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By Mike Kemble
Convoy PQ17, Iceland - Russia, is well documented in World War 2 annals as the convoy that didn't get through. What is not well documented is exactly why the convoy was decimated by the German forces based in Norway and how much of a role was played in this by the Tirpitz and Hipper. Or to be more accurate, NOT played by the Tirpitz and Hipper! Convoys were designated PQ for the outward trip, and QP for the return.
July 1942 will long be remembered by both the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy for different reasons. The Merchant Navy because of their anger towards the Royal Navy at being left to their own devices in the Arctic waters and the Royal Navy due to the shame felt by many at being "ordered" to leave the convoy and chase ghosts. In the book "Convoy!" by Paul Kemp, he describes the confusion caused by the actions of a single Admiral, sitting behind a desk in London and how that action led to the almost complete, uninterrupted, destruction of this convoy. Admiral Sir Dudley Pound gave the order for the convoy to "scatter" and for the entire escort of Royal Naval ships to run off in search of German surface ships supposedly en route to attack PQ17. This order was given in spite of enigma decoded signals which showed the Tirpitz was still in Altenfiord, Norway and the Hipper nearby. Admiral Pound, an old fashioned naval officer, refused to believe accurate information on these ships whereabouts and decided that they must be at sea and wanted them found this is also according to Paul Kemp's book. The interpretation of his actions is obviously up to the individual, some may argue that what he did was correct, I for one do not think so.
(April 2008: I received an email from Robin Brodhurst who wrote the biography of Admiral Pound entitled "Churchill's Anchor" in which he disagrees that the Admiral cast the convoy to the fates. Robin writes: The trouble is that it is never as simple as many people think. For example, Pound did not order the destroyers to leave the convoy when he ordered it to scatter. it was Broome, perfectly reasonably, who assuming Tirpitz was just over the horizon, joined Hamilton's cruisers. The crux of the issue is marrying the intelligence known in London to the situation in the Barents Sea. The time at which decrypts became known at the OIC is critical in the decision making. Of course, in hindsight, Pound got it wrong, but he was not prepared to delegate to a junior captain such a critical decision. He did not think that was fair to Broome. Robin also refers readers to Harry Hinsley's official History of Intelligence in WW2, Volumes 1 and 2).
Admiral Tovey, Home Fleet, had wished to suspend the departure of PQ17 until such time as he had sufficient escorts, including an aircraft carrier, to get PQ17 though. Political necessities overruled Tovey, Churchill and Roosevelt insisting that convoys were to be sent to Russia at all speed irrespective of what cover could be provided or what German forces were on the prowl. Tovey had suggested smaller, more regular convoys but had, again, been overruled. The previous convoy, PQ16, had been badly mauled by the Luftwaffe. U Boats had been less successful, in the main, due to the aggressive stance of the Royal Naval escorting ships. Only the capital ships had been inactive and fuel, which had been in short supply, was now sufficiently available to enable these ships to leave their moorings in Norway. On 1 June 1942 German High command presented plans to Hitler to use the Tirpitz, Hipper, Lutzow and Scheer against the Russian convoys. But Hitler, scared of losing his ships, demanded to know the exact whereabouts of the British, especially aircraft carriers, before allowing his ships into action. The fate of the Bismarck was, after all, still a sore festering in his mind.
That the Admiralty was concerned about these ships is obvious. Tovey wanted diversionary tactics and rerouting of the convoy, doubling back on itself in some cases, to be implemented but, as with many of his sensible suggestions, the Admiralty overruled him (probably Pound again) and issued orders stating that the convoy would sail as planned, be defended to Bear Island by the Navy and, from thereon, by submarines. The Admiralty emphasised that the cruisers were not to proceed east of Bear Island unless PQ17 was directly threatened by surface ships. Even then, they were not to proceed beyond 25 degrees E.
