During the Great Patriotic War, the protection of the Arctic sea communications was one of the main tasks of the Northern fleet. To solve it in separate periods, he allocated the main forces.
Arctic sea routes were extremely important for the northern regions of our country, where there were no railways or highways. Industrial and industrial products, as well as numerous types of valuable raw materials, went to the Arctic Ocean along the high-water rivers of Siberia. From its ports into the White Sea, a stream of various cargoes was sent: coal, ore, timber, furs, and others. Sea communications supplied settlements, polar stations, remote islands, and a maneuver was carried out by forces between the Pacific and Northern fleets.
They had a huge length: the distance from the Arkhangelsk Port to the Yugorsky Shar Strait - 650 miles, to Dikson Island - 1170, and to the Vilkitsky Strait - 1600 miles. Most of the 7-8 sea route was icebound for months. Frequent storms, strong currents (up to 4 knots), poor knowledge and insufficient equipment of the theater, as well as mines exposed by the enemy created great difficulties for navigation of ships in the short Arctic navigation.
The German command attracted the diverse forces of the fleet to disrupt our transportation, but the greatest threat was submarines. In August 1941, the White Sea Flotilla was formed as part of the Northern Fleet. Its main task was to provide maritime communications in the Arctic. The flotilla included a division of destroyers and patrol ships, a mine detachment division, a trawling brigade, as well as the White Sea coastal defense sector and other units. In 1942, the flotilla had up to 40 patrol and minesweepers and almost a hundred different boats, aviation a group of reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft.
The main method of transport protection was escorting. Transitions convoys carried out mainly in the order of daily combat activities. Only in those cases when it was necessary to ensure the posting of a large number of transports or icebreakers in a short time, were operations carried out. The need for them arose in October 1941, when, according to the directive of the Main Naval Staff from October 14, the Northern Fleet had to withdraw 35 transports, 5 icebreakers and several small ships from the Arctic to the White Sea. The operation (October 9 - December 27) involved the White Sea Flotilla, which allocated destroyers 2, 5 sentry ships and 10 minesweepers to escort convoys. In readiness were brought ships covering the transition area and rescue ships, as well as all coastal and air forces located in the zone of the White Sea flotilla. For the duration of the operation, the commander of the Northern Fleet, Vice-Admiral A.G. Golovko strengthened the flotilla with destroyers and other ships and weapons.
Due to the tight deadlines for the withdrawal of ships due to the rapidly deteriorating ice situation and the enemy’s vigorous actions on the approaches to the Gorel of the White Sea, they were planned to be transferred in stages: The Kara Sea - the Yugorsky Ball Strait; Strait Yugorsky Shar - Bugrino; Bugrino - Arkhangelsk. Before the Yugorsky Shar, the transports proceeded independently or guarded by guard ships. From the strait to the Bugrino raid (Kolguev Island), they were translated by groups consisting of 3-4 vessels and 1-2 conservation minesweepers. The Raid Bugrino, secluded and not viewed by German aerial reconnaissance, became the main point for the formation of convoys crossing the most dangerous areas to the White Sea. The organization of the passage of convoys was as follows. By the time of the arrival of the next group of 3-4 transports to Bugrino, escort ships came here. Here was formed a convoy, which then followed to Arkhangelsk.
To ensure the passage of the convoys, aerial reconnaissance, search for enemy submarines and mines, and trawling of the main fairways were carried out. During the operation, the ships conducted a search for 21 submarines, each of which lasted from two to four days. The aviation of the White Sea Flotilla and the Arkhangelsk Military District conducted a reconnaissance and search for 84 submarines. To ensure the cover of the convoys from the air in the Gorlo of the White Sea, the fighters made 22 aircraft. Cover ships, rescue vessels, forces of the White Sea flotilla were on high alert.
The enemy acted actively during this period. His submarines were detected 36 times during the operation. On the ways of our convoys, besides enemy submarines, aircraft also operated. She carried out systematic reconnaissance and bombed ports and ships. So, on November 2, nine Ju-88 dropped 34 bombs on Iokangu, damaging the patrol ship standing on the raid, on November 13, Nazi planes attacked a pair of patrol vehicles on patrol.
Despite the opposition of the enemy, the operation, in which the commander of the White Sea flotilla carried out the forces through his headquarters, was managed without any losses for Soviet ships and vessels.
