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Veterans head to Arctic Convoys commemoration

Three friends will join a service marking lives lost in the convoys which transported supplies to the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

A trio of veterans in their nineties are heading to a commemoration for the Russian Arctic Convoys of the Second World War.

Bernard Roberts, 91, from Cardonald, James Docherty, 92, from Dalmarnock and Edwin Leadbetter, 92, from Newton Mearns are travelling to Loch Ewe, Wester Ross, for an annual ceremony.

It is the first time Mr Docherty has returned since manning the deadly convoys.

Fellow veteran Albert Lamond, 92, from Erskine, was due to join them at the commemoration but is unable to travel.

More than 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen died from the bitter cold and enemy attacks on the dangerous missions to transport vital supplies from Scotland to Soviet ports in the Arctic Circle.

A total of 78 convoys delivered more than four million tonnes of supplies, including 7,000 plans and 5,000 tanks, between 1941 and 1945.

Sharon Higgins, deputy head of welfare services at Poppyscotland, said: “The route taken by the convoys was exceptionally dangerous, especially in winter, and conditions were among the worst faced by any Allied sailors during World War Two.

“In addition to battling the elements, many of the convoys were attacked by German submarines, aircraft and warships.

“No-one can underestimate the role played by the thousands of brave sailors who embarked on these perilous but pivotal missions.”

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Ice on the superstructure of Arctic Convoy vessel HMS Belfast in November 1943 (Imperial War Museum/PA)

Mr Leadbetter, Mr Docherty and Mr Lamond have all been given the Arctic Star medal for their service on the convoys, while a medal application has been made for Mr Roberts for the time he spent on mine-laying ships in the Arctic Circle.

The three men meet every week at a centre for veterans in Glasgow and are now close friends.

They are attending the ceremony on Sunday at the coastal battery Rubha Nan Sasan through the Unforgotten Forces project, a collaboration of 15 organisations which supports older veterans and their families in Scotland.

The trip includes a three-night stay in Gairloch as part of Poppyscotland’s “Break Away” service.

Ms Higgins added: “We owe so much to veterans such as these and it is a privilege to be able to provide them with the opportunity to return to what will be for them such a poignant location.”

Hugh Henderson, chairman of Fares4Free, which is part of Unforgotten Forces, said: “It is wonderful to see this special trip going ahead.

“James, Albert and Barney meet every week for afternoon tea at a centre for veterans in Glasgow, and, since the first coming together, all seem to have taken on a new lease of life.”

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