Navy pays tribute to Arctic Convoy heroes

SERVICE On board HMS St Albans at an Arctic Convoys remembrance service off Iceland
SERVICE On board HMS St Albans at an Arctic Convoys remembrance service off Iceland

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THE Royal Navy has held a service in Iceland to pay tribute to the men who served in the gruelling Second World War Arctic Convoys.

HMS St Albans sailed into a fjord used as a stopover point for ships on the dreaded supply runs to Russia.

The Portsmouth-based frigate dropped anchor for her 190 sailors to remember the 3,000 British men killed in what Prime Minister Winston Churchill called ‘the worst journey in the world’.

The service was held almost 70 years to the day since the ill-fated PQ16 convoy of 33 allied ships left Hvalfordur for Murmansk in Russia.

It comes as Arctic veterans fight to convince the government they deserve their own medal after they were overlooked at the end of the war.

Arctic Medal campaign leader Eddie Grenfell, 92, served in the Empire Lawrence – one of eight PQ16 ships sunk in a series of Nazi air and U-boat attacks.

He said: ‘I’m very pleased the Royal Navy has recognised what we went through.

‘We were about half-way to Russia when German planes attacked us on May 27.

‘We were hit with one bomb and the ship started to sink.

‘The captain gave the order to abandon ship and then we were hit with more bombs.

‘One of them hit the ammunition stores and the whole ship exploded.’

Cdr Grenfell recalled how the fireball threw him overboard into the icy sea.

He said: ‘I was lucky to survive. It was so cold, I could see the Arctic ice floes. I swam towards an upturned lifeboat and fortunately I was rescued about 10 minutes later.’

The remembrance service aboard HMS St Albans was held after a visit to Iceland’s capital Reykjavik to conduct maritime patrols with the Icelandic coastguard and open the ship to local people.

Commanding officer, Commander Tom Sharpe, said: ‘I was delighted to be able to bring HMS St Albans to Reykjavik, engage with so many different groups and take part in an act of remembrance in Hvalsfordur to mark the 70th anniversary of the Arctic convoys.

‘The ship’s company thoroughly enjoyed the visit. For the majority of them it was their first visit to Iceland.’