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ПОБЕДА

Victory!

Today is Victory Day. In Russia the end of the Second World War in Europe (what Russians call the Great Patriotic War) is celebrated on May 9th, not the May 8th VE Day we know. The Soviet Union, as it then was, was the country that both suffered the most in that war (26.6 million dead) and also did the most to defeat Nazi Germany on the ground.

I’ve seen it suggested that the German surrender to the Allies in the West came late in the evening so that it was one day later in Russia. However that surrender to Eisenhower understandably somewhat miffed the Soviet Union which wanted a surrender of its own, which duly happened the day after, to Marshal Zhukov in Berlin. So May 9th is Victory Day, ДЕНЬ ПОБЕДЫ (DEN’ POBEDY.)

It is celebrated every year but there were special plans for this year’s 75th anniversary. As elsewhere, coronavirus put a hold on those.

Just off Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg, last year, we found this memorial garden:-

Victory Day Memorial Garden, St Petersburg

Beyond the tulips in front of the protruding wing of the building the Russian word for VICTORY was picked out in hedging beside a red star. ПОБЕДА:-

Victory Day Memorial Garden, St Petersburg

Beyond the gates and off to the right was this modern building which was displaying Victory Day banners. My reading of Cyrillic is much too insufficient to decipher what sort of exhibition was taking place inside:-

Modern Building, St Petersburg

Leningrad Hero City Obelisk, St Petersburg

In the centre of Vosstaniya Square, St Petersburg, is the Leningrad Hero City Obelisk erected in 1985 to commemorate the fortieth Anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over German forces in the Great Patriotic War (World War 2.)

Leningrad Hero City Obelisk, St Petersburg

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Another connection of St Petersburg to the Great Patriotic War is the old trams which still ply the city’s streets along with more modern counterparts. Despite their rattling and rolling the city’s inhabitants venerate the old models as they kept going all through the siege of the city.

Old Tram, St Petersburg

St Isaac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg

St Isaac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg, dominates St Isaac’s Square.

Cathedral from St Isaac’s Square:-

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

The equestrian statue of Tsar Nicholas 1 which lies in the middle of St Isaac’s Square was shrouded in panelling when we were there, undergoing refurbishment, so I have no photos of my own of that.

Cathedral from west:-

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

The Cathedral has a pair of massive decorated doors:-

Door, St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg,

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg, Door

And two decorative friezes:-

Frieze 1, St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

Frieze 2, St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

I also found this small restrained memorial to the Great Patriotic War (World War 2) by one of the Cathedral’s massive pillars, each of which is a single block:-

War Memorial, St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

Great Patriotic War Remembrance, St Petersburg

I was glad to have gone to St Petersburg in early May. This is the time of year when Russia remembers the great sacrifices it – and the Soviet Union of which it was a part – made during World War 2 (which in Russia is known as the Great Patriotic War.) It is salutary to think that without that sacrifice the war against Germany would have been a much greater struggle for the Western Powers than it was. It is not too great a statement to make that the war in Europe was in fact won by the Soviet Union.

Britain’s contribution to overcoming Nazi Germany is much over-estimated by many in these islands. It really amounted to not losing – or at least not admitting to, and therefore not giving up. From the Normandy landings onwards it was even overshadowed by the US (which of course – British victories at Kohima, Imphal and Burma notwithstanding – won the Pacific War more or less by itself.)

St Petersburg in early May 2019 was covered in banners commemorating the Victory Day in 1945.

1945-2019 Remembrance. (Unfortunately seen through rainy coach windows):-

1945-2019 Remembrance St Petersburg

Corner of Palace Square:-

palace , St Petersburg, Russia

There are 1941-1945 banners in front of this building in Palace Square:-

Palace Square  , banners

Close-up view of banner:-

1941-1945 banner

More banners in Palace Square. (St Isaac’s Cathedral in distance):-

Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

1941-1945 Remembrance Banner, Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg:-

1941-1945 Remembrance Banner, Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg

St Petersburg (i)

This was the big one. I had been to St Petersburg before – when it was Leningrad, on a school cruise back in the heyday of the Soviet Union when we were shown the bullet holes on buildings’ walls still left over from the siege of the city during the Great Patriotic War (as World War 2 is called in those parts) – but my wife hadn’t, and with her interest in Russian history it was a place she had always wanted to see and was the reason we chose to go on this cruise at all.

The city straddles the River Neva (and a bit beyond) which therefore appears in many of our photographs. It is also home to some magnificent architecture, beautiful palaces from the time of the Tsars (in stark contrast to the conditions in which ordinary folk lived, sometimes ten or more to a room in pre-revolutionary days.)

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg, from across River Neva:-

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg

The Winter Palace is part of the famous Hermitage Museum another part of which – along with a couple of ferries – is seen below:-

The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Other buildings on River Neva frontage-

Frontage, River Neva, St Petersburg

I got a closer view of the Naval Academy:-

Naval Academy, St Petersburg

The Peter and Paul Fortress, lies on an island:-

Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg

Closer view seen through rainy coach windows:-

St Petersburg, Peter and Paul Fortress

I couldn’t get far enough back to get all of this building in. In St Petersburg terms it’s fairly unremarkable:-

A Building in St Petersburg

A gilded tower in the city centre. (Note saltire flag in blue on white – St Andrew is Russia’s patron saint as well as Scotland’s, besides other countries.)

