LONDON, December 28. /TASS/. A group of Russian veterans of the famous Arctic Convoys completed a trip around Britain on Sunday. In the course of it, they had meetings with their British fellow-veterans who had taken part in the escorting of caravans of ships across the waters of northern Atlantic to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk during World War II.
On Sunday, the veterans took a flight to St. Petersburg from Heathrow.
Their trip reciprocated 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.
The itinerary of the visit began on Tuesday, December 23, in Edinburgh where the Scotland Office gave a reception in honor of the guests and their meeting with British veterans was held. After that, a flower-laying ceremony at the merchant navy memorial took place.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell said on the eve of the veterans’ arrival 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 visited the Scottish town of Inverness. They spent 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 spent December 26 in London where they visited HMS Belfast, a historic cruiser that is currently a division of the Imperial War Museum. After that they went St Thomas hospital to see disabled children and met with fellow-veterans who are members of the Russian Convoy club.
The meeting with British veterans was marked by recollections of the wartime combat brotherhood and the hardships that befell them in the swathes of northern Atlantic.
On December 27, the group visited Portsmouth where it was taken to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship Victory. A special reception in honor of the veterans was organized in the ship’s saloon, with the participants raising toasts for Nelson and his Russian peer, Admiral Fyodor Ushakov.
Admiral Ushakov medals, which are the Russian governmental awards for combat valor and international naval cooperation, were awarded to 36 British veterans of Arctic Convoys later on the same day at a special ceremony in the Museum of the Royal Navy. All in all, some 3,300 foreign veterans of the Convoys have received to medals to date.
From 1941 through to 1945, about 1,400 ships — mostly British but also Soviet, US and Dutch ones — delivered about 4 million tons of cargoes to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk under the Lend Lease program. 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 escorting the deliveries. The Royal Navy lost two cruisers, six destroyers and eight ships of other types.