Arctic Convoy veterans mark Russian Victory Day

Second World War veterans who protected the supply route to the Soviet Union have relived the cold, dark days they spent at sea during a ceremony to celebrate Russian Victory Day.

Tuesday, 10th May 2016, 7:37 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2016, 8:42 am
Baden Hall, 90, formerly of the Royal Navy with Russian Navy Captain Eduard Faizov (right), 89, during a commemorative service by British and Russian Second World War veterans to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and the first Arctic Convoy, onboard HMS Belfast in London. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Edward Cordery, 93, from Oxford, was on board HMS Belfast during the Arctic Convoys.

He joined around 20 veterans from Russia, Canada, Jamaica and Britain on Monday to commemorate the 75th anniversary year of the first Arctic Convoy in a ceremony on his former ship.

As a torpedo man, he suffered the force of freezing waves which gave him pins and needles on his face and described his time on board as “cold”.

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He said he put his “life on the line for this country” and remained deeply patriotic.

Baden Hall, 90, from Bedford, who was on Zodiac, a Royal Navy destroyer, described the Arctic Convoy as “very, very rough” but said the Russians never forget about the help they provided.

He added: “The rough weather in winter and the cold was terrible.”

He said the Russians “never, ever forgot the stuff we took to them to help them win the war”.

RCN Captain Rolfe Monteith, 92, from Canada, was a midshipman on board HMS Hardy during the Arctic Convoys.

His crewmates were killed after a torpedo struck the ship while he was safely on shore for an exam.

He said his greatest memory was arriving in Murmansk and seeing the “dreadful conditions the Russians were surviving in”.

“We had a bad war but to me the Russians had a horrendous war,” Captain Monteith said.

The ship’s Main Battery gun was fired five times to cheers from the former servicemen before they remembered those that were lost at sea.

A minute’s silence was held after a bugler played The Last Post.

HMS Belfast, the museum ship, is the last witness to the Arctic Convoy where she played a key role protecting Russia’s supply.

The Royal Navy light cruiser, which is now permanently moored on the River Thames in central London, was commissioned shortly before the outbreak of the conflict and escorted Arctic Convoys to the Soviet Union after Germany invaded the state in 1941.

The ships delivered tanks, aircraft and vital items to the Soviet Union, but several of the Convoys were attacked as they passed through a narrow passage between the Arctic ice pack and German bases in Norway.

Arctic Convoy ships had a higher loss rate than any other Allied convoy route, but HMS Belfast survived the crossings and went on to support the D-Day landings in 1944.

The only fatality on board HMS Belfast during the Convoys was a Russian reindeer who became so frightened during battle that the crew had to put her down.

Celebrations for Russian VE Day have also taken place at the annual military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.