Prior to 1942, the Northern Fleet and the White Sea Flotilla ensured the security of the passage of the internal communications of 639 ships. They were transported 180 thousand people and 212 thousand tons of cargo. Our losses were just the 3 ship.
Having gained experience in protecting maritime transport, in the 1941 year, the Northern Fleet carried out a larger operation the following year, carrying out ships from the Arctic around 40 and ensuring the transfer from the Dixon to the Polar Fleet of the Pacific Fleet (the leader of Baku, the destroyers Intelligent and Infuriated) . For this purpose, a Special Purpose Expedition (EON-18) was created. By that time, the situation in the North Sea Theater was significantly complicated. Hitler's submarines sailed to the Kara Sea, and in August the German command, especially to intercept our convoys, sent the heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer to the Arctic. In the key areas of the enemy put minefields.
The general leadership of the operation, conducted from September 19 to December 5 1942, was carried out by the Vice-Admiral A.G., Commander of the Northern Fleet. Golovko. The cover of EON-18 began, it strengthened from the moment the ships left Dixon in the Yugorsky Ball Strait, and on the approaches to the Kola Bay, the ships were met by the destroyers division and carried to Polar. The weather also contributed to the successful wiring: 9- and 7-point storms hampered the actions of the enemy submarines.
Following the EON-18, there were transports and icebreakers to the west, completing the arctic navigation. In difficult ice conditions, during a large minefield, 10 convoys consisting of 32 transports and 6 icebreakers, 3 warships and 1 hydrographic vessels were conducted during the operation. The losses from the mines amounted to the sunk transport, the patrol ship and the damaged icebreaker. During 1942, the White Sea-Arctic communication was carried out on 79 convoys with the general composition of 162 transport.
The convoy operations carried out with the aim of providing large domestic shipping were fairly well organized. The Northern Fleet successfully defended internal sea communications on huge communications. In the initial period of the war, he ensured the safety of the navigation of 1336 transports. The enemy managed to sink only 8 ships, i.e. less than 1% of the total number of vessels held.
In 1943, shipping protection operations were further developed. The most significant of them were the withdrawal of icebreakers to the Arctic in the summer and their return to the White Sea - in the fall. The first was from June 17 to July 5. The intention was to pre-empt the appearance of German submarines in the Kara Sea, to enter it when there was still ice, and thus avoid the need for further convoying. The operation of the commander of the Northern Fleet laid on the White Sea flotilla, reinforced by five destroyers, two minesweepers, two boats and six aircraft Pe-3 of the Northern Fleet.
The transition was planned to be carried out by two convoys in the security of the same forces. Fleet Headquarters has developed an operation plan, interaction table and other documents. The cover of the icebreakers from a possible attack by the sea adversary from the western direction was assigned to the submarine brigade and the protection of the water area of the main base. For the destruction of enemy submarines and floating mines were intended ships anti-submarine and mine defense of the main base. The air force of the fleet had to support the actions of the ships in the event of the appearance of an enemy at sea, and also to paralyze its attempts to counteract the conduct of the escort operation.
The White Sea flotilla was supposed to protect the White Sea-Arctic sea route areas and direct icebreaker guarding throughout the transition. In the combat orders issued by 2 and 6 of June, the flotilla commander assigned to all subordinate forces the tasks of organizing defense in the White Sea-Kara Gate communication area. The flotilla air group (commander Colonel NK Loginov) was supposed to conduct reconnaissance, search for submarines and mines in the White Sea and the southeastern part of the Barents Sea along the route of the convoys. The search for submarines in the White Sea was assigned to the protection of the water area of the main flotilla base, and the trawling brigade was assigned to trawling the recommended routes in the White Sea and from Cape Kanin Nos to the Kara Gate.
The first convoy "BA-4" (3 icebreaker, 2 destroyer, 2 patrol ship, minesweeper and minelayer) commanded by the commander of the White Sea flotilla, Rear Admiral S.G. Kucherov, left Arkhangelsk on June 17. From the air it was covered with fighters. Anti-submarine aircraft searched for submarines. In the White Sea Throat, guarding was reinforced by the leader of Baku, two destroyers and two hunting boats, which made it possible to have 10 escort ships on the most dangerous part of the route. In the vicinity of Cape Kanin Nos, the MBR-2 aircraft and destroyers discovered and attacked a German submarine. The escort ships accompanied the icebreakers to the very edge of the Kara Sea. In the same way, the transition was also organized to the second convoy - the BA-7 (two icebreakers in guarding the leader of Baku, three destroyers, a minesweeper and two hunting boats). Most of the way the convoy went in the fog, so the planes could not carry out anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense.