One of the assigned escorts to this convoy was an old friend (see link) HMS Keppel - the close escort command ship under the command of Cdr Broome. Also minesweepers (3) and 4 armed trawlers. 5 destroyers as well as Keppel, 4 corvettes and subs P614 and P615. 2 anti aircraft ships were also attached to the convoy and 3 rescue ships. HMS Douglas escorted the oiler Grey Ranger which would turn and return to port with convoy QP 13. Just out of sight of the convoy were to be 4 cruisers under the command of Rear Admiral Hamilton on board HMS London. This was also the first time the USA had a direct hand in Arctic convoys, 2 of Hamilton's cruisers were the USS Wichita and the USS Tuscaloosa. 3 US destroyers were also present. To the north east of the convoy prowled a battle fleet under Admiral Tovey consisting of the battleships Duke of York, USS Washington, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, HMS Nigeria, HMS Cumberland and no less than 14 destroyers.
In Hvalfjord, Iceland PQ17 consisting of 35 merchantmen, including the CAM ship Empire Tide, were assembling. Hold packed with tanks, ammo and supplies for the beleaguered Red Army. Force commander was Commodore Dowding, sailing in the river Afton. In his pre convoy speech Dowding remarked on the large escort and the fact that they would "not always be seen but will be out there, in close support throughout". The assembled masters were enthusiastic on hearing this news.
27 June 1942 PQ17 set sail. 3 days later the close escorts fell into line and they steamed eastwards towards Murmansk and Archangel, and the waiting German forces based in Norway. An accompanying bombing raid on Norwegian airfields had no effect. German Intelligence was aware of the convoys departure but contact was not established until 1 July when escorts engaged the U-255 and the U-408 which were successfully driven off. Other U boats were directed towards the convoy and take up "patrol lines" ahead. There were 8 of these. About noon on 2 July the first shadowing aircraft appeared, and, fog apart, kept in constant touch. QP13 had by now left Russia on the homeward journey and the 2 convoys passed each other on July 1st, the Grey Ranger detaching from PQ17 and latching onto QP13.
In the evening of 1 July attacks began from the air. nothing got through and the Germans lost 1 aircraft. The crew being rescued by a He 115 under the guns of the destroyer Wilton. Thus the start of the attacks began and to have such far reaching consequences later on. Tovey had been spotted by German reconnaissance aircraft but Tirpitz & Hipper, and 1 destroyer, proceeded northwards along the coast to Altenfjord to join Scheer. 3 of their escorting destroyers ran aground and had to be left behind! Lutzow ran aground in Tjelsund, suffering severe damage. On 4 July PQ17 lost her first ship, the Christopher Newport being torpedoed from the air. Later, the U-457 finished her off and sank the deserted hulk.
With Tovey in command at sea, and Pound in command behind a desk, signals were beginning to conflict. Hamilton's (4 cruisers) orders were changed by London, to enable him to continue past previous limits unless ordered otherwise by Tovey! Tovey regarded this as a change of policy that had previously been agreed with Admiral Pound. Tovey disliking his ships being ordered around. There was a "certain friction" between the 2 men. Tovey signalled "At 1345 hrs I received a signal giving CS permission to proceed beyond 25 degrees E. This is a reversal of the policy agreed between their lordships and myself in your 0157B/27. No information in my possession justified this change". Hamilton was tasked by Tovey to leave the Barents Sea unless he could be assured that Tirpitz was not at large. Hamilton complied at 2200 hrs, 4th July, once his destroyers had been refuelled. Pound, behind his London desk, then countermanded this by ordering Hamilton's cruiser screen to remain with the convoy until "further instructions". Meanwhile another air attack against the convoy was thwarted by the "very aggressive" tactics of the USS Wainwright under the command of Cmdr Moon USN. Broome, commanding Keppel and the close Escorts, later wrote: This ship lent valuable support with accurate long range AA fire. I was most impressed for the way she sped around the convoy worrying the circling aircraft and it was largely due to her July 4 enthusiasm that the attack completely failed. 1 German aircraft was lost. Leutnant Kaumeyer being rescued by the Ledbury who told them that he had been informed that the convoy was in thick fog (the weather was transparently clear) and that the convoy would put up little resistance. Another more successful attack soon appeared.
