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Convoy JW 51A was an Arctic convoy sent from Great Britain by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union during World War II. It sailed in December 1942, reaching the Soviet northern ports at the end of the month.

JW 51A was not detected or attacked by German forces and arrived without loss.


JW 51A was the first of the JW/RA convoy series, replacing the previous PQ/QP series which had been suspended during the summer and autumn of 1942. The JW series were organized to sail from Loch Ewe, Scotland rather than Iceland, as previously, and sailed with a substantial destroyer escort to guard against surface attacks, as had proved effective with PQ 18. JW 51A was the first outbound Arctic convoy of the 1942–43 winter season, and began the practice of sailing smaller convoys twice-monthly during the winter months to reduce the problems of controlling large groups of ships in the gloom of the polar night.


JW 51A consisted of 16 merchant ships, which departed from Loch Ewe on 15 December 1942.[1] Close escort was provided by the minesweeper Seagull, two corvettes and two armed trawlers. These were supported by six Home Fleet destroyers led by Faulknor. The convoy was also accompanied initially by a local escort group from Britain. A cruiser cover force comprising Jamaica and Sheffield, and three destroyers, also followed the convoy to guard against attack by surface units. Distant cover was provided by a Heavy Cover Force comprising the battleship King George V, the cruiser Berwick and three escorting destroyers. JW 51A was opposed by a force of three U-boats in a patrol line in the Norwegian Sea, and the aircraft of Luftflotte V based in Norway.[2] A surface force comprising the heavy cruisers Hipper, Lützow and six destroyers was also available, stationed at Altenfjord.


JW 51A departed Loch Ewe on 15 December 1942, accompanied by its local escort, of three destroyers, and its close escort. Three days later, on 18 December, it was joined by the ocean escort, while the local escort departed. At the same time the Cruiser Force and the Distant Cover Force from Scapa Flow also put to sea, taking station in the Norwegian Sea.

The convoy was not sighted by German reconnaissance aircraft, nor by any of the patrolling U-boats, and crossed the Norwegian and Barents Seas without incident.

On 25 December JW 51A arrived safely at Kola Inlet.


JW 51A was a successful start to JW convoy series and to the 1942–43 winter convoy season, with the safe arrival of 16 merchant ships and the war materiel they carried.

Ships involved

Allied Ships

Merchant ships
  • Beauregard
  • Briarwood
  • Dynastic
  • El Almirante
  • El Oceano
  • Empire Meteor
  • Gateway City
  • Greylock
  • JLM Curry
  • Oligarch
  • Oremar 52
  • Richard Basset
  • Richard Bland
  • San Cipriano
  • West Gotomska
  • Wind Rush

Close escort

Ocean escort

Cruiser cover force

Distant cover force

Axis ships

U-boat force

Surface force

  • Hipper
  • Lützow
  • Friedrich Eckholdt
  • Richard Beitzen
  • Theodor Riedel
  • Z29
  • Z30
  • Z31


  1. Ruegg, Hague p48
  2. Blair p152


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