It’s a little unfortunate that almost every story relating to the presentation of the Arctic Star medal to veterans of the Arctic Convoys is accompanied by some reference or other to their 70-year fight to have their efforts recognised in this way. However, it is also probably fair to include that reference, since it also pays tribute to their tenacity over that period, and the efforts of those who supported them.
We haven’t been able to do much, but we have been able to mention the convoys and their preparation at Loch Ewe, prior to departure on what was described as “The worst journey in the World”, and where efforts are still ongoing to create a permanent museum to the convoys and the men who made them possible. Loch Ewe is also the place where a dwindling number of veterans assemble to mark the convoys each year, with as few as 40 being expected to make the trip there in 2013.
An exhibition is currently on show in Edinburgh Castle’s War Museum, Arctic Convoys: 1941-45, running from May 24, 2013 until March of 2014: Exhibition to give front-row seat on ‘worst journey in the world’ taken by Arctic convoys
There is even a distinctly Scottish connection to this award, as it seems that the veteran behind the medal campaign is a Scot originating from Montrose:
The leading figure behind the campaign to award the Arctic Star medal has had his award presented at a special ceremony.
Commander Eddie Grenfell, now 93, was too ill to travel to main presentation in London so his award was instead presented in Hampshire.
Mr Grenfell was born in Montrose, Scotland, but left at the age of 16 when he joined the Royal Navy and made Portsmouth his home.
He has lobbied tirelessly for 16 years for the medal to be created and was the first veteran to receive the star.
After the decision was made last December to award the star, the government was urged to act quickly because of the advancing age and ill-health of Mr Grenfell as well as other veterans.
Mr Grenfell was only released from hospital three weeks ago where he had been since last October.
He has suffered a heart attack and two cardiac arrests but managed to build up enough strength to attend Tuesday’s ceremony.
The chief of the defence staff general Sir David Richards attended the special event at the Mayor’s Parlour at Portsmouth Guildhall, Hampshire, to award Mr Grenfell.
The head of the UK armed forces had personally requested to attend the event to recognise Mr Grenfell’s lobbying efforts as well as his service on four of the Arctic convoys to Russia.
Mr Grenfell’s campaign gained massive popular support with a petition of 42,000 signatures being handed to Downing Street in 2004 as well as gaining support from local MPs.
Another pic with no real details I was asked if I could help with, or had any more details of the subject.
Although I’ve got quite a few books for referencing Scotland’s past, it’s now obvious from recent questions which I have been asked that these don’t wander into the area of wartime activities. I never really thought about it before, but they all refer to civilian life, or more general history and heritage subjects. Even thinking back to the time when I was picking these up, I don’t recall seeing any that covered any sort of World War II activity in Scotland anyway, or I’m sure I would have been picking them up as well.
According to the source, this pic shows tests of flame throwing equipment mounted on a vehicle known as a ‘Universal Carrier’, and was taken in Scotland in March 1942.
I had a quick look online for info on the vehicle, and it seems that the British Army’s Universal Carrier was the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history, one of a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong, with something like 113,000 being produced between 1934 and 1960, both in the UK, and abroad.
The Universal Carrier is also incorrectly often referred to as the Bren Gun Carrier, but this was just one of the many jobs it performed, as carriers were used for transporting personnel and equipment (mostly support weapons), or as machine gun platforms. And other tasks, going by the pic that raised the question.
Note the exposed fuel tanks for the flame thrower mounted at the rear of the carrier. Together with the lack of armour and open construction of the carrier, this suggest this variation of the carrier was something to be used in cleaning-up operations, rather than in any sort of battle.
Veterans of the notorious Arctic Convoys from Scotland to the former Soviet Union are to be honoured with a major exhibition being held in Edinburgh, and beginning in 2013.
Edinburgh Castle’s War Museum will be staging the first major display in Scotland dedicated to the 3,000 men who lost their lives on the convoys from 1941 and 1945.
