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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Arctic Convoys

As I mentioned earlier, Richard Woodman, has written several excellent histories of naval operations in World War II. I have been finding The Real Cruel Sea difficult to put down, but did find time to begin Arctic Convoys, although this is perhaps not a wise choice, given the -5 wind chill in our bedroom.

These convoys were meant to bolster the Russian army's supplies that had been decimated following Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's idiotic attempt to annex Russia. The ships sailed just below the ice line on the way to Murmansk or Archangel (if the summer thawed the sea enough.) The weather was horrendous, but it was the "cold men remember the most; either the damp misery of the bulkheads running with condensation, the chill miasma penetrating every nook and cranny of the ship; or the bitter Arctic cold that froze the same condensation solid, turned exhaled breath to rime, and spray to ice. There was no comfort to be had anywhere in such weather, though the larger ships were less violent in motion than the smaller. The sparse 'Arctic clothing' issued from official 'slops' was largely ineffective and the 'comforts' knitted loveingly by anonymous donors at home were often insufficient. The warmest a man could get was in his bunk or hammock, fully clothed, and from which being turned out was an act of cruelty."
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