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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

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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