Russian warships host 93 year-old Arctic convoy veteran


A large Russian Navy missile cruiser docked in Cape Town has played host to a veteran of the Second World War Arctic convoys.

Slava-class missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov was berthed in Table Bay Harbour whilst attending the inaugural multinational maritime exercise Mosi between China, Russia and South Africa.

The Russian Consulate General invited Joseph Wilkinson to tour the warship to honour his service and support to the Soviet Union.

The Arctic convoys of World War II sailed from the United Kingdom, Iceland and North America delivering essential supplies to northern ports in the Soviet Union. About 1 400 merchant ships were escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the US Navy. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were lost.

Having joined aged 17 in 1943, Wilkinson served seven years in the Royal Navy. As a Radio Operator aboard a Royal Navy sloop, he participated in a mission to protect a merchant shipping convey to Murmansk, Russia.

At 186 meters in length and displacing 11 380 tons, the Marshal Ustinov is considerably larger than the sloop (now known as a frigate) that Wilkinson served on, which was 91.3 meters in length and displaced only 1 250 tons.

“I’ve never been aboard a ship like this,” Wilkinson told defenceWeb, “The sloop I served on was much smaller than this!”

In tribute of respect and gratitude, Wilkinson received souvenirs from the command of the warship.

The exercise is primarily focused on maritime economic security, interoperability and maintaining the good relations between the participating navies.

Following three days alongside, the Sea Phase of Exercise Mosi from 28 to 29 November will focus on surface gunnery exercises, helicopter cross deck landings, boarding operations and disaster control exercises.