ARCHANGELSK, August 31 /TASS/. Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter, who is visiting Archangelsk, a port in Russia’s north, for commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the Arctic Convoys, has handed over the Arctic Star medal to the local Northern Maritime Museum.
The Arctic Star is a British state award instituted on December 19, 2012 for British subjects who served on the Arctic Convoys in 1941-1945 as a symbol of combat brotherhood of participants in the allied convoys from various countries, including Britain and the United States.
On Wednesday, Princess Anne and Russian State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin saw the maritime museum’s exposition devoted to the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first Dervish allied convoy to Arkhangelsk.
"The equipment, arms and outfit which the (allied) vessels delivered to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk certainly helped us to fight the German army. They also helped our country’s defense industry in the first and most difficult stage of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The operation was of great moral importance. It was the real allied help to the Soviet people and the Soviet army in the struggle against German fascist occupiers," Naryshkin said in his speech at the exhibition.
Russian Northern Fleet’s Commander Vice-Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov handed over the equipment from the sunken U.S. cargo ship Thomas Donaldson to the Arkhangelsk Northern Maritime Museum. On March 20, 1945, a German U-968, which attacked the convoy JW-65, torpedoed the Thomas Donaldson ship, which sank at a depth of 60 meters off the Kildin Island in the Barents Sea. The Northern Fleet’s rescue forces raised the exhibits to the surface during tactical and operational exercises between 2014 and 2016. Experts of the fleet’s maritime engineering service restored the historical artifacts.
"The American and Russian people justifiably look back on that period in our history with great pride," U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft said at the opening ceremony of the VI International Forum "To the Glory of Fleet and Motherland" in Arkhangelsk devoted to the arrival of the first Dervish convoy with the military cargo intended for the USSR in that northern port.
"Seventy five years ago, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk witnessed something incredible - British ships unloading American weapons to be handed over to Soviet troops. It was an act of solidarity that proved decisive to the Allied victory in WWII," Tefft said.
"Despite the differences of ideology that separated their governments, when faced with the mortal threat of Nazism, our parents and grandparents were able to support one another in the struggle for victory. The American and Russian people justifiably look back on that period in our history with great pride," the U.S. ambassador stressed.
"It is a sacrifice we will never forget, it is a sacrifice that we must never forget," the U.S. diplomat added.
The commemorations devoted to the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first allied Dervish convoy to the Soviet port of Arkhangelsk (part of modern-day Russia) with the military cargo intended for the USSR, which was fighting against Nazi Germany, will be under way in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk from August 29 to September 1. Representatives of nine countries, the direct participants in the Arctic Convoys, have accepted the invitation to attend the celebrations. They include more than 30 Arctic Convoys veterans from the Arkhangelsk region, Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as 30 veterans from Great Britain.
The first Arctic Convoy codenamed Dervish arrived in Arkhangelsk on August 31, 1941. It comprised six British and one Dutch cargo ship with weapons and goods as well as nine British escort warships. They delivered about 25,000 tonnes of strategic cargoes, including 10,000 tonnes of Indian rubber; tin metal; 3,800 depth bombs and magnetic mines; 15 Hurricane fighter aircraft; an auxiliary ship with fuel; 1,500 tonnes of service boots; wool, inventory and equipment.
The Dervish convoy marked the beginning of a unique WWII operation, which involved thousands of Soviet and foreign sailors and pilots who delivered military cargoes to the river port on the Severnaya Dvina and to maritime ports in the White and Barents Seas. Before January 1942, Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk (then Molotovsk) had received seven convoys with a total number of 56 cargo ships. Later, the convoys were re-directed to Murmansk.
Out of the three routes (the Arctic, the Pacific and the Trans-Iranian), which the allied convoys used for delivering cargoes and weapons to the USSR, the northern one was the shortest. But it was also the most dangerous. Up to 15% of the allied cargoes were lost on that route because the enemy attacked and sunk the ships. More than 5,000 sailors from various countries who accompanied the Arctic Convoys perished while performing their military duty.