A poignant Memorial Service for Arctic Convoy PQ18 was attended by over one hundred people today, Sunday 2nd September. It was held at the Russian Arctic Convoy Memorial site on the shores of Loch Ewe, Wester Ross.
It was especially moving for the two veterans who attended the event – Reay Clarke from Tain and Geoff Holmes, who travelled up from Lincoln.
They have first hand memories of the voyages that were called ‘the worst journey in the world’ by Prime Minister, Churchill.
Reay was on HMS Farndale that left Loch Ewe 70 years ago in Convoy PQ18. He remembers it as if it were yesterday.
‘I remember the comradeship – we were like a family. That helped us through the horrors of the journey. We left Loch Ewe at 16.10 exactly 70 years ago today, and were protecting the merchant ships carrying the supplies.’
Veteran Geoff Holmes travelled up to Loch Ewe from his home in Lincoln with his friend George Webb – and was so pleased to be able to take part in the service.
He served aboard the merchant ships Samaritan and Fort Yukon which were carrying supplies to Russia. He too, found the event very moving. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the families of veterans by Leona Thomas from Edinburgh and David Farrance of West Yorkshire, both of whom travelled up specifically for the service.
Families of veterans came from all across the country to show their respects for the sacrifices made by their relatives.
The Lord Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty, Janet Bowen, laid a wreath on behalf of the Queen.
Local youngsters from the Air Training Corps and Sea Scouts also attended the service, together with the local community and many who travelled from afar to be part of the PQ18 Memorial event.
The event was organised by the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Project which is fundraising to build a Museum on the shores of Loch Ewe, to create a lasting legacy to all those that took part in this important part of WWII.
Arctic Convoy PQ18 included a strong ‘fighting escort’ of destroyers that were rigorously trained as a unit and the first ever deployment of an escort carrier with a Russian convoy.
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. Between 1941 and 1945 over 3,000 men lost their lives on the Russian Arctic Convoys.