Saturday, November 15, 2008

Remembering the Soviet sacrifice

by Robert Laurie

LAST SUNDAY, in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, the Soviet War Memorial Trust Fund held an Act of Remembrance which focussed on the Soviet contribution to the defeat of fascism. In his opening remarks Trust Chair Philip Matthews said he hoped that the new American President will have a better understanding of Russian security fears than the outgoing one. The Liberal-Democrat Mayor of Southwark, who comes from Sri Lanka, stressed the global dimension of World War Two and the important role of Black and Asian troops from the then British colonies by recalling that a great uncle of hers was killed in France. The Russian Ambassador Yury Fedotov also spoke stressing the importance of strengthening ties between Britain and Russia.
The embassies of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine all laid wreaths as did students from the Russian Embassy School. A number of veterans from the Russian Convoy Club were present. During the war these white-bereted navy veterans undertook dangerous journeys ferrying munitions from Britain to the Soviet Arctic through waters infested with Nazi U-Boats. Despite the high losses sustained the British government has never honoured them with a specific campaign medal, but the Soviet and later Russian governments have done so frequently. This year special tribute was made to the 98 men lost when HMS Goodall was torpedoed in the closing stages of the war on the 29th April 1945 while on convoy protection duty in the Kola inlet in northern Russia.
Wreaths also came from the Marx Memorial Library, the builders union UCATT, the New Communist Party , the Communist Party of Britain and several individuals.
The Soviet Memorial Trust Fund was founded in 1997 to raise funds for a memorial to the 27 million Soviet War dead in World War Two often forgotten by British Governments that like to airbrush the Soviet role in defeating fascism out of history.
The work of the Trust, which organises similar events to mark the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on the 29th January and Victory Day on the 9th May can be supported by donating to the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund, 320 Brixton Road, London SW9 6AB.

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