Bringing help to Soviets through ice – UK honors Arctic Convoy

Russia and Britain struggled side-by-side during the war and share some tough memories. British ships ploughed through the icy waters of the northern seas, delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union.

­Although Victory Day is celebrated in Europe on May 8, the commemorative events for the Arctic Convoy are held in London on May 9. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the first Arctic Convoy, “Dervish”, which arrived at the Soviet port of Murmansk in 1941.

A special commemorative ceremony was held on board of one of the surviving Arctic convoy ships, HMS Belfast, which had been moored in the River Thames after the war and now is one of the tourist attractions of London.

Veterans from both countries visited the Belfast to pay homage to their deceased shipmates. A minute of silence, ended by gunfire from HMS Belfast, was followed by the Russian and British national anthems.

On the whole, there were 78 missions that cost Britain thousands of lives, as 85 merchant vessels and 16 escorting war ships were lost during the four years of the war.  

RT talked to one of the Arctic Convoy’s veterans, Sid Tiffin, who volunteered to serve on one of the ships when he was still underage.

We were covering the convoys, escorting them, with other ships, of course. And we were allowed to serve on a cruiser, so we took a major position,” recalls Tiffin.

When various merchant ships went on through into Murmansk and the various ports, we patrolled outside, more or less self-guarding the entrances.”

I remember one particular time when we encountered a storm that was sending waves 90 or 100 foot high over us. It was actually freezing, it was that cold. And we were told at the time that in that particular year, 1942, they reckoned that it was the coldest winter that they had had for years,” Tiffin told RT.