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Russian Federation provides major support for HMS Belfast restoration

On the same day (Wednesday 24 March, 2010) Russian jubilee medals are awarded to former sailors on HMS Belfast, a number of Russian businesses, including OPK (Joint Industrial Corporation), Severstal and Sovcomflot UK, have confirmed they will support a restoration project for HMS Belfast, the 11,500-ton cruiser which is moored on the Thames in London. Lloyd’s Register are also helping support the project with their technical expertise.

Arctic Convoy Medals commemorating the 65th anniversary of VE Day, the end of the Second World War, will be awarded to 13 former sailors by Kremlin official Mr Vladimir Borisovitch Osipov, Chief of the Presidents Directorate of State Decorations and the Russian Ambassador, in a ceremony on board HMS Belfast. The vessel is the sole survivor of the Arctic convoys that kept Russia supplied and able to fight the Germans during the Second World War.

Brad King, the ship’s Director said: “HMS Belfast may have been a British Royal Navy ship, but she is also part of Russia’s history and this new co-operation between us and our Russian friends echoes the co-operation experienced all those years ago – she is a veteran of the Arctic Convoys of the Second World War, and today the only remaining survivor of this time. Our new masts will stand as a reminder of that partnership to the 250,000 visitors who come every year to the heart of the City of London. Now with more and more visitors coming to London from Russia, HMS Belfast should be on their ‘must see’ list.”

Described by Winston Churchill as ‘the worst journey in the world’ the Arctic Convoys of the Second World War saw HMS Belfast and ships of both the Merchant and Royal Navies make perilous journeys in sub zero temperatures to ensure vital supplies reached Russian shores. Four million tons of supplies, including over 5,000 tanks and 7,000 aircraft for use by Soviet forces fighting against the German Army on the Eastern Front were carried to North Russia, with temperatures as low as minus 30°C.

On 26 December 1943 a battle raged at sea in the darkness of an Arctic winter. By the end of the day nearly 2,000 sailors had died and one of Nazi Germany’s finest and most dangerous battle-cruisers - the 32,000 ton Scharnhorst - had been sunk in what became known as the Battle of North Cape. On that day in 1943 HMS Belfast was part of a group of Royal Navy ships that pursued the Scharnhorst which, had it survived, would have threatened the convoys and ultimately changed the course of the Great Patriotic War. HMS Belfast tracked her with her radar and along with the rest of the fleet cornered Scharnhorst and witnessed her last moments picking up 37 survivors.

Ends

Notes to Editors

For further information and images contact:

Nicola Osmond-Evans, 020 7416 5316, nosmond-evans@iwm.org.uk
www.iwm.org.uk

Nearest Tube:
HMS Belfast is moored on the Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.
Tube: London Bridge or Tower Hill

Opening Times:
1 March – 31 October, 10.00am - 6.00pm – (last admission 5.15pm)
1 November – 28 February, 10.00am – 5.00pm (last admission 4.15pm

Admission prices:
Adults £12.95
Children (under 16) free – must be accompanied by an adult
Discounted rates available for senior citizens, concessions, students, groups, carers.