The Scotsman

Veteran’s diary recalls life in Arctic Convoys

- Sarah Ward newsdeskts@scotsman.com

The diary of a 17-year-old Navy seaman survived the Second World War–but the 100- year old veteran who wrote it has told how he hoped it would be lost during Nazi raids on the Arctic Convoys.

Sir Thomas Baird joined the Navy in August 1941 in Plymouth, Devon, and his first impression­s are recorded in a journal which midshipmen – the lowest ranks – were obligated to write.

He enrolled in dartmouth college aged 13 and later became Vice-admiral sir thomas baird, head of the Royal Navy in Scotlandan­d northern ireland, during a 41- year career.

Sir tom recalled how he hated the diary and hoped it would be lost, but it provides a first-hand account of the war, including a poem describing his desire for “noise and excitement”, bleak boredom, and a Nazi firefight.

An entry from September 1, 1941 described how teenage sailorswer­e“bumped along uneven roads with luggage piled up one end of the lorry” to their digs, and added: “By the end of the evening I knew practicall­y everyone and felt I might have lived among them for years.”

Aged 17, Sir Tom served on HMS Trinidad as part of the Arctic convoys, which delivered supplies to the Soviet Union in a gesture of support from 1941 after Hitler breached a treaty of non-aggression two years earlier.

The route was treacherou­s due to its proximity to Nazi-occupied Norway and ice made the ship unstable, but Sir Tom said he was “one of the lucky ones” as around 18 of his friends were killed in 1941, also aged 17.

Nazi war planes at ta ck edh ms Trinidad near Murmansk, Russia, and she was scuttled by Allied destroyers on May 16, 1942 – which Sir Tom felt was “good news” as it would absolve him from completing the hated journal.

However an eager colleague rescued the diaries from a safe, and sir tom was re united with it the day before he turned 18.

A poem titled HMS Trinidad described his excitement at being “proud to belong of my ship and proud to belong/to a service so great, a tradition so high” as the crew departed from Sc a pa flow, orkney, and its dramatic demi se in the Arctic.

It added :“for week si was cold, I was bored, I was tired/of those bleak Arctic seas/i was tired of the endless grey day and cold night/i wanted the noise and excitement of a fight/i wanted excitement and danger and thrill/yet still/we just sailed in those bleak Artic seas.”

It described the firefight: “Planes were roaring!/guns wereflashi­ng!/menweresho­uting. Until bombs crashed/on to our deck”.

It concluded: “And now the midnight sunshone clear and bright/ beneath a quiet and empty sky/ how strange it seemed in that unnatural light/just to stand and watch her die.”

Around 750 sailors were evacuated, including Sir Tom who was taken to Iceland, and around 50 were killed.

Sir Tom said: “I didn’t like having to keep a journal and have it inspected by an officer. i thought it was good news the ship was going to be sunk, as my journal would be going down with it.”

Sir Tom, who has five grandchild­ren and 10 great-grandchild­ren, now lives in Symington, South Ayrshire.

I thought it was good news the ship was going to be sunk

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 ?? ?? Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Baird’s diary, written as a 17-year-old, provides a firsthand account of the Second World War, including a poem describing his desire for ‘noise and excitement’
Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Baird’s diary, written as a 17-year-old, provides a firsthand account of the Second World War, including a poem describing his desire for ‘noise and excitement’

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