Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition - Aultbea, Wester Ross
We, as a family, have spent a lot of time in this part of the world over the years, so we were well aware of the Russian Arctic Convoy story. Daisy actually completed her history project on this very topic last year, and I was surprised to learn that it was an event in history that her history teacher (in a Scottish school) wasn't familiar with. It seems that these incredible heroes and there stories are only really coming into the collective consciousness in the last few years.
About 1,400 merchant ships delivered essential supplies to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease programme, escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the US Navy. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships (two cruisers, six destroyers, eight other escort ships) were lost, resulting in a significant loss of life. Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarinelost a number of vessels including one battleship, three destroyers and at least 30 U-boats, and many aircrafts. The convoys demonstrated the Allies' commitment to helping the Soviet Union, prior to the opening of a second front, and tied up a substantial part of Germany's naval and air forces.
Make no mistake, the men who undertook these Convoys were among some of the bravest, had to endure some terrible conditions, and were largely overlooked at the end of the war.
Many of these boats sailed from Wester Ross, and it is nice to see what used to be a small exhibit in a school hall turned into the beautifully done Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre (this has been a result of much hard work, battling and fundraising on behalf of the local people). We were lucky enough to visit for the first time during the summer.
I'm not going to go into a lot of details with these pictures because I would love for you to visit this incredibly special place in person, or if logistically you can't, visit their website and read the amazing stories about the brave souls that were part of this incredible and treacherous journey.
The space itself is beautifully done. The exhibition is situated in what I have always known as the butchers in Aultbea, and the staff are really friendly and super knowledgeable...and the sheer volume of artefacts they have from the convoy are incredible and really interesting...even more incredible is the fact they they know and have recorded the human stories that go with these items.
These war posters were incredible and we spent a lot of time looking through them - this was one that particularly caught Daisy's attention...
We fell in love with this incredible wee dude...made on board a shop to pass the time using old socks and other bits and pieces. Just incredible...
The personal stories and medals from many of the sailors are just incredible and goose-bump inducing. There stories are written in such a way that it makes them feel incredibly real and like it's a member of your family, or someone you know. In my experience this is a very rare thing when it comes to museums like this one. I was really affected by what I was reading, and it honestly didn't just feel like history, It felt incredibly personal. I know Daisy felt the same way...
It is absolutely incredible to me that these soldiers are only just in recent years being acknowledged by our government for their unflinching bravery, and sadly too late for many...
This painting really caught my intention - what a special item for the family to donate to this project, and underneath is a picture of the "baby" visiting. Just so incredibly special...
The other thing we spent a lot of time with at this exhibit were books of poetry written by the sailors aboard these ships. These were so involving that I completely forgot to take a picture, but a really eye-opening insight into how these men were feeling and what they were enduring, and in many cases just the love they felt for the families they had left behind in what was a relatively small and close knit community!
Please, please, please take the time to have a look at their website, and if you can visit this special place. This project is not only a testament to the hard work and dedication of the sailors involved in this convoy, but to the many individuals that have fought to keep this incredible story alive.
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