A poignant commemorative service was held in Orkney yesterday to pay tribute to the men and women who gallantly contributed to the Arctic Convoy missions – one of the biggest feats of World War II.
The service, held on the island of Hoy, was attended by officials from military and governmental backgrounds as tributes were paid to those lost in the convoys, which contributed massively to thwarting the Nazi regime.
The dangerous missions, which saw the delivery of arms, ammunition, food and other supplies to the Soviet Union, were carried out by British, American, Canadian, Norwegian and Soviet military personnel, as the allies rallied together.
In total, 71 convoys took place between 1941 and 1945, primarily utilising the Archangel and Murmansk ports in Russia.
Around 1,400 merchant vessels were utilised, as around 4.5million metric tons of cargo, including over 7000 aeroplanes, around 5000 tanks and countless cars, fuel, medicines and other raw materials, were delivered to assist war efforts.
In attendance yesterday was Andrey Pritsepov, the Russian Consul General in Scotland.
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Mr Pritsepov said: “It is a privilege to lay a wreath to the memory of the Arctic convoys. It is very important to us and it is our top priority to commemorate those who spared their lives for us.
“The memorial here in Orkney serves as a symbol of one of the proudest pages in our common history, and if you look at the history of our nations in the darkest hours of history, we are always on one side, fighting shoulder to shoulder against the enemy.”
Annually wreaths are laid to honour those involved at the memorial on Hoy as well as at Cove near Loch Ewe in Wester Ross.
A dedicated museum is also located in Aultbea on the shores of Loch Ewe, which served as an important logistic point for the convoys.
David Hughes, chairman of the Royal Navy Association’s Orkney branch, who also is the group’s standard-bearer, said: “I was very pleased with the attendance today.
“It is our duty to remember all the sailors who lost their lives – both from Orkney and those who are buried in Orkney – and we do our bit by holding ceremonies like this across the whole of the Orkney islands.
“The weather conditions were just perfect for the standards of both the Royal British Legion and Royal Navy Association to be present as we commemorate not just the Royal Navy sailors, but also the merchant navy sailors who lost their lives.”
In honour of the heroism of the perilous sea passages, a series of commemorative medals were awarded to surviving veterans of the convoys by the Soviet, and later, Russian governments, followed in 2013 by the awarding of the Arctic Star to British veterans by the British government.
The Russian Consul General also visited Inverness in 2014, where special commemorative medals were delivered to veterans of the Arctic Convoys by the Russian government.