The Arctic Convoys of WWII set sail from the United Kingdom, North America and Iceland between August 1941 and May 1945, transporting around a quarter of the vital commodities and supplies needed by the allies in Russia. There were seventy-eight of these convoys, and eighty-five merchant vessels and sixteen warships were lost over their duration, with more than three-thousand casualties.
This Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre project will be collecting oral histories of the surviving veterans in Wiltshire, who were recently brought together to be awarded Arctic Stars, to tell the story of these fascinating expeditions. This is in preparation for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the final convoy in 2019. These stories and associated records will be available for public use at the Centre in Chippenham.
The collection will be developed in association with volunteers from the Trowbridge White Ensign Association and photographic portraits will be taken of each of the veterans. This will be shared as an online exhibition developed in association with local schoolchildren. Further interpretation will come from the Youth Theatre Group at the Playhouse Theatre in Salisbury who will produce monologues and theatrical responses from these stories.
Young men like Richard Jaggar were conscripted and some ended up in the Navy. He was on board HMS Royalist and involved in wider operations including special trips to attack German battleships like Tirpitz. He talks of Convoy PQ 17 which was the first Anglo-American convoy and suffered heavy losses after being intercepted by German vessels; indeed, only eleven of the thirty-five vessels made it to Arkhangelsk, Russia. This illustrated the immense difficulties in traversing the Arctic conditions.
Related Internet links:
- Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Project
- Artic Convoys on Wikipedia
- BBC Two - PQ 17: An Arctic Convoy Disaster
- Imperial War Museum Arctic Convoys
- Royal Museums Greenwich Arctic Convoys
- National Maritime Museum's Arctic Convoys album on Flickr
- National Museums Scotland Arctic Convoys (includes audio recordings)