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Return convoy QP14 & Russian PQ18, September 1942

on to 7 - Convoy JW51B


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)


click "Defence of Convoy PQ18" for a summary


At long last, during the first week in September, the buzz went round that a convoy had left the UK, and was well on the way to Russia; we were told that soon we might be on our way home. As though to confirm this, the trawlers were told to proceed to Ekanomia to take on coal. We went alongside the quay there, with its cranes and mounds of coal, and were amazed to see clambering on board, a gang of women coal heavers in all sorts of dress, armed to the teeth with shovels. All we had to do was to take off the bunker lids, stand back and leave them to it to do the work. It was a revelation to see them get stuck in to it, and in no time at all the job was finished. The driver operating the crane which was dropping the coal on the deck was a shapely blonde girl, very attractive in spite of the coal dust that covered her. She received more than her share of wolf whistles from some of our lads, and some of the comments that had been going back and forth were very ribald indeed.

As soon as the last of the coal was onboard, and the gang of women had left the ship, we moved further along the quay to let one of the other trawlers into the berth to take on her quota. We set to and as the engine room staff greased the bunker lids, and screwed them tightly down for the return journey, the rest of the deck crew set about the job of getting rid of all the coal dust that had settled everywhere, both above and below decks; it is always surprising where one finds this dust after coaling ship, and it was a good job done when the filthy stuff had been washed away. Meanwhile I took delivery of a small but welcome quantity of some cartons of tinned food of the usual kind, but it was very acceptable for we could now have a good meal for once before we went back on to a rationed diet once more, for even now we did not know how long it would be before we sighted good old England's shores, or even if we would be included in the escort for the convoy; it all depended on whether we could keep up with them if it was a fast convoy. Another valuable commodity that we took onboard was some cigarettes, real ones in packets. It was a change to have a good smoke instead of drying tea leaves and rolling them in toilet paper - they were horrible but at least they had been smokable, and we had been getting used to them.

One thing we had not been short of was rum; many of the ships had become so toward the end of our stay, but they were mostly the ones who had picked up survivors on the way in.

Saturday the 12th of September came and with it about a dozen Merchant Navy survivors for the passage home; three or four of them were Americans who were not very happy about the size of the vessel they had been assigned to for the passage, but they soon settled down and after giving a little trouble they knuckled to and gave a great deal of help down in the stoke-hold. It was from these survivors that we heard how they and some of the wounded and frost-bitten men had been treated; they had suffered a rough time compared to what we'd had to put up with. They had been herded into wooden huts with only sacking at the windows to keep out the bitterly cold Arctic winds and the nightly frosts. They slept on bug-ridden straw mattresses, if they were lucky that is; others had to sleep on bare boards and even the cold frozen earth. On most days they had to make do with one meal a day of what was laughingly called by their providers, vegetable stew. As for the wounded, they told us that the Russian hospital was filthy, and that there had been no anaesthetic available for the amputation of frost-bitten limbs, and very few medicines of any kind. It must have been hell for them.

Those who had been able to move were shared out between all the ships that were to make up this convoy, and they were more pleased than we were, if that was possible, to be on the way home at last, and like us were prepared to take any risk to get away from North Russia. They vowed that never again would they sign on a vessel bound for that area of war, but I have no doubt that many of them did just that, and in my opinion all who sailed in merchant ships during the war years were very brave men doing a dangerous but necessary job of work.

One of the American seamen whom we took onboard was sent to us straight from a mental hospital, where he had been kept since he was put ashore in Russia. The poor chap had lost his reason during the latter part of his trip out. As soon as he stepped on to the deck of the Northern Gem, he made several attempts to throw himself over the side and had to be physically restrained from doing so each time. Eventually with the help of some of the crew, I managed to get him into a bunk in the forward mess-deck, but from then on he would take nothing to eat or drink, saying that we were trying to poison him. It was tragic to see a man like this; his nerve had completely gone. Nothing we did would pacify him, and it became evident to me that we could not keep him onboard.