The Soviet tanker Azerbaijan is worthy of particular mention here. Being hit, she became engulfed in a huge cloud of dense smoke and witnesses feared the worst. however, she emerged "holed but happy" at 9 knots. The presence of women on board this tanker being a never ending source of wonder to the other merchantmen. It was rumoured that the tankers boatswain was delivered of a healthy child on arrival at Murmansk. Her engine room had got the engines going again but 2 other ships hit were lost. Meanwhile, the German capital ships were still swinging around their buoys at Altenfjord, but things were about to go sadly wrong at PQ17.
Air recce had been undertaken by Catalina's of 210 Sqn RAF based in Northern Russia, supplemented by regular patrols from the UK. For 6 hours, on 4 July there was a gap in the "coverage" owing to an aircraft becoming unserviceable. Uncertainty of this "gap" led to a certain "uncertainty" within the Admiralty. To coincide with this there was a delay in deciphering the German signal codes from midday 3 July to midday 4 July. In the evening of 4 July Admiral Pound convened a fateful staff conference. Rear Admiral Clayton, present at this conference recalled that: " Pound sat down on a stool in front of the main plotting table. The plot showed the planned convoy route, the position of the convoy, our own forces and, as far as was known or estimated, the position of U-boats and German surface forces. Bletchley Park (Enigma) had not yet broken the new keys. Luftwaffe reconnaissance had still not relocated Tovey’s force and had not yet located Hamilton’s cruiser force. Almost immediately Pound asked what would be the furthest position of Tirpitz assuming she had sailed direct from Trondheim Fjord to attack the convoy, someone, I think it was Brind, plotted a rough course and estimated that she could then be within striking distance of the convoy. 1 inteijected that it was unlikely in any event that she would have taken a direct course from Trondheim Fjord as she would have certainly made as much use as she could of the Inner Leads and proceeded via Vest Fjord. I also consider that she would put into Narvik or Tromsø to refuel her escorting destroyers before setting out on a sortie."
Pound was then advised the the codes would be ready within a few hours. It was this information that probably necessitated the signal to Hamilton telling him to remain with the convoy pending further instructions. At 1900 hrs the first decrypts came through from Bletchley Park. There was a signal timed at 0400 hrs that day from the Luftwaffe stating that a force of 3 cruisers and a battleship had been sighted, giving positions. This was in fact Hamilton's force. Another from Raeder to Admiral Commanding Cruisers Narvik: "Arriving Altenfjord 0900. you are to allocate anchorage to Tirpitz. Newley arrived destroyers and torpedo boats are to complete with fuel at once". Denning was in the process of drafting a signal to Tovey & Hamilton when Pound returned to the OIC and Vice Admiral King asked Denning what he was proposing to say. "I gave the gist of the 2 intercepts and a proposed comment that all indications pointed to Tirpitz and all accompanying ships STILL being in harbour at Altenfjord. Pound apparently considered the comment premature and my proposed ULTRA was whittled down (by Pound) to the bare facts that Tirpitz had arrived at Alta at 0900hrs that morning and that Admiral Scheer was already there."
Pound asked why Denning thought Tirpitz had not yet left Altenfjord. He told Pound that there had been no orders clearing U Boats out of the area, for fear of them attacking Tirpitz in error, and HF/DF clearly showed U Boats tailing the convoy still. There had been none of the usual radio chatter usually associated with german surface movements and finally there had been NO sightings from the string of British submarines deployed off the North Cape. Denning also told Pound that the signal informing on the whereabouts of Hamilton's Force would also deter the German's from any surface action, especially as one of the cruisers was incorrectly identified as a much larger "battleship". The Luftwaffe had also sighted an aircraft near the convoy which also raised the spectre of an aircraft carrier hidden nearby. It was in fact a Walrus flown from HMS London but the Luftwaffe did not know this, nor did the German High Command. After a brief discussion Pound got up and proceeded to the U Boat Tracking Room, before leaving he turned to Denning and said "Can you assure me that Tirpitz is still in Altenfjord?". Dennings reply was that he was confident that she was but 100% assurance obviously could not be given but fully expected confirmatory information, from Bletchley Park, in the imminent future. Denning's belief was confirmed at 2031hrs when an intercepted signal informed all U Boats shadowing the convoy that NO friendly surface ships were in the area.
