2nd - September 26th

Convoy PQ18 reaches Russia despite losing 13 of her ships.

1942
Thursday
December 31st

The Battle of Barents Sea takes place. Convoy JW51B comes under attack from German surface ships comrpised of the battleships KMS Admiral Hipper and KMS Lutzow along with 6 destroyers. Six British destroyers are up to the task as they repel the much larger force at the cost of two Royal Navy destroyers. No merchant vessels are lost to enemy fire. The loss in battle forces the resignation of German Navy Admiral Raeder and leaves Adolph Hitler hungry for blood.

1943
Monday
March 1st - March 31st

The German battleship KMS Scharnhorst makes its way to Norway, building up the already potent German Navy force that includes the KMS Tirpitz and KMS Lutzow.

1943
Monday
March 1st - July 31st

Any further British convoy runs to Russia are postponed as supplies are funneled to other areas of the Atlantic.

1943
Wednesday
September 22nd

Royal Navy midget submarines attack the German battleship KMS Tirpitz. Though not sunk to action, she takes on enough damage to sideline her for six months.

1943
Thursday
July 1st

No fewer than eight German U-Boats shadow convoy PQ17.

1941
Sunday
August 31st

The first seven-ship Royal Navy convoy arrives in Russia without incident, bringing with her supplies and Hawker Hurricane fighters.

1943
Monday
November 1st - November 30th

In this month, Allies convoys in the Artic resume their activities.

1943
Sunday
December 26th

The German battleship KMS Scharnhorst and 5 destroyers engage convoy JW55B.

1943
Sunday
December 26th

At 7:30 PM, the KMS Scharnhorst is lost to action by Royal Navy surface warships, leaving just 36 of her crew alive.

1944
Monday
April 3rd

The KMS Tirpitz is targeted once more and attack, this time by air elements of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The battleship lives through the attack but suffers three more months of repairs as a result.

1944
Monday
May 1st - July 31st

The upcoming invasion at Normany puts a temporary halt on further convoy runs into Russia.

1944
Tuesday
August 15th - August 29th

During another running battle, convoy JW59 and her surface warships inflict damage on the KMS Tirpitz.

1944
Sunday
November 12th

The KMS Tirpitz is finally destroyed at Troms by forces of the RAF.

1944
Wednesday
November 1st - November 30th

As the German defensive circle shrinks througout Europe, the Artic Convoys enjoy their best month, seeing not one vessel lost to enemy action.

1945
Tuesday
May 1st - May 31st

The last Artic Convoy voyage - with the designation of JW67 - between Britian and Russia is completed.