Initiated by Victory Day London, the idea for the British Arctic Convoy veterans to visit Crimea was born during celebrations of the 70th Anniversary of Victory in St. Petersburg in May 2015. The aim behind the idea was to take the British heroes to the naval fortress of Sevastopol, which was founded by the legendary Russian Admiral Fyodor Ushakov (1745-1817), whose medal was recently awarded to 3303 British veterans of Arctic Convoys.
The visit took place in early October 2015 supported by The Polar Convoy Club (St. Petersburg) and the Russian Military-Historical Society (Moscow), and became an unforgettable historic event that touched the hearts of many people in Russia and Great Britain. Three brave sailors: Ernest Davies (Chairman of The Russian Convoy Club in London), Seymour Taylor (London) and William Bannerman (Glasgow) were accompanies by June Davies (wife), Paul Clothier (friend), Marion Macintyre (daughter) and Eugene Kasevin (visit organiser, Head & founder of Victory Day London).
Moscow: 3 - 5 October 2015
The trip began with the visit to the capital of Russia - Moscow. British veterans were taken by surprise with special visit to the Grand Kremlin Palace which dazzled its guests with historic splendours of the Royal Russia.
British heroes also reunited with their Russian veteran friends on their visits to the History Museum and the Museum of Great Patriotic War. Big thanks to the Russian Military-Historical Society for their enormous support of the whole trip and the Moscow stay in particular.
On the morning of 5 October, before getting on the flight to Crimea, British and Russian veterans took part in a Press Conference organised by the Russia Today media agency.
The speakers included: Chairman of The Russian Convoy Club in London Ernest Davies; Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Anatoly Aksakov; Deputy Governor of Sevastopol Alexander Reshetnikov; Executive Director of the Russian Military-Historical Society Vladislav Kononov; Deputy-Director the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War Mikhail Mikhalchev; Head of Victory Day London Eugene Kasevin. The conference was moderated by a spokesman for the governor of Sevastopol Kirill Moskalenko.
Simferopol: 5 - 6 October 2015
The most comfortable flight on the morning of 5 October took the veterans to the capital of Crimea - Simferopol, where they were met by old-standing friends from St. Petersburg members of the Polar Convoy Club including its President Cdr. Yuri Alexandrov, Russian convoy veteran Taras Goncharenko, as well as the former Chief Commander of the Black Sea Fleet Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, Vice-Admiral Vasily Poroshin, Commanders Sergey Aprelev and Mikhail Kolbunov, the Commissioner for cooperation with youth organisations of Crimea Natalia Chadina, film crew the Vesti SPb: Irina Kholmova, Roman Koschienko and Igor Popov, photographer Svetlana Ragina, all of whom have joined the British delegation on their visit to Crimea.
British and Russian guests of Simferopol were greeted by the First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea Mikhail Sheremet and representatives of the Department for External Relations and Protocol Viktoria Poligenko and Vasili Kravchuk. Later they were joined by the Deputy of Presidential envoy in the Crimean Federal District Yuri Averin.
On the morning of October 6, the delegation met with the veterans of Simferopol in the Central House of Officers. There was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Eternal Flame in the Gagarin Park.
During their stay in Simferopol the visiting group had the opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine of Crimean Tatars in the Marakand Restaurant.
Sevastopol: 6 - 9 October 2015
The southern cradle of Russian Navy - Sevastopol - was at the centre of everyone's attention on this trip.
Sevastopol Day 1
Upon arrival in Sevastopol the guests were welcomed by the Head of International and Interregional Relations Yulia Korol-Golovan and the Head of Protocol Evgeniy Grechushkin. After settling in Sevastopol Best Western with magnificent views on the bay, the group was greeted by the Governor of Sevastopol Sergey Menyailo (Vice-Admiral, redt.), Presidential envoy in the Crimean Federal District Oleg Belaventsev (Vice-Admiral, retd.), members of local government and local veterans of the Second World War.
Wreaths and flowers were laid to the Eternal Flame at the Defenders of Sevastopol memorial.
Veterans and guests visited the Naval Military History Museum and the Military Chapel nearby, where the veterans were presented with the icons of Saint Admiral Ushakov.
The veterans visited the Crimean Naval History museum and the memorial to the WW2 defenders of the City - the 35th Coastal Battery - one of the most powerful coastal defence fortifications of the main base of the Black Sea Fleet, where they had the opportunity to take a ride on one of the Willys Jeeps that was brought to Russia with the Arctic Convoys.
The day was crowned by the visit to the Black Sea Higher Naval School and Sevastopol Presidential Cadet Academy where the veterans met with 100s of young cadets.
Sevastopol Day 2
The second day in Sevastopol started with the visit to the Panorama Museum that depicts the Allied assault on the Malakhov Battery on 6 June 1855 during the Siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War, in which 173,000 British and French troops were repulsed by 75,000 Russians. Ernie Davies's wife June commented afterwords: "I recently visited the Louvre in Paris, which was very impressive. But this Panorama is something out of this world!"
