(by Cdr. ret. M.A. Bernd Lehmann)

„At that time, we were after all, no enemies but adversaries!“

Paul Kavanagh, Sailor (RN) on HMS „Bluebell“ (corvette), at a reunion with Hans-Günther Lange, LtCdr (GEN) and CO of U 711 [Kiel/GE, July 1993]

Grossbritannien_120-animierte-flagge-gifsThe primary objective of the allied operations (UK, SU, US, CA, NZ) in the area North Atlantic/Norwegian Sea and Arctic Ocean during the Second World War was the transportation and protection of vital war-material under the “Lend-Lease Program” for the former Soviet Union. After unloading in the ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk, the transport ships, as merchant ships civilian-manned, returned under escort to the western home-ports.

The mission of the German naval and air force units was to suppress these escorted convois by engaging them with surface combatants, submarines and air force fighter-bombers.

The contested sea-area was and still is characterised by polar weather factors such as significant wind intensities, sea-states and freezing temperatures over more than half of a year as well as by the challenges caused by the polar daylight. These environmental conditions in connection with the permanent threat had taken a very high toll on sailors and airmen as well as ships on both sides.

The following sections illustrate this “Arctic Battle” from an Allied as well as German perspective on the basis of some large- and small-scale operations during the period August 1941­–May 1945. The reader is advised, that this compilation is neither complete nor does it present a concluding assessment from today’s perspective.


“Wir waren doch damals keine Feinde, sondern nur Gegner!”

Paul Kavanagh disembarked his corvette just prior due to her departure for medical reasons. HMS “Bluebell” was sunk by U 711 on 17 February 1945 at 15:30.


Die Zielsetzung der alliierten maritimen Unternehmungen (UK, SU, US, CA, NZ) im Seegebiet Nordatlantik/Norwegen See und Arktischer Ozean im Verlauf des 2. Weltkrieges war der Transport und dessen Schutz von kriegswichtigem Material über See unter dem „Lend-Lease Program“ für die damalige Sowjetunion. Nach ihrer Entladung in den Häfen von Murmansk und Archangelsk kehrten die Transportschiffe, zivil-besetzte Handelsschiffe, unter Schutz in ihre westlichen Heimathäfen zurück.

Einheiten der deutschen Marine und Luftwaffe hatten den Auftrag, diese eskortierten Konvois zu unterbinden durch deren Bekämpfung mit Überwasser-Einheiten, U-Booten und Kampf-Flugzeugen.

Die Operationen waren besonders beeinflusst durch die Einflüsse des Wetters wie beträchtliche Windstärken, Seegang und sehr niedrigen Temperaturen über die Hälfte eines Jahres sowie den Herausforderungen des polaren Tageslichts. Diese Umweltbedingungen in Verbindung mit den ständig zu erwartenden Bedrohung in diesem weiträumigen Seegebiet forderten einen sehr hohen Zoll an Menschenleben und Material auf beiden gegnerischen Seiten.

Im Folgenden wird diese Arctic Battle über den Zeitraum August 1941–Mai 1945 anhand von einigen Unternehmungen/Auseinandersetzungen aus damaliger alliierter und deutscher Sicht illustriert. Es wird darauf aufmerksam gemacht, dass diese Zusammenstellung weder vollständig ist noch eine abschließende Bewertung aus heutiger Sicht darstellt.


The HISTORIC RESEARCH section provides material about the 2nd World War ARCTIC BATTLE and ARCTIC CONVOYS operations

In subchapters like Battleship Scharnhorst or Battleship HMS Duke of York special topics or input from friends or scientific partners will be posted. Please feel invited to participate.


Recommended Associations

The Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Project

Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Project


We recommend to visit the website for the planned Russian Arctic Convoy Museum. The importance of highlighting the legacy of the WWII Russian Arctic Convoys is central to the project. It is to the memory of all of these brave men who sailed on the convoys, and the many (over three thousand men) who lost their lives, that the local communities around Loch Ewe in the North West Highlands of Scotland are planning a Museum.

Victory Day London – Arctic Convoy

Victory Day London

victory day london


Quoted from the Victory Day Website:

Victory Day London is a not-for-profit, privately run project, the concept of which was conceived on May the 1st of 2007 with the sole idea to mark the 9th of May Victory DayOpens in a new window in London as it is traditionally celebrated in Russia. The very first event was aimed at the City of London business community and was successfully held on the London Regalia barge that used to be moored on the City side of the Thames west of London Bridge.

Starting with 9 May 2008, all subsequent events focused on the Arctic Convoys (1941-1945) with the aim to promote and propagate the legacies of heroic achievements by sailors and all people involved in what the British Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill referred to as “the worst journey in the world”. From there on our events involve the veterans, both British and Russian, and attract participation from members of The Royal Family, members of governments, senior naval and military officers and the public

Video Ressources

24 July – 7 August 2016 Historic Research Offshore Sailing Expedition to the edge of the world