Russians appreciate Comox Valley resident for role in Battle of the Atlantic

Bill Georgeson was called to duty by the British Royal Navy in 1942.

A DECORATED VETERAN

Bill Georgeson was called to duty by the British Royal Navy in 1942.

The following year, still only 18 years old, the Scotsman was at sea aboard the HMS Domett, embroiled in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Last year, the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin honoured the 88-year-old Comox resident with the Ushakov Medal, in appreciation of courage and bravery displayed during the Murmansk Run — a convoy route in the Arctic Ocean where navy seamen delivered war materials to the Soviet Union.

“Ushakov apparently was to the Russian people, under the days of the czars, what Nelson was to the British people,” said Georgeson, a member of the Comox Valley branch of the Royal Canadian Naval Association. “The award was to do with bringing much-needed supplies up to and around the top of Norway and Sweden, and down into northern Russia, way above the Arctic Circle.”

The supplies were then sent to the defence of Stalingrad.

“If Stalingrad had fallen, Hitler would have had his hands on the rich oil wells in that part of the country. He needed oil for his military regime.

“This is part of the Lease-Lend of the Atlantic Charter that Mr. (Franklin) Roosevelt and Mr. (Winston) Churchill had put together when they met in Newfoundland in 1941.”

When the landing in northern Russia was deemed a success, Georgeson was commissioned to a new group of destroyers sent out to join the British Pacific fleet in the Far East. But by the time his ship reached India, the Americans had dropped the atomic bomb.

“As a young man I saw a lot of the world, and was lucky that I survived it,” he said.

Georgeson doesn’t recall being frightened. Of bigger concern was keeping warm and dry, and keeping the ship afloat.

“It took a long while for the Soviets to show appreciation,” he said. “They themselves were up to their necks in it. It probably was later on they realized how important it was for us to get through and get them the supplies they needed.

“And of course, politically, Churchill was still uncertain as to where the Soviets would be going after the war. They had a foothold in Europe being the first in Berlin. That got the politicians all upset.”

Georgeson has previously received medals of valour from the offices of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Both are called Patriotic War medals.

He is awaiting another award from British Prime Minister David Cameron — the Arctic Star — a newly-created medal honouring veterans of the vital Arctic convoys that helped keep Russia in the Second World War.

“There’s very few of us left,” Georgeson said. “There’s only 61 they’ve been able to track down because we’re all in our late-80s or early-90s.”

It’s a timely honour, considering the Battle of the Atlantic is celebrated on the first Sunday every May at Marina Park in Comox. May 5 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Russian convoy mission.

Georgeson hails from Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. He emigrated to Canada in 1948. He joined his sister in Chase, B.C. then worked for the Department of Defence in Kamloops. He later worked as a purchasing agent at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria and then at the Campbell River Hospital.

He and wife Joy founded the Anderton Therapeutic Gardens and the local Celtic Club. He served seven years on the Comox Recreation Commission, and has received a Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Comox Rotary. Another feather in his cap came in 1986 when he and Joy were among 100 people invited to travel with the Prince and Princess of Wales to the opening of Expo in Vancouver.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Basket raffle a Comox Valley Child Development Association Children’s Telethon tradition

One-stop Christmas shopping with Winner Takes All Basket rffle

Comox Valley gives back

A look at some of the organizations and individuals who help out in the community

Golden anniversary for G.P. Vanier Thursday

It was a day of celebration for students, educators and administrators past… Continue reading

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

Comox Valley gives back

A look at some of the organizations and individuals who help out in the community

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Most Read