Arctic Convoy veteran recalls ‘The worst journey in the world’ as he awaits medal from Government
PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 April 2013
A SECOND Welwyn Garden City survivor of the grim Arctic Convoy theatre in World War Two has spoken of “the worst journey in the world” – as he awaits a medal from the Government.
Arctic Convoys factfile
■ The missions were oceangoing convoys which sailed from the UK, Iceland, and North America to northern ports in the Soviet Union to supply arms to the Russians.
■ The Convoys traversed the freezing Norwegian Sea and Arctic Ocean.
■ Belligerents were Nazi Germany on one side and the UK, USA, Canada and the USSR on the other.
■ Spray would freeze and stick to boats which could make them capsize, so ice had to be cleared regularly on the voyages, which took around eight days from the UK.
■ The Convoys ran from August 1941 to May 1945.
Last week the Welwyn Hatfield Times revealed Ernest Payne’s story on the deadly mission to keep the Russian Red Army supplied.
Mr Payne was based on Z-class Destroyer HMS Zodiac and was charged with escorting smaller, more vulnerable boats along the perilous route, which Winston Churchill dubbed “the worst journey in the world”.
Reginald Young, of Home Ley, WGC, was on one such vessel after he joined up in 1942, aged 18, and despite receiving a medal from the Russians, is still waiting to be honoured by his own country.
Mr Young, now 90, told the WHT: “It was very cold, I was on a small trawler – I wasn’t on a Destroyer or a battleship.
“We had to clear the snow and ice off the headlights.
“You daren’t touch the sides of the ship or you would leave your hands there.
“It was terrible.
“We left in September 1942 and we didn’t come back until 1943.
“We were loaned to their government [the Soviets] for patrolling their coast.”
He added: “We lost 11 ships in half-an-hour, we were all scared, we got bombed once.
“We were towing a ship back to port and a lone Jerry come and saw what we were doing, but the old skipper knew what he was doing and said ‘hard to port, hard to starboard’ and it fell into the sea.”
Asked when the two WGC veterans would be getting their medals a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: “They should be getting them in the next couple of weeks, from now onwards.
“Obviously it’s going to take us a bit of time to process applications [and] I can’t be exact about the timetable or timescale.”
She added: “Veterans and widows are being given priority.”
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.