Echoes of War

Yesterday we spent one of the most memorable few hours of our Wester-Ross year in the magnificent Pool House Hotel. (Poolewe village) This hotel had been the WW2 HQ for the ships that sailed in convoy from here to Murmansk and Archangel with vital supplies for the Soviet Union, our wartime allies.  

Of course many u-boats and other enemy ships were lying in wait on and under the cruel sea. When a ship went down no other ships of the convoy, not their Royal Navy escorts, could afford to stop in an attempt to save the survivors. To do so would be to make themselves in turn easier targets. In any case, if you are immersed in waters of those temperatures death follows within minutes.

For  years after the war the heroism, fortitude and seamanship of the sailors manning these ships went largely unrecognised here in the UK. Although the Soviets were keen enough to award medals, for some obscure facet of diplomatic skulguggery (known not by me though presumably by Whitehall), we were not. 

Our tour of the hotel (superb value all by itself) and the expert narration of our guides painted such a vivid picture. It was a fitting preface to the special museum now in its planning stage. Like all of us, I hope this enterprise will come swiftly to a concrete conclusion. Right now I say full marks to the organisers of yesterday's event, from the ATC cadets to the hotel owners and staff, through to Francis Russell and his team of convoy experts.

Back in 2002, when we first saw the overgrown pillboxes etc at the Cove end of Loch Ewe, I wrote this poem...



Echoes of War

Where Loch Ewe opens up herself to Mother Sea,
at Cove, still stand these crumbling concrete testaments
to world war two and all those brave-heart men
who dared the elements to face their enemy

In groups of fragile ships they left these shores,
last sight, this wounded rock of Wester Ross;
behind, the crying of the gulls as they
sailed north to Russia and the Arctic wars

Although this place of peace now holds scant trace
of what had come to pass those years before
and rust away as may the swords
we shall recall the poet’s words:
We shall remember them
long after all the blood and all the bedlam;
long after time has healed the wounded rock.
and all war's echoes fade away.

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