PROUD Arctic Convoy heroes should receive their long-fought-for medals at a ceremony in Portsmouth, city leaders say.
The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald-Vernon Jackson, is among those insisting that a celebration is held in the city to mark the day the veterans are finally issued their Arctic Star.
The medal, as pictured on the front page, is already in production at the Royal Mint in Cardiff after Defence Minister Mark Francois announced earlier this week it would be awarded soon.
It is believed there are around 200 veterans who are waiting to receive medals – although they don’t all live locally. Commander Eddie Grenfell, 93, who has led the Arctic medal campaign for 16 years, has asked the MoD to present surviving veterans with their medals at Portsmouth Guildhall.
He says the occasion would give thanks to all those in the city who supported the long-running campaign.
Cdr Grenfell said: ‘It could have been done at the MoD. It could have been done at 10 Downing Street.
‘But it should be done here in Portsmouth.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the ceremony should be a huge occasion with a parade through the centre of the city.
‘If the government won’t organise a ceremony to do this here we will organise something,’ he said.
‘We can’t just have them sent to people in the post. These are people who risked everything in the war. It’s taken years for them to be recognised. Fortunately the government has finally decided to do this. It needs to be done properly with respect.
‘And we have to involve the families of the people who have died.’
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, said: ‘We all want to make it a very special occasion.
‘It’s always been the plan that it would be done down in Portsmouth.
‘I reported back to the MoD that Eddie very much felt that he wanted it to be in the city first and foremost.
‘He feels gratitude to the people of Portsmouth who have supported him.
‘It would very much involve the city as well as any great and good who might be down to pin the medal on.’
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘I would have liked Eddie to have it presented to him on the deck of HMS Victory which is still the Royal Navy flagship.
‘If he feels he would like his medal presented in the Guildhall as a thank you to the people of Portsmouth for all they have done then that is splendid.
‘It should be in Portsmouth out of recognition of what people have done in this city to back the campaign.
‘It would be perfect for him to be given it here. A senior member of the defence establishment should present the medals to them. It should be done with a great deal of pride and respect.’
Mr Hancock said he had written to the MoD
‘I have asked that they make a special effort to present the medals as quickly as possible to all the recipients – bearing in mind the age of some of these veterans,’ he said.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘All those who served on the Arctic Convoys deserve nothing but the utmost respect and admiration.
‘The MoD plans to hold an event for the first recipients of the new medals, and will announce plans in due course but no decisions have been taken.’
The Arctic Star has been designed by the Royal Mint advisory committee and is based on the Second World War Star.
The Arctic Convoy veterans played a vital part in the Second World War by getting supplies to Russia.
More than 3,000 sailors died between 1941 and 1945 as they manned ships in sub-zero temperatures that kept Russia supplied so she could keep fighting Germany on the Nazis’ eastern front.