Wiltshire’s Arctic Convoy veterans are to have their unique stories of camaraderie and bravery recorded as part of a £10,000 oral history project.
There are now just 23 servicemen left in Wiltshire and Swindon who braved the treacherous Arctic route, described by Sir Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in history,” to deliver vital supplies to Russia in the Second World War.
From 1941 to 1945 their convoys of merchant and navy ships crossed the Arctic route on a perilous route, which cost more than 85 merchant vessels and 16 warships, and more than 3,000 casualties.
At a special ceremony at County Hall last autumn members of both the Arctic Convoy and bomber command were given the Arctic Convoy Star Medal from the Ministry of Defence to recognise their bravery and the important role they played in the war effort.
Now their memories are to be recorded for posterity after the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre was awarded a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Sharing Heritage Grant to help collect their stories before they are lost to the passing of time.
The centre, which is jointly funded by Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council, will enlist the help of a professional oral historian and volunteers from the Trowbridge branch of the naval charity the White Ensign Association to conduct the interviews.
The interviews will form part of an online exhibition and also be used to create a drama by a youth theatre group at the Playhouse Theatre in Salisbury.
Photographic portraits will be taken to create a visual record for the community’s memory and the recorded interviews and other records will then be made available to researchers by the Wiltshire and Swindon Archive Service, based at the history centre.
Stuart Wheeler, cabinet member with responsibility for heritage at Wiltshire Council said: “These brave veterans provided a vital service to the war effort and I’m delighted we’ve been given this funding to capture their personal recollections for generations to come.”
Garry Perkins, cabinet member for economy, regeneration and culture at Swindon Borough Council said: “We rightly hear much about the bravery and sacrifice of all those who served in World War Two, but those on the Arctic convoys have not had as much recognition over the years as they deserve.
“Their job was extremely dangerous and unpleasant, but absolutely vital. I’m glad this project is going to record their experiences, because their contribution must not be forgotten.”