Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Honour for veterans of Arctic convoys

Cargo shipThe opportunity to mention those who took place in the Russian Arctic convoys has arisen more than once, the last time being to note that their last gathering at their Scottish departure point may be their last occasion to do so, Arctic veterans may be making last march.

This time, it’s to note the presentation of a medal marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. Thirty convey veterans will receive the honour, described by Consul General of the Russian Federation, Sergey Krutokov, as a “sign of appreciation for their heroic deeds during the tough years of the war”, at a ceremony in Edinburgh. The Consul General said that the Russians had the same warm feeling for the veterans as the British.

Jock Dempster, chairman of the Russian Arctic Convoy Club, said, “This event marks a very special day for us. The long-standing bond of friendship which existed between the Russian people and the veterans during the war has become even stronger since. The medal is much appreciated for adding formal recognition of the critical role we played in shipping vital supplies to Murmansk and Archangel. The Russians have never forgotten the ultimate sacrifice made by the 2,800 seamen who never returned to our shores”. Between 1941 and 1945, the convoys transported some four million tons of essential supplies and munitions to Russia.

With Norway occupied, the ships had to travel the treacherous northern route to the Russian ports, enduring the freezing conditions and Arctic ice floes. Churchill described the convoys as ‘suicide missions’, and in the years they sailed, they lost a to of 104 Merchant ships, 20 Royal Navy ships, one submarine, and two armed whalers, while Germany lost 31 submarines.

24/04/2010 Posted by | World War II | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arctic veterans may be making last march

Sea Hurricanes

Sea Hurricanes

We mentioned the forthcoming tribute to be hosted at the Pool House Hotel in Poolewe, scheduled to take place on October 9, 2008, a few days ago, and this has been followed up by another story relating to the veterans.

This relates to the Armistice, and the day when those involved parade together at London’s Cenotaph. Jock Dempster, one of the Scottish veterans, has suggested that this could be the last year they march together, as old age and ill health catches up with the those who took part in the Arctic convoys. Mr Dempster is the youngest of those, at 80, while the average age 86. The number attending has fallen from almost 70 six years ago, and only 13 were in attendance last year.

He remembered the bravery of the Hurricane pilots who accompanied the convoys to provide air defence. The aircraft were launched by catapult, and there was no way for them to return to the ship once they had left on their mission. They had to ditch into the freezing sea and hope that they survived not only the ditching, but the intense cold, long enough to be found and picked up. At those temperatures, and without modern survival gear, they could lose their lives in the water in only a few minutes.

An estimated 3,000 men lost their lives on the Russian runs, which involved Britain, the United States, and Canada in shipping supplies to Russia, with destinations in ports such as Murmansk and Archangel.

02/10/2008 Posted by | World War II | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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