I went to the ward-room and spoke to Mr Pooley, our first lieutenant, and asked him to come and see the man for himself, explaining as I did so my reasons for coming to this decision. I told him that I did not think it was fair, either to the man himself, or to the rest of us on the Gem to keep him onboard as I should constantly have to keep either one or even two members of our crew to watch him at all times, and that if action stations were sounded this was not possible as every man had his own job to do, not only this but that the man would neither eat nor drink. This was all true and when he had seen the man, Mr Pooley went to the CO and explained the situation, the outcome of this was that several signals were sent, and when we had left the jetty in the early hours of the Sunday morning, a motor launch from the rescue ship Zamalek came alongside of the Gem, and the unfortunate man was taken to her for his passage home. He would be much better looked after there than with us, for she had qualified doctors onboard who could give him the treatment he so badly needed. What an awful thing it would have been if we had been ordered to keep him with us, only in some unguarded moment to have him succeed in throwing himself over the side.

On this Sunday morning, 13th September, (what a date to sail on) we had a convoy designated QP14. Wondering what was in store for us, we at last steamed out of the White Sea, and into the Barents Sea. It was going to be an unlucky day to sail for some of the vessels, and also for some of the men who sailed in them, before many days had passed. It was a fairly fast convoy, but the four trawlers were determined to keep up with it. Failure to do so would mean turning back, with the possibility of staying the winter frozen in in some backwater off the White Sea. So the necessary revs had to be kept up and the speed maintained. It would prove to be a fair struggle as the coal we had taken on at Ekanomia was nothing more than dust with a mixture of earth amongst it. We were fortunate in that some of the survivors we had taken onboard before we left were firemen, used to working in a ship's stoke-hold, and they volunteered to a man to help keep the fires burning and the steam pressure up. They did a good job too, for they did not fancy going back any more than we did.

Convoy QP14 was made up of fifteen ships, including the ones which had survived the outward bound PQ17. The rest were some that had been left there previously awaiting a return convoy. There were also the two rescue ships, Zamalek, and Rathlin, along with a fleet oil tanker the Gray Ranger, which we were to come up with later. The weather through which we steamed was typical for that time of the year, thick fog patches and heavy snow squalls, and it was bitterly cold again. Fortunately it wasn't blowing with it or we should have been frozen up in no time at all. There was an atmosphere of hope now in the Gem as the convoy formed into their positions, and the screen of destroyers, minesweepers, ack-ack ships, corvettes and the four trawlers formed up in a wide circle around the merchant ships, and settled down to the job of trying to get them all safely home. Course was set in the general direction of that lonely bit of rock sticking up out of the Arctic Ocean, Bear Island, known to the fishermen who worked around it in the days before the war as 'Bum Island'. It was a place to nestle up to when the fierce Arctic gales started to blow, and that could be often.

On fairly calm seas, but passing through the banks of fog, and squalls of snow, we progressed onwards with no scares, and on 18th September when we had passed somewhere in the region of the southern tip of Spitzbergen, we were pleased to have join us some aircraft from the escort carrier Avenger (above, foreground - with HMS Biter, Navy Photos and Mike Pocock), which at the time was with the other convoy outward-bound for Russia. It was on this day that one of our officers, Skipper Tommy Buchan, was confined to his bunk with a very severe bout of influenza, and the CO Skipper Lt Mullender showed his trust in me by asking me if I would take over his watch. I said yes and felt mighty proud and confident in doing this; it would give me more experience of watch-keeping on my own, though I had naturally to keep in touch with the CO by means of the voice pipe from the bridge to his quarters, in the case of there being an emergency. And so it was that I came to be on the top bridge in charge of the watch from four a. m. until eight a. m. on the morning of 20th September.

It was a fine morning, an early morning breeze ruffling the surface of the sea, but there was hardly any swell. Visibility was very good, but there was an overcast sky which threatened more snow. The ship was on station astern of the starboard column of merchant vessels at a distance from them of about two-thirds of a mile. On our starboard bow was the Fleet sweeper HMS Leda, I had to keep my station on her at forty-five degrees on my bow and astern of the starboard column. Several times since I had come on to the bridge to take over from the previous watchkeeping officer, I had checked on our position. I did not want to be caught off station should the Skipper put his head out of his cabin, and it was getting on for half past five that morning when I lined up the Leda to take a bearing on her on the bridge compass. As I was going through the drill I noticed a huge cloud of smoke come out of her funnel, and the thought that she had just flashed up a boiler had hardly got into my head when I saw a column of flame shoot upwards and at the same time heard and felt the crump of an explosion. Sticking to my orders from the CO, I shouted down for full ahead and a course to take us towards the Leda, at the same time pressing the alarm on the bridge to sound general alert and shouting down to the CO what had happened. But he was by that time on his way up the bridge ladder, took over from me, and I made my way to the steering bridge.

