Thursday, September 19, 2013
A former Royal Navy serviceman from Norwich has recalled the horrific conditions experienced by Soviet troops during the second world war while he was serving with the Arctic convoys.
The state of the Russian forces based in the Arctic circle was the stand out memory for former able seaman Michael Mullarkey, 90, who served on board HMS Kent when the allies were delivering supplies to forces fighting the German advance.
Mr Mullarkey, who lives in The Cedars, Norwich, recalled arriving at Kola Inlet near Murmansk to find the forces living in huts surrounded by human faeces and in a malnourished state.
He said the Soviet troops were treated extremely harshly by their Soviet commanders and on one occasion when some rum had been reported stolen from one of the visiting ships, the two soldiers deemed responsible for the theft were executed by firing squad.
During his service between 1942 and 1946, Mr Mullarkey, who received the Arctic Star a couple of months ago, had to endure freezing temperatures and became a member of the Ancient Order of the Blue Nose, for sailors who had crossed the Arctic circle.
He was also on board HMS Kent when the ship accompanied the Queen Mary, which was carrying British prime minister Winston Churchill to Canada.
Mr Mullarkey, who was a lookout on board the ship, travelled from Scapa Flow as the convoys carried vital supplies to the Russian troops around Murmansk.
Following the war, the former Willow Lane Catholic School pupil in Norwich worked at City Hall.
He said: “We did not regard ourselves as heroes, the sailors on those ships. We were just ordinary chaps.”