HMS ULYSSES and the Russian Convoys

Those who have read or heard the story HMS Ulysses by Alastair MacLean, might wonder at the factual accuracy of the account.

"The RAAF in Russia" starts with the story of the PQ17 convoy disaster and the desperate need to get the next convoy, PQ18 through at all costs to keep Russia in the War.  MacLean has slipped in a fictional emergency convoy FR77 between these actual convoys.  FR probably meaning Fast Russia.

MacLean has used the novelist's licence to weld various factual and fictional events into one story.  While HMS Ulysses is a depressing story of disaster upon disaster heaped on a convoy, in truth PQ17 was the worst and that happened to individual ships when the convoy scattered.

It is easy to criticise fiction for lack of factual reality but we can forgive Alastair.  He was setting a scene for a hard pressed Naval story in a terrible theatre of war.

The terrible storm he describes is probably the one QP14 came through homeward bound with the Australians.  The ice, the seas, torpedos and bombs were real enough though MacLean perhaps "over-eggs the custard" in creating a sense of drama around a mutiny of men worn out by Arctic Convoy work.

The real story of PQ18 is probably as good a story without the human drama

Geoff Raebel 2010

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