Ghost Ships of Archangel
By William Geroux
Viking/Random House 2019
Account of life on the ships, both mercantile and of the close escort of Convoy PQ-17. The convoy was a result of complicated communications between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt about support for a Russia beset at the time by German invasion. The ships of the convoy sailed from Iceland in the summer of 1942.
As most learned people know, the summer sun never sets in the Arctic. This would place the convoy in full view of German aircraft, submarines and surface ships to attack. Part of this potential attacking force was the battleship Tirpitz, sister of the famous Bismarck, sunk in 1941. Luckily for the convoy, the Allied naval leadership did not know that German forces in Norway were suffering from a severe fuel shortage, which prevented Tirpitz from sailing to the convoy and sinking all the ships.
The mere threat of Tirpitz caused First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, Dudley Pound, to order the distant escort to return to base and for the merchant ships in the convoy to scatter. Many ships were slaughtered with some managing to hide in icefields and later reached the port of Archangel. Pound was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor at the time and died soon after the events in this book took place. Whether this affected his judgement will never be known.
The book is well written and has a nice flow. One small criticism is lack of proper nautical terminology, such as turning right instead of starboard.