So, the operation to bring the icebreakers to the Arctic was carried out successfully. The fleet command skillfully used the ice conditions for the safe passage of ships. It differed from the previous ones by more careful planning, precise management, strong security and operational cover. If earlier escorting was carried out in stages, then this time partial convoy was applied with increased escort at the most dangerous sections.
At the end of the year, the Northern Fleet, in accordance with the decision of the State Defense Committee on October 11 from 1943, should have carried out Operation AB-55 to bring icebreakers out of the Arctic. It was necessary to pass through the areas mined by the enemy, the zone of active operations of his submarines, which had sank several ships shortly before this in the Kara Sea.
Given the importance of the task, the overall command of the operation, which took place from October 11 to November 18, was assumed by the commander of the Northern Fleet, who was in Arkhangelsk with the fleet headquarters task force. The direct command of the convoy at sea was assigned to the commander of the White Sea Flotilla, who arrived in Tiksi Bay by plane and raised his flag on one of the icebreakers.
The order and instructions developed by the marching headquarters provided for measures and methods to ensure the safety of the passage of icebreakers. According to these documents, the convoy from Tiksi to the Kara Gates were to be followed in great depths, which excluded the laying of bottom mines, and in the ice, where submarine attacks could be avoided. In this area, icebreakers were to guard two patrol ships and a minelayer. At the Kara Gates, the 4-5 destroyers were to join the escort.
In the morning of October 22, the icebreakers left the Tiksi bay and went to Cape Neupokoeva (islands of Severnaya Zemlya) without escort. At the exit from the Vilkitsky strait to the Kara Sea, they were met by the Dezhnev patrol ship and the Murman minzag. To ensure the transfer of ships to the most dangerous section of the Kara - Kara Gate - the Throat of the White Sea, where enemy submarines were active, the guard was reinforced first by four minesweepers, and from the Kara Gate by a brigade of destroyers (the leader and five destroyers).
Despite the strong opposition of the enemy, the convoy on the morning of November 18, after passing 2600 miles, arrived in Severodvinsk without loss and damage. The success of the march was achieved thanks to its good organization, a sufficient number of escort ships equipped with modern, by that time, hydroacoustic equipment, which allowed the North Sea submarines to be detected.
The peculiarity of the operation was the skillful use of radio communications, which ensured secrecy. During the transition, the commander of the convoy transmitted only three radiograms with a low-power transmitter using coastal radios as "intermediaries", and even those with foreign call signs.
A total of 1943 convoys with a total of 110 transports were conducted in the 170 year in the Arctic. The last major operation for the protection of Arctic communications, called AB-15, was the withdrawal of icebreakers from the Arctic in October of 1944.
Due to the increased danger (6 of Hitler's submarines operated in the Kara Sea), larger guard forces were deployed. It began directly from the ice edge in the Kara Sea and gradually increased as the underwater threat increased. All security issues were developed in more detail. 6 rescue vessels were deployed at the nodal points. The necessary camouflage measures were envisaged. The ships went without lights at night. At the crossing in the Barents Sea, radio silence was observed. The convoy often changed course.
The operation was carried out as follows. October 20 minelayer and patrol ship under the general command of Rear Admiral VP Bogolepov left Dixon to meet with icebreakers and prepare them for the transition to Arkhangelsk. The meeting took place on October 23 near the island of Solitude.
On November 17, at the edge of the ice in the Kara Sea, icebreakers were met by the first escort detachment consisting of a destroyer, 5 minesweepers and 5 big hunters. To avoid the attacks of submarines, rebuilding into an anti-submarine warrant was made in pancake ice.
Immediately after the convoy entered the clean water, the destroyer “Active” (commander captain 3 of the rank P. M. Gonchar) attacked the submarine. At nightfall, the convoy changed course and broke away from the enemy. In the afternoon of November 18, on the approach to the Karsky Gate, the submarines were discovered again. Security ships did not allow them into the interior of the convoy. With all 11 submarine detections, the icebreakers maneuvered and increased the speed to 18 nodes.
At the exit from the Kara Gate 19 in November, a meeting of the convoy with the second escort detachment - the leader of "Baku" and 6 destroyers - took place, which strengthened security, forming an external line. The leader was the commander of the White Sea Flotilla, Vice-Admiral Yu. A. Panteleev, a member of the military council, Rear-Admiral V.Ye. Ananich and marching headquarters. In the most dangerous transition area in the escort of two icebreakers there were 20 ships. It was the strongest immediate guard for the war in our entire fleet.
