Today, with the assistance of the good offices of NZ Ambassador to Russia, Chris Elder – we had the privilege of spending an hour with Vice Admiral Nikolai Ivlev now aged 90 who played a significant role in the Northern Convoys of WWII that provided supplies from the UK to the Russian port of Murmansk. He had us spellbound with his stories about the convoys, the minefields, the successes and the failures that this particular war effort enjoyed and endured in keeping the supply lines open to an embattled Russia . Given there were numbers of New Zealanders involved in these convoys, we were very interested to hear a Russian perspective on the Arctic Convoys and who better to provide that than one of the leading figures.
What we particularly appreciated from the Vice-Admiral was the warts-and-all recollection of the decision-making processes that the Western and Russian allies had to undertake on only partial information and how through all that the convoys – with a fee hiccups – kept running right up to the point they were bringing back Russian POW’s released from camps in France during the war’s final stages. And what I hadn’t appreciated is that it was atwo way trade – war machinery and supplies to Murmansk and then strategic supplies of ore, coal and timber going back to the UK.
That was a privilege. Thanks Ambassador Chris.