- Ramsay, George
- Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1988 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On Sunday, 26th October, as our ‘buzzes’ finally came true, Sir Walter Citrine and his delegation returned to the ship (also apparently after having a frustrating time in Russia, endured the discomfort of Russian trains and the cold of the cities they travelled to), and although now dressed out in fur coats and those Russian fur hats, they soon again appreciated the hospitality and warmth of Norman’s ward room. Finally now, it was time to depart from Archangel and as it was nearing their winter conditions it was necessary to have an ice breaker lead us out of the Dvina River, to the open expanses of the White Sea.
On northward out of the White Sea, along the Kola Peninsula and Murmansk, and altering course, around North Cape then to pass some 30 miles north of Bear Island (both the latter, Norwegian possessions, in the Barents Sea), then to pass into the Norwegian Sea, crossing the Arctic Circle again on our southward journey this time, finally to reach Seydisfiord in Iceland. It was a brief stay, only to refuel, though the caterers of the messes were given a ‘run ashore’ to try and purchase some fresh victuals. The next day we sailed on, with a course that passed us between the Faeroe Islands and then the Shetland Islands to reach our destination for the delegates, the town of Thurso, on the northern coast of Scotland, to disembark our passengers on Sunday, 2nd November.
So, after three weeks and six days, Norman’s journey to Russia was over. It certainly earned the praise and thanks from the delegation for a safe passage and successful return from their visit, which we understood was the beginning of the British ‘Lend Lease’ agreements to Russia, which assisted greatly the mechanisation of Russian industry early in World War II, which now involved them too.
On the return journey. Sir Walter, more on to the upper deck than any of other fellows, would often join with the sea boats crew, and anyone else that may have been off watch, in the warmest place about the ship on the upper deck and that was in the lee and warmth of the funnel, on the iron deck over the engine room. I remember too, how he got the taste of PKs (the chewing gum not too popular from an officer’s point of view on board ships), but Sir Walter used to ‘front up’ and cadge his PKs every day. On his last day on board, he told us – ‘If ever you’re in London, look me up – just give my secretary the password – PK, and you’ll not need an appointment’.
And that was the end of HMAS Norman’s epic voyage to Russia – a trip others like myself will never forget, but perhaps not wish to repeat, unless under far more favourable conditions.
This story was recalled to mind recently, when I was invited to a Russian ceremony in Canberra to receive a commemorative medal – ’40 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945′, as surely a recognition of the assistance given by the Allied forces to Russia, in this case – one of our Royal Australian Navy destroyers.