Taking over the helm I kept on for the Leda, and as we got closer the CO shouted down that he was going right alongside her as she lay stopped in the quiet water, so that the crew could step on board without getting their feet wet. It would save the need for putting a boat over the side. When we reached within a hundred and fifty feet of her, and starting to ease round to go alongside, the crew started to abandon ship by jumping over into the sea on her port side, and we had to go full astern to stop, making certain that we did not run some of the faster swimmers under; one of the first to be picked up was a lieutenant, and he was followed by eighty or more of the crew. Fortunately they were not in the water very much more than two or three minutes before we got them onboard, so they were able to help themselves to a certain extent. Our CO told me later that one of the other ships came up in between the Leda and us, running down an officer and some ratings on a raft. As I did not see this happen I cannot say whether or not it was correct, but I know that we did not pick them all up, including her CO; I don't know yet what happened to him.

We had the rescue nets over the side for them to climb up as quickly as was possible, and as they did so a destroyer came up our starboard side and shouted through her loud hailer for our skipper to get back to the convoy, for we were not supposed to stop to pick up survivors on the run back. Our skipper told him to f . . k off, whereupon the destroyer's CO said he would report him when we arrived in port, though as far as I know nothing came of it. It was all go, just backing and filling with the engines on slow to save men who were in danger of drifting past ahead or astern of the Northern Gem. Having picked them all out of the water, we came hard to starboard and made our way back to our station, and astern the Leda turned on to her starboard side and slid under the cold waters of the Arctic ocean. I did not see her go for I was relieved at the helm by Tim Coleman, so that I could go down below and dish a tot out to all onboard. By the time I got down I found that we had three dead onboard, an SPO, a PO and an ordinary seaman, all having been injured in the torpedo explosion which I think hit her in the forward boiler room.

We had a total of eighty-one survivors onboard, including nine of the men getting a lift home on the Leda from the SS Navarino, and the SS River Afton, both sunk on the way out with PQ17, thus getting their second ducking in the water. We sorted them out and took their names down, and gave them bunks to sleep in. They all had to share with our lads, and I had three or four chiefs and petty officers sharing my cabin in the after quarters. They were great lads and appreciated the situation and what we did for them. One of them sharing my cabin, Basil Potts, an ERA, later sent me a leather-backed Bible, along with a letter asking me to thank the whole of the Gem's crew, for all the help we had given to them, I have kept and treasured them to this very day. They had all been sad to see their old ship slip beneath the waves into the depths of the sea, taking with her those who had been killed or trapped when the torpedo hit her. There was nothing anyone could do to save those who were trapped as she was going too quickly, and all who could had to save themselves.

Almost twelve hours later, when we had just about caught up with the convoy, though it took some doing when they had got so far ahead during our rescue work, as we had only a knot or so to spare. we were coming up astern of the Silver Sword when we noticed first of all two great columns of water shoot up from her starboard side, and we immediately thought that a high level bombing attack was in progress. Then there was a third splash of water this time on her port side, I remember. Then we knew that it was a U-boat attack, and that the Silver Sword was doomed with three hits on her, and quite suddenly she started to sink. By the time we arrived on the spot all of her crew had been picked up, and there were just swirls on the surface of the water. Then a second or two later large sacking covered bales from her holds shot out of the water and into the air, before settling back to float quietly and serenely to some other destination than where it was originally bound. What was in them was anyone's guess, some suggested silver fox furs, and one or two of the crew tried unsuccessfully to snare one with a grapnel on a heaving line, and it's probably as well they didn't because we were doing somewhere in the region of eleven knots, and they would have been dragged over the side.

Shortly after this sinking, the Avenger and her destroyer escort left the convoy. It was the first and last time that I saw an aircraft carrier at work. From the distance she was from the Gem, the aircraft looked like beetles crawling along her deck, but it was very fascinating and reassuring to see them take off. About an hour or so after they had gone, the Tribal Class destroyer Somali was torpedoed. She did not sink straightaway, so was taken in tow, and was to keep afloat for some time before a severe gale blew up, and she went down, unfortunately with great loss of life and far away from our position, so we did not know much about it. I only know what I have read since so cannot comment too much of it.