Tovey's Battle Fleet had not been relocated by the Germans therefore they were also an "unknown" worrying factor against Tirpitz etc. They knew of Victorious being with Tovey but also thought, according to known intercepts, that another carrier was near the convoy. This completely agreed with Tovey's appreciation of the situation when he wrote to the Admiralty on the previous March 14th that the Germans would never risk Tirpitz in any operation unless chances of success were "absolute". Denning now began to draft a signal to Tovey & Hamilton based on his conclusions stating that Tirpitz still in port and likely to remain so until Germans had full knowledge of the "opposition" they were likely to face. In the light of hindsight, Denning was perfectly correct. however, Denning did not send the signal as he did not have the authority, needing it cleared by Pound. Clayton took the signal to Pound for clearance, returning almost immediately with the words "Father's made his decision and is not going to change it now"! Pound had made the decision to move Hamilton's ships westward at high speed and to disperse the convoy based on wholly none existent evidence. Pound had never held operational command during the present conflict and his thoughts and conditioning, unheeding advice from more experienced officers, by the artificiality of peacetime exercises only! As well as this he did NOT show the vastly more experienced Admiral Tovey the available evidence and leaving it to the Admiral "on the ground" so to speak, to deal with personally and without delay.
The first of these very fateful signals made its way over the ether at 2111 hrs: "Most Immediate. Cruiser Force withdraw westward at high speed". This followed at 2123 by: "Immediate. Owing to threat of surface ships, convoy is to disperse and proceed to Russian ports" followed by, at 2136 hrs, "Most Immediate. My 2123/4. Convoy is to scatter". In convoy signals the term "disperse" simply meant to spread out whereas the term "scatter" meant quite literally that - the convoy would cease to exist and all ships proceed independently to destinations. A much easier target for U Boats as well!
Pounds decisions and subsequent signals were arrived at on the supposition that the Germans had sailed even though evidence was stacked up to the contrary. Scattering convoys meant that the risks to attack from air and submarine were less that from surface ships, although this threat had not risen and would not do so. The "scatter" signal should have been reinforced with some intel, which never arrived with the Fleet/Convoy. Why did Pound concentrate obsessively with Tirpitz and not the present threat of U Boat and Aircraft, already in contact with PQ17? Was he an Admiral who would have no dealings with ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) between the wars as it was deemed unfashionable - see Capt Walker pages. Was he an Admiral who had had no dealings with, nor anti aircraft exercises? An eminent historian wrote: "It is not unjust to see in all this a combination of Pound's old fashioned naval authoritarianism and his well known stubborn close mindedness, coupled with that lack of imaginative talent which is the mark of great commanders". In this modern world and to put it bluntly, Admiral Pound was a total asshole and a pratt - my words!
On the bridge of HMS Keppel the signal was received with first incredulity then outright anger. Broome was described as being extremely angry. He wrote later: "I was angry at being forced to break up, disintegrate such a formation and to tear up the protective fence we had wrapped around it, to order each of these splendid merchantmen to sail on by her naked defenceless self; for once that signal reached the masthead it triggered off an irrevocable measure. Convoy PQ17 would cease to exit". How right Broome was to write those words, especially, in a macabre sense, the last sentence.
Admiral Hamilton recalled that the signals meant to him that the Admiralty had received up to date information that the Tirpitz etc had already sailed and their arrival in the area was imminent. The order had been given and the Cross of St George with a white pennant rose on the masthead of Keppel to execute the order to scatter. However the signal was received in the convoy with disbelief. Most ships signalled not understood. Broome took Keppel in and out of the convoy repeating the Admiralty orders. He closed on the Commodores ship, the River Afton, and put him in the picture as he saw it. "When I sheered Keppel away from River Afton I left an angry, and I still believe, unconvinced Commodore". Broome also had to consider the smaller escorts, no use against the like of Tirpitz, so he ordered them to sail to Archangel as well as ordering the destroyers to join up with him. The subs were ordered off to operate independently. By this time Hamilton's cruisers were streaking across the bows of the convoy, flat out. Soon 4 cruisers and 6 destroyers were seaming away from the convoy to the westward. As they expected action any second, all were in readiness but as the ships steamed further and further away from the convoy realisation slowly began to sink in that the Tirpitz was NOT nearby and "it was now realised that we were abandoning the convoy and running away and the whole ships company was cast into bitter despondency". Vice Admiral O'Brien was serving on HMS Offa as a First Lieutenant "I have never been able to rejoice with my American friends on Independence Day. Because July 4 is, to me, a day to hang my head in grief for all the men who lost their lives on convoy PQ17 and in shame at one of the bleakest episodes in royal Navy history, when the warships deserted the merchant ships and left them to their fate. For that in simple terms is what we were obliged to do".