Rarely seen photographs, uniforms, diaries, letters and other personal possessions from veterans will be going on display for almost a year at the attraction.
Plans for the exhibition have been revealed just weeks after it was confirmed that veterans of the Arctic Convoys would finally get military medals following a lengthy campaign to see them recognised.
The supplies and ammunition they transported were vital to the war effort, as German forces had completely blockaded any access by land.
The operation was launched to help ensure vital supplies could get through to the ports of Murmansk and Archangel after Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, to ensure that the Nazis would remain occupied on the Eastern Front.
But they were dubbed the “suicide missions” by many of those who served on them, as the convoys had to run the gauntlet of submarine, air and battleship attacks in harsh sub-zero conditions through the Arctic Ocean.
Then prime minister Winston Churchill admitted the mission to keep the supply lines of munitions, tanks, lorries, fuel and food open was “the worst journey in the world”.
Of the 78 convoys from the UK and Iceland over that period, 19 departed from Loch Ewe, in Wester Ross, in the north-west Highlands, with others leaving from Oban and the Clyde.
About 20,000 Royal Navy and merchant navy sailors were involved in the missions to transport almost four million tonnes of supplies, with 16 warships and 85 merchant vessels being lost throughout the campaign.
The exhibition, Arctic Convoys: 1941-45, is due to run from May 24, 2013 until March of 2014.
Material has been gathered from numerous sources, including private collections, loans from the Imperial War Museum, and museums in Russia. The exhibition will also include recordings of personal testimonies from surviving veterans of the convoys. It is often forgotten that many of those who took part in the convoys were not actually in the Royal Navy, but were simply merchant seamen or fisherman who had been called up for duty.
Those involved with efforts to establish a permanent museum to the Arctic Convoys, to be located in Loch Ewe, where many of the convoys formed and departed from, have also helped with contributions to the Edinburgh exhibition.
Jacky Brookes, manager of the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum Project in Loch Ewe, said: “We’re delighted the exhibition is happening and hope it will help raise the profile of getting a permanent museum”
We have had occasion to mention the museum project at Loch Ewe before:
There may be some occasions where a bit of publicity or protest is order…
Remembrance Day events are clearly NOT one such occasions.
The as-yet unnamed creep, and coward, picture below decided it would be a good idea to hide his face and skateboard through the events being held to mark Remembrance Day in Bristol.
Hidden by his mask and wearing horns, he was described as being dressed in a pink frilly corset and striped stocking.
After he gatecrashed the march through the town, police tackled him as members of the crowd shouted their disgust at him.
He tried to get away, but was outnumbered. A witness said he put up a lot of resistance and they had to use quite some force to restrain him, and that people were shouting “rip his head off”.
After being arrested on suspicion of an offence, Avon and Somerset officer stood guard around him, as a number of people from the crowd were threatening to attack him.
Guess he was lucky they did not have to leave him… as they went for a tea-break.
Later, Jose Paulo Da Silveria, 38, was charged under the Public Order Act, police said.
An Avon and Somerset Police spokeswoman said: ‘Police arrested a 38-year-old man at the Remembrance Sunday service in Bristol city centre.
‘He was taken into custody.
‘Jose Paulo Da Silveria has been charged under the Public Order Act and will appear at Bristol
Magistrates’ Court on December 4.’
As he was bundled into a police car yesterday, officers had to forcefully remove several males who approached him and shouted obscenities and ‘death’s too good for you’.
Poppy Burning has also become an issue
See this story which appeared around the same time, and has raised similar emotions, especially after earlier poppy burning events:
A teenager who drunkenly posted a picture of himself burning a poppy on Facebook was in police custody last night.
Officers arrested Linford House after they received a complaint about the image that was published in the early hours of Remembrance Sunday.
When police called at his parents’ home that evening, the 19-year-old had already taken down the image on a friend’s advice..
