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Arctic Convoys: 1941-1945 [Paperback]

Richard Woodman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 April 2004

For the last four gruelling years of the war, the Western Allies supplied arms and ammunition to Soviet Russia, essential to the Russian war effort. Allied merchant ships ran the gauntlet of the icy Barents Sea, outflanked by German bases in Norway, from where bombers, surface warships and U-boats could attack without warning. Each delivery of arms was an epic achievement; an eminent British historian described it as undertaking the impossible.

Under pressure from both Stalin and Roosevelt, Churchill compelled the hardpressed British navy to fight convoy after convoy through to Murmansk and Archangel, with considerable loss. It was the Arctic that saw the last concentration of the U-boats; the Arctic that saw the last Royal Naval ship sunk in European waters; and the Arctic that saw the greatest defeat of a convoy in modern history. It was a theatre dominated by the weather: fog, storm-force winds and the ever-present numbing cold; and accretions of ice caused ships to capsize.

The debacle of PQ17, the surface actions, the U-boat attacks and running air battles culminating in the final destruction of the Scharnhorst are fully covered, but so too are the personal angle and the perspective of the long-suffering merchant ships and their crews, together with the political implications.

Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New edition edition (26 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719566177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719566172
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 846,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Those of us who sailed on the Arctic Convoys are teh best judges of books written about them; and I can say with truth that this account is the most comprehensive and the most accurate I have ever read, relying as it does not only on official British and German sources but on the often heartbreaking accounts of participants and survivors (Ludovic Kennedy)

A magnificent book and unreservedly recommended (Maritime Books)

His account provides an extraordianrily vivid and accurate picture of the conduct of the convoys and the conditions they faced (Lord Lewin)

For sheer heroism and brazen drama the icy saga Woodman tells is hard to beat ... His comprehensive and exciting narrative is a splendid achievement. As a ship's captain he is especially well qualified to explore the hazards mariners faced in the Barents Sea (Frank McLynn, Literary Review)

Woodman has written a necessary and valuable book ... [and] describes vividly the huge seas and freezing cold which were as unpleasant as anything produced by German firepower (Alan Ross, The Spectator)

[Arctic Convoys] is an admirable work of scholarship ... It is also a gripping narrative, filled with stories of bravery, self-sacrifice and sheer doggedness which at times defy credibility (John Keegan, Daily Telegraph)

Woodman explains how it was done and why, according to him, it was so necessary. (The Good Book Guide)

Book Description

The compelling Second World War merchant navy story set in the icy Barents Sea.

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars rough seas 22 Nov 2007
By Wingate
Verified Purchase
This is a detailed and well researched look at the 2nd World War convoys to the Soviets.It is at its best when describing the attacks made on the convoys particularly the infamous PQ17.However the author,as a former sailor,decides to use seagoing phraseology which is difficult to understand.I think that if he was going to use the phraseology of the sea it would have been useful to include a glossary of terms.So at certain times this book can become hard going.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Recommended. A fine narrative history of the convoys by which Britain and the US supplied Stalin's Russia. This is a naval campaign like no other. It presented the Royal Navy with its most difficult sustained strategic, tactical and logistic challenge of WW2. The convoys traversed over a thousand miles from Iceland or Scotland, skirting the long German held coast of Norway, past remote Bear Island, to the hell holes of Murmansk or Archangelsk in northern Russia. The seas were swept by storms so violent they could rip open the turret of a cruiser; the water so cold it killed after a few minutes immersion; encrusting ice could render weapons inoperable or capsize a ship from topweight; in summer ships were subject to the possibility of air attack for near 24 hours a day; and in winter ships had to keep station in perpetual night. The convoy route ran far from British naval bases and aircover and close under the nose of German U-Boats, battleships and cruisers, and aircraft, based in Norway.

The campaign was one of high drama; massed attacks by German torpedo bombers, desperate and celebrated destroyer actions, the savaging of a large convoy (PQ17) deserted by its escorts by order of the Admiralty, and the last battleship action fought by the Royal Navy. The first convoy sailed in August 1941, just 2 months after Hitler invaded Russia, and they continued until 1945. They had a symbolic and political importance as Britain and the US sought to hold Stalin from making a separate peace with Germany. After the allies wrested superiority from the Germans in the Atlantic in 1943 the main weight of the U-Boats moved to the Arctic and targeted escorts with frequent use of accoustic torpedoes.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot of facts and a pleasant read 20 Feb 2006
By Sasu Mattila - Published on Amazon.com
This book contains a lot of facts but don't let that scare you. It is written in a very reader friendly style.

I am interested in WWII history, especially around Scandinavia, and this book is one of the best I have seen. My thanks to the author for doing the research and writing the book.
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