On 5th July at 1700 hrs, Hamilton's Force was spotted by a German aircraft so he felt it safe to break radio silence. He reported course and position of his force to Tovey - this was the first time Tovey knew that the Force was NOT with the convoy!!!! By this time Tovey himself was taking his Task Force back to Scapa Flow. At about this time, they received news that the German Forces had sailed from Altenfjord and he was joined by Hamilton's Force at 1040 hrs 6 July. But they were detached and ordered Seidisfjord at 1240hrs whilst Tovey continued to Scapa. All ships anchored safely on 8 July. Behind them, in the Arctic seas, a defenceless convoy were at the mercy of the Luftwaffe and U Boats.
The details of the sinking of each and every boat is already listed and documented in almost every library, web site and book on the subject. The reason for my deciding to do this article on PQ17 was to clearly show where, in my opinion, the real guilt lay, Admiral Pound, not Tovey, or Hamilton, or the lads at sea. It must be noted that Pound was a friend of Winston Churchill. Remember that, I shall return to this shortly. When the remnants of PQ17 arrived in Russian waters, 24 of 37 ships had been sunk. The Luftwaffe were celebrating wildly, U Boats were celebrating a little whilst the surface crews fumed silently. The only "action" Tirpitz saw was the deserted hulk of a ship which was later dispatched by a U boat. Tirpitz was eventually sunk by the British in 1944. She finished the war lying on her side in a fjord. Of the 37 ships which had sailed from Iceland, 2 had turned back and 8 sunk by air attacks, 9 had been sunk by U boat and 7 by U Boat after having been stopped by air attack. The stores lost on the sunken ships amounted to 430 tanks, 210 crated aircraft, 3350 vehicles and 99,316 tons of general stores. However and more importantly, 153 merchant seamen lost their lives. There will be no knowing how many would have died on this convoy anyway but Admiral Pound still has their deaths on his "account". On 18 June 1942 the Germans launched a summer offensive in Russia, which completely destroyed the Red Army defences within 2 weeks, for the total loss of 5 aircraft!
Not entirely blameless in this farce were the Russians, demanding and demanding and demanding supplies. Never mind the fact that we were dying to help them out, they only cared about their precious supplies and why was there not more and more convoys bringing supplies. I recall a story I read many years ago about American supplies stockpiled on Murmansk docks awaiting transhipment to the front. A sailor was in conversation with a Russian official and made comment of the supplies from the USA. "Oh no, my friend, you have it all wrong", explained the official, "you see, WE are sending all this to America to help our poor Allies out!" - Just about sums it all up does it not. Russian pride and intransigence, mixed with a little arrogance coupled with the "fear" of Churchill & Roosevelt in upsetting their allies has led to many an innocent civilian death in the Arctic seas and the subsequent deaths of many of our sailors too, Admiral Tovey, not affected by all this, saw reason and urged caution, but was consistently overruled by Whitehall and Washington. It was all down to political expediency and to hell with the cost in human lives.
After furious rows in Moscow and London, Churchill needed a scapegoat. The real culprit, Dudley Pound was, as stated earlier, a close friend of Churchill so Churchill had to look elsewhere and chose to put the blame on Admiral Hamilton who as Churchill spluttered," I was not aware until this morning that it was the Admiral of the cruisers, Hamilton, who ordered the destroyers to quit the convoy. What do you think of this decision at the time? What do you think of it now?" No mention of Pound's frantic signals to the convoy to scatter, signals to the cruisers and destroyers to make best speed westwards. This was of course nonsense, Broome had taken the destroyers with him on his own authority, his decision endorsed by Hamilton. Inside the Navy there was general opinion at about 99% as to where the real blame lay, and it was NOT Hamilton but Pound. Indeed Admiral Tovey wrote: "The order to scatter the convoy had, in my opinion, been premature; its results were disasterous. The convoy had so far covered more than half of its route for the loss of only 3 ships. Now, its ships spread over a wide area, were exposed without defence to the most powerful enemy U Boat and Air Forces. The enemy took prompt and full advantage of this situation, operating both weapons to their full capacity".
