Murmansk Run

cshortridge73
5th October 2012, 14:49
Of all convoy runs, Atlantic or Pacific, there is one that has become wardroom and fo’castle legend wherever men of the sea gather to sway yarns. It has been told and retold by those that lived through to tell it. And the men that had been on it are considered a little higher in the echelon of veterans - whether they be the brass hats of the escort ships, or the humblest merchant seaman tending boilers in rusty old teakettles that could scarcely keep pace in the convoy parade. It is the “Murmansk Run.”


Men - and boys - who had never seen salt spray in there lived returned for on Murmansk Run seasoned veterans of both the sea and the war.

German armies were at the gates of Moscow by the end of 1941. Relief, in American war supplies, simply had to get through to the Soviet forces. The shortest practicable route was over the Arctic Circle and around the North Cape of Norway down to the port of Murmansk, or into the White Sea to Archangel. But bitter weather and a ruthless, vigilant enemy combined to make this the most dangerous of all wartime voyages.

This is a somewhat personal accounting of an Armed Guard unit 'doing their thing' on a North Atlantic convoy run...what they encountered, how they dealt with it....all the way from the seasoned merchant man to the seasoned sailor of the Armed Guard ...it paints a picture of the how ugly it was...and the laughs in between ....

If you'd care to read the 10 or so pages of this voyage.. of which I'm sure you'll not be disappointed....just click on this title: MURMANSK RUN (http://navalmerchantshiparticles.blogspot.com/2010/06/convoys-of-north.html) and it will take you right to the link.

Hugh Ferguson
5th October 2012, 17:11
Herewith 3 videos, Bud, relevant to this.

www.shipsnostalgia.tv/members/action/viewvideo/1698/Russian_Convoy_weather/

www.shipsnostalgia.tv/members/action/viewvideo/1710/PQ_18_cont_2/

www.shipsnostalgia.tv/members/action/viewvideo/1701/Cont_PQ18/

cshortridge73
5th October 2012, 17:30
Excellent Hugh......Wow I wish I had them when I composed that article. Those are three very informing video's.

Thanks for bringing them to my attention.

Hugh Ferguson
5th October 2012, 19:49
Bud, this is a book which you may not even have heard of, but I'm sure it would be of much interest to you.
Douglas Fairbanks jno. was Admiral Giffen's flag lieutenant aboard the Wichita and kept a diary of events in that disastrous convoy.

cshortridge73
5th October 2012, 20:54
Thanks Hugh for the tip......I'll look it up and see if I can get it from our local Library.... Sounds interesting.

Hugh Ferguson
6th October 2012, 20:13
Forgot to include this one, Bud.
http://www.shipsnostalgia.tv/members/action/viewvideo/1700/PQ18_aboard_SCYLLA/

makko
6th October 2012, 21:06
My maternal grandfather was a Royal Artillery gunner assigned to ships on the Murmansk (Archangel) run for most of the war. He spoke very lttle of it - I was into model making and had most of the Aifix range of navy ships which he looked at with interest. On one occasion I had just finished the Hood and had decided to give her Dazzle Paint. My grandfather looked longingly at the model, turning it in his grizzled, plate sized hands when he turned to me and said,"I was on the following convoy when she was lost. I remember seeing bodies in the water for days". He also commented that the Dazzle was exactly as it was during the war.
He suffered a serious breakdown following demobbing in 1946 but, as in those times, got on with it and resumed his life. It affected my mother though. He was a real man's man and is still remembered for breaking a strike at Spiller's in Birkenhead where he worked for 45 years as an HGV driver, winning the "best driver award" on thirteen occasions. For those that know, he was always called "Aitch". A great man who left us in 1981 as a result of the Big C. Even then, he went in a matter of ten days from first diagnosis - No farting around for Aitch!
Regards,
Dave

cshortridge73
6th October 2012, 21:09
WOW!!!.......thank you so much for sharing. Sounds like one hell of a man to me.

