During a patrol of the Arctic, Royal Navy sailors paid tribute to those lost during one of the most important convoys of the Second World War.
Plymouth-based frigate HMS Northumberland joined tanker RFA Tiderace and Norwegian frigate KNM Thor Heyerdahl in the Barents Sea.
It is a high north patrol which the Royal Navy carries out fairly regularly, with HMS Lancaster and HMS Kent ranging similarly far north in recent times.
Northumberland is no stranger to Arctic waters, either, having taken part in the region’s largest military exercises for some 30 years, known as Cold Response 22, in March.
During a brief pause in operations, the task group held a memorial service to mark the 80th anniversary of the PQ18 Arctic Convoy – a perilous voyage made in September 1942 from Loch Ewe in Scotland to Archangel in the northern Soviet Union.
One in three of the 40 ships were lost as the convoy came under intense attack by the Nazis from above and below the waves as they attempted to deliver vital supplies for the Soviet war effort on the Eastern Front.
The commemoration took place on Northumberland’s flight deck and was led by Commanding Officer, Commander Will Edwards-Bannon, and Thor Heyerdahl’s chaplain.
Commander Edwards-Bannon, said: “Although a first for many of my team, operations in the Barents Sea are nothing new for the Royal Navy.
“HMS Northumberland is well-suited to operating her full suite of cutting-edge capabilities in this environment and follows in a long tradition of Royal Navy warships doing so – a legacy underscored by this mission falling over the 80th anniversary of the heroically successful Arctic Convoy PQ18.”
While in the region, the task group carried out 45 hours of flying operations above the Arctic Circle with Northumberland’s Merlin helicopter.
“Conditions in the Arctic are certainly a challenge. The environment – especially the temperature – the Polar Code and the proximity to Russia are all factors that we take into account when planning and executing operations in the Southern Barents Sea,” said Lieutenant Commander Kyle Walkley, HMS Northumberland’s Principal Warfare Officer.
“But as a task-group, we absolutely achieved what we set out to deliver and there is a real sense of achievement across the whole of our ship’s company.”
Northumberland is now heading to take part in Joint Warrior – the biggest exercises of the autumn around the UK.