Ship No 1 (Wave 1)
The Astrakhan (Kаракуль)
Overview Of The Astrakhan
The Astrakhan was a former commodity-passenger steamer and was owned by The Caspian Shipping Company.
It was one of the official ships (unofficial flotillas of fishing boats were also involved) organised by Stalin in 1942 at Krasnovodsk (Russian: Красноводск) (Modern day Türkmenbaşy) to transport Polish exiles (also mistakenly called "deportees") who had been held captive in Siberia/Kazakhstan labour camps over the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi (Pahlavi) now called Banzar-e Anzali which is in modern day Northwest Iran.
From passenger testimonies & any other available data this is a "best educated guess" of the ships movements.
- Embark: 23/03/42 (Henryk Wroblewski) | Time: Evening (Henryk Wroblewski)
- Depart: 24/03/42 (Keith Sword) | Time: Morning (Back calculation from arrival time)
- Arrive: 25/03/42 (Ross report) | Time: Morning (Ross Report)
Extract From "The Ross Report"
According to the Ross Report, here is who was on this ship;
|-||Airmen & Sailors||53||1309||10||1372||-||15||-||1387|
- Paiforce: The official story of the Persia and Iraq Command 1941-1946 P127: "When Lt.-Col. A. Ross, of the Highland Light Infantry, who was to command the British Base Evacuation Staff, arrived on the 25th, he found Pahlevi thickly carpeted with snow and the first transport, carrying 1,387 evacuees, already lying off harbour."
- Deportation and Exile Poles in the Soviet Union 1939-48 - Keith Sword P60-P87: "The first ship Karamin left Krasnovodsk on 24 March...arrived in Pahlevi 25 March...1387 almost all sailors and airmen due for transfer to GB (Operation Scrivener). (Editors Note: based on the evidence stated herein, we believe Keith Swords reference to "Karamin" to be an error. The Russian word for "Karamin" is very similar to "Astrakhan" and we believe a typo occurred on Keith Swords part because the evidence for "Astrakhan" is stronger. Further "Astrakhan" can be verified as a Russian boat but there are no records for a boat called "Karamin".
- Account Of Henryk Wroblewski: "We waited until 23rd March 1942 when we boarded a ship at Krasnowodsk on the Caspian Sea. At last we had left the Soviet Union! We quickly arrived in Pahlevi and we were the first batch of Poles who had left the Soviet Union. (From Kermine)".
- Account of Zbyszek Paz (In Polish Navy exhibition): "Zbyszek found out that sailors and airmen would be the first to leave the USSR. He was still young, and had gone through hell already so he decided to give a false statement, that before the war he had served in the navy. He told everything he knew about the navy in front the commission and he messed everything up. Strangely, though, he was accepted. He was however very fit, despite of his experience at the camp."
- "Poles Apart – Polish naval memories of World War 2" - By Martin Hazell - "Airmen and sailors were taken to Krasnovodsk, and loaded onto the ship Astrakhan sailing to Persia."
- Account of Henryk Hieronim Wroblewski (Pilot) ( link ) - "They landed at Pamlevi in northern Persia (now Iran) and on 27th March 1942 arrived in Tehran where they stayed until 3rd April 1942." (Editors Note: This fits, landed 25 March 1942, disembark, a day or so getting dis-infected, new clothes etc and then off to a distribution camp in Tehran 2 days later).
- From Warsaw to Rome: General Anders' Exiled Polish Army in the Second World War P69 - ( Link to online book ) - "The Polish tank formations leaving the USSR in the first evacuation also made their way to Palestine. The Armour Training Centre landed at Pahlevi on 26 March 1942..."
- The Second Homeland: Polish Refugees in India - By Anuradha Bhattacharjee (Link to book)- "On that day, the first ship, Karamin, left Krasnovodsk and reached Pahlevi the next day. The evacuation staff, expecting the first transport on 27 March 1942, were surprised that the ship was already in harbour waiting." (Editors Note: Same as the above, the ship name is an oft copied error). The Persia and Iraq Force Command (PAIFORCE) were shocked to find civilians travelling with the soldiers.)
- Polish Spirit: A 20th Century Odyssey - Władysław Wójcik P147 - P148 - “Moored by the quayside was the Karamin, a Soviet merchantman ... It was the 25th March 1942 when, relieved beyond telling, I gratefully stepped ashore. ... We landed at the Persian port of Pahlevi... I was privileged to be on the very first ship out which carried virtually all of the 1387 airmen and sailors ear-marked for onward transfer to Great Britain under Operation Scrivener.” (Editors Note: I believe he borrowed the name "Karamin" from Keith Sword whose book had been written 2 years earlier).
- The Polish Deportees Of World War II Page 102, Account Of "Anita Paschwa (Nee Kozicka) - "On March 24, 1942 we boarded a Russian ship called Zdanov to Pahlavi, iran...the seas were very rough, many people became sick and died on the way" (editors note: I believe she got the name of the ship wrong, it contradicts many other accounts".