Speech of the Russian Ambassador A.Yakovenko at the Ceremony of awarding Ushakov medal to Arctic convoy veterans
Plymouth, 17 November 2014

Artic Award Ceremony

Dear veterans of the Arctic convoys,
It is a huge privilege for me to thank you behalf of the Russian Government for the invaluable contribution you and your comrades-in-arms made to the defeat of the Nazi Germany. What you did 70 years ago, taking part in what Sir Winston Churchill rightly called the worst journey in the world, was extraordinary even among what is considered to be beyond the call of duty. Thousands of Allied seamen lost their lives as the British ships sailed in the unwelcoming, stormy waters of the Arctic ocean under a constant threat of being attacked by German U-boats and aircraft. Your heroism will always be remembered in Russia and Britain. Your deeds will continue to serve as the supreme expression of bravery and a high point in human spirit. I am confident that it was not by accident that our nations found themselves on the right side of history, which the followers of the ideology of hatred wanted to stop, while depriving nations of their inalienable right to decide there destiny. The allied effort required all the best in the national spirit of the British and the peoples of the Soviet Union, the very strength of character that we are rightfully proud of. The comradeship-in-arms, which was born at the truly critical juncture of history will forever remain an important part of European spiritual heritage and our bilateral relationship, including the ties between the two navies.
On the instructions of President Vladimir Putin I have the honour of presenting to you the Ushakov medals.


ushakov medal frontushakov medal backThe Medal of Ushakov was a Soviet military award created on March 3, 1944 by decision of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. It was named in honour of Russian admiral Fyodor Ushakov who never lost a battle and was proclaimed patron saint of the Russian Navy.
The Medal of Ushakov is a 36mm diameter circular silver medal with a raised rim. The obverse has at its center the relief bust of admiral Ushakov facing forward, surrounded by a slightly raised band bearing the inscription ADMIRAL USHAKOV (Russian: АДМИРАЛ УШАКОВ), the two words being separated at the top by a star and at the bottom by two laurel branches. The circular medal covers a naval anchor with the stock and flukes protruding at the bottom and the arms and shackle protruding at the top.
The Medal of Ushakov is suspended from a standard Russian pentagonal mount by a small silver metallic chain hanging from both upper corners of the mount going through the anchor shackle and bottom of the pentagonal mount. The mount is covered by an overlapping 24mm wide silk moiré blue ribbon with 2mm blue and white edge stripes.


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Gordon BrutyAN ARCTIC convoy veteran is counting the days to receiving his medal, 72 years after risking his life on "the worst journey in the world". Gordon Bruty was one of about 66,000 Royal Navy sailors and merchant seamen who manned the ships that supplied the Soviet Union in World War II. The Navy warships and the cargo vessels they escorted faced attacks from German planes, submarines and surface raiders, plus the hazards of stormy seas in freezing conditions.

The Government late last year promised the 200 veterans still alive would receive the specially minted Arctic Star to mark their bravery. Some were handed out last week. But Mr Bruty has been, told he will have to wait until the autumn for his - by which time he will be 93. "I applied for my medal in January and the latest I have been told is that I will get it in September," said Mr Bruty of Glenholt in the city "I shall be delighted when I get it. The Government has been talking about it for nearly 70 years."

About 3,000 men died and 85 merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy vessels were sunk on the 78 convoys from 1941-45, operating into the Russian cities of Archangel and Murmansk. They sailed at first from Icelandic waters, and later from Scotland. The appalling conditions and losses suffered led wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill to describe the trip as "the worst journey in the world". Mr Bruty served on HMS London. The heavy cruiser was an escort on the convoys from October 1941-November 1942. That period included the worst- hit convoy, code-named PQ17. Twenty-four merchant ships were sunk and only 11 reached their destination. After that, summer convoys were stopped for a time because of the greater risk of attack during the long Arctic daylight. Sailings were restricted to the dark and bitter winter and autumn.

"I was lucky because I spent most of my time down in the engineer room, away from the worst of the weather," said Mr Bruty. "The ship would get covered with ice. We had to be careful she did not get so top-heavy she would topple over." At the start of the 1939-45 conflict, the Soviet Union was Britain's enemy after joining German forces in the invasion of Poland. But the German surprise attack on the Soviets, Operation Barbarossa, in 1941, meant the communist state was now our ally. Britain and her allies sent supplies and arms to help in their fight against Germany "We were delighted when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Russians would have been a formidable enemy. "We never saw the people we were helping. As soon as the Royal Navy ships got about 20 miles from 'the Russian ports, we turned around."

The supplies played a vital role helping the Soviet Union fight back against the Germans, switching the course of the land war. The Russians never forgot the key role played by the convoy men. In 2005, Mr Bruty joined former comrades on a visit to Murmansk. "They showered us with flowers as we marched through the streets," he said. The greatest military operation in history saw four million soldiers gain sweeping victories at first. But eventually the Soviet Red Army stopped the advance. Germany's attack forced the mighty Soviet Union to switch to the Allies' cause. Both sides would suffer appalling casualties and the German invaders would be pushed back.

Source: Martin Freeman of The Herald May 14 2013

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