By Mark McConville
THE HARROWING conditions faced by the men of the Arctic convoys during the Second World War have been revealed thanks to a series of expertly colourised pictures.
The vivid colour images show the ships covered in ice and snow as the sailors dutifully chip away at it to stop the ships capsizing, a crew in heavy coats posing on the HMS Belfast and an Atlantic convoy seen from an RAF Short Sunderland flying boat in 1943.
Other striking shots show a sailor standing lookout on the deck in freezing conditions, the rough waters the ships faced as they navigated their way through the arctic and planes skilfully landing on icy runways.
The original black and white photographs were painstakingly colourised by Welsh electrician Royston Leonard (56) from Cardiff.
“As time goes by I find I am doing more World War Two pictures and giving them a bit of colour helps the younger generation to connect and not just see them as something that happened long ago,” he said.
“The pictures show that community is all that matters, not buildings or material things.
“Their message is that the more people try to destroy us, the more we will smile and carry on.”
The Arctic convoys of World War II were oceangoing convoys which sailed from the United Kingdom, Iceland, and North America to northern ports in the Soviet Union – primarily Arkhangelsk (Archangel) and Murmansk in Russia. There were 78 convoys between August 1941 and May 1945, sailing via several seas of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, with two gaps with no sailings between July and September 1942, and March and November 1943.
About 1,400 merchant ships delivered essential supplies to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program, escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the U.S. Navy. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships (two cruisers, six destroyers, eight other escort ships) were lost.
Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine lost a number of vessels including one battleship, three destroyers and at least 30 U-boats, and many aircraft. The convoys demonstrated the Allies’ commitment to helping the Soviet Union, prior to the opening of a second front, and tied up a substantial part of Germany’s naval and air forces.
In 2014 the Russian embassy has honoured 30 World War Two veterans in Southampton for their part in transporting crucial supplies to Russia.
Defence attaché Capt Oleg Kornienko presented Ushakov medals to the men of the Arctic Convoys.
Royston says that his passion for colourisation has helped him improve his photography skills.
“I have learnt so much from colourising, I feel it has helped my photography along the way,” he said.
“The message is already there for all to see in the pictures themselves but I do feel that colourisation helps the younger generation to understand that what happened was real.
“I love giving more life to the pictures and I think that colour improves the story that the photographs tell.”
Striking images like these are featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book, Retrographic on the colourisation of historical images. It is available on Amazon now for £12.77.
For more information visit: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Retrographic-Historys-Exciting-Images-Transformed/dp/1908211504