About 70 years ago, Roy Bayliss had no choice but to celebrate his 21st birthday in a heavy war zone. The World War Two veteran who is now 90 has been recognised by the Russian government for his work and bravery while navigating through the Arctic Ocean.Roy was presented with the Ushakov medal from the Russian government to honour his ‘invaluable contribution’.
The retired engineer, who is from Chelmsford, was among those that made sure aircrafts aboard the sailing ships were safe and secured. The ships he helped protect sailed through the Arctic Ocean’s freezing temperatures in other to bring food, ammoas well as supplies to allied Russia.
Roy who joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal British Navy at the age of 18 took part in a voyage that was termed by Sir Winston Churchill as the worst journey in the world. The voyage took the lives of thousands of Allied seamen as the British ships they travelled through the Arctic Ocean with were faced with hostile and tempestuous waters. Apart from the rough waters they had to travel through, they were faced with incessant threats of U-boats and aircraft attacks from the Germans.
Roy was nicknamed the ‘Magneto’ because of the difficulty they had with one of the aircrafts. Its Magneto, which is an electrical generator that provides voltage, had irreparable problems that a senior officer asked for the engine to be thrown away. In a bid to fix it, Roy ended up having hearing difficulties in one of his ears as he and his teammates exploded the machinery by accident.
Speaking about the tension they went through, Roy narrated how he and his teammates were once surrounded by 21 German submarines. In the end, they were able to pass through without harm.
He also talked about how the temperature was so cold that if their nose ran, it would turn to ice. And according to him, rescuing somebody who fell into the water was a waste of time as they would already be dead, the Essex Chronicle reports.
While their voyage through the Arctic Ocean was a dangerous and deadly one, the World War Two veteran remembered some good things while aboard the ships like the great “sense of camaraderie” that was shared among the shipmates. He also remembered how they binged on Russian vodka when he celebrated his 21st birthday aboard the ship. That incident led to him taking two days off duty to regain sobriety.
Roy continued his work as an engineer after returning from active duty. He worked with a company that produced the blanks for Royal Mint as well as many other materials. In August, he was unable to attend a London event that paid tribute to veterans due to his wife’s ill-health. However, his two daughters were able to attend on his behalf.
His Russian Ushakov medal and British Arctic Star medal now hangs proudly in his living room. They are part of his recognition for serving on the Arctic Convoys and hiscontribution and bravery during World War Two.