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Thread: Russian Convoys

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    Default Russian Convoys

    My thanks to Mike van Diggellen for this remembrance.

    ARCTIC CONVOY 1942 –The Russian Run, Bill Brown.

    These are the memories of a Royal Navy Sailor who served in Russian Convoys. (“The Russian Run”). It is sad that this tribute of courage was found in a flea market in the North Lanes of Brighton. It says a great deal about Britain 2010 that this personal history of a brave Second World War Sailor could end up in a junk shop. Written on the back of the painting were these words:


    Signed by Bill Brown, Royal Navy.


    A Winters TaleArctic, sub-zero, freezing…. adjectives and description so far from adequate that only those who took part in the Russian convoys really know the hideous truth.


    In fact the temperature, as the ships reached the Russian coast dropped to 52 degrees of frost. The crews, of course received issues of artic clothing and every endeavour, particularly the galley, was made to keep officers and men from suffering from numbing cold.


    The metal on the upper deck and guns burned at the touch!


    The most desperate measures,sometimes unbelievably primitive, were necessary to stop ice from taking over the ship. In winter in these Russian artic waters, the sun disappears entirely for three whole months and the convoys sailed in a ghastly netherworld when dawn lasted for about an hour then dissolved into twilight before night resumed.




    Royal Navy ship on convoy duty1942


    To Murmansk and Archangel from Iceland we steam,
    No, creature comforts, that showers a dream,
    Escorting Merchantmen without a rest,
    U-boats and Luftwaffe put all to the test.


    Transport ships loaded with tanks, planes and fuel,
    Stockpile the Russian Second Front duel,
    Another tanker explodes, a torpedo has struck,
    Escorts give chase, without any luck.


    Action air attacks, by Heinkels and Junkers,
    Stokers sweating in dank coal bunkers,
    Men shut in shell rooms, supplying shell,
    Far down below decks in their own living hell.


    Sea spray is freezing, lookout on watch,
    He sees no clear horizon, only a blotch,
    Nerves are shattered, so cold and so damp,
    Is that the Tirpitz there? No only a tramp.


    Eardrums are perforated, gun blast boom,
    Tear ducts operated, observing doom,
    Watches are changed; I can go down below,
    To hammock that’s wet with driven snow.


    Cold meat of bully beef, all there is to eat,
    Is Adolph Hitler still eating meat?
    Now low on fuel, leave convoy we must,
    Return to coal ship, breathe in the dust.


    Will leave be granted? I’m long overdue,
    Thoughts go to clean sheets,dumplings and stew,
    At the coaling jetty, black hands and face,
    No shower, no nothing, except one more race.


    Fast back to Archangel, conveys to return,
    Avoid bombs and torpedoes, transport they bum,
    Chip encrusted ice off the top deck,
    If this bastard should sink, who gives a heck.


    If I go overboard, I know I’ll not drown,
    Dead of cold, long before I’m sucked down.
    Alarm, action stations, close up to my post,
    Who watches over me? Perhaps Nelson’s ghost.


    I need a brave spectre to drive away fear,
    Never seeing, any more, all that I hold dear,
    Fog banks decent, shutting out view,
    Convey is scrambled, courses untrue.


    There are no positives in this bleeding war,
    Before I was a sailor; I never even swore,
    But if swearing gets me off this bloody Artic shelf,
    I swear to God, My God, I’ll swear to him myself.






    Arctic Star Awarded by Russia to:
    Royal Navy and Merchant NavyVeterans
    Brian Probetts (site admin)
    R760142

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