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Brian 17th November 2017 16:43

SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
Hi guys

I'm intrigued by the story of US freighter Winston-Salem abandoned undamaged by its skipper Captain Lofgren and crew, during the PQ-17 convoy to Russia, July 1942.

Apparently the Russians demanded Captain Lofgren be executed! Presumably he wasn't but what was his fate and the fate of his crew? Was he returned to the US, and if so, what awaited him?

I can't seem to find anything on the Internet.


edwest2 17th November 2017 22:59

Re: SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
The history of this particular ship is not fully known. But the fate of convoy PQ-17 was complicated by many factors. It was ordered to scatter, its protecting ships abandoned it, and the Russians could not believe so many ships were lost. Staying in the open water as opposed to intentionally beaching the Winston-Salem at Novaya Zemlya was a decision that helped avoid attacks by U-Boats. Part of its cargo was salvaged.

Perhaps someone knows more.

Rainer 18th November 2017 12:52

Re: SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
After the order to scatter the convoy PQ-17, the WINSTON-SALEM (Master William Lovgren) was twice attacked by German aircraft on 6 July 1942, headed northeast as far as the ice permitted until reaching Novaya Zemlya and then followed the coast until running aground on a sand bank in Moller Bay in thick weather in the afternoon on 8 July 1942. She was one of three ships from the convoy that ran aground on this unfamiliar island, but the only one that was unable to get free. Over the next days a total of 120 survivors from three other ships sunk from the convoy arrived in their lifeboats and the crew of WINSTON-SALEM began to built a camp ashore in the case they had to abandon their ship. On 15 July a Russian schooner arrived but all attempts to float the ship were unsuccessful, so the schooner left after taking the survivors from the other ships aboard. The crew of WINSTON-SALEM eventually abandoned ship when a German aircraft was spotted on 17 July, after making the guns inoperable and flooding the magazine for the stern gun. They returned two days later after two Russian armed trawlers and the Russian merchant DIKSON arrived. The latter went alongside to take off some cargo in order to lighten the ship and on 22 July the Russians finally managed to pull her off the sank bank. WINSTON-SALEM arrived at Archangel on 28 July and returned to the UK with convoy QP-14, sailing from Archangel on 13 September 1942. The ship survived the war and William Lovgren, who had been in command since March 1941, remained her master until May 1943, but he later returned to this ship in September 1944.

Generally one has to keep in mind that the crews of merchant ships weren't sailors or soldiers, they were civilians employed by shipping companies and not by the government. So it is difficult to trace if any actions were taken at all in the case of WINSTON-SALEM - the naval authorities certainly had no interest to discuss what happened to convoy PQ-17 in the public as they were directly to blame for the situation William Lovgren and his crew found themselves in.

Brian 18th November 2017 18:37

Re: SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
Ed ad Rainer - thanks for your assistance.

Apparently, Captain Frankel US Naval Attache at Archangel cabled Washington on 16 September, advising that Captain Lovgren "was seriously ill and being readied for immediate return to America", so presumably did not return aboard the Winston-Salem when she sailed on 13 September.

So, was he flown back to the US?


Rainer 18th November 2017 22:37

Re: SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
Hi Brian

After returning to the UK with convoy QP-14 the WINSTON-SALEM was in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a month of repairs and then remained in the Clyde to be loaded and sent to North Africa on 21 January 1943 - eventually arriving back in the US when arriving in New York on 1 April 1943. The crew list made on this occasion shows that William Lovgren was still her master and signed off at New York with the rest of the crew that had made the voyage to North Russia.

So I doubt that Lovgren had returned to the US earlier, but his illness could be the reason why WINSTON-SALEM did not return to the US like the other US merchant ships did that returned from North Russia in convoy QP-14. Maybe a report from the Assistant Naval Attache Capt. Samuel B. Frankel exists somewhere about the whole episode, as he accompanied the Russian vessels to Moller Bay to salvage WINSTON-SALEM.

RSwank 19th November 2017 16:13

Re: SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
Interesting bit of info on Frankel here:

Brian 20th November 2017 12:15

Re: SS Winston-Salem Convoy PQ17
RSwank: Many thanks for that.

Well deserved under the circumstances!

Rainer: thanks for the additional gen


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