An exciting new event, the Loch Ewe World War II Festival has been launched in Poolewe, Wester Ross to show-case the intrepid Russian Arctic Convoys that braved the North Atlantic passage to Russia in extreme weather and war-time conditions.
Once described by Sir Winston Churchill as the “the worst journey in the world” they brought support to our ally in what was a vital strategic war effort.
A two-day extravaganza of military and naval re-enactments in Loch Ewe and Aultbea will be complemented with a movie night, Highland Swing band, D-Day Darlings singers to reminisce along with some serious vintage glamour and military style.
This being the 75th Anniversary of the first Convoys from Loch Ewe to Russia, military and cultural representatives, veterans and guests from Russia, Britain and the USA will be attending to mark this momentous era with a special memorial service at Rubha Nan Sasan, at the head of Loch Ewe.
This is the site of the emergency coastal battery that protected the gathering place for the convoys.
The Russian Arctic Convoy Project festival team has developed a multi-faceted plan for the event working with the local community, veteran organisations and naval and military representatives.
Elizabeth Miles, Hon. Secretary of RACP, said: “To gain an understanding of what happened here during WWII, we thought a full-scale re-enactment and themed entertainment would give it immediate colour and set it in context.
“We want to recognise and ensure that we keep this incredible international history and heritage alive for our future generations and it is a fitting time to do this in the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology 2017.
“We are honoured to have some of the few remaining veterans attending, whom, against the odds came through this dire time.
“Three thousand sailors who left from here tragically did not make it, but the stories of bravery, heroic endeavour and sheer guts are ones that will be told in our new Exhibition Centre at Aultbea and accessible to visitors on the NC500 route.”
Over the course of the weekend, visitors and WWII enthusiasts alike will have a chance to see war-time vehicles including a Soviet T34 tank, half-track personnel carrier; full-size replica Spitfire and Messerschmitt planes, plus re-enactors in full costume.
The Russian sail training ship “Yuny Baltiets” from St Petersburg will also visit with its crew plus around 40 Russian sea cadets.
Visitors will also have a chance to sail around the bay on the Sealife Glass Bottom Boat.
This will be a rare opportunity to see Loch Ewe from a sailor’s perspective.
Captain Rick Holmes will highlight the key points of interest relating to the Arctic Convoys.
A contingent of the Royal Marine Band and local pipe bands will be making the event extra special with performances over the weekend.
The Hon. Tim Lewin, Vice-President of the HMS Belfast Association, whose father served on the Arctic Convoys said: “Bringing together the few remaining veterans, cultural and military representatives from many countries is a testament to all who those who fought and took part.
“This landmark event will go a long way to reinforcing the sacrifice, the raw bravery and belief of the men involved in a current and engaging way for our young people.”
The festival will also see the official opening of the new Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre at Aultbea to make the area a dynamic and engaging destination highlighting the naval fleet locations, coastal batteries and billets that will undoubtedly draw people from across the UK and the world to view this outstanding maritime and military heritage.