War veteran thrilled at invite to join huge Red Square parade

NOT many people can say they have received a personal invitation from the Russian government to be a guest of honour at the Red Square military parade in Moscow.

Even fewer could claim they have been invited to dine with the Russian prime minister and world leaders at the Kremlin.

Russian Arctic Convoy veteran Jock Dempster, 82, has been invited to both, and he can't contain his excitement. The great-grandfather of two, from Dunbar, is the only veteran from Scotland to be invited by the Russian government to next weekend's parade, which will be the biggest Red Square military parade in modern history.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The event – the biggest of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – marks the 65th anniversary of the USSR defeating Nazi Germany in the Second World War, and will feature 10,000 troops, 160 military vehicles and 127 aircraft.

A few weeks ago, Mr Dempster received a phone call from Valery Rodichkin, a staff member at the Russian Embassy in London, inviting him to the parade and lunch. He said: "I was over the moon, I still find it hard to believe. They have invited my wife as well. The parade is something like one of the wonders of the world, and then to realise that we're also going to an official luncheon at the Kremlin was even more marvellous."

Mr Dempster and three other Arctic Convoy veterans from the UK will have their flights and five-star accommodation paid by the Russian government during their three-day stay.

Mr Dempster, whose wife Margaret, 72, will accompany him on the trip, added: "The highlight for me is being invited back to the Kremlin.

Strategic nuclear bombers, MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets, and an array of military helicopters and gunships are expected to fly over Red Square on the day, while T-90 battle tanks, intercontinental ballistic missile launchers and numerous air defence and artillery pieces will join the parade on the ground.

Mr Dempster was a seaman in the Merchant Navy from 1944 to 1947, during which time he made two trips to Murmansk, braving sub-zero waters, and dodging U-boats and bombers, to help deliver four million tons of crucial supplies, weapons and munitions to the Russians.

At the 9 May event, foreign soldiers, including a detachment of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, will join their Russian counterparts on Moscow's most famous square for the first time. Foreign dignitaries and heads of state will also be present.

Mr Dempster added: "I can't get across how marvellous this is. It's bloody marvellous."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Consul General of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh, Sergey Krutikov, said Mr Dempster was selected as a guest of honour partly because he is the chairman and secretary of the Russian Arctic Convoy Club Scotland.

He added: "Jock has been well known for many years in our country. He frequently visits Russia and especially the northern region where he used to go with the Russian convoys."