makko
6th October 2012, 21:27
Thanks, Bud.
Another comment was:
Aitch was assigned to a quad Bofors (I think 40mm). Many times, the North Atlantic was like glass and their days were filled with cleaning the guns and checking the ammunition. They would scan the seas for any unusual movement as a matter of routine. Hand over would see them saluting and marching on the poop deck.
On one particular day, Aitch spotted a glint off to the north - Undoubtedly a submarine periscope. Thus began the stomach churning "wait" - The Wolf Pack was probably assembling. Some two days later, with the sea like glass and a limp warm sun shining, Aitch was shirtless on a deck chair adjacent to his gun. He was watching a tanker running parallel to them when - THREE PLUMES OF WATER ERUPTED ON THE TANKERS OFFSIDE, QUICKLY TURNING TO FLAMES! He saw the men jumping into the burning water as his ship just kept steaming toward Murmansk. Aitch felt so impotent that he could do nothing.
He expressed that what they feared the most was when they spotted a Focke Wulf Kondor. Then they knew for certain that the Pack was assembling and it was just a matter of time............ Aitch was never sunk in all those years.
My paternal grandfather was on Patroclus when she was sunk - The story is here on SN. He was captured by the Germans following the sinking of his ship in Crete and spent the remainder of the war in Milag Nord.

"LEST WE FORGET........"

Regards,
Dave

Hugh Ferguson
6th October 2012, 22:24
I knew several people who kicked their heels in Milag Nord-two of them for most of the war!
I wonder if you have got to hear of the book, written by Gabe Thomas, entitled MILAG: Captives of the Kriegsmarine. ISBN 1 872808 35 2

Gabe was formerly the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. I have corresponded with him and have his address and 'phone number.
The book has a very comprehensive index with many names of people who "did time" there: a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in what life was like there for a relative of theirs.

Click HERE (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showthread.php?t=17877) for more on this subject.

Wallace Slough
6th October 2012, 23:49
My father in law made the Murmansk run as Chief Mate on the Liberty Ship SS Philip Livingston. While he wouldn't speak about it much during his life, his wife (my mother in law) told me that the most difficult thing for him was passing men screaming in the water who'd been torpedoed and not being able to stop.

I believe my father also made the Murmansk run with United Fruit Company during the war, but he never spoke about it to me. As most of the ships he sailed on were foreign flagged, I've never been able to determine if he did make the run. He once told me that ships in his convoy had been bombed, but that's all I recall.

spongebob
7th October 2012, 01:17
Thanks for that Bud, a good account of what it was really like.

The turning point in my career choice came at secondary school where I was meeting my father's desire that I become an electrical engineer.
Along came a trainee physics teacher, an ex-marine engineer who had served in the British merchant navy during WW2 both on the Murmansk convoys and on the Queen Mary while a troop ship.
A good younger teacher at the subject but he was easily diverted away from 'coefficients of heat' and the like to telling tales about the sea in those times.
He only told us about the better moments and I will always remember his description of the weather on the Murmansk route, the ice forming on deck and in the rigging etc and a tongue in cheek suggestion that "It was so cold that ice was forming around the boiler main stop valve".
After a week or two I had a chat with him as to what I had to do to get to sea and that was it. Home to tell Dad about my choice and on looking back there are no regrets about the change.

Bob

makko
7th October 2012, 17:55
I wonder if you have got to hear of the book, written by Gabe Thomas, entitled MILAG: Captives of the Kriegsmarine. ISBN 1 872808 35 2

The book has a very comprehensive index with many names of people who "did time" there: a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in what life was like there for a relative of theirs.

