This Sunday, 2nd September, will be a day full of memories for WWII Veteran, Reay Clarke, who is local to Loch Ewe.
The loch in Wester Ross was the gathering place fo0r many of the Arctic Convoys that sailed to the relief of our ally, Russia, in the second World War – to the unimaginable depths of cold in the Barents Sea and the Kola Inlet, attended all the way by the constant dangers of attack from the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine and the U-boats.
It was 70 years ago to the day of the memorial service that Reay Clarke sailed out of Loch Ewe on a journey to Russia that would prove to be ‘one of the worst journeys in the world’.
On September 2nd 1942, ships of the convoy coded PQ18 assembled in Loch Ewe and sailed from there for Iceland and onwards to Russia.
The plans for this convoy included a strong ‘fighting escort’ of destroyers that were rigorously trained as a unit, and the first deployment of an escort carrier with a Russian convoy.
Reay, from Tain, was a young sailor aboard the destroyer HMS Farndale which was one of the Royal Navy escort protection vessels.
The convoy was made up of 39 ships carrying 4,400 vehicles, 835 tanks, 566 aircraft, over 11,000 tons of high explosive, over 157000 tons of general cargo and 9,541 tons of fuel oil.
The 70th anniversary of this important WWII event is being commemorated this Sunday, with a Memorial Service at the Russian Arctic Convoy Memorial stone at Cove, on Loch Ewe in Wester Ross.
The site of the stone is high above the mouth of the loch, which was the anchorage for the WWII Arctic Convoys.
Organised by the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Project group, the service starts at 3.00pm and is being attended by Reay and also several families of veterans who are travelling from as far afield as Edinburgh and the south coast of England.
Reay still has clear memories of that day in 1942. He remembers exactly the time the Convoy left. Says Reay: ‘It was 16.10 exactly and, because it was Double Summer Time, it meant that it was lighter for longer.’
In 1940, during the WWII, the clocks in Britain were not put back by an hour at the end of summertime and clocks continued to be advanced by one hour each summer until July 1945.
During these summers therefore, Britain was 2 hours ahead of GMT and operating on British Double Summer Time (BDST). The clocks were brought back in line with GMT at the end of summer in 1945.
Also attending the Memorial Service will be families of some of the Veterans of PQ18 – including Leona Thomas from Edinburgh, whose father Leonard served on the ‘Ulster Queen’. She and her husband are coming to Wester Ross for the weekend, to be able to take part in the Service.
Leona made a film of her father’s war diaries and poems which was shown during the recent ‘World War II Week’ in Aultbea.
Local piper Conal McDonagh from Poolewe will be playing the bagpipes at the service, and it is also hoped that a Royal Marine Bugler will be attending – one whose grandfather was also on PQ18 aboard the merchant ship the Atheltemplar.
The service is at 3.00pm this Sunday and all are welcome.
For further information:
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- telephone 01445 731093.
A necessary postscript to this event, celebrating the heroism of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy convoy veterans , is the question of when or if Britain will award the medal of recognition for which they have so long wished.
Prime Minister David Cameron, unequivocally promised to get the medal awarded – when he was in opposition.
On taking office, this promise to the few remaining veterans was booted into touch. The MoD have always opposed the award of a service medal for the Arctic Convoy veterans and the premier did what he has continued to do – backed off.