Hot off the Loom – The Russian Arctic Convoy Tartan!

RusianArcticConvoyTartanThis commission has been one of the most evocative and worthwhile designs ever undertaken.  Having had a long association with successive Russian Consul Generals in Edinburgh I was honoured to be asked to design a very special tartan for the 75th Anniversary of the commencement of the Russian Arctic Convoys from Scotland to Archangel & Murmansk. About 78 convoys set sail between August 1941 and May 1945 comprising about 1400 merchant ships that delivered essential supplies to the Soviet Union. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were sunk during that campaign resulting in a loss of life of over 3,000 sailors.

My modus operandi on this one was to telephone about a dozen of the surviving veterans and ask them a simple question “When I say ‘Arctic Convoy’ to you . . .  what’s the first colour that comes to mind?”
Whilst some of the answers were very predictable, it was the ones that weren’t that prompted the emotion behind the tartan. Here’s the documented explanation for the design so that you can try and momentarily be absorbed into the memories of those Arctic veterans.

RussianArcticConvoyArt“With echoes of the MacLeod and MacKenzie tartans from the clanlands bordering Loch Ewe – departure point for so many of the World War II Arctic Convoys to Archangel and Murmansk – the Russian Arctic Convoy tartan encapsulates the essential colours remembered by convoy veterans. Colours of dread, death and destruction but colours too of bravery, hope and survival.
White brings a multitude of memories – ice flows, wind-whipped wave-tops, snow and ice-encrusted superstructures and today . . . the classic white berets of the surviving veterans.
Grey is for the sea and the sky, for the allied battleships and for the ever-threatening enemy U-Boats.
Black is for line upon line of Luftwaffe bombers and their devastating cargoes. Reserved until last is silver – the most chilling memory of all – the bubbles in the wake of an oncoming torpedo.
Brightening the hopes of many thousands of those Arctic mariners however, was the Red Ensign of the escorting Royal Naval vessels and red too, was in those merchantmen’s own flag – the Red Duster – and that of Russia, their hazardous destination.”

That central silver line in the tartan is only in the warp (the vertical threads of the weaving process) so that when you see it, let your mind wander and realise that that torpedo is coming FOR YOU!

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