Loch Ewe to host Britain’s ultimate honour to veterans of the Arctic Convoys

Loch Ewe 8 may 2013

On 9th May, a long wrong will  be righted. In December 2012, following a high profile campaign lasting over 16 years, the Prime Minister announced the creation of a specific Arctic Star medal.

The legendary Arctic Convoys of WWII (described by Winston Churchill as the ‘worst journey in the world’) carried vital supplies to northern Russian ports from August 1941 until May 1945.

In September 1942 a convoy of merchant ships accompanied by Royal Naval protection vessels assembled for the first time at Loch Ewe in Wester Ross – pictured above.

This base was judged a ‘safer’ option as it was a deep water, north facing inlet tucked away in a remote location, far from the main naval base at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys.  Loch Ewe continued to be used for marshalling convoys of vital supplies for the Russian allies for most of the duration of the war.

Tomorrow – 9th May 2013 – will see a special twin ceremony at Loch Ewe, honouring the dead and the living who were a part of these terrifying, constantly dangerous and physically wretched mercy missions to relieve our ally, Russia.

First, at 11.00am, there will be a memorial service at the commemorative stone at Cove on the western entrance to the loch. This will remember and give thanks for the more than 3,000 seamen who perished in the Arctic waters on this unique service – and for those survivors who have since died.

It will be followed at 12.30 by a ceremony at Poolewe, where Pool House acted as Admiralty House during Loch Ewe’s days of wartime service. This ceremony will see the presentation of the lately awarded Arctic Star medal for service on these convoys.

36 of the 38 Veterans present here at Loch Ewe this week will receive their medal tomorrow, in this most appropriate of places. Three others have already received theirs at an event in No 10 Downing Street on 19th March.

The presentation of the medals tomorrow will be carried out jointly by:

  • The Lord Lieutenant  of Ross and Cromarty, Mrs Janet Bowen;
  • The Right Honourable Mark Francois, Minister of Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans;
  • Rear Admiral Chris Hockley.

Also in attendance will be Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans in the Scottish Government; and, representing the Russian Consul General in Scotland, Timothy Kunicky.

The local community in Wester Ross are raising funds to build a Russian Arctic Convoy Museum dedicated to all those that took part in the Arctic Convoys and  tocreate a lasting legacy.  Their target is £2.5m.

The Arctic Convoy veterans present tomorrow, with 36 of the 38 receiving their Arctic Star medals, are:

  • John Allen
  • Bill Bannerman
  • Vic Bashford
  • Bob Brighton
  • James Brown
  • Reay Clarke
  • David Craig
  • Leonard Dibb-Western
  • Roy Elwood
  • John Farrow
  • Bert Glazebrook
  • George Gray
  • Gordon Grayson
  • Harold Green
  • Murray Haddow
  • Ivan Hall
  • Philip Harrison
  • Glanville Hart
  • Ernest Hodkinson
  • Geoff Holmes
  • Jack Humble
  • Gordon Kilner
  • James Kirk
  • George Langton
  • Francis Lee
  • Ron Leslie
  • Donald Macfarlane
  • Jim Osler
  • Robin Owen
  • Kenneth Reith
  • Mervyn Salter
  • James Simpson
  • Jack Sleigh
  • John Turvill
  • Kenneth Watson
  • James Wilkie
  • Rex Willcox
  • George Young

There should have been 39 veterans present tomorrow – but, sadly, Jock Dempster, who led the campaign for the award of the medal, died a few days ago – but had been one of the three to have his medal presented to him by the Prime Minister in Downing Steet.

Here is a copy of the text of the Commemorative Brochure which will be issued tomorrow.

It carries a page for each of the Convoy veterans present – including Jock Dempster who would have been here – with a summary of their individual story and a photograph: RACM Veterans’ Reunion and Medal Ceremony 2013.

The photograph, top, of Loch Ewe, was taken on the evening preceding this event.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Not before time. These lads risked everything to ensure relief for the Russians.The conditions they operated in was horrendous apart from the risk of encountering U-Boats. They were the forgotten heroes of WW2 and it is time that they were recognised for the vital part they played. Unfortunately there a good number of lads who never lived to receive the honour due to them.

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    Bill May 9, 2013 12:38 pm Reply

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