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Arctic convoy veterans return to Loch Ewe once more – but short of one member

It’s become something of a tradition to mention the annual journey of the surviving veterans of the Arctic Convoys of World War II, who meet at Loch Ewe, the gathering point for many of the convoys just before they departed for the freezing waters on their way to deliver their cargoes to Murmansk. Between 1941 and 1945,  crews kept supplies, weapons, and ammunition flowing and through German blockades to their Russian allies in Operation Dervish, the first of the convoys in 1941.

Five years ago, it looked as if the gathering was set to end, as numbers had fallen from 70 in 2002, to 13 in 2008, and the journey to Loch Ewe was becoming a strain for some of the survivors.

This year, the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum, Aultbea, has organised the reunion as part of its Arctic Convoys Week, which run until Saturday, May 11, 2013.

View Programme in PDF HERE

Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Aultbea

It seems that more than 40 veterans, all of whom are about 90 years old, are set to gather at Loch Ewe, some of whom have not been back to the  Wester Ross sea loch since the end of the war.

Via Arctic Convoy veterans to gather at Loch Ewe – Top stories – Scotsman.com

Arctic Convoys campaign veteran Jock Dempster dies

There will be one significant absence from the gathering this years, as Jack Dempster passed away last Sunday,  just days before he had been due wear his Arctic Star medal at a public ceremony for the first time. He had also planned to wear the medal during the traditional remembrance commemorations in November, at the Cenotaph.

Mr Dempster, from Dunbar in East Lothian, had fought for decades to win official recognition for those who had taken part in the Arctic Convoys, who were considered to have been forgotten.

They had been given awards from the Russians, but the rules on such things meant they were not able to wear them at official events.

His campaign ended in success when Prime Minister David Cameron presented the newly created Arctic Star to a group of 40 veterans in March of 2013.

Via Arctic Convoys veteran who campaigned for recognition dies aged 85 | News | Edinburgh | STV

Also Arctic Convoys campaign veteran Jock Dempster dies

The funeral, in Dunbar, of Mr Dempster was also reported:

Arctic convoy veteran Jock Dempster who campaigned for medals laid to rest | News | Edinburgh | STV

A memorial lies at the north west corner of Loch Ewe, near Cove, overlooking the entrance into this sea loch, where many of the convoys gathered and departed from.

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May 7, 2013 - Posted by | Maritime, Naval, Transport, World War II | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I served with Jock Dempster at R.A.F. Gatow, Berlin, during the Cold War, after he had joined the first joint services Russian course, I think in 1948.
    It was immediately obvious that Jock was a very unusual and a special kind of man. Although he was a Flight Sergeant when I first met him, but promoted Warrant Officer during my term serving under him, Jock was unfailingly courteous and considerate to those of us who were junior to him.
    On his promotion, Jock presented me with his brass R.A.F. cap badge, as Warrant Officers wear the woven badge as worn by commissioned officers. He told me that I was “no a bad lad” and instructed me to “look after this laddie – there’s a lot of work gone into it. And, by the way, its your round!” I could not have had a more morale-boosting accolade than that from Jock, and I retain his badge to this day.
    I would dearly have loved to pay my last and limitless respects to Jock at his funeral, but as I am based near Penzance in Cornwall, and no doubt the funeral will take place in Dunbar or close by, I regret that I am unable to do this.
    My sincere condolences go to his lovely wife Maggie, who brightened each of our reunions like a ray of sunshine, and to all of Jock’s family and many friends, who, like me, have lost a totally unique and irreplaceable colleague and friend. His remarkable life will remain to all of us as a summit which none of us can hope to attain. I am just thankful that, despite the negligence and inefficiency of successive governments, Jock was able to receive his Arctic Star medal, for which he had fought for so long on behalf of all his white-beret shipmates, before it was too late.
    I mourn the passing of a loved and respected colleague, and a totally unmatchable friend. Jock, as far as you are concerned, it will always be ‘my round’. It was a pleasure and a privilege to know you.
    With sincere regrets and undying admiration, I shall always remain your loyal and respectful friend,
    Barry J. Webb.

    Like

    Comment by Barry J. Webb | May 14, 2013

  2. Thank you.

    STV reported on the funeral, which did indeed take place in Dunbar:

    The funeral of the Arctic convoy veteran who campaigned to get medals for his colleagues has taken place.

    Henry ‘Jock’ Dempster, 85, from Dunbar in East Lothian, died earlier this month after suffering a stroke. He received his medal from Prime Minister David Cameron just two months ago, after a decades-long campaign.

    On Tuesday, family and friends, including Mr Dempster’s former colleagues, paid tribute to the campaigner.

    More than 200 people attended Dunbar Parish Church to pay their respects to the sailor, who was laid to rest in a coffin draped in the merchant navy flag.

    Many were wearing the white berets of Arctic convoy veterans, who braved freezing temperatures and U-boat attacks to deliver vital supplies in World War II.

    Arctic convoy veteran Jock Dempster who campaigned for medals laid to rest | News | Edinburgh | STV

    Like

    Comment by Apollo | May 14, 2013


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