The ever resourceful Des Cox, who left sixties’ rock stardom (and the partying) for a career in film production has experienced yet another of the strange coincidence of good fortune that seem to accompany his making of a documentary on the Arctic Convoys.
Because of her association with keeping the national spirit high during the second World War – not to mention her formidable presence of mind and her powers of observation, Cox wanted to have an interview with her as part of the film.
He wrote to her. Silence. He wrote again. Silence. He tried oblique routes. Nothing. Then he drove to her house and put a note through her door. Nothing. He stopped thinking about it, accepting that you can’t win ’em all.
A couple of months after turning his attention to other aspects of his production, the phone rang. A voice said: ‘Would you happen to be Des of Des-and-Dave?’ ‘I would’, said Cox. ‘I’m a fan’, said the voice.’ ‘I’m sorry to seem rude’, said Cox, ‘but would you tell me who I’m talking to?’ ‘I’m Dame Vera Lynn’s daughter’. Speechless Cox.
Des Cox wasn’t just short of words because of who it was, because of who her Mother was or because this was the breakthrough he needed. He was silenced because this was yet another of the benevolent coincidences that have happened to him all the way along on his mission to make this particular film for Snowbow..
If one wasn’t fey one would quickly become a believer in the supernatural or in the existence of an endlessly benign being. Some force for good seems to be keeping Cox company in his heartfelt and highly imaginative production. This is an account of and a tribute to the WWII Arctic Convoys and the surviving veterans who sailed in and escorted the dangerous deliveries that kept Russia in the war with the Allies.
Everyone in regular touch with For Argyll will have seen the account of the astonishing voyage to Murmansk that Cox led in July of this year – for surviving veterans, their families and carers. During this – and a preceding trip to Italy on another project that turned out, in the most mystical and inexplicable way, to impact on the Arctic Convoy film – Cox found that he almost only needed to wish that something were the case for it to take shape before his eyes.
We hope to have a feature on these events – beyond physical explanation – during the holiday period.
Anyway, Cox got his speech back pronto before Dame Vera’s daughter signed off, saying something infelicitous like ‘I want your Mother’. The end of it was that she whom we can only think of as ‘the voice’ said she’d sort it out.
Cox drove back to Dame Vera’s house but this time he got in and did the interview.
During it, she casually mentioned that she was particularly delighted to do it because her father had served on the Convoys himself. Cox cast his eyes upwards in silent thanks to the force that has taken this project under its wing.
The Arctic – or Russian – Convoys are, of course of great interest to Scotland and to Argyll. The convoys to Murmansk assembled and left from Loch Ewe in Sutherland.
The officers on the Royal Navy ships detailed to escort the convoys were trained in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull by Vice Admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson – aka The Terror of Tobermory, also the title of the biography of Stephenson by broadcaster Richard Baker who had served under him.
A footnote to this is that, with For Argyll documenting as much as it can on this unique contribution to a major part of world history, some of the veterans of the Convoys with whom we have had the good fortune to make contact, have turned out to have a fair bit of knowledge of Argyll.
Roy Elwood, from Newcastle on Tyne and now a well known photographer, whose story of his own tour of convoy escort duty on HMS Zambesi we published earlier this year, has sailed three times in Argyll waters. He and his wife Ros (and this story too will be told) had spent 13 years of their life, including the births of their two children, living and sailing on a Dutch botter, Windhaver, in the Essex rivers and coastal waters.
Here, he has chartered a small yacht out of Crinan, gone through the Dorus Mhor, done a circumnavigation of Mull and spent a lot of time in Tobermory. Roy’s daughter Carolyn and son Roderick quicky grew to love Scotland from these trips.
Roderick, has canoed through the Corryvreckan (at slack water) and Roy himself nearly had an unexpected meeting with the Lady’s Rock off the Isle of Lismore.
So we’ve had our own coincidences on this trail and we have been every bit as fortunate as Des Cox – but watch this space. There will be more.