War hero is honoured for bravery on Arctic convoy

Photo Emma Mitchell 21.06.16
Robert Dougan receiving Arctic medal from MP John Nicolson
Robert with wife Jan, George McMillan, Major Garry McLeod, Bert Cookson, Rona Mackay, Anne McNair.

Photo Emma Mitchell 21.06.16 Robert Dougan receiving Arctic medal from MP John Nicolson Robert with wife Jan, George McMillan, Major Garry McLeod, Bert Cookson, Rona Mackay, Anne McNair.

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A World War II hero from Bishopbriggs has been honoured for his bravery in the Arctic convoys transporting crucial supplies to Russia.

Robert Dougan (92) is one of only 19 surviving British sailors to be awarded the Ushakov Medal by the Russian Ambassador on behalf of President Putin.

Robert with wife Jan, receiving his Arctic medal from East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson

Robert with wife Jan, receiving his Arctic medal from East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson

Mr Dougan was unable to travel to the Russian Embassy in London for his award, so local MP John Nicolson presented it to the veteran at a special ceremony at Bishopbriggs Library last week. Mr Dougan was accompanied by his wife Jan.

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay also congratulated Mr Dougan at the ceremony.

Mr Dougan signed up to the war effort on September 5, 1939 at the age of 15. By the time he was 16 he was a member of the crew of HMS Norfolk sailing, what some referred to as, ‘suicide missions’ to Murmansk and Archangel as part of the Arctic Convoys.

He sailed in 17 different convoys on HMS Norfolk, and two convoys on HMS Devonshire. The Norfolk was one of the first ships to sight the German battleship, the Bismarck, which was sunk in the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1943. The Norfolk also played an important part in the sinking of the Scharnhorst at the Battle of the North Cape.

The convoys provided a lifeline for the Russians enabling the Red Army to repel the Nazi invasion on the Eastern Front.

Some 78 convoys delivered four million tons of supplies including vehicles, ammunition, fuel, food and medicine between 1941 and 1945.

As well as having to deal with the most extreme weather conditions faced by any Allied sailors, the convoys were under constant attack by the Nazis from air and sea.

One hundred and one British ships were lost and at least 3000 British men and women perished, but the convoys were crucial to the success of the allied forces. The final convoy set sail from the Clyde on May 12, 1945.

Mr Nicolson said: “It was a privilege to collect Mr Dougan’s Ushakov Medal from the Russian Embassy in London and I am honoured to be able to present it to him here in Bishopbriggs.

“Arctic Convoy veterans like Mr Dougan played a major role during the Second World War as they bravely transported supplies to Russia. These journeys were often perilous as the convoys found themselves under attack both from their enemies and from the appalling Arctic weather conditions.

“The decision to award veterans like Mr Dougan the Ushakov Medal rightly recognizes the efforts and sacrifices that were made throughout Europe during the Second World War as countries worked together to defend liberty and defeat Nazism.

“The appreciation of Russia to Arctic Convoy veterans was evident when I collected Mr Dougan’s medal from the embassy and I know their bravery will always be remembered and respected.

“I know the value veterans place on their medals and how rare it is that they are awarded from other countries. I was glad to play my small part in delivering Mr Dougan’s medal and I would like to congratulate him on receiving it and thank him for the invaluable service he gave many years ago.”

The Ushakov Medal was created in March 1944 and is named after the patron saint of the Russian Navy, 18th century Naval Commander Fyodor Ushakov. It is a solid silver disc with a relief bust of Admiral Ushakov on the front and a naval anchor on the back.

In a letter to Mr Dougan, the Russian Ambassador, Dr A Yakovenko wrote: “It is a huge privilege for me to thank you on behalf of the Russian Government for the invaluable contribution you and your comrades-in-arms made to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

“What you did 70 years ago, taking part in what Sir Winston Churchill rightly called ‘the worst journey in the world’, was extraordinary even among what is considered to be beyond the call of duty.

“Your heroism will always be remembered in Russia and Britain. Your deeds will continue to serve as the supreme expression of bravery and a high point in human spirit.

“The comradeship-in-arms which was born at the truly critical juncture of history will forever remain an important part of European spiritual heritage and our bilateral relationship, including the ties between our two Navies.”

Local MSP Ms Mackay said: “It was such a privilege to meet Bob Dougan and his wife Janet for this very special medal handover.

“We cannot forget the service people like Bob gave to this country during times in World War Two that are just unimaginable right now to us. Huge congratulations to Bob – his family must be very proud.”

After the war Mr Dougan spent a brief period as a telephone engineer before becoming a foreman electrician at Rolls Royce Communications. He and his wife have lived in Bishopbriggs for 64 years and they have four grandsons and a granddaughter.