December 7 2013 Latest news:
BY MATT BUNN
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
FREEZING conditions and constant bombardments – the memories of the Arctic Convoys have never faded for war hero Peter Vice
- A total of 78 convoys took place between August 1941 and May 1945Around 1,400 merchant ships delivered vital supplies to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease programme, escorted by the - Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the US Navy
- About 3,000 merchant and navy sailors died during the missions
- Eighty-five merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy warships were lost
- Four million tons of goods arrived in the Soviet Union thanks to the Convoys
- The supplies included about 5,000 tanks and more than 7,000 aircraft
Transporting goods and supplies to the Soviet Union in freezing conditions and in the face of constant enemy bombardment, the Arctic Convoy missions were a vital part of the war effort.
The Second World War heroes were largely forgotten until recently when it was announced that medals would finally be minted and awarded to those who served on the gruelling missions.
But for Ipswich man, Peter Vice, the memories of his war serving on the convoys have never faded.
“It was pretty terrible with all the bombers but the worst thing was the weather of course,” said the 88-year-old, of Heathlands Park.
“We went through the minefields and we were bombed all the way – then we were waiting for the German battleships to attack the convoys.
“In the winter there was six months of darkness and that was the wickedest part.
“We would close the turrets and we would stay in there. We would have about four-five inches of ice over the turret – it was like being in an ice box.”
It is thought there are now just 200 people still alive today who served on the convoys, described by Churchill as the worst journey in the world.
Mr Vice, who served in the navy for 30 years reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer, lost his photos from the war after the floods of 1953 hit his parents’ home in Levington Road, Felixstowe.
But he still remembers his comrades and the sacrifices of the merchant seamen who were transporting goods.
The announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that medals would be awarded to convoy veterans was welcomed by the great-grandfather of two.
But he believes a special mention should also go to the merchant seamen on the convoys.
He added: “The merchant seamen were the ones that suffered worst in the convoys, there were always seven or eight blown up – they didn’t stand a chance.
“They are just beginning to be recognised, but of course there are not many left at all now.
“The merchant seamen really had the brunt of it.”
During his career in the navy, Mr Vice served on 16 ships in a number of places across the world, including Korea.