I confirmed with Billy ? several years ago my grandfather's number at Milag. When my grandfather was home from sea, he would work as a labourer on a farm near Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, working with relatives. He therefore was fully up to the activities at Milag, cutting peat and growing vegetables for sale in the village. Whether true or not, apparently several of them tried to escape. Upon capture after the third attempt, they were marched in with the Kommandant who informed them that they must desist as the next time they would be shot and if captured sent to the nearby death camp, whose chimneys could be seen belching smoke day and night on the horizon.
To make up the lost income, my grandmother worked cranes on the Birkenhead/Wallasey docks and also drove the dock circuit train! My father looked after his sister and brother and grew vegetables and kept chickens in the garden, a habit which influenced his choice of house (where he still lives) as a young seventh engineer with Alfrd Holt! Thus, we were all recruited to look after the chickens, tend the greenhouse and turn, plant and reap the vegetables grown in two plots in the garden as youngsters!
I personally find these recollections poignant as, immediately following the war, so many people had suffered so much that personal recollections were ignored. Remember Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not recognized. Our generation as Baby Boomers appreciated the sacrifices made by all. However, various forces, some political have created and amnesia culture which ignores the important lessons learned, times when communities pulled together.
On my father's street, exchange of home grown products was the norm - Someone would kill and butcher the pig that they had in their garden. The cuts were traded for vegetables, chickens etc. so that all could eat well! My maternal Nan's front door was blown off so many times during air raids that she told the repair workers to leave it off and made a heavy curtain instead! Different, hard times.
Sorry to have gone a little off thread, but it was not just the men at sea but the struggle of their families at home.
Regards,
Dave

makko
7th October 2012, 18:02
Hugh,
I googled the book title and noticed the image of "Night Must Fall" by (George)Emlyn Williams - He was a distant cousin of my father. A distinguished writer, actor and director who's obituary was featured in Time magazine! I have the first part of his autobiography which I bought in a charity shop in Kettering, Northants.
Rgds.
Dave

Pat McCardle
7th October 2012, 18:19
As I have mention in previous threads, my late uncle served on 'EMPIRE KINSMAN' & he was on the Murmansk run too, being stuck in Murmansk for 9 months? No shore leave & most of the dockers were prisoners, both male & female. He never spoke about this until the last few years of his life where he said men changed appearance overnight due to all the stress etc. Brave men all of them.

5036
7th October 2012, 19:52
My father sailed on HMS Vesper (1919) in these convoys and the stories he tells have only recently come to light. He never talked about his part in the war until he read about a reunion of old shipmates about 15 years ago. He started off with 40 veterans including the son of the shipbuilder and now there are only four who are able to muster. Vesper was a lucky ship and those who served on her had many heartwarming as much as chilling tales to tell. All these guys were extraordinary men whose bravery has never been fully recognised in a similar vein to bomber command. God bless them all.

sparkie2182
7th October 2012, 20:01
Makko (Dave).............

A fine history of seagoing........... you must be proud to have maintained it.

Hugh Ferguson
7th October 2012, 20:29
My father in law made the Murmansk run as Chief Mate on the Liberty Ship SS Philip Livingston. While he wouldn't speak about it much during his life, his wife (my mother in law) told me that the most difficult thing for him was passing men screaming in the water who'd been torpedoed and not being able to stop.

I believe my father also made the Murmansk run with United Fruit Company during the war, but he never spoke about it to me. As most of the ships he sailed on were foreign flagged, I've never been able to determine if he did make the run. He once told me that ships in his convoy had been bombed, but that's all I recall.

JW 55A: Sailed from Loch Ewe on 12th Dec.1943: arrived Kola Inlet 22nd Dec. The Phillip Livingston departed Murmansk in Convoy RA56 but returned for an unknown reason later joining return Convoy RA57 arriving Loch Ewe 10th March 1944.

(From the book, Convoys to Russia 1941/45 by Bob Ruegg & Arnold Hague 1992: ISBN 0 905617 66 5 World Ship Soc..

Wallace Slough
8th October 2012, 03:46
Thanks for posting that information, Hugh. His records show the following:

SS Philip Livingston Chief Mate Oct. 26, 1943 - June 26, 1944
SS John Drake Sloat Chief Mate Aug. 8, 1944 - Nov. 14, 1944
SS Frank Springer Master

All of these ships were Liberty ships, which I know he thought highly of. I think most seamen who sailed on Liberty ships thought highly of them. I never had the opportunity to sail on one. There were still quite a few of them sailing when I got out of school (1966), but I didn't have the opportunity to sail on one. I have piloted the Jeremiah O'Brien around San Francisco and upriver to Stockton adn Sacramento on many occasions, and she's a sweetie. They're underpowered and don't have that much rudder, but they're still fun to handle. I've heard they were a good sea boat.

