LONDON, December 23. /TASS/. A group of Russian veterans of Arctic Convoys begin a trip around Britain on Tuesday. Their goal is to meet with their British fellow-fighters who took part in the missions to convoy strategic supplies from the U.S. and Britain to the USSR across the northern Atlantic during the critical phases of World War II, Yevgeny Kassevin, the organizer of the trip told TASS.
In different cities in England and Scotland, the veterans are expected to receive welcome from local officials and members of the British Royal Legion, the main veteran association in the United Kingdom.
The Russian veterans, all of them in their late eighties or early nineties, arrived at Heathrow on Monday night and headed for Edinburgh from there. Their visit will continue through to Sunday, December 23.
This trip reciprocates a visit by a group of British veterans of the Arctic Convoys to St Petersburg. They took part in the unveiling of a monument to the heroism of Convoys crews on August 31.
Admiral Alan West, the former First Sea Lord said in a welcoming address he wished a good trip to the Russian veterans. He said he was aware of truly royal receptions that their British fellow-fighters, the veterans of Arctic convoys had always received in Russia.
More than seventy years ago, the allied courage and heroism of the veterans made it possible for the Soviet Union to survive the ordeals and decided the plight of the Third Reich and today’s generations of people have a duty to take pride in their deeds, Lord West said.
The itinerary of the visit begins in Edinburgh where the Scotland Office will give a reception in honor of the guests and their meeting with British veterans will be held. After that, a flower-laying ceremony at the merchant navy memorial will take place.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell said on the eve of the trip it would be a great pleasure for the people of Scotland to meet and greet the British and Russian veterans of the Arctic Convoys in Edinburgh, whom they could thank gladly for the contribution to Britain’s freedom and security during World War II.
On December 24, the veterans will visit the Scottish town of Inverness. They are supposed to spend the next day in Newcastle, formerly a center of the British shipbuilding industry.
It was in Newcastle that the icebreaker Krasin was built in 1917. It participated in the Arctic Convoys as a Soviet ship some twenty-five years later.
The Russian veterans will spend December 26 in London where they will visit HMS Belfast, a historic cruiser that is currently a division of the Imperial War Museum. After that they will see disabled children at St Thomas hospital and will meet with fellow-veterans who are members of the Russian Convoy club.
On December 27, the group is expected to go to Portsmouth where it will be taken to Admiral Nelson’s flagship Victory.
From 1941 through to 1945, about 1,400 ships - mostly British but also Soviet, U.S. and Dutch ones - delivered about 4 million tons of cargoes to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk under the Lend Lease programme. The consignments included, among other things, more than 5,000 tanks and 7,000 warplanes.
The British merchant marine lost 85 ships under the strikes of the Kriegsmarine (Nazi navy) and Luftwaffe (the Air Force) in the course of the convoys. The Royal Navy lost two cruisers, six destroyers and eight ships of other types.