Coleraine veteran’s part in the ‘Arctic Convoy’

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A new book recounting the stories of volunteers who were part of the WW2 Arctic convoys has been launched in Belfast with one Coleraine veteran adding his own unique perspective.

The Arctic convoy missions were some of the most gruelling expeditions during the Second World War and involved thousands of allies shipping essential supplies to Russian soldiers fighting against Hitler’s troops at Murmansk and Archangelsk.

The book titled ‘Nearness of Ice - Arctic Convoys’ was collated over two years by writer Kate Newmann who spoke to veterans from Northern Ireland, some of whom attended the launch with their families.

In 2014, sixteen veterans from Northern Ireland were honoured for their role in the missions with the Ushakov Medal, presented by the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Alexander Yakovenko, who also attended the book launch.

Veteran John Steen, 89, from Coleraine served with the Merchant Navy from 1943 to 1947.

“It was an adventure for me as I was only 16, leaving Coleraine to go on the missions and I couldn’t even swim,” he recalled.

“Most of the other boys were around the same age, some returned, but others didn’t.

“The people concerned here deserve recognition for what they have done. It’s an honour to know that my story has now been told and there’s a print of that for future generations to read.

“It’s been an amazing day, a day I will not forget for the rest of my life.”

Speaking of her time collating the content for the book, Kate Newmann said: “I feel privileged to have met such fine, dignified, intelligent men. I was so impressed by their remarkable stories that I felt the world deserved to know more about them.

“During my time with the veterans and their families, I learned more than I ever knew I hadn’t known and they are truly amazing men.”

The publication was funded by the Pushkin Trust and The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The Duchess of Abercorn, Honorary Consul to the Russian Federation in Northern Ireland and founder of the Pushkin Trust said, “Today was a day for the veterans and they were absolutely fantastic. Their stories are now immortalised in a book and I am delighted that they will now live on forever.”