PQ17: An Arctic Convoy Disaster

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PQ17: An Arctic Convoy Disaster


Forget for a moment the Jeremy Clarkson you know from Top Gear. This is a different Clarkson, the one who makes sturdy documentaries about wartime operations, with an eye for heroic moments. And it needs a good storyteller to get across the full, freezing horror of the Arctic convoys during the Second World War.

PQ17 was the codename for one ill-fated 1942 Anglo-American convoy of 60 ships taking tanks, planes and supplies to Archangel to help Stalin fight Hitler. A calamitous misjudgement in the Admiralty meant that halfway there, the warships were called back and the merchant ships told to “scatter”, making them easy prey for German torpedo bombers.

The accounts of survivors here are quietly stunning. One recalls being hit by a torpedo: “I went sailing through the air. Most amazing sensation,” he says calmly, adding later with equal equanimity, “And then we all started to die.”


Between 1941 and 1945, merchant ships escorted by vessels from the US, Canadian and British navies delivered four million tons of essential goods to the Soviet Union. In this documentary, Jeremy Clarkson retraces the journey of the convoy of 35 ships codenamed PQ17 from Iceland to the Russian port of Arkhangelsk in June and July 1942, revealing how the Anglo-American mission became one of the biggest naval disasters of the 20th century. Featuring testimony from men who served on the vessels.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Director Richard Pearson
Executive Producer Dominic Crossley-Holland
Producer Dan Trelford