The key to the disaster lay in the dogmatic and authoritative personality of Admiral Sir Dudley Pound. Early studies of Arctic convoy operations made before we had the advantages of ULTRA intercepts suggest that Pound would have been correct to issue the orders that he did. But, with ULTRA being available to Pound, and his complete ignorance of the available intelligence as well as his recorded advice from senior officers, he was condemning an entire convoy on pure conjecture and non information. Convincing information was available to show Tirpitz was not at sea, but Pound was unwilling to listen to contrary advice, sticking to what he believed to be the case even though there was no basis for his ideas. How Churchill could appoint a man who had never had operational commands to such a seat of power beggars belief.
The role of the intelligence gatherers must also come into play. It is possible that the British had too much intelligence to play with. Paul Kemp says in his book that it was "like someone being at the German High Command Meetings and taking notes". There was a sense of shame throughout the Royal Navy at what happened. Admiral Hamilton got his entire crew of HMS London together and took the unprecedented step of explaining the entire proceedings to them. This did not however, fail to give HMS London being dubbed the "Wop Flagship". PQ17 was the cause of many a brawl on the docksides of Glasgow between the Royal and Merchant Navies. Hamilton himself was disillusioned by the affair. After being briefed by Admiral Tovey on the full story of what happened, he wrote to Tovey, formally recording that:
"It would have been of great assistance to me had I known that the Admiralty possessed no further information on the movements of the enemy's heavy units other than I had already received"
After his interview with Tovey, Hamilton remarked to his Flag Captain "Well, I suppose I ought to have been a Nelson. I ought to have disregarded the Admiralty's signals" - a sentiment 153 dead seamen would support no doubt.
Worth a mention, as was pointed out to me in an email, is that 62% of the ships lost flew the Stars & Stripes.
In July 2009 I got this email from: Marcus Miles. My granddad was in this action PQ17 on the HMS Hazard He helped lots of sailors to be rescued even though his ship was a minesweeper. I did not know any of this story until I read this online a few weeks ago. My granddad was there and I am so proud of him and his crew mates. I hope you would like to mention their part in this operation. It was big in their lives and should be mentioned. They had small ships but fought large battles!!!!
After refitting in Aberdeen, HAZARD joined PQ16 which was heavily attacked as it fought its way from Iceland to Russia in May 1942. She then spent the rest of the year in Russia helping to bring in the few surviving ships from PQ17, escorting other convoys on the local stages of their voyages, clearing mines and carrying out a range of local duties. In November 1942 HAZARD formed part of the ocean escort for QP15 (28 ships), again meeting gales and losing two ships to U-boats. After making good her storm damage in Iceland she sailed to Hull for a refit. HMS HAZARD spent the first three months of 1943 escorting the convoys in Icelandic waters but in May sailed for the Mediterranean to take part in the invasion of Sicily in July. She then spent the next 14 months in the Med and was present at Taranto in Oct 1943 when the Italian fleet surrendered and sailed for Malta. Early in 1944 HAZARD was lent to the 46th Escort Group and spent most of the year on escort duties. In October 1944 she arrived back at Harwich for a refit and rejoined the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla. She then spent most of 1945 clearing mines between the East Coast and the continent. In June 1946 HMS HAZARD was disarmed and placed in the Reserve. She remained in the Royal Navy until 22 April 1949 when she was handed over to the British Iron & Steel Corporation who arranged for her to be broken up at Grays in Essex.
Delivery date: April 1942
Shipbuilders: Todd-Bath Iron S.B. Corp., Portland, Maine
Fate: 13 March 1943: Sunk in an air attack on Murmansk.
