Wednesday, 14 November 2007

PQ-17 to Murmansk - 1942

In 1942 - in June - the merchant ships formed up
Loaded to the gunnels with their planes and guns and tanks
Enough to serve an army - 50,000 in the field
The PQ - 17 formed up in ranks

Fifty-six from Rekyavik - nine columns in the sea
Thirty-five were merchantmen - the rest their guardian fleet
Seven knots - or eight - with planes and u-boats looking on
Crossed QP - 13's returning beat

Air attacks were sinking ships too slow to fast-escape
Tirpitz out of Trondheim - thirty knots along the breeze
Admiral Pound - in London - over-ruled his naval staff
Ordered convoy-scatter to the seas

Merchantmen - with no defence - abandoned to their fate
Fanned to north and east - and south and east - to stay afloat
Aiming in to Russian ports or aiming out to ice
Targets in a duck-shoot - sunk by rote

Empire Byron, Carlton, Daniel Morgan, Honomu
Navarino, Bolton Castle, Paulus Potter sank
Earlston, Pankraft, River Afton, Samuel Chase as well
Zafaron and Fairfield City sank

Peter Kerr and Pan Atlantic and John Witherspoon
Alcoa Ranger, Olopana, Hartlebury too
Aldersdale the oiler, Empire Tide the CAM-ship sank
Hoosier and El Capitan and crew

All the Barents Sea was scattered with their life-boat men
Desperate men with frostbite and with death upon each mind
With no food and baling ocean - aiming in to land
Fearful of the day and what they'd find

Washington and high explosives - deck ablaze - was left
Gun crews in two lifeboats pulled for ten long days - or more
Waving off their would-be-rescue-ship they watched it sink
Rigged their sail and rowed to meet the shore

Ayrshire - armed for battle - herded three ships to the ice
Silver Sword, Ironclad and Troubadour the three she caught
Repainted white they blended in to skirt the Barents Sea
Stealthy - crept across the reach the port

Murmansk closed - Archangel aimed for - crossing the White Sea
Eleven battered ships made landfall - ports and rocks and bays
Stalin's greeting accusation - "Letting down the War"
Stopped the convoys til the Autumn days

Zamalek and Rathlin - Bellingham and Northern Gem
Ocean Freedom, Azerbaijan, made the port at last
Ben Harrison and Silver Sword, Ironclad and Troubadour
Winston Salem the last ship that passed

PQ - 17 a gallant group of ships and men
Paid the price for bad decisions - leaving them as prey
Took the deaths and took the blame for all their grand success
They helped to win the war in their own way

Latterly all men were honoured for their convoy-run
Gauntlet-run for years across the German ships and planes
When Murmansk - that Hero city - told what they had done
Honoured them for Soviet battle gains
(rpt each last line)

2001 © Charlotte Peters Rock

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