Arctic convoy heroes honoured by Russia
MEN who took part in the Arctic convoys and endured some of the most difficult conditions of the Second World War have gathered in Edinburgh to be awarded medals by the Russian government.
Thirty former merchant seamen and naval officers, with an average age of 87, were given medals commemorating the 65th anniversary of the end of the war.
Russian consul Sergey Krutikov said his people had never forgotten the sacrifice and the bravery of the men who faced Arctic weather and German U-boats to carry essential supplies to the Russian people.
Yesterday, he said: "We have profound appreciation for what the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy did during the Second World War."
Jock Dempster, chairman of the Russian Arctic Convoy Clubs in Scotland, and at 82 one of the youngest veterans, said the ceremony was an emotional one for many reasons.
"Russia has given us commemorative medals to mark the 40th, the 50th and the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. We should be gathering in another five years, but they decided to bring it forward because some of us might not be around then."
Mr Dempster, from Dunbar, who was 16 when he went to sea, said: "I was too young to realise how dangerous it was. I saw things and experienced things not normal for a 16-year old. Ships going down, people clinging to the wreckage.
"And when we got to Murmansk, we were 15 miles away from the front line. We used to get hammered by German bombs every day.
"If you go to Russia and wear your medals, they will throw their arms around you and thank you – and this is 65 years later.
"We respect them for what they went through. They respect us – and they have never ever forgotten what we did."
Many of those present yesterday had travelled back to Russia in peacetime to take part in ceremonies commemorating the war.
Former merchant seaman David Craig, 85, from Kilmarnock, said: "Three of my mates are buried in the cemetery at Murmansk and that is one of the reasons I go back."
Retired Lieutenant Commander Ken Reith, 83, from Dunfermline, said: "The Russian people are so hospitable. When they invite you, they have the children singing in English – old wartime songs."
The Russian arctic convoys are commemorated at a national Scottish memorial at Loch Ewe, which marks the loss of the 104 merchant ships, 20 Royal Navy ships, one submarine and two armed whalers during the operation.
MSP Rob Gibson represented the Scottish Government and parliament at the ceremony, and said: "The presentation of medals by the Russian Federation to veterans of the Arctic convoys in World War Two was a poignant event.
"It recalls the few who survive today of the brave men of the navy and merchant service who sailed into the teeth of war in all its fury on the most dangerous convoys of the war."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east