In 1941, British ships started supplying Russia with weapons.

By 1942, they’d sent 12 convoys (103 ships) and only lost one ship.

But that was about to change.

Because the Germans understood Predatory Thinking.

Go upstream to solve a problem.

They knew it would be a lot harder to destroy those weapons once they reached the Russian Army.

Because they’d be loaded and firing back.

It was a lot easier to destroy those weapons while they were sitting on the decks of the merchant ships.

So they targeted the convoys.

They moved planes and U Boats to attack along the coast of Norway.

The British countered with more protection.

In 1942, the largest-ever convoy was assembled.

Convoy PQ17 had 35 merchant ships, protected by 4 large cruisers, 10 destroyers, and 11 smaller warships.

All mainly specialist in anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare.

But it turned out to be vulnerable to one unforeseen enemy.


Tirpitz was the most modern, most powerful of all the German warships.

And it was sitting in a fjord in Norway.

Sitting at his desk back in Whitehall, the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, was like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Tirpitz became the focus of his attention, what he most dreaded.

And then what he dreaded happened.

He got a message from a Norwegian spy that Tirpitz was at sea.

Obviously going to attack convoy PQ17.

Pound knew it could sink any of the warships guarding the convoy.

He called off all the warships and ordered the convoy to scatter.

So it wasn’t a convoy anymore.

Just a lot of undefended merchant ships, on their own.

The day after the navy protection was called off, the Luftwaffe sank six merchant ships. U Boats sank another six ships.

The next day U Boats sank another five ships, the Luftwaffe sank two.

Of the 35 original merchant ships, only 11 made it to Russia.

24 were sunk.

By the very things the British warships could have protected them against:

U Boats and aircraft.

But what really sank them was fear.

Because the Tirpitz never left harbour.

The spies had been wrong.

What no one knew at the time was that Sir Dudley Pound was suffering from a brain tumour.

He was in pain and couldn’t sleep at night, so he was exhausted all day and often fell asleep in meetings.

No wonder he made the wrong decision.

Shortly afterwards, he had a stroke which left him partially paralysed.

And, within a year, he died from his brain tumour.

As for convoy PQ17.

German predatory thinking had destroyed 100,000 tons of supplies, which wouldn’t now get to the Russian army.

Including over 400 tanks, over 200 aircraft, and over 3,000 vehicles.

Which they wouldn’t now have to fight.

There are two great lessons to learn there.

One is predatory thinking, the other is something Franklin Roosevelt said.


“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.