A man, named locally as Linford House (pictured right), 19, was arrested yesterday after the image (left) appeared online. The words on the right image have been written on by a third party, who posted it online
It showed a cigarette lighter with a flame catching light to the bottom of a poppy, allegedly with the words: ‘How about that you squadey [sic] ****s’.
The student was questioned by detectives for several hours yesterday afternoon and last night he was still in custody facing a second night behind bars.
The mention of the poppy appeal has become something of an annual reminder in SeSco, and I had thought I had managed to get it into my head and mention it sooner rather than later, but this year has seen it slip again, as my attention was diverted.
However, the almost belated mention comes not from my somewhat dubious memory and its ability to forget the obvious, but due to current events, and some pondering about how to mention them.
Last year, as I made the Poppy post, I was pleased to observe that there had not been (to my knowledge at the time) any thefts relating to collection boxes. Sadly, that is not the case this year, and I noted one such incident reported in Scotland, so this scum is still moving amongst us:
Police in Dunfermline have described as ‘despicable’ the thieves who stole a charity collection tin from a leisure centre.
The fundraising can was collecting donations for the Scottish Poppy Appeal ahead of Remembrance Day.
The tin was taken from the front counter of the Dell Farquharson Centre on Dunfermline’s Nethertown Broad Street at around 2.20pm on Saturday.
Fife Police want to talk to two men who were seen at the centre shortly before the theft was discovered, one of whom was described as white, around 30 years of age, with short brown hair, and wearing a navy puffed-style jacket.
Inspector Thomas Barratt described the theft as “particularly despicable” given the causes which the Poppy Appeal supports.
Next, an apparent increase in the incidence of vandalism to memorials seems to be apparent in the media, with the most recent in Inverness, only days before Remembrance Sunday:
VANDALISM to a war memorial, just days before Remembrance Sunday, has been branded as “unforgivable” by the city leader.
Police are appealing for information after a section of the sandstone memorial in Cavell Gardens, which faces the River Ness, was targeted.
Words including ‘aim’ and what appears to be the name ‘Julia Mia’ have been etched onto the sandstone memorial.
“This is a disgrace, said Ian Brown, the city leader.
“I am appalled at this a deliberate action, in the run up to the weekend of Remembrance. It is unforgivable. I would urge anyone with information about the perpetrators to contact the Police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
And finally… there has to be mention of the apparent increase in thefts from memorials, specifically the plaques carrying the names of the fallen, or events leading to their deaths. These are generally made of non-ferrous metals which provide a good return for the thieves, since they pay nothing for what they steal. However, the cost is high in terms of distress for relatives, and councils/taxpayers, who have to foot the bill for repairing and restoring memorials damaged as the metal plaques and fixings are torn from without any consideration, causing damage many times the value of the metal removed.
Again, this seems to have become a growing problems within which one has to include unscrupulous scrap metal dealers, since it should be fairly obvious that the plaques and similar are not legitimate scrap. Yet they will apparently happily hand over a few pound for the metal, choosing to ignore its appearance, or what it engraved on it.
The Scottish Government proposed changes to the rules for scrap metal trading, removing the option of cash-in-hand payments in casual transactions, but there does not appear to have been any further mention of this by the media, so I am not aware if this is progressing, or has stalled for some reason.
Perhaps there will be something different to mention in a year’s time.
One of the intriguing threads in the SeSco Forum has grown out of the subject of lasers being used as non-lethal defences. And now we get to mention a small specialist Glasgow company.
In the right hands and used responsibly (something that computers can now take care of), lasers can be used to dazzle various types of attacker on the battlefield and at sea (in the case of pirates) to deter and repel the attackers. Unlike bullets and missiles, such actions tend not to result in deaths – even though the attackers generally arrive sporting firearms of various types.
The problem with laser dazzle is that even low-powered hand-held lasers can cause the effect, and temporary blindness even at long ranges – long enough to reach from the ground to low flying aircraft, especially around airports and near town and cities. And that mean criminals (by any name) can use these for their own amusement, and dazzle pilot of aircraft, or police helicopter crews. The good news is that a number of such aircraft are now equipped with kit that can pinpoint the ground area where such attacks are made from, and police can be despatched.
