Sunday, 8 November 2015

Arctic Convoys

HMS Vanoc is shown escorting an Arctic Convoy bringing vital supplies to Russia during World War Two. The semaphoring sailor is on a merchant ship passing the Naval Control Base in the Thames Estuary. The Arctic Convoys sailed from various ports in the UK from 1941-1945 but the greater number sailed from Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, Scotland (selected because of its deep water and access to the North Atlantic). Merchant ships would arrive load up and set off with their naval escorts in this cold and hazardous journey.  The Russian Arctic Convoy Museum is hoping to set up a multi-site museum around the Loch telling the story of the convoys but they are still raising funds.
The intense cold meant that the ships had to be continually cleared of ice and the stamp shows the crew of HMS George V clearing the decks in Arctic waters. The other stamp is of a merchant convoy in the North Sea.  I have an especial interest in the Arctic Convoys because I knew a merchant mariner who told stories of his experiences on the convoys. The merchant marine, sometimes referred to the forgotten service, meant that a medal was not issued for the participants of this cold and dangerous journey until 2012 (the Arctic Star). They asked one veteran how he was given it and he said it picked it up off the doormat when it came through the post! Not only did they not receive a medal until this date the Russians wanted to thank them by giving them the Ushakov Medal but they were not allowed to do so despite other countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA giving their own nationals permission.  Rather late in the day (2013) the veterans could at last go and be awarded their well earned medals    
 The FDC shows a sketch by John Alfred 'Jack' Shirley (1922-2006) of the sinking of HMS Goodall at Kola Bay while he was on ConvoyJW66, the very last of the Arctic Convoys. Jack Shirley was a sub-lieutenant on the corvette HMS Alnwick Castle who recorded much of his naval life in watercolours.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Monochromatic - more shades of See It On A Postcard here 


FinnBadger said...

Beautiful stamps.

VioletSky said...

This was a bit of history I knew nothing about. These stamps definitely need some background to understand what they are about. The postmark is particularly simple and heartwarming. It seems almost criminal to wait so long to award the medals to these aging veterans.

Bob Scotney said...

It was a disgrace that the Arctic convoy sailors had to wait so long for their awards. Super stamps to commemorate very brave men.