Next, the group enjoyed a boat trip along the costal lines of Sevastopol with the tots of old Pusser's Rum toasting to "Up Spirits!".
A visit to the memorial in memory of the British who fell in the Crimean War 1854-1856 was followed by the visit to the memorial in memory of Russian who fell during the Balaclava Battle in 1854 and the Stone of Crimean War Reconciliation monument.
British and Russian guests visited the remains of Chersonesus - an ancient Greek colony founded approximately 2,500 years ago. The day's activities were completed by the Governor of Sevastopol Reception Dinner in the Best Western Sevastopol Hotel.
Sevastopol Day 3
The underground construction of the first category of anti-nuclear protection (protection from a direct hit by a nuclear bomb capacity of 100 kt), which includes a combined submarines water channel with a dry dock, repair shops, warehouses for storage of torpedoes and other weapons.
The day's spirits were uplifted with the visit to Inkerman Winery. One of the largest classical winemaking enterprises of Crimea it holds 700 casks and 700 barrels for ageing wines from local vineyards.
The veterans also had the opportunity to visit local vineyards including the site where the Charge of the Light Brigade took place on the 25th of October 1854.
Yalta: 9 - 12 October 2015
Forth towards their last destination of the Crimean visit, British and Russian veterans settled in a magnificent Palmira Palace Hotel near Yalta on the afternoon of October the 9th.
Yalta Day 1
First day in Yalta began with the visit to the Hill of Glory overlooking the Yalta bay. British and Russian guests were met by the leader of Yalta administration Andrei Rostenko, local veterans and youths from local schools. The group laid wreaths to the Eternal Flame of the Hill of Glory WW2 memorial.
Accompanied by the deputy chairman of Yalta City Council Svetlana Bazilyuk, the veterans took a stroll along the Yalta promenade.
This was followed by the reception in the Chekhov Theatre where Andrei Rostenko was joined by the Chairman of the City Council, Valery Kosarev, Yalta's veterans and students of an English linguistics school to greet the veterans. Yalta greetings were crowned with music and songs.
Later that day the group split in two for their dinning arrangements. Seymour Taylor and Paul Clothier were entertained by their St. Petersburg friends: Convoy veteran Taras Goncharenko, Vice-Admiral Vasili Poroshin, Cdr. Sergei Aprelev, Cdr. Mikhail Kolbunov and Natalia Chadina.
Ernie and June Davies, Bill Bannerman and his daughter Marion Macintyre, wonderful administrative escorts from the Crimean administration Viktoria Poligenko and Vasili Kravchuk, and Eugene Kasevin were looked after by the trip's devoted supporters Georgiy Voronin and Pavel Ozhgikhin.
Whilst the first group managed to capture some of the images depicting their dinning, the second group was so much involved in enjoying themselves and their company that no photographs were taken. The Beetle's Yellow Submarine was sung several times during the meal with live Skype link to Bill's and Marion's family in Glasgow!
Yalta Day 2
The last full day in Yalta began with the visit to the early 19th century Vorontsov Palace representing several architectural styles popular to the era. It was where Winston Churchill stayed during the Yalta Conference in February 1945.
This was followed by the visit to the Livadia Palace where the 1945 conference took place. In the summer residence of the late Russian Royal Family, British and Russian guests enjoyed the splendours of its interiors and the surrounding beauties of natural landscapes.
It was there when the British veterans to the Livadia Palace the war-time naval ensign from HMS Domett (K473 British Captain-class frigate that took part in the Arctic Convoys) as a memento of the unforgettable visit to Crimea. The ensign was presented earlier to Eugene Kasevin by David Kennedy - a veteran member of The Russian Convoy Club in London.
The day continued in the Elena Restaurant where the guests of Crimea enjoyed war-time songs performed by Mila Burletova - young sister of Crimea-born Head of Victory Day London Eugene Kasevin. British veterans Ernie, Seymour and Bill contributed with their singing, which was joined by every member of the party on the cliffs overlooking the Black Sea at night.
Departure Day - 13 October
It was a sad day indeed for everyone... Crimean weather shed its tears with chilled drizzle of rain as British and Russian guests made their way to the airport. Russians to St. Petersburg. British to Moscow and then London on the next day's morning.
We thank our Partners!
Victory Day London extends its greatest Thanks to the individuals and organisations who directly supported this historic visit to Crimea:
GEORGIY VORONIN, PAVEL OZHGIKHIN, PAVEL GAGARIN, ALEXEY & ALENA NOVGORODOV, JAMIE HACKER HUGHES, THOMAS BLAKE, VICTOR SMIRNOV.
Russian Military-Historical Society, Government of Crimea, Government of Sevastopol, Gradient Alpha Consulting Group, Pusser's Rum, GlobalTourOperator, Consular Department of Russian Embassy in London, Consul General of Russian Federation in Edinburgh, Bilderlings Insurance Brokers. Thanks to everyone who made this visit a success!