The measurements of the 'Ocean' type ships were registered at 441.5' x 57'. Gross tonnage was 7,174 and deadweight was 10,500 tons. Speed was 11 knots.
I received an email this month (April 2013). It gives a small insight into how hard life was in the Arctic Convoys:
My late father Alexander Page-Robertson, b. 27th July 1918 in Glasgow, was on the "Zaafaran", a fact I did not know until an aunt gave me an ancient copy of the Godfrey Winn book 'PQ17', which had been once owned by Dad, and in which he wrote his name and "Ex-Zaafaran" (rescue Ship) Lost 5th July 1942". Since then I have been trying to piece together his records as a Merchant Seaman, but am having no luck in finding any crew records on ships he might have served on. I remember as a child he told me he was sunk 3 times, and ended up in Russia at one point, which is where he got TB"
He trained at a naval institution called 'Alan Glen's' in Gourock or Greenock area around Port Glasgow, and I found their successors website and wrote asking them for information but never got any reply. The hyphen in our name may be the cause of the problem in finding any records, as many 'officials' to this day (e.g. airline booking people!) ignore the hyphen and produce versions with two Christian names and one surname, or reduce it to Alexander P. Robertson etc. Could you please direct me to any websites that might be able to help me track down his other ships? I have 5 grandchildren here in Melbourne, and the boys are very interested in anything to do with the war, and fortunately I have a couple of great photos of dad in his uniform which they really admire.
He is I think in a Third Mate's uniform in one of the photographs, but because he was halfway through a dental degree like his father before him, it was assumed he knew about medicine, and on many ships he became the unofficial 'ship's doctor', and had gruesome tales to tell about the unfortunate accidents that some men on Watch would incur, when peeing over the side in the Arctic the ship would lurch and sensitive portions of their anatomy would become instantly frozen to the metal ship's rail. I wish I had asked him more questions, but he died in 1959 when I was 14. Best wishes, Andrew Page-Robertson.
Andrew's statement about 'I wished I had ...............' is to indicative of today. I wish I had a £ for every correspondent who has said that. Every day around the world, information is being lost with the person who remembers those times, passing 'over the bar'. When I finally leave this life this site will also die not long after. I wish it could stay for you all to read, but it's not going to happen. Hosting web sites costs money, they will not do it for free and my site is far too big to fit into a 'freebie'. I gave Andrew the link below to the MN Assn, I hope they can help him.
My first ever book - order it here
Convoy! - Paul Kemp. Cassell & Co. 1993
http://www.war-experience.org/history/anniversary/rusconvoys0742/pagetwo.htm - Diary of a Midshipman
http://www.canonesa.care4free.net/cangallery.html - Gallery of Canonesa Images
http://www.canonesa.care4free.net/canmem.html - Memorial to the Convoy HX72 Dead
http://uboat.net/boats/ - The definitive site for U Boat History
Battle of The Atlantic - Andrew Williams BBC Publication
A lady contacted me asking for info on Trawlers in WW2, Try this site:
http://www.fishing-news.co.uk/rnmdsf/trawlers.htm - Trawlers At War
My thanks to Dave Martin for the following excellent links:
http://members.dialmaine.com/mdenis/Shipyard/ - Liberty Ships, the men who built them
http://www.harry-tates.org.uk/veteranscontents.htm - Royal Naval Patrol Service
http://www.usmm.org/normandyships.html - US Merchantmen at Normandy
http://www.lascars.co.uk/index.html - the "forgotten" sailors
http://users.accesscomm.ca/shipwreck/index4.htm - International Registry of Sunken Ships
http://www.armed-guard.com/ - US Site on Merchant Marine.
http://www.townofpictou.com/pages/index2.html - Pictou - Nova Scotia
http://members.iinet.net.au/~gduncan/maritime.html - Maritime Disasters of WW2.
http://www.hq.wwiionline.com/profiles/supply_ship.shtml - Merchant Navy Supply Ships
http://uboat.net/history/athenia.htm - Athenia
http://www.rapidttp.co.za/museum/jmmc/jmmca.html Useful Maritime Site listing shipping
http://www.red-rooster.co.uk/ships/pozarica.htm Polish presence on PQ17