Western Isles’ Arctic heroes

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NOWHERE was the war at sea followed more closely than in the Western Isles of Scotland. Each time it was announced over the wireless that a ship was lost, the islanders wondered if husbands, sons and brothers were safe.

The youngest Western Isles seaman to die in the Second World War was 15-year-old Peter Wilson, from Uist, who was lost when SS Goolistan (Newcastle upon Tyne) was torpedoed off Bear Island on Arctic Convoy QP 15.

Many islanders were decorated for bravery at sea including Bosun Kenneth Stewart, BEM, who was chosen as a sculptor’s model for a statue at the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet National Memorial. In their book, Convoy: Merchant Sailors At War 1939-1945, Philip Kaplan and Jack Currie state: “A memorial to their dead in the two world wars stands on Tower Hill in London, close by the north bank of the Thames. Fittingly, the model for the statue on that monument was a man from Lewis, the Outer Hebridean island which gave so many of its sons to serve in Britain’s navies and to die in Britain’s cause.”

Donald J MacLeod, Bridge of Don