Convoy PQ 18, 1942

HMS Ashanti dropping depth charges on a submarine contact while escorting PQ-18. Photo in the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

Location North Sea & Arctic Ocean

After the disastrous run of convoy PQ 17 in June-July, 1942, the Western Allies suspended Arctic supply convoys to the Soviets until the nights became a bit longer. PQ 18 sailed from Scotland on 2 September, with forty merchant ships, and an escort group built around the escort carrier HMS Avenger. Distant cover was provided by the battleships HMS Duke of York and Anson. The convoy was first located on 6 September, and it was subjected to shadowing and sporadic atttacks. The British drew first blood on the 12th, with the sinking of U-88, but the Germans scored their first kill the next morning. That day saw the first concentrated air attacks, with eight ships sunk in fifteen minutes. However, that was the worst of the attacks. By the time the convoy reached Archangelsk on the 18th, a total of thirteen merchant ships had been sunk, but the Germans had lost some forty-four aircraft, besides the four U-boats. Many of the surviving aircraft were sent to North Africa in the next two months as the Allies launched Operation Torch, and the Luftwaffe was unable to mount concentrated air attacks against Arctic convoys in the future.