British Consul General Keith Allan attended the opening of an exhibition on the Arctic Convoys at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg on 28 April. In this blog, Keith talks about the remarkable story of the Arctic Convoys and their vital role in delivering essential supplies to the Soviet Union during World War II.
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I was honoured to attend the opening of a new exhibition about the Arctic Convoys at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg on 28 April. Between August 1941 and May 1945, around 1,400 merchant vessels escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and US Navy delivered essential supplies to the Soviet Union during World War II. 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy ships were lost during the convoys and over 3,000 British servicemen died. Winston Churchill described the convoys as the ‘worst journey in the world’.
This important exhibition, which was organised by the Polar Convoy Club of St Petersburg and supported by the British Consulate General, provides a wonderful opportunity to view many photographs and paintings of the convoys. I was honoured to have my own painting of the Russian ice-breaker Krasin included in the exhibition. The Krasin is a fine example of shared UK/Russian history. She was built in Newcastle in 1916-17 and was delivered to Russia during the turbulent days of the Russia Revolution. She went on to play a significant role in the Arctic Convoys, participating in PQ15.
31 August 2014 marked the 73rd anniversary of the arrival of the first convoy named Dervish at Arkhangelsk in northern Russia. Ten UK veterans visited St Petersburg to participate in the unveiling of a new commemorative monument to the Arctic Convoys. The monument itself, a striking bronze statue of Russian, British and American sailors standing together keeping watch, is a very fitting permanent reminder of our shared history and sacrifice. We look forward to welcoming and honouring British veterans who will visit St Petersburg for the Victory Day commemorative events in May.