The convoy was now moving forward at a reduced speed of about five or six knots, with the Somali being towed by another Tribal Class, the Ashanti. The darkness of the night closed down on us, and it proved to be a quiet night even though we now knew that the U-boats were in contact with us.

Tuesday September the 22nd came along and with it a fine morning with a calm sea and a slight swell, which caused the ships to roll a little, but nothing to give any discomfort even to the trawlers. All was quiet until just before the watch below was called out for their breakfasts at seven-thirty. Then in the short space of half an hour or so, three ships were hit by torpedoes. The first one was the Ocean Voice, the second the Bellingham, and the third the fleet oiler Gray Ranger. The latter two were hit within seconds of each other. The rumble of depth charges sounded and reverberated through the half-empty ships that were left sailing along; they were being dropped by the escorts over on the port side of the convoy, but it was a job to pick up an echo from a submarine in those cold waters with so many fresh water layers hidden away amongst the salt sea.

I saw the stricken ships heel over as they were hit by the exploding torpedoes, for we were fairly close to them. Skipper Mullender then ordered me to steer the Northern Gem between the Gray Ranger and the Bellingham, which was an American vessel. Once reaching the point between the two we went full astern to take the way off her, and then lay dead in the water, awaiting the crews of both vessels, who were by then climbing down into their life-boats. We took onboard twenty men from the Bellingham, six of them originally from the Pan Atlantic and two from the Pankraft, those eight taking passage on the Bellingham from Russia, after having lost their ships on the way out. We also took onboard twenty-two men, including the Captain H.D. Gausden, from the Gray Ranger which had joined us from the outward-bound PQ 18. They came alongside in their motor launch, a fairly big one, and when it was emptied of all that would be useful to us, it was streamed astern of us, so that we could tow it along as a standby escape boat, for we had more men onboard now than we had life-saving boats and rafts for, should anything happen to the Gem.

As we started to steam off to catch up with the convoy, the chief officer of the SS Bellingham told our skipper that there was another boat on the other side of his ship, so I was told to take the Gem in a wide sweeping turn around the stern of the American ship, where we found the rescue ship Rathlin or Zamalek already taking them aboard. Gray Ranger's master said that he had some men missing, but we found that they also had been picked up by the rescue ship, as had those from the Ocean Voice, and as the three ships were now in their death throes, both the Gem and the rescue ship in company made all speed now to reach the remnants of the convoy.

Going round with the rum jar, and taking the names of the survivors I found that we had onboard now some two hundred or more men, taking our crew into account, four times more than we had bunks for. Although we were prepared to make the best of it, food was the main concern. What we had left was a mere mouthful for the complement we now had; our CO thought that he would have to do something about it, and sent off a few signals. In the meantime, Captain Gausden of the Gray Ranger was bewailing to our CO the loss of his ship, which was only natural, and because he had just remembered that he had left over five hundred English pounds in the safe in his cabin. Our skipper said in his broad Suffolk voice, 'Why the Hell didn't you say so when we picked you up? We could have gone back for it and shared it between us.' But it was too late now as she was at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean with all of the other fine ships that had gone that way. When things were happening as they had done, it was difficult to notice all that was going on. When so much concentration has to be used to pick up survivors, every one concerned has to work as quickly as possible, for in that sort of a situation, when U-boats were about and the ship is stopped in the water, there is always the danger that one of them has his sights on your vessel. A ship lying dead in the water is as far as the commander of a U-boat is concerned a legitimate target, and one that he would not let go, especially if he thought he had no chance of catching up with the convoy. I suppose it is akin to that old saying, 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush'. I had been relieved at the wheel once we had all the survivors aboard, and found that luck had been with us once again. The CO said, 'As you go down, Cox, take a look and see how the old boat is towing along; you never know when we might need it'. It made me think, I can tell you.

However, here we were now steaming as fast as we could go away from the barren islands of Spitzbergen, Bear Island and that other little one, Hope Island, which had at its southernmost end Cape Thor, alias the God of Thunder. We had heard plenty of him since the 27th June, though little did we know it but he had not finished with us yet, anyhow as far as the weather was concerned. We awaited now replies to the signals which the CO had sent regarding food and our survivors, and it wasn't long before I was called to the bridge again to take the wheel. When we had left the White Sea, it was touch and go as to whether we had enough food to see us through, water too was going to be a problem. We had picked up the men from the Leda, and they had now been biting into our rations for over two days. With over two hundred souls onboard things were getting a bit chaotic, and with all these extra mouths to feed, I had estimated that we should be lucky if we lasted two more days with the food we had, though the water situation was not too bad as yet.

