Seeing the world with new eyes

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I’ve walked along Wellington’s waterfront past Frank Kitts Park dozens of times, and often stopped to read the plaques commemorating various naval events; shipwrecks, landings, etc.

Yet today was the first time I’d ever seen this memorial to the New Zealanders who took part in the Arctic Convoys of World War II. These delivered vital supplies to the USSR during a time when the Nazis controlled much of the territory around that vast country.

I was really touched by the memorial because my great uncle, Stewart Cruden, also sailed on the Arctic Convoys, losing his life in 1942 when his ship, a converted whaler called the Shera, capsized in atrocious, icy conditions in the Barents Sea with the loss of nineteen lives.

My great uncle’s death is commemorated on a memorial to members of the Royal Naval Reserve in Lowestoft, England. From that memorial I know that the sailors who died on the Shera were Scottish, English and Norwegian. There were no New Zealanders; but obviously, amongst the many hundreds of boats in the convoys, Kiwis did serve.

I’m glad they have been remembered.

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16 thoughts on “Seeing the world with new eyes

    • Thank you. I think this is a recent memorial plaque, so it’s good to know we can still remember and respect after so many years. A friend of mine has a wonderful artwork showing here in Wellington commemorating NZ soldiers who served in Vietnam. It’s incredibly moving and i’ll blog about that soon.

    • I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those who made it home, but whose lives were forever changed. Two of my great grand fathers suffered life-long consequences of their service in WWI.

      • The South Africans have been alongside the ANZAC forces in both World Wars. We know what you are talking about- especially the trenches of WWi was bad! Or did your great grandfathers fight in Galipoli?

        • Very true! My ancestors were all Scotsmen. They fought in France, as did my husband’s Kiwi forefathers. Like yours, they followed where Britain led, though I imagine that was a more complex relationship for South Africans.

    • Thank you. It’s something that has been largely forgotten. In Britain veterans are still fighting to get recognition. The memorial in Lowestoft isn’t specifically commemorating the convoys, but dies include those sailors. What’s so sad about my great uncle’s boat was that it capsized because there was so much ice on it. They had already survived U boat attacks.

  1. When I was a lot younger I read a book named: HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean. While it was a work of fiction it gave a good account of those Artic convoys.

    • Thanks for reminding me of that. I remember my dad reading it. I’ll have to try and hunt out a copy now I’m ‘connected’ to the convoys. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

    • Thanks for visiting my blog. You are right; it must have taken great courage to sail such small boats through seas that were treacherous in their own right, and then to have the German navy, including U-boats, stalking you. Apart from the Royal Navy ships that guarded the convoys, the boats were often fishing and whaling vessels that had been requisitioned for the convoys. There was a Commission of Enquiry into the sinking of my great uncle’s boat. I know it’s held at the National Archives, and would love to read it one day.

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