Arctic Convoy Veterans Meet At Cove

Arctic Convoy Veterans Meet At Cove

The veterans of the Arctic Convoys met once again on Saturday 4 September to honour those who set out from Loch Ewe to never return.

- 08/10/2010

On perhaps the best day weather wise since the memorial at Cove was dedicated in the presence of the Russian Ambassador twelve years ago, the veterans of the Arctic Convoys met once again on Saturday 4 September to honour those who set out from Loch Ewe to never return.

On the headland with the safe anchorage of Loch Ewe on one side and the open sea on the other the monument stands at the last sight of land between the Scotland and Russia.

The service led by the Reverend Tim Daplyn, whose father sailed on the convoys, contained moving tributes from the secretary to the Arctic Convoy Veterans, Jock Dempster (who managed to enlist in the Merchant Navy at age sixteen), Janet Bowen, Lord Lieutenant for Ross and Cromarty, Skye and Lochalsh and Rob Gibson, MSP.

Mrs Bowen referred to the Battle of Britain where ‘never…. was so much owed by so many to so few’ and pointed out that for Russia this was precisely true of the Arctic Convoy Veterans. Without resupply in the early 1940’s Russia would have almost certainly lost on the Eastern Front with catastrophic consequences for the Allies. She went on, ‘So, largely unsung here at home, we remember these few who gave so much for so many, who faced danger and hardship that we who follow can scarcely comprehend. We know that those who gave their lives in this great cause gave them with effect, and we stand in humble thanks, at this special place, the last view of their mother country by the many who did not return’.

There is a growing awareness of the work of the Russian Convoys and it is hoped that small museum may be constructed at Aultbea to house memorabilia and contributions from Russia, Norway, America and Great Britain. There are also plans next year to mark the commencement of the convoys in August 1941, hopefully in the presence of the Russian Consul General from Edinburgh, and then in again in 2012 to mark the terrible loss of life on convoy PQ 17 in July 1942, a convoy in which 24 out of 35 merchants ships were sunk.

These plans are however a race against time: Arctic Convoy Veterans who can come to Poolewe are fewer year by year, but their spirit is indomitable.
Indeed it had to be: the effort applied by the Germans to disrupt the convoys was significant. By the spring of 1942, 12 convoys had made the passage with the loss of only one out of 103 ships. From then on, the threat of attacks on the convoys increased, with the Germans preparing to stop the flow of supplies to Russia with every means at their disposal, including the basing of heavy ships in Norway. In 1941, the Kriegsmarine had already begun concentrating its strength in Norway in winter, both to prevent a repeated British attack, and to obstruct Allied supply lines to Russia. The battleship Tirpitz was moved to Trondheim in January, where she was joined by Admiral Scheer and in March by the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. Initial German dispositions had also directed battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen to concentrate in Arctic waters, but these all fell victim to Allied air attacks, and had to turn back for repairs. Moreover, the Germans had bases along the length of Norway, which meant, until escort carriers became available, Allied convoys had to be sailed through these areas without adequate defence against aircraft and submarine attack.

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