Two World War II heroes have been honoured for their bravery in the Arctic convoys that transported crucial supplies to Russia.
Bill Bridges (89) of Beech Road, Lenzie and Jack McNab (92) of Kirkintilloch received the Ushakov Medal at a special ceremony in Glasgow’s City Chambers on Friday.
Between September 1941 and 1944, in treacherous conditions, the UK Merchant Navy, escorted by the Royal Navy sailed the narrow corridor between the Arctic ice pack and German-occupied Norway into the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk with vital supplies.
Cargo included tanks and fighter planes as well as fuel, ammunition and food to help the war effort.
Aged only 20, Bill served on board the corvette HMS Allington Castle for 18 months.
Bill said: “I was approached over a year ago and asked if I was willing to accept the Ushakov Medal and I said I would. It’s the men who died though who are the true heroes.”
He remembers how his ship came to the rescue of the Royal Navy sloop destroyer HMS Lapwing when it was struck by a German U-boat torpedo just a day’s sail away from the port of Murmansk in the last months of the war.
Bill said: “I just saw the Lapwing break in half and everyone jumping into the water which was absolutely freezing”
Many of the men clung desperately to lifeboats and rafts, but because of the intense cold, coupled with sodden clothing, they slid back into the sea.
“The Castle was only a small ship. We had 110 on board and we started to pick up survivors. A lot of them managed to swim to the ship.
“Our neighbouring ship, HMS Savage, helped too, but sadly a lot of men died and sadly it was bodies rather than survivors they picked up. “
Almost 160 seamen from a total of 220 on board the Lapwing perished that day.
Jack served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Suffolk, the first ship in the Arctic convoy to sight the German battleship Bismarck.
The war hero, who has been decorated 10 times, told the Herald: “I had a great day on Friday. It has been a long time coming and many of my colleagues have died before they could receive this.”
Jaack says he still has clear memories of the perilous voyages.
Returning from one convoy, the Suffolk had one of her bows damaged in diabolical seas and freezing temperatures.
He said: “We took in water and had to go astern for about 150 miles otherwise the boat would have been smashed up by the waves.
The missions were dubbed “the worst journey in the world” by Winston Churchill.
Jack added: “He said it was the most violent place anyone could be.”