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Wartime arctic convoy sailors remembered

A new memorial in Orkney pays tribute to the bravery of the men who served on hazardous wartime convoys carrying supplies to Russia.

Wartime arctic convoy sailors remembered

[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4A new memorial in Orkney pays tribute to the bravery of the men who served on hazardous wartime convoys carrying supplies to Russia.

Almost 3,000 of them lost their lives as they battled through Arctic waters.

Winston Churchill described the voyages as the worst journey in the world. For four years, the Arctic convoys braved enemy attacks and some of the coldest conditions on earth to bring vital supplies to their besieged Russian allies.

The wartime prime minister called the sailors involved the bravest souls afloat.

Dr Derrick Johnstone is one of two veterans from Orkney who made the journey.

He said: "The Somali, which was one of our own, was sunk. We went to try and get people out of the water, but the water was freezing.

“We lowered people over on a rope to grasp on to them - but they couldn't hold on to anybody. There was a big loss of life."

Fellow veteran, Francis Cusiter said: "Oh there was always danger - every day you went to sea there was potential danger.  But I was very lucky."

Now a new memorial stands on the island of Hoy in tribute to the men of the Arctic convoys.

Warships stationed in Scapa Flow escorted merchant supply vessels on the long and hazardous passage to Russia. Almost 3,000 seamen were killed and more than 100 ships were lost.

Lord-Lieutenant of Orkney, Dr Tony Trickett said: "Ships had to go all the way around the North Cape. Not only had they to suffer attacks by ships and submarines and aircraft, but of course there was the ice in the winter. These men were brave - they suffered hardship."
 
Dr Johnstone and Mr Cusiter were Guests of honour at the unveiling ceremony. Both were presented with medals by a delegation that travelled from Russia to mark the special occasion.

Herbert Moos from the Russian delegation said: "Russia had lost a tremendous amount of lives in this conflict. It needed all the help it could get.

“The Arctic convoys provided a very vital support for the struggle, the fight to victory, and we're very grateful to British seamen and the British navy for helping Russia win this war - to jointly fight for freedom." 

Representing the bow of a ship, the two standing stones will serve as a permanent reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of those who served in Arctic waters.
 

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