Secret Scotland

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Exhibition to give front-row seat on ‘worst journey in the world’ taken by Arctic convoys

Ship steaming at seaVeterans 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.

via Exhibition gives front-row seat on ‘worst journey in the world’ taken by Arctic convoy – Scotland – Scotsman.com.

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:

Ross-shire museum call for Arctic Convoy veterans

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January 8, 2013 - Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, Transport, World War II | , , , , , ,

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