British and Russian heroes from the Arctic convoys of World War Two will be converging on HMS Belfast this month to mark the 70th anniversary of their vital missions to Russia.
© Irina Kalashnikova
Naval veterans from both countries will be present on the historic Thames-moored battleship on May 9th to commemorate lost shipmates who gave their lives in the treacherous waters of the Arctic.
As well as marking the start of the Great Patriotic War in the USSR against the German invasion of Russia, 2011 also marks the 70th anniversary of the first Arctic Convoy, “Dervish”, which sailed with provisions to the Soviet Union in August 1941.
The convoy was the first of 78 to sail from Britain and North America, delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union through the northern ports including Murmansk.
Thousands of British sailors - many of them merchant seamen - lost their lives in the Arctic and Transatlantic convoys. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 escorting warships were lost in the Arctic missions, which continued until the end of the war in May 1945.
One of the Royal Navy ships to survive was HMS Belfast, which played a major role in Arctic convoy protection during 1943.
The commemorative event will take place in the presence of HRH The Duke of Kent and the Ambassador of Russian Federation Alexander Yakovenko, joined by British and Russian dignitaries.
A minute’s silence, ended by gunfire from HMS Belfast, will be followed by recitals of the Russian and British national anthems by the Royal Artillery Band.
- See the Imperial War Museum website for more on the role of HMS Belfast in the Arctic Convoys,