A further transition took place in the 9-point storm, which prevented submarines from continuing attacks. On November 29, the AB-15 convoy arrived in Severodvinsk without a loss. The success of this operation was ensured by strong preservation, thorough preparation of forces and precise control.
In the 1944, the internal communications in the White, Barents and Kara seas, the Northern Fleet conducted 407 convoys with a total number of 707 transports carrying 349,1 thousand people and 386,8 thousand tons of cargo.
Thus, during the Great Patriotic War, the Northern Fleet gained considerable experience in conducting operations to protect Arctic communications. The fleet headquarters carefully analyzed all sorts of options for the best accomplishment of the assigned tasks, the likely opposition of the enemy, the physical and geographical conditions of the transition area and prepared a solution for the operation. After the commander made a decision, the headquarters developed a plan of operation, a table of interaction of forces and other documents. In a combat directive, the fleet commander set tasks for the White Sea flotilla and other units for the operation. After this, planning began at the headquarters of the flotilla and formations.
The operations for the wiring of the Arctic convoys were carried out in the zone of the White Sea flotilla, therefore, she had the main responsibility for their implementation. The commander of the flotilla set tasks for bases and formations. The combat order was supplemented with a planned table of the use of forces, combat instruction, documents on communications, etc.
Simultaneously with the planning, the preparation and redeployment of forces were carried out. Their actions were as follows. Before the start of the operation, the enemy’s air reconnaissance intensified. In order to cover the convoy from possible strikes of large surface ships off the coast of Norway, they occupied the positions of submarines. Fleet aviation intensified strikes at ships and airfields. Surface ships (destroyers, torpedo boats) and a group of attack aircraft made up of operational cover forces were alerted for immediate exit or departure. The defense of the convoy crossing areas was intensified: reconnaissance was intensified, additional patrols were put up, aircraft were searched for submarines and sometimes surface ships, control trawling of fairways and recommended courses along the route of the convoy crossing, and the detection and destruction of floating mines.
Since submarines were the main threat to convoys, the main order on the crossing was anti-submarine. The increase in the number of ships allowed by 1944 to create a circular arcing in one and sometimes two lines. For the immediate antisubmarine defense of the convoys, aircraft began to be used from the 1943 year, and special ship search and strike groups were created to pursue and destroy submarines.
In areas dangerous from enemy aviation operations, convoys covered themselves with fighters, who patrolled 6-8 groups of planes over the convoy or were on duty at the airfield.
Much attention was paid to disguise. For this purpose, convoys formation points that were not viewed from the air were elected. The forces allocated for the operation were deployed covertly. Convoy crossing routes were changing, dangerous areas of the court passed at night. Radio silence was strictly observed.
General management of the operation was usually carried out by the fleet commander. The direct command of forces at sea was assigned to the commander of the flotilla. As a rule, the marching headquarters of the convoy was formed, which developed the necessary documentation for the transition, checked the readiness of the transports, their combat organization, and ensured command and control.
In order to cooperate, all documents were carefully worked out and studied by the performers, preliminary instruction was given to the commanders of ships and transport captains, as well as group exercises. The implementation of special convoy operations for the protection of Arctic messages gave good results. Careful planning and training of forces, a number of supporting measures, the strengthening of the direct guard of the transports, the organization of a clear interaction of forces allowed even in the face of strong opposition from the enemy, as was the case in 1943 - 1944, to conduct convoys without significant losses.
During the war, the scale and improvement of the organization of forces in operations increased, their interaction improved. It was in the operations that the most often used methods of escorting were (phased or partial escorting with increased security at the most dangerous sections, etc.). The successful outcome of the operations was greatly influenced by the active operations of disparate fleet forces on communications and the strikes of naval aviation against ships in bases and airplanes at airfields.
Kozlov I., Shlomin V. On the protection of their communications. Red Banner Northern Fleet. M .: Voenizdat, 1983. C. 86-108.
Werner B. The Northern Fleet in World War II. M .: Voenizdat, 1984. C. 198-202.
Leg N. Operations of the Northern Fleet for the protection of Arctic communications // Militaryhistorical magazine. 1976. No. 5. S. 20-24.
Kovalev S. Arctic shadows of the Third Reich. M .: Veche, 2010. C. 176-177.