Conditions in both the seamen's mess and the petty officers' mess were terrible, with all the bunks full and men either standing or lying on the decks, taking up every available bit of space. Moreover there were many of the merchant seamen who would not go down below, and just roamed about the upper deck, blocking the entrances to the various companionways, which would have obstructed our crew getting to their action stations if the need had arisen again, but fortunately it did not. While we were steaming, the dead American fireman who had been brought onboard from the SS Bellingham had, because of the situation we were in, been buried while the Gem was forging ahead, a thing we had not liked to do, but had to.

Now I was called to take the helm it seemed as though the answers to the signals had come through, for I was told that we were to go alongside one of the destroyers to pick up some food. Which one I don't remember; it could even have been the Somali. It probably was for she had to be lightened and many things were ditched over her side. However it was always a ticklish piece of work going alongside another vessel, as one had to keep an eye open for anything to happen. This time we went close enough for them almost to pass the cases of tinned stuff over, with the use of a heaving line. Soon that job was done, and it was time for us to close on the Seagull, onto which ship we transferred two naval officer survivors from the Leda, and thirty-one naval ratings along with three merchant navy seamen who were transferred to the SS Rathlin. So this made things a bit easier on the Gem. At first it seemed to us that most of the merchant seamen wanted to go, as they had not been too pleased about being picked up by a small trawler, but when they were given the chance to go, only three went, the remainder saying that they stood a better chance of getting home on a small ship. In the words of one man when asked if he wanted a transfer to the Rathlin, 'The chances of my being tin-fished on this "Coggy-boat" are far less than on one of yon big uns.'

Later in the day the weather started to freshen up, and by nightfall there was a very heavy sea running. The wind started to howl in the rigging, and soon we were engulfed by a fierce gale. The Northern Gem dipped and rolled and plunged into the heavy seas, and was being swept by spray and at times snow. She was a great sea ship but we felt this lot. Our passengers, though not used to the violent motion of a trawler, were adamant that they would rather be where they were, and not on a fleet sweeper, or a destroyer. At least they said quite convincingly that they were dry, which is more than they would have been on a bigger ship. According to them, by now the mess-decks would have been awash with all sorts of gear swilling about, everyone wet through, with no one getting any sleep at all, so I guess that in that respect, we trawlermen were fortunate for we could turn in and sleep, even if we had to wedge ourselves in our bunks, and not have to rely on whether we could sling hammocks or not.

This gale really stirred up the convoy, and it lasted for about two days and nights, before it abated to a more normal kind of blow. The merchant ships suffered badly as they were mostly in ballast, and must have been like empty tins on a weir according to what the merchant seamen passengers whom we still had onboard told us. The poor old Somali must have decided in the night that she had had enough of it. It was circulated around the Gem the next morning that she had broken in two, and had gone down taking many of those who had volunteered to stay with her in her hour of need down with her. We had not seen it happen, but we could imagine what it must have been like on such a wild and dark night, bitterly cold, and a freezing and raging sea. What rotten luck, after getting her so near to safety, and despite the fight to save her. We must have been very close to Iceland at the time she went. The following day the winds dropped away almost completely, and the sea gradually flattened itself out, with blue skies and the sun overhead. The few ships of the convoy and escort which were remaining, gathered themselves into an orderly convoy again, and made all speed towards Loch Ewe, where we finally dropped our anchors, in those glassy-looking waters on 26th September 1942. It was three months since we had left Hvalfiord with those thirty-five merchant ships.

The things we had missed? As Skipper B.F.G. Long wrote in the Sunday Buzz.

Thinking back on the dim distant days when we were operating in home waters, it occurred to me to try to enumerate the homely pursuits and pastimes in which we were engaged. I leave it to the reader to guess who the cap fits in certain instances.

Civvy suits-Church at Derry-Honkey tonks-Stage acts-Husband watching-lrene and Maisie-Locks of hair-Mail-Mixed guest nights-Moville eggs-Outsize waist lines-Pitmans Derby-Ration cards REPEAT Cards-Ray and Eileen-Rothesay Frolics-Sergeants Mess at Eglinton-Sheep hunting at Stornaway-Small boat pushing-Spider Kelly-Spragging-Stocking hoarding-Taxis for C.B. Officer-Trawler Dances-Wrens (Frolics with).

