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Celebrations a Must for Arctic Convoy Veterans

Published: February 8, 2005 (Issue # 1042)



  • British veterans of the World War II Arctic convoys at the Russian Winter Festival.
    Photo: FOR SPT / For The St. Petersburg Times

Hundreds of British war veterans who served on the perilous Arctic convoys from 1941-1945, which brought essential supplies and equipment to the North Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk, are looking forward to celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of the war with Russian veterans in those ports and in St. Petersburg.

The veterans were guests of honor at the Russian Winter Festival in London on Saturday. However, amid the joy at the Alexandrov Red Army Choir's performance and reminiscing about their time in Russia and Russian friends, there was a sense of bitterness among the veterans that the British government still refuses to issue an Artic Star medal for those who served on the Russian convoys.

"They seem to say by implication that it wasn't a very worthy theater of war," said veteran Ted Begley, 83, from North London. "I can only think that [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair or his advisors were never there to see it, because thousands of my friends died on that convoy, they suffered hardship, they were bombed and torpedoed."

Speaking at a reception for the veterans, London Mayor Ken Livingstone told the veterans that he had grown up with his father's tales about the convoys and that it was "shameful that the contribution made [by them] has never been recognized" by the British government.

Russia has already twice recognized the courage of the veterans who braved treacherous conditions and constant German attacks to keep the supply routes of the Arctic Sea open, by awarding medals on the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the end of the war.

The convoys began in August 1941 after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and at least 3,000 British men and women died on them.

The food, arms and military equipment and vehicles that the ships delivered to the Red Army were crucial in the battle against the Nazis.

Bill Linskey, 84, from Newcastle, was 22 when he worked in Archangelsk in 1941 unloading tanks, and still speaks excellent Russian. He will spend the May anniversary in Murmansk and said that such occasions are very important for both Russian and British veterans.

The veteran's agency of the British Defense Ministry states on its website that "service in the convoys to Russia during the Second World War was recognized by the award of the Atlantic Star" and that there are no plans to issue a new medal or change the qualifying regulations.

The Atlantic Star medal was issued for those who had served in the Atlantic for six months or more. Many men on the much shorter Arctic convoys were not eligible.

A convoy trip usually lasted two weeks, depending on the weather.

"Many men did one or two trips, came back and were then sent to the Far East, so they didn't qualify," said Gordon Long, Trustee of the Russian Convoy Club, UK, an Arctic veterans club.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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