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  1. ITV Report

Soviet veterans reunite on the Thames

By Luke Hanrahan: ITV London Reporter

In August 1941 the first Arctic Convoys left for Russia, supplying the Soviet Union with vital fuel, food and munitions during the second world war. Churchill called it 'the worst journey in the world'; 3,000 British sailors had died by May 1945. But two nations found friendship in adversity.

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Today - some of those Soviet Veterans involved in the protection of the convoys, along with members of the Kennington Branch of the Arctic Convoy club, are meeting on the Thames on the deck of the HMS Belfast. A ship which was immediately called into action and played a crucial role in protecting the arctic convoys.

It was a journey like no other. During the winter months, the convoys sailed through almost complete darkness in temperatures so low that skin was flayed from bare fingers if they touched any part of the exterior of the ship. As they approach Murmansk and Archangel in the North of Russia, Soviet submarines and war ships helped protect the British by fighting back the Nazi U-boats and fighter planes.

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In the UK we don't learn about the convoys at school, they aren't on the curriculum - but as I found out when I visited Moscow last December, and Saint Petersburg in September - the story of the sacrifices made by the British and Allied sailors has been taught in Russian schools since the war ended.

Two years ago British Veterans of the Arctic convoys were finally awarded their own medal at Downing Street after years of campaigning for proper recognition of their bravery. Since then, the Kennington Branch of the Arctic Convoy club has travelled to Russia twice and awarded the Ushakov medal for their bravery.

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On 26th December 1943 the HMS Belfast helped to fight off a massive Nazi attack, sinking a German battle cruiser. Today, exactly 71 years later, some the remaining few heroes - both British and Russian -are toasting to their success and remember fallen comrades.