Russian Recreation by Skipper T. Buchan. From Sunday Buzz.

In this age of strife we find,
Some see places they don't mind,
But we cannot say how long,
Russian shores will be our home,
After an exciting trip,
We find ourselves confined to ship,
For, ashore we fail to find,
Satisfaction of any kind,
Then we put our heads together,
And, provided that we get the weather,
We'll start a sports and then you'll see,
That we will soon forget the sea,
Others think it would be fine,
To go and throw the heaving line,
Rowing, sailing, and relay races,
We all strive for leading places,
Soccer in such brilliant ? weather,
Quite a thrill to pass the leather,
Last of all we think of cricket,
With home made bat we seek a wicket,
After such a thrilling game,
'Just like home'we do proclaim,
In years to come when the fightings over,
When we are back on British clover,
Some as quite a change from labour,
And meet a shipmate, then we say,
Prefer to go and toss the caber,
'CHOCOLAT’, 'COMRAD', that was the day.

Arriving at Hull's Paragon Station on leave, I quickly made my way to the bus station. Boarding the bus, I went up onto the top deck to get a better view as it made its way through the city centre and along Porter Street, then right along Hessle Road, where I had been brought up, and where most of the fishing fraternity lived. I could see many piles of rubble and gaps in the rows of shops and houses that had not been there on my previous leave. Each time that I went home I saw more evidence of the air-raids that the people of Hull were having to contend with. On the news bulletins that we heard from the BBC on the radio, no towns were mentioned, it was just, 'A north east Coast town,' and these words made many servicemen and women look forward to the next letter from home to hear if their folk back there were all right. But air-raids or not, it was nice to be back home again.

All too soon the leave was over and it was time to go back to the Gem in Belfast. When you are having an enjoyable spell it is very surprising how quickly the time seems to pass by. After a quick look around the house and the garden to imprint them deeper into my mind, I left to catch the train and ferry, back to whatever was in store for us until our next leave.

Both during my years at sea pre-war and during the war, mostly on night watches, I often thought back when I had a moment or two to spare, about the folk back home. On a dark stormy night, I often got to wishing that I was back in my own bed at home, and that I had never started going to sea, but really I did enjoy the life, even every other job had its moments when you felt a bit under the weather. One of my greatest desires was to walk through a huge forest of trees when the wind started to howl through the rigging of whatever ship I was sailing on. I tried to imagine what it would be like in a gale of wind ashore, I should think that the sounds in a forest at the dead of night must be similar to the sounds of being at sea. The water rushing past the hull of the ship, like the wind shaking the branches of the trees, and though I often promised myself on those occasional mind-wandering nights at sea on watch, that I would carry out this desire, but I have not yet done so. Looking back on those years that I spent at sea, I realise that I would never have known the friendship, and that special camaraderie which is only to be found on a ship, where you all had to work as one and each man's life was in the hands of the other members of the crew. Since leaving that kind of life, I have found that it is a back-biting world working in shore jobs, and that the same sort of friendship that occurred at sea, both in peace-time and in the war years, is very hard to find.

Back on the Gem, as each member of the crew returned, news of their time spent at home was talked about, girl friends being the most predominant and interesting subject to most of them. Pub crawls and booze ups took second place, and soon through talking about what we had all done at home, it became hard to believe that you had been home at all. Routine was picked up again Immediately, and it was not long before we found ourselves letting go the ropes which secured us to the quayside, and getting prepared for another trip. Then we were steaming out of the dock and up the Belfast Loch and into the wide Atlantic Ocean on yet another patrol, or to help to escort yet another convoy on its way to the New World and other places far away.

Some of the men on these outward-bound merchant ships would be on their way home to see their families and friends, and it was up to the escorts to see that not only the ships and the cargoes that they were carrying, but also the men in them got home safely. In between these voyages we managed to get a bit of time ashore in Belfast or Londonderry. We had made some good friends ashore in both places, servicemen and civilians, and we had a few good nights and parties to remember. Then one day at the beginning of December 1942, word was circulating around the ship that we were again going as an escort and rescue ship, on another convoy to Russia, this time to the Kola Inlet in Murmansk.


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