Service recognised by Russian Government

Mr Macdonald with Consul General Andrey Pritsepov (left), family and well-wishers.
Mr Macdonald with Consul General Andrey Pritsepov (left), family and well-wishers.

War veteran Jack Macdonald has been decorated by the Russian Government for his services on allied Arctic convoys during the Second World War.

He received the accolade of the Ushakov Medal from Russian Consul General Andrey Pritsepov in a ceremony as his Forfar home on Saturday.

Mr Macdonald’s nautical career began after he served his time at St James Works in Forfar as a factory mechanic and entered the Glasgow shipyard of Barclay Curle in 1938 after his apprenticeship ended.

After working there for six months he was out of work again but joined up with the Orient Steam Navigation Company after hearing about voyages abroad and was assigned to the S.S. Oronsay as an engineer.

He set sail for Australia, which included a stop in Fiji, and it was during the return trip that war broke out. The Oronsay and her crew found themselves conscripted for war service.

Missions included the evacuation of Narvik in Norway in 1940, ferrying evacuees to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the evacuation of British troops from western France. It was on the latter deployment, while she was anchored in the Loire Estuary and embarking troops from St Nazaire, that the Oronsay was bombed and its bridge destroyed.

Keen to further his experience, Mr Macdonald joined the Merchant Navy after the Oronsay returned to port for repairs and it was during this time that he was deployed to Russia.

He continued: “I was based in Murmansk, where the Royal Navy had a hospital and radio station, and was there for six months. We just did the usual stuff, picked up heavy loads from ships and ferried them back to port. My main memory is the cold, as it was the middle of winter and got to 30 below zero.

“I’m quite proud of the Russians, this is the fourth medal they’ve given to the convoys and I’m happy to receive it.”