Leaving their lives behind the arctic convoys entered an icy world, attacked by their enemies, worn down by the freezing cold. Through arctic seas vital supplies had to get through to save millions of lives that would otherwise be lost.
The supplies helped the Red Army to push back against the Nazis, but this effort came at a cost. More than 3,000 seamen were killed during 78 convoys that delivered 4 million tonnes of cargo. Eighty-five merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy vessels were destroyed. It is thought 66,500 men sailed on the convoys, but only a few hundred are alive today.
These men made that journey. The kennington branch of the arctic convoy club. They are still friends 70 years on, returning to a place they last saw as young men proved to emotional and a particularly poignant occasion.
In Saint Petersburg, a chance - all this time later - to meet Russian counterparts. In a city given a lifeline by the convoys, a ceremony to remember their efforts.
"I never ever thought I'd be coming back to Russia or even be in a position to admire this great day" Royal Navy Veteran Ernie Davis said.
"I cannot see the people who I knew as my friends during the war Phillip and John, but now there are the other people who are also my friends," Captain of First Rank, Russian Navy, Anatoly Lifshits said.
"It's incredible, the bond, because they experienced what I and many of my former shipmates did," Royal Navy veteran Cornelius Snelling added.
1.5 million died during the two year siege here - in what was the city of Leningrad.
The food and military equipment provided by the British was their only hope.
This ship, the icebreaker, was used - to cut a path - for the arriving British fleets.
Itself a museum - and an opportunity to share memories.
Royal Navy veteran Frank Boyd said: "This ship was the one we followed in in 1941, into archangel we had to come through the ice and moored up alongside it - because on that ship we had boxed hurricane fighters."
"We got them off and after that the icebreaker took us out again, because the sea was once again frozen solid."