A Gilded Tower, St Petersburg

Riverfront builidings and St Isaac’s Cathedral beyond:-

St Isaac's Cathedral,St Petersburg from Across River Neva

As If We’re Not Suffering Enough

What with no football to fill your Saturday afternoons with dread or joy or … meh.

What with having to stay at home on a beautiful day.

What with wall-to-wall pieces on the TV cobbled from social media feeds or interviewing their so-called “stars”.

What with being depressed enough by the news.

Then after said news on Channel 4 tonight the announcer said next on was a film starring Vera Lynn! We’ll Meet Again, no less.

We’ve now definitely disappeared down a plughole into a bizarre altered reality.

Just to get it straight, guys. We are not in a real war. We’re not in any sort of re-enactment of the 1940s.

The UK is certainly not being led by people with any of the competence of those in the wartime coalition (even if one them was supposed to have “much to be modest about,” a remark belied by his subsequent achievements.)

This is a pandemic – an inevitable pandemic, one that was coming down the line sometime; they always do – for which leaders obsessed with lowering taxes and balancing budgets failed to prepare.

If you want a Second World War analogy, it is those same politicians who occupy the place of the 1930s appeasers of fascism. I hope the public remembers and doesn’t forgive them. History certainly won’t.

War Graves, Muckhart

Muckhart is a collective term for two small villages in Clackmannanshire, Yetts o’ Muckhart and Pool of Muckhart. Both of these are near to Cowden Garden but unlike the garden are on the main A 91 road.

I found these graves in Muckhart Parish Church graveyard in Pool of Muckhart, which has a lovely situation below the Ochil Hills.

Serjeant W Cairns, Royal Engineers, 30/11/1918.

War Grave Muckhart

Lieutenant J D Cairns, B Sc, CA, 54th L A A Regt, R A, (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) Territorial Army,18/3/1946, aged 42:-

War Grave, Muckhart

I suppose these may have been father and son.

One of the other gravestones contained dedications to two brothers, Gunner James Petrie, Royal Field Artillery, died of wounds, 5/4/1918, aged 26.
Private David Petrie, Black Watch, killed in action, July 2nd, aged 20.

War Inscriptions, Muckhart Grave

Kennoway War Memorial

Kennoway is a village in Fife, a few miles east of Markinch.

Its war memorial is a Celtic Cross above a tapering granite plinth:-

Kennoway War Memorial

Great War Dedication; in the stone wreath above the plinth, “1914 – 1918” then “Kennoway,” “Erected in loving memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives fighting for their couhtry’s honour.” Names for the Great War:-

Great War Dedication, Kennoway War Memorial

Other Wars Dedication; World War 2, “1939 -1945,” Malaya, Korean War, Falklands:-

Other Wars Dedication, Kennoway War Memorial

Reverse; “Other conflicts, Afghanistan, Stephen Walker”:-

Kennoway War Memorial, Afghanistan

War Graves, Innerleithen

Innerleithen’s cemetery is on the left hand side of the road as you go into the town from the direction of Traquair. I found twelve Commonwealth War Graves, eight for World War 2, four for the Great War.

J MCI Melrose, Royal Signals, 21/3/1944, aged 21:-

Innerleithen War Grave

W Craig, Ordinary Seaman, RN, HMS Ganges, 14/8/1945, aged 18:-

War Grave, Innerleithen

Private J Strachan, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 13/6/1945, aged 18:-

Innerleithen War Grave

Corporal G K Brunton, The Royal Scots, 18/2/1944, aged 32:-

War Grave Innerleithen

Lance Corporal R T Smith, The Royal Scots, 13/6/1941, aged 23:-

Innerleithen War Grave

Sergeant G Russell, RAF, 6/5/1942, aged 32:-

War Grave, Innerleithen

Trooper R Crosbie, 1st Lothians & Border Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps, 28/12/1940, aged 21:-

Innerleithen, War Grave

Lieutenant R Campbell, 1st Peebles-shire Home Guard, 20/8/1944, aged 55. It’s unusual to see a War Grave for someone who was in the Home Guard:-

War Grave, Innerleithen

Private J Aitchison, 14th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, 15/10/1916, aged 40:-

Great War Grave, Innerleithen

Sergeant W J Bell, Royal Scots, 27/1/1917, aged 37. (And his wife, Isobel Hislop, died 22/5/1981, aged 87. 64 years after her husband.) I note that, as is the Scottish custom, Sergeant Bell’s wife reverted to her maiden name in death:-

Innerleithen, Great War Grave

Sapper G Blake, Royal Engineeers, 2/5/1918, aged 46:-

Innerleithen, Great War Grave

Lance Serjeant Edward Oliver, Royal Scots, 24/2/1916, aged 23:-

Great War Grave, Innerleithen

Innerleithen War Memorial

Innerleithen is a small town on the A 72 in Tweeddale, the Scottish Borders, in Peebleshire as was.

For a few years in the 1960s my grandfather (the original Jack Deighton) and grandmother Margery, lived in the town. It’s been one of my favourite places ever since.

Innerleithen War Memorial is an erect stone slab set in the grounds of the Memorial Hall off the B 709, at the junction between Leithen Road and Chapel Street. The gate is inscribed Innerleithen War Memorial:-

Innerleithen War Memorial

Innerleithen War Memorial

Dedications. “Pro Patria” inside a wreath flanked by “1914 – 1918,” Great War Names.”1939 – 1945,” and an additional lower plaque for a 1939 – 1945 addended name:-

Innerleithen War Memorial

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