22 October 2021
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1328 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1320 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

23.03.2010

HMS Belfast's extraordinary war service is recognised by Russia

FOR two years, HMS Belfast was part of the Arctic convoys that kept Russia supplied and able to fight with the Allies during the Second World War.

Now Russia is repaying its debt by funding the restoration of the former Royal Navy cruiser (below) and honouring its surviving veteran sailors.

HMS Belfast A ceremony will tomorrow be held on board the ship, now an Imperial War Museum piece moored in the Thames, to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the war. Commemorative medals will be presented to 14 retired sailors and Russian firms are expected to confirm they will fund the ?500,000 replacement of HMS Belfast’s two badly-eroded masts.

HMS Belfast is known as the "last witness" to the extraordinary wartime feats that saw 40 convoys sail to the north Russian port of Murmansk, supplying munitions, tanks and aircraft. Of the 811 ships that took part, 68 were sunk.

Admiral Lord West (right), the former First Sea Lord who is a trustee of the Imperial War Museum, told the Standard: "She has played her part in history, Belfast. I’m really delighted the Russians now recognise what the Arctic convoys did for their nation, and the bravery of our sailors. Admiral Lord West

"It was very arduous but very important for keeping Russia in the war. That was the key reason we managed to defeat the Germans. The Russian Army ripped the guts out of the German Army."

One Belfast veteran, William Light, 85, who was born in Highbury, said he was honoured to receive a medal. "It’s something I shall appreciate until I’m dead," he told the Standard.

"I’m glad we did it, because without us and the main ships, the small ships wouldn’t have stood a chance. We saved the lives of people who really had no chance without our help."

Edward Cordery, 86, who was a torpedo operator on HMS Belfast, involved in the epic Battle of North Cape over Christmas 1943, when Belfast was part of an Allied convoy to destroy the massive Nazi battle cruiser Scharnhorst. He also served on Belfast when she led the sea attack during the Normandy landings in 1944.

He said: "We were told it was important we protected the [Arctic] convoys and made sure they were successful. It would help to stop the war. It was as simple as that."

Allan Beer, 84, who was an anti-aircraft gunner on HMS Belfast, said: "I know it was 66 years ago but it is nice to be recognised."

He added: "The thing that left an impression on me was hearing a ping and being ordered to shut watertight doors and waiting for an explosion, which fortunately didn’t come. There were a few submarines about, and occasionally we had to shut down our engines. It was a game of cat and mouse."

Sovcomflot, the world’s largest commercial shipping company, and Lukoil, the largest oil company in Russia, are both expected to announce "significant" contributions to Belfast’s restoration. Two Russian naval shipyards are ready to compete to build the replacement masts free of charge.

Yury Fedotov (below), the Russian ambassador in London, told the Standard: "It’s impossible to underestimate the role played by British sailors during the Second World War to provide vital supply routes across the Arctic ocean. The sailors are still remembered in Russia for their bravery and self-sacrifice.

Yury Fedotov "For Russian people and the Russian government, HMS Belfast is first of all a symbol of the unity with the British people during the war. It is great we still have such symbols but unfortunately time does not spare anyone or anything."

Tim Lewin, whose late father, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin, was a junior officer on HMS Belfast, said: "Belfast went to the rescue of the Russians for two years. Now the Russians have come to the rescue of Belfast."

Information source: http://lydall.standard.co.uk/2010/03/hms-belfasts-extraordinary-war-service-is-recognised-by-russia.html




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