Medals are awarded across the Atlantic to Arctic Convoy heroes

Commander Eddie Grenfell , who lead the fight for an Arctic campaign  medal
Commander Eddie Grenfell , who lead the fight for an Arctic campaign medal

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ALLIED forces who served in some of the most brutal conditions during the Second World War have finally been recognised with the Arctic Star.

Commonwealth veterans will be able to join their British comrades in receiving the medal.

Last year, 68 years after the war ended, British veterans were finally honoured with medals for their role in the Arctic Convoys.

It followed a passionate and determined campaign, backed by The News, that was led by the late Eddie Grenfell, from Portsea.

He died last June, just a few months after receiving his own medal from the UK’s most senior military officer, the Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards, at Portsmouth Guildhall.

His comrades, all in their 80s and 90s, went to Downing Street to receive their medals.

The Government of Canada recently announced that eligible Canadian veterans are now allowed to wear the Arctic Star too.

The Honourable Julian Fantino, minister of veterans’ affairs in Canada, presented the first British Arctic Star medals to veterans Norman George Alex Anderson, Edward Earl Dallin, Roland Jacques Lavallee, and James Russell at a ceremony in Victoria, British Columbia.

The ceremony was welcomed across the Atlantic in Gosport. The town’s MP, Caroline Dinenage, told The News: ‘It is fantastic to see these wonderful gentlemen finally getting the recognition they deserve.

‘I worked with many inspirational veterans for more than 10 years campaigning for the Arctic Star. They were heroes in the truest sense of the word.

‘My only regret is that many of those valiant men that I met along the way did not live long enough to receive the medal they so deserved.’

Many Canadians served on Allied convoys as they sailed across the Arctic Ocean during the Second World War to deliver vital supplies to the Soviet Union.

Commonly known as the Murmansk Run, ships departed from North American ports and sailed to the northern Soviet Union in an effort to assist them in their fight against Germany.

The mission is renowned for the brutal conditions and heavy casualties endured by the troops who served.

Mr Fantino said: ‘It is truly an honour to present the Arctic Star to these most deserving Canadian Veterans of the Second World War.

‘We thank you for your courage, bravery and sacrifices in the extreme conditions of the Arctic.’

The Arctic Star is granted for operational service of any length north of the Arctic Circle from September 3, 1939, to May 8, 1945.

Dogged determination saw justice prevail

MARCHES on Whitehall, petitions with thousands of signatures and heated confrontations with ministers.

Campaigners have stopped at nothing over the past years to see their fight for recognition kept on the agendas of numerous governments.

And when the announcement was made in December, 2012, that the Arctic Star would finally be struck, relief surged through those who had made it their mission to see justice served.

In 2004, The News launched the Last Chance for Justice campaign, and things shifted up a gear from then.

Highlights included a 45,000-signature petition, the march of 500 protesters along Whitehall and getting the backing of all 429 MPs from all parties in Parliament.

The crusade for an Arctic medal began in 1997, with a petition being handed to John Major.

But within months the request for an Arctic Star was rejected.

It was the start of 16 years of dogged pursuit of politicians from all parties, who threw up countless barriers along the way.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced in the House of Commons the findings of a review into rules governing military campaign medals and it recommended a new medal for veterans of the Arctic Convoys.

It is thought between 200 and 400 sailors are alive today to receive the medals.

Relatives of those who have died are also able to apply for a medal.

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