Emsworth veteran’s pride at medal ceremony

George Burridge'' receives his medal from David Cameron
George Burridge'' receives his medal from David Cameron

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An Emsworth veteran has spoken of his pride after being presented with the Arctic Star by the Prime Minister.

George Burridge was among around 40 veterans who were invited to London to personally receive their medals from David Cameron.

Arriving in the early morning, they were taken into Downing Street before being shown to their seats to await the Prime Minister and First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.

Mr Cameron praised their courage and sacrifice, saying the moment was one of the highlights of his time in office.

He then personally presented the medals to each veteran.

Mr Burridge, 89, served on board HMS Belfast as a radar operator.

He said: ‘I was very pleased to be there.

‘We were treated so well.

‘The Prime Minister spoke to us and said he appreciated what we did for our country.

‘I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard on the campaign, people like Eddie Grenfell who have done so much.’

The veterans had lunch at Number 10 before being taken by coach for a visit to HMS Belfast, on which several of them served.

Their visit came days after the Royal Navy’s light cruiser celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Stuart Farquharson-Roberts, 90, travelled from Petersfield to receive his medal yesterday.

The retired sailor was once the captain of HMS Vernon, a former shore establishment where Gunwharf Quays now stands.

He said: ‘I’m very pleased and it has been a very rewarding day.

‘I was a young lieutenant in the Arctic Convoys and served on several ships.

‘Everything about the day has been wonderful and I’m glad we could finally get here.

‘I think it’s a great credit to everyone who worked so hard on the campaign to get us here.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage was at the ceremony in London.

She said: ‘It was really nice.

‘The Prime Minister said it was a huge honour for him to be able to do this and then he went and gave each veteran their medal.

‘It was a very moving thing. It’s something that so many people have been working on for such a long time.

‘It seems like a dream come true that it has finally come to fruition.

‘These people have been through so much and it is great to see that recognised.’

The Prime Minister said: ‘There are lots of extraordinary people I have met in this room in the last three years and lots of events I have been very proud to hold, but I can’t think of a group of people that I am more proud to have in Number 10 Downing Street.

‘I am only sorry it has taken 70 years to get to here and to say thank you for what you did.

‘You were involved in the most important struggle of the last 100 years when you were supplying one of our allies in the battle to defeat Hitler and to defeat fascism in Europe.

‘You are a group of heroes, thank you.

‘For someone of my age and of my generation who’ve seen none of that sort of struggle, we feel completely unworthy and inadequate in the presence of people who risked so much to make sure that we could live in freedom.

‘So, from the bottom of my heart, a really big thank you, not just from me but from everyone in our country for what you did in those incredibly difficult days, incredibly difficult years, against such appalling odds.’

After the Arctic veterans were awarded their medals yesterday morning, members of Bomber Command were given their clasp at a separate ceremony.

The Arctic Convoys of the Second World War were described by Winston Churchill as ‘the worst journey in the world.’

The campaign saw ships of both the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy make perilous journeys through sub-zero temperatures to ensure vital supplies reached Russian shores and kept the war effort going.

More than 3,000 sailors died between 1941 and 1945 running the gauntlet of German warplanes and U-boats to keep Russia supplied and fighting.