Pat McCardle
8th October 2012, 05:45
As I have mention in previous threads, my late uncle served on 'EMPIRE KINSMAN' & he was on the Murmansk run too, being stuck in Murmansk for 9 months? No shore leave & most of the dockers were prisoners, both male & female. He never spoke about this until the last few years of his life where he said men changed appearance overnight due to all the stress etc. Brave men all of them.


This was in Convoy JW 53. Ship was damaged by being bombed, hence the long stay in Murmansk.

Hugh Ferguson
8th October 2012, 11:42
This is Empire Kinsman's convoy JW 53.
As you state ,Pat, she missed the next convoy home and joined the later one RA 54A arriving Loch Ewe 14th Nov. 1943. One hell of a trip, especially the weather!

sparkie2182
8th October 2012, 11:47
Hellish, Hugh.

:(

5036
13th October 2012, 10:26
This came up in UK news, quite relevant to this topic:

http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/heroes-barred-from-receiving-russian-medal-1-4363704

sparkie2182
13th October 2012, 10:34
Just about right.

Lot's of rules which must be adhered to for such as these men

Oddly, no rules when it came to M.P.'s expenses.

Small wonder why the country is in such cr*p with this lot at the helm.

Hugh Ferguson
13th October 2012, 11:19
I don't understand this at all. Here, in the village where I live in Cornwall our one time village schoolmaster, long deceased, had a medal from the then Soviet Union: he showed it to me, the citation was in Russian and he had a job getting it translated.
He was a Scot, name Jock Frazer. His widow is still with us; I'll try to get a photo of it.

sparkie2182
13th October 2012, 11:29
I think there was something about the medals being received in the USSR, the recipients being honoured guests.

The problem came when it came to wearing them in "official" commemoration services in the U.K.

How far "Whitehall" would have took it.............anyone's guess.

It would be a rather unseemly sight .......... Remembrance Sunday at a small
Cumbrian town's cenotaph............a scuffle breaks out between police and an elderly seafarer wearing medals awarded by the U.S.S.R.

I don't doubt the fools in the "Ministry" would think it right and proper, but i doubt if they would find a policeman(certainly not one that i know) to do it.

5036
13th October 2012, 12:26
I think it was Douglas Bader who said "Rules are for the blind obedience of fools and the guidance of the wise."

Coastie
13th October 2012, 13:19
My Godfather was presented with a medal for services to the USSR during WW2.

Donald McGhee
13th October 2012, 20:55
Interesting to see the Murmansk run being mentioned again. My Father was 3rd mate on several convoys to Murmansk, survived unscathed apart from the
"Arctic' circle under his eye from cold sextants freezing the flesh.
He too never talked much about it, nor did my maternal Grandpa, who was torpedoed in WW1 during that war.
Very proud and privileged to have had two of many thousands of unsung heroes of the MN in my family.

Hamish Mackintosh
14th October 2012, 01:19
Another good book on this suject and one which makes one wonder if it was all worth it is ," Sacrifice for Stalin" by Davis\d Wragg ISBN 1 84415 357 6

Pat McCardle
14th October 2012, 02:41
One hell of a trip, especially the weather![/QUOTE]

George's exact words when he spoke of it.

cueball44
7th November 2012, 16:45
I think there was something about the medals being received in the USSR, the recipients being honoured guests.

The problem came when it came to wearing them in "official" commemoration services in the U.K.

How far "Whitehall" would have took it.............anyone's guess.

It would be a rather unseemly sight .......... Remembrance Sunday at a small
Cumbrian town's cenotaph............a scuffle breaks out between police and an elderly seafarer wearing medals awarded by the U.S.S.R.

I don't doubt the fools in the "Ministry" would think it right and proper, but i doubt if they would find a policeman(certainly not one that i know) to do it.Today in my local paper. A veteran who risked his life to ship vital supplies to Russia during WW2 has been told he cannot accept a medal from the country. George Barker received a letter from the Russian Embassy informing him of plans to award arctic convoy sailors with the medal of Ushakov. But now the Foreign Office has now blocked the attempt to recognise the bravery of Mr Barker and other survivors of the perilous sea campaign. Mr George Barker served on the aircraft carrier H.M.S FENCER.