By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 7th May 2018

Top Secret!

As you explore the stunning scenery around Loch Ewe you may not realise that this area was once crucial to the allied war effort in WW2. We  caught up with Elizabeth Miles to find out more…

Back in the 1940s the operations going on around the beautiful Loch Ewe were absolutely TOP SECRET, so much so that residents needed a special pass to come and go through the many checkpoints, and they could get into big trouble for taking any photographs of the goings on. This is a bit of a shame though, because it’s now hard to imagine the sights they would have seen. Loch Ewe would have been full of merchant navy vessels, and the landscape would have been over-run with military activity. Troops were stationed all around the loch, and you can see evidence of this in all of the concretes, gun emplacements, coastal defences, and anti-aircraft batteries that still stand in the landscape.

Photo: Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre

Find out more!

Loch Ewe was an assembly point for merchant vessels embarking on the perilous Arctic Convoys to assist our Russian allies. These ships carried all kinds of essential aid, such as tanks, weapons, aircraft, and fuel. Assisting the Russians and maintaining an eastern front was crucial, and much of the activities were directed from the convoy headquarters in Poolewe, now the Pool House guest house.

It is fitting, therefore that a museum stands on these shores to commemorate the unimaginable bravery of those who embarked on the perilous journey to Russia, but also the contribution of this remote highland region to the allied war effort. The convoys were perilous, facing attack from enemy aircraft, warships, and u-boats, but even more deadly was the unimaginable cold and fierce sailing conditions of the Barents Sea – prompting Winston Churchill to describe the undertaking as “the worst journey in the world”. At our Exhibition Centre, we endeavour to make sure the stories of those who faced this journey on both sides of the conflict are told so that this remarkable historic episode is never forgotten.

Photo: Russion Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre

We have a large collection of convoy artefacts and memorabilia, in many cases donated by the veterans themselves. We have been very busy taking down personal accounts, and preserving photos, documents, uniforms, ships’ instruments and all manner of exhibit to make the stories come to life. We have video footage, a large collection of ship models, some wonderful artworks, medals, and some particularly interesting pieces, such as an original door plate from the German battleship Tirpitz, a Very gun from the stricken liberty ship, SS William H. Welch, a standard from HMS Belfast, a Kriegsmarine dress dagger, and much more (though by far the most popular exhibit has to be Scottie the dog, who was made almost 74 years ago by a sailor on one of the convoy escort vessels for his son, and consisted of bits of oil skin cloth, old socks and other bits and bobs from the crew).

Photo: Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre, Flare Gun

We are also currently creating a Snowdrop Memorial Garden in front of the Exhibition Centre, in which we will be planting 3000 snowdrops to commemorate the 3000 allied sailors who lost their lives on the Arctic Convoys. With time we hope to add commemorative benches, cherry trees, and other white flowering plants such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Narcissi, and Hydrangeas.

Visit the Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre:

Address: Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition Centre, Birchburn, Aultbea, Achnasheen IV22 2HZ

Phone: 01445 731137

More details here.

Admission: £4, children 12-17: £1, under 12s and Arctic convoy veterans: free.
We have a super gift shop so you can take away a lovely souvenir of your visit. We have a large range of items from books on WW2, to toys, glow-in-the-dark T-shirts, local crafts, knitwear, jewellery, artworks, and much more.

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