However, this does not remove the danger of the dazzle itself.
Part of the problem in dealing with this in the past has been that glasses and goggles designed to protect against such dazzle are only effective at one frequency, which means that they only defend against one colour or wavelength of laser light. Needless to say, there are many colours of laser now available, so this defence, although effective, has limited practicality.
Until now that is, with news of developments made by the MoD (Ministry of Defence) that the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has been working with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) to evaluate and assess the specially designed spectacles. The new type of laser eye protection (LEP) for pilots is being tested and developed to address the increasing number of incidents of lasers being used to distract pilots.
The new LEPs can filter out different wavelengths of light from the spectrum, including those used in various laser weapons and laser pens which are becoming increasingly available via the internet.
While existing LEPs generally filter out and block only one wavelength from the colour spectrum, the prototype spectacles, made by Glasgow-based company Thin Film Solutions, can filter out a range of different laser wavelengths, allowing greater operational benefits and flexibility for pilots.
The work has been undertaken with the US, and has benefited from an established partnership between Dstl and the United States Air Force. Testing took place in May.
Dr Craig Williamson, Principal Scientist at Dstl, said:
“The bilateral work at the United States Air Force Tri-Service Research Laboratory in San Antonio proved to be invaluable. The results from this human performance testing on spatial detection and colour perception have set the benchmark for future work, and we’re hoping that further bilateral funding will be available to research the next generation of eye protection in the coming years.”
Further testing is to be conducted later this year, including optical performance and environmental testing by Dstl, and laser dazzle and performance testing at defence contractor QinetiQ.
Saturday, August 4, 2012, marks the opening of a display in Castle House Museum, Dunoon, to mark the 70th anniversary of Operation Frankton, probably better known by the name of the Cockleshell Heroes.
The display is scheduled to remain on show until October 2012.
This raid involved the submarine HMS Tuna and 10 men from the Royal Marines and 5 canoes (Cockles). The targets were merchant ships lying in Bordeaux harbour – ships that were successfully breaking the Allied blockade particularly between Japan and Germany. Conventional methods such as bombing had been discounted. Operation Frankton was an unorthodox, imaginative and daring solution. At the end of the first night only 2 canoes and 4 men were still operational. Four nights later they inflicted damage to 5 ships lying in the harbour. Only two men survived and returned to the UK.
More details can be found here: Operation Frankton on the Combined Operation web site
Background to the display
It was only a couple of months’ ago that it came to our attention that this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the above raid. What was not known by us was the fact that the contingent of Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment made their final training and preparation round about the Holy Loch and left from there on board HM Submarine Tuna on 30th November, 1942. This fact was made known to us by Adrian Hunt and David Neill of World War 2 Presentations who requested that a display of the original model canoe, together with a replica of one of the canoes and related memorabilia be staged within Castle House Museum, Dunoon until October, 2012.
We will be holding an Official Opening on Saturday, 4th August, 2012 from 10.30 a.m. until 2p.m. when the young local Fiddle Group and some of the Dunoon Grammar School Pipe Band will entertain. There will be short speeches from Adrian and David as well as the local Councillors etc. Teas, Coffee and Home Baking will be available in the nearby High Kirk. A few of the descendants have expressed a wish to attend. Also, I have asked the local RBLS to come along. In addition, the local Cinema will be screening the film ‘Cockleshell Heroes’.
It appears that there is no commemoration of this raid within Scotland and Adrian & David’s aim is to get permission (presently being sought) to place a wooden seat with commemorative plaque near to the present War Memorial at Lazaretto Point overlooking the Holy Loch. It is hoped this would be dedicated during the usual Service at the War Memorial on Armistice Sunday.
Information provided courtesy of Margaret McVicar of the Dunoon & Cowal Heritage Trust.