It is with great sadness that we learnt of the departure of another dear member of our community – a Second World War veteran, Frederick Vic Bashford of Ramsey, Cambridgeshire. We first met in 2016 when, together with other Arctic Convoy veterans, Vic was visiting IWM Duxford, and shared memories of his war experiences. Mr Bashford was a member of the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA).
Frederick (Vic) Bashford was born in Portsmouth on 28 December 1920 into a family of a Naval officer, Frederick Victor Bashford (1897-1977). He was the eldest of three children.
Vic volunteered for service with the Royal Air Force in December 1938, trained as an electrical fitter and was deployed to France in December 1939. He was based at RAF Kenley at the time of the Battle of Britain. Vic was involved in operation Force Benedict, a secret mission to protect the northern Russian port of Murmansk, which was a crucial lifeline to the Soviets.
The first 39 aircraft, of the nearly 3,000 Hurricanes supplied, were transported in August 1941 by the Aircraft Carrier HMS Argos and the RMS Llanstephan Castle in the first Arctic Convoy between the UK and Russia. This was known as Operation Dervish.
Vic was posted to the Middle East from late 1942 – to Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Greece – until he was demobilised in January 1946.
Vic shared his thoughts: “We left Russia at the end of November 1941, and my trip home was aboard HMS Kenya, with a captain who enjoyed giving the Germans a bloody nose… instead of a straight passage as escort to the returning convoy (QP3), we spent some exhilarating moments bombarding the German coastal installations at Vardo… Never a dull moment! That’s why I joined the RAF – for a quiet life!… that convoy experience is the part of my life that is truly unforgettable.”
For his service, Vic was awarded the 1939-1945 Star (the highest British Military honour for the RAF in WWII), the Arctic Star and the Africa Star, the War Medal 1939-45, the Defence Medal and, later, also the Medal of Ushakov, the highest Russian Naval award. After the end of the Cold War, Vic visited Russia on a couple of occasions. He returned to Russia in 2016 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Operation Dervish convoy and was overwhelmed by the reception given by the Russian people.
Vic, who celebrated his 102nd birthday last December, passed away peacefully at home on 18 April 2023. He was a knowledgeable engineer and a man of great wit with an excellent sense of humour. He also loved sports: as a young man he played cricket and, later in life, he took up golf. He is survived by his three children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts are with Vic’s children, Cylla, Andrea and Anthony, and their families.