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The Longest Distance

Arctic Convoy copyright Warfare History Network The clang of the wheelhouse bell marked the passing of another half-hour. Four bells, two o’clock in the afternoon watch and an even number. I reached for the tin of Senior Service. Mid-September, late summer but, deep inside the Arctic circle, with Spitzbergen only one hundred miles to the north-east, flurries of snow whirled about the ship and the weak sunlight barely penetrated the overcast. I cupped my hands around the match, grateful for the flare of warmth and, from habit, concealed the cigarette in my fist. The reviving smell of freshly brewed coffee preceded Da Silva into the wheelhouse. ‘Regular as clockwork.’ Second mate Ian Lamont bustled in from the bridge wing, anticipation written across his blunt hewn face. ‘How does he do it?’ I shook my head. After three years of wartime rationing, where Da Silva managed to find real coffee beans was a mystery I preferred not to delve into. With his leather eye patch, hooked nose and griz

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