Surprised tenants at an Edinburgh retirement housing development have been paid a visit by Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat in Scotland, armed with a prestigious war medal and a large bottle of Russian vodka – to award a long standing tenant.
Alex Ramsay, 88, was part of the 1944 Arctic Convoy – a treacherous mission in freezing conditions, to deliver vital supplies to the Soviet Union as they battled the axis powers at the western front.
The veteran of the Merchant Navy was recently awarded the ‘Ushakov Medal’ by Andrey Pritsepov, the Russian Consul General who visited Milton Court Retirement Home in Portobello.
Alex said: “I am thrilled to receive another medal for my involvement in the war effort – it gives me a reason to reflect on the time I spent in the merchant navy.
“My main memory of the convoy was the camaraderie and the great team-spirit on the boat – whilst we battled the enduring and bitterly cold weather.
“The team at Milton Court threw a great party – and we all had a shot of Russian vodka something which the Ambassador said was ‘to celebrate the efforts of brave men’ like me.”
Recognised as an integral part of the war effort which helped mount pressure on the enemy from all fronts – the arctic convoys suffered heavy losses, with 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships tragically lost during the missions.
Linda Mason, Retirement Manager at Milton Court said: “We are all so very proud of Alex’s achievements – he is an unassuming and modest man but his story is truly inspiring.
“His three older brothers enrolled in the army, and at just 16 Alex was technically too young – but was determined to play his part – against his mother’s will and contribute to the war effort.”
Alex met his wife-to-be in the Merchant Navy – and was quickly offered an ultimatum – get married or stay in the Merchant Navy.
Alex became a bus conductor in 1950 before eventually going on to drive buses in and around Edinburgh. He has been a resident at Milton Court since July 2006 and has two children, Christine and Stuart, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.