Convoy HX-106
Convoy HX-106 consisted of some 41 ships, eastbound from Halifax, Nova Scotia
City of Halifax
Halifax is a city in Canada, which was the capital of the province of Nova Scotia and shire town of Halifax County. It was the largest city in Atlantic Canada until it was amalgamated into Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996...

 to Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, England. The use of convoys was a standard tactic
Naval tactics in the Age of Steam
The development of the steam ironclad firing explosive shells in the mid 19th century rendered sailing tactics obsolete. New tactics were developed for the big-gun Dreadnought battleships. The mine, torpedo, submarine and aircraft posed new threats, each of which had to be countered, leading to...

 throughout the Battle of the Atlantic as a defence against U-boats and German commerce raiders.

On 8 February 1941 the two German battleships, Scharnhorst
German battleship Scharnhorst
Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class, which included one other ship, Gneisenau. The ship was built at the Kriegsmarinewerft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; she was laid down on 15...

 and Gneisenau
German battleship Gneisenau
Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935...

, appeared over the horizon. The German squadron was under the command of Admiral Gunther Lutjens
Günther Lütjens
Günther Lütjens was a German Admiral whose military service spanned almost 30 years. Lütjens is best known for his actions during World War II, primarily his service as admiral of the squadron comprising and her consort, , during the Operation Rheinübung sortie.-Early career:Günther Lütjens was...

. The captain of the Scharnhorst offered to draw off the escorting Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 battleship HMS Ramillies
HMS Ramillies (07)
HMS Ramillies was a Revenge-class battleship of the Royal Navy, named after the Battle of Ramillies. The ship is notable for having served in both the First and Second World Wars...

, so that the Gneisnau could sink the merchant ships. This strategy, if successful, would have entailed little risk to Scharnhorst as she was 11 knots (22 km/h) faster than Ramillies, and her newer 11" guns outranged the 1915 era 15" guns of the British ship. But, Lutjens strictly followed Hitler's directive not to engage enemy capital ships.

The presence of Ramillies was sufficient to deter the attack. Later, two of the convoy's merchant ships were sunk by submarines, including the MV Arthur F. Corwin loaded with 14,500 tons of aviation spirit. She went down on 13 February taking all 59 crew with her.
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