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Merchant Marine Memorials
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THE ARCTIC CAMPAIGN 1941-45 AND PORTLAND MEMORIAL
Germany was attacking arctic Russia on its eastern front, and the United States of America & Great Britain offered essential goods to Russia via Norway’s North Cape. The Royal Navy’s home fleet, busy protecting Atlantic and Malta convoys and British mainland defenses, added “the Russia run” to its tasks.
The first Russian convoy sailed from Liverpool, England, to Murmansk July 12th 1941, prime minister Winston Churchill called it, “the world’s worst theater of war” last convoy sailed home from Murmansk 23rd May 1945, completing a four year operation. 24 hours of daylight in summer and always close to enemy forces, made British, American and allied losses of, ships, aircraft, war, materials and men, devastating. 24 hours of darkness in winter gave no protection from high seas where 40 foot waves, raging storms and enemy action made life on ice encrusted ships a living hell.
These arctic convoys delivered thousands of tons of food oil and guns, tanks, trucks, clothing, aircraft ships and ammunition, helping the Russians hold back the Germans. The allies of the same time were preparing to clear Europe of German occupation, (the second front). A high price was paid, scores of ships sunk with many thousands of tons of supplies. “HMS Edinburgh was sunk carrying five million pounds worth of gold bars”. Thousands of sailors were killed; others suffered horrible injuries, frostbite, and exposure.
In 2000, the arctic Campaign Memorial Trust (UK charity number 802671) arranged for the placement of a memorial to the over three thousand men and women who died in the fight for freedom providing supplies to Great Britain and Russia. A six foot square piece of black Russia marble, presented on behalf of the people of Russia and engraved on behalf of the people of Great Britain was gifted to the people of the United States by the arctic Campaign Trust and placed in the State of Maine, City of Portland. Portland was selected as it was the last American port of call for US and allied ships being made into convoys for the North Atlantic run. It was unveiled by His Honor Mayor Nicholas Mavodones, Mayor of the City of Portland, Maine, and Ronald J. Wren, Chairman of the arctic Campaign Trust, United Kingdom, on May 20, 2000. Surviving arctic veterans made donations for this memorial in remembrance of the sailors, airmen, soldiers and civilians, who died fighting in the arctic campaign, to keep the world free.
At that same time, a smaller memorial, replicating the memorial given to the United States and similar to the memorial at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, was present to the Anglican Cathedral of St. Paul in Portland, the Maritime Church of the Port of Portland by the trust.
In 2006, the Canadian Counsel General, Mr. Stan Keyes, and His Worship Mayor Charles Crosby of Yarmouth Nova Scotia, along with representatives of the communities and ports of Southwest Nova Scotia, presented a World War II Canadian National Flag to be placed at the site of the memorial in St. Paul’s Cathedral alongside the National Flag of the United States from World War II.