The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, is being commemorated in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the climax of the battle, May 1943, when Germany’s submarine fleet suffered heavy losses in the Atlantic. Over the course of the battle, thousands of merchant ships and tens of thousands of lives were lost. Three Royal Navy warships arrived in London before a special evensong service at St Paul’s. HMS Illustrious docked on the Thames at Greenwich on Wednesday, following the arrival of HMS Blyth and HMS Edinburgh, the latter going alongside museum ship HMS Belfast. Organisers have planned fly-pasts, memorial services and parades to honour those who lost their lives.
On 9 May at 19:00 BST, a flypast took place over Greenwich and ‘Lusty’ and followed the Thames to overfly IWM ship HMS Belfast. The Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Swordfish LS326 – which operated from Biggin Hill – led a Navy Lynx, two Sea Kings and a Merlin in atrocious conditions.
A surprise addition (to myself anyway) was a tail-end Charlie in the form of Plane Sailing’s Catalina from IWM Duxford – a highly appropriate addition.
Belfast is a veteran of the Arctic Convoys and was also a focal point on the day for events commemorating the relationship between the Allies and Russia. Titled Victory Day London, a gala performance by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra in The Hay’s Galleria commemorated the extraordinary contribution made by British and Russian sailors in the treacherous Convoys of 1941-1945.
This special, free to attend concert featured one of the world’s great orchestras – conducted by Benjamin Pope – playing popular classics, culminating with the epic Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanied by live ‘cannons’ from HMS Belfast.
The delegation of Russian veterans visiting London includes: Yuri Kopytov and Georgiy Evtyukov from Arkhangelsk; Dmitry Dubman, Valentin Soldatov, Alexander Lochagin, Vladimir Pozhornyakov, Boris Davydov and Nikolai Imchuk from Moscow. Eugene Kasevin, founder of Victory Day London, said: “We urge the continuity of the remembrance of the important historical role of the Arctic Convoys in the Second World War, so that the present and future generations know about the joint struggle of the Russian and the British people against the fascist invaders, and remember the courage and heroism of their ancestors.”