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Northern Fleet divers resume surveying of WWII Arctic convoy transporter

June 26, 13:00 UTC+3 MURMANSK

The Northern Fleet divers have been surveying the Thomas Donaldson transporter since 2010

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© Lev Fedoseev/TASS

MURMANSK, June 26. /TASS/. Divers of Russia’s Northern Fleet in early July will participate in surveying the US Thomas Donaldson transporter, which sank in the Barents Sea in World War Two, the Fleet’s press service said on Monday.

"We plan another mission to lift the historic artefacts will be organized within another special training of the Fleet’s emergency-rescue unit," the press service said.

The Northern Fleet divers have been surveying the Thomas Donaldson transporter since 2010. In the first year of their surveying work, the Northern Fleet divers raised a road roller and transferred it to the exposition of the Krasin icebreaker museum.

In the subsequent years, the divers retrieved a US Sherman tank, a 90mm anti-aircraft gun M2 and another two road rollers. As the Russian Northern Fleet press office said, the divers also raised the second US Sherman medium tank, a 102mm gun, an antiaircraft machinegun and some small items - artillery shell casings and projectiles.

All this military hardware was supplied to the Soviet Union under the lend-lease program in 1941-1945. All the artefacts retrieved from the Barents Sea bottom were delivered to the Military Museum in St. Petersburg, the Northern Naval Museum in Arkhangelsk and to the Museum of the Northern Fleet’s Museum of the Air Force.

Thomas Donaldson

In 2016, Russian Northern Fleet specialists raised a 100-ton freight locomotive from the anti-Hitler coalition’s Thomas Donaldson Arctic convoy transporter from the bottom of the Barents Sea in a unique operation.

The Arctic convoy ship Thomas Donaldson was sunk by a German submarine at the end of World War Two in the western tip of Kildin Island near the entrance to the Kola Bay. It sank at a depth of 55 meters.

Arctic convoys

The first Arctic Convoy codenamed Dervish arrived in Arkhangelsk on August 31, 1941. It comprised six British and one Dutch cargo ship with weapons and goods as well as nine British escort warships. They delivered about 25,000 tonnes of strategic cargoes, including 10,000 tonnes of Indian rubber; tin metal; 3,800 depth bombs and magnetic mines; 15 Hurricane fighter aircraft; an auxiliary ship with fuel; 1,500 tonnes of service boots; wool, inventory and equipment.

The Dervish convoy marked the beginning of a unique WWII operation, which involved thousands of Soviet and foreign sailors and pilots who delivered military cargoes to the river port on the Severnaya Dvina and to maritime ports in the White and Barents Seas. Before January 1942, Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk (called Molotovsk at that time) had received seven convoys with a total number of 56 cargo ships. Later on, the convoys were re-directed to Murmansk.

Out of the three routes (the Arctic, the Pacific and the Trans-Iranian), which the allied convoys used for delivering cargoes and weapons to the USSR, the northern route was the shortest. However, it was most dangerous. Up to 15% of the allied cargoes were lost on that route because the enemy attacked and sunk the ships. More than 5,000 sailors from various countries, who accompanied the Arctic Convoys, perished while performing their military duty.

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