Arctic Convoys - WW2 Timeline (August 1941 - May 1945)
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.
There are a total of (22) Arctic Convoys - WW2 Timeline (August 1941 - May 1945) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.
Thursday, August 21st, 1941
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.
Friday, March 20th, 1942
British Convoy PQ13 sets sail for Russia but comes under fire from German U-Boats. Five of the 19 ships are lost.
Saturday, June 27th, 1942
British convoy PQ17 sets sail from Reykjavik, Iceland.
Saturday, June 27th - July 28th, 1942
Convoy PQ17 loses 34 of its 36 ships to Geman U-Boats and surface ships.
Saturday, August 1st - August 31st, 1942
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.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 1942
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.
Wednesday, Setember 2nd - September 26th, 1942
Convoy PQ18 reaches Russia despite losing 13 of her ships.
Thursday, December 31st, 1942
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.
Monday, March 1st - March 31st, 1943
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.
Monday, March 1st - July 31st, 1943
Any further British convoy runs to Russia are postponed as supplies are funneled to other areas of the Atlantic.
Wednesday, September 22nd, 1943
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.
Thursday, July 1st, 1943
No fewer than eight German U-Boats shadow convoy PQ17.
Sunday, August 31st, 1941
The first seven-ship Royal Navy convoy arrives in Russia without incident, bringing with her supplies and Hawker Hurricane fighters.
Monday, November 1st - November 30th, 1943
In this month, Allies convoys in the Artic resume their activities.
Sunday, December 26th, 1943
The German battleship KMS Scharnhorst and 5 destroyers engage convoy JW55B.
Sunday, December 26th, 1943
At 7:30 PM, the KMS Scharnhorst is lost to action by Royal Navy surface warships, leaving just 36 of her crew alive.
Monday, April 3rd, 1944
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.
Monday, May 1st - July 31st, 1944
The upcoming invasion at Normany puts a temporary halt on further convoy runs into Russia.
Tuesday, August 15th - August 29th, 1944
During another running battle, convoy JW59 and her surface warships inflict damage on the KMS Tirpitz.
Sunday, November 12th, 1944
The KMS Tirpitz is finally destroyed at Troms by forces of the RAF.
Wednesday, November 1st - November 30th, 1944
As the German defensive circle shrinks througout Europe, the Artic Convoys enjoy their best month, seeing not one vessel lost to enemy action.
Tuesday, May 1st - May 31st, 1945
The last Artic Convoy voyage - with the designation of JW67 - between Britian and Russia is completed.