Arctic veterans win their final medal fight

Prime Minister David Cameron (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (second right) during a ceremony to award the Russian Ushakov medal to Arctic convoy veterans inside 10 Downing Street, London.''Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (second right) during a ceremony to award the Russian Ushakov medal to Arctic convoy veterans inside 10 Downing Street, London.''Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA Wire
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VETERANS of the Arctic Convoys who risked their lives to get supplies to Russia in the Second World War have finally been allowed to wear a medal of valour.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made a U-turn over the Ushakov medal, which a grateful Russian nation wanted to award the veterans in May last year.

The British government had said citizens are only allowed to receive foreign medals and awards only if the British government gives them permission, and only if the award relates to the recipient’s activities within the past five years.

Arctic Convoy veteran medal campaigner commander Eddie Grenfell, of Portsea, was one of those fighting to get the decision reversed.

After spearheading a successful 16-year-long campaign to have a proper medal struck for the veterans, he vowed to continue putting pressure on the government to reverse its decision.

He had prepared a long letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, due to be posted yesterday, urging the government to rethink its stance.

Eddie, 93, is ill in hospital, where he heard the news.

He said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted. They told us we couldn’t have it because it would be breaking the rules, but they broke the same rules for other medals, such as for the Malaysian, Malta and Suez campaigns.’

In a statement, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office said: ‘First and most important, this is a significant honour given by the Russians. Accepting the award recognises the gesture from the Russians in the spirit in which it was intended: as a heartfelt token of the highest regard with which they hold the veterans who did so much to help support Russia in its darkest hour during World War Two.

‘Secondly, at a more personal level, the Prime Minister feels that, given all the sacrifices and hardship they undertook for our collective wellbeing and security, it is only right that these brave men are given the chance to receive and wear what is a very high honour from the Russian State.’

The first medals were presented by Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday.