Leonard H. Thomas embarked on the Russian Arctic convoys in 1942, keeping a secret notebook from which he later wrote his memoirs. His writing contained many well-observed tales of life aboard his ship, HMS Ulster Queen, and detailed the hardships that he and his fellow men faced. They endured long hours at action stations, locked in the engine room, ensuring the ship ploughed on despite being under fire from the skies above and the sea below; they were only able to guess at what was happening outside from the terrifying cacophony of noise.
Thomas tells of how the men suffered from an appalling food shortage, the intense cold, and the stark conditions as they sailed from a rainy Belfast to the freezing, unforgiving, and unknown shores of Archangelsk in northern Russia. Thomas’s account also offers insight into the morale of the men, and how they used their humour to keep going under the constant threat of succumbing to a watery grave. Once berthed in Archangelsk, the approaching winter and the frosty Russian attitudes towards the British Navy brought more problems.
Thomas’s daughter, Leona, has collected and edited his writings to form a poignant account of these convoys, one with unparalleled depth and emotion. This has ensured that Leonard’s story can now be told in a manner which illustrates the fortitude and bravery of the men who sailed through ice and fire, so far from home, to aid the war effort.
Leona J. Thomas is the daughter of Leonard H. Thomas and is retired, having taught primary and EAL in Edinburgh. After her father's death in 2000, Thomas started sorting the vast amount of his memoirs from her father's Antarctic voyages and war experiences in the Royal Navy. She shared his convoy memories at the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum week in 2013 at Loch Ewe. Thomas continues to share these experiences and has completed an embroidery panel for The Scottish Diaspora featuring Convoy PQ18.
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Extent: 232 pages
Illustrations: 32 black-and-white photographs