Clearing ice was an incredibly dangerous job, particularly on the oil-fuelled ships, where there was no way to prevent it forming.
One of the trickiest tasks was clearing the radar and radio arrays.
The former was particularly vulnerable on the destroyers and cruisers in Northern Waters, because, as they became top heavy, they were prone to whip on recovery from a roll.
As any mild steel fittings were always in danger of suffering stress fractures in the cold of an Arctic winter, the crew was on constant alert.
Then the bridge crew might well hear a sudden loud crack when the ship heeled in a rough sea, and find that they might have to return to port. Eyeballs were used as their primary sensor system.
It was chip, chip, chip, brush and shovel, then start all over again. If necessary, they could use the steam hoses, but that often just added to the condensation, which, of course, froze.
Armament, radar and signal halyards were the main priorities, with the upper deck following if it was getting overloaded.
Moreover it proved impossible to free the guns (two of the British destroyers at the Battle of the Barents Sea went into action with only half of the main armament operation.
Because the other gunmounts became frozen in place.
Some of the command positions in the superstructure supposedly had heating, but that was wishful thinking.
How could they avoid sliding around?
If you grabbed a handhold, the cold would remove the skin from your fingers and hands, sometimes the flesh.
In conclusion, I’ve been through an ice storm at sea (the blood from the splinters froze to my face) in the Arctic in summer. And I have no idea what it was like for men on WW2 era (and older) warships in midwinter.
Written by Hadrian Jeffs