PRIME Minister David Cameron was today urged to hurry up and give Arctic Convoy veterans a medal after it emerged the decision has been in his hands for two months.
Mr Cameron, who pledged his support for an Arctic medal seven years ago, has the final say on the government’s review on whether to strike new campaign medals.
But despite the Ministry of Defence reporting the review’s findings to Mr Cameron in March, it still sits in his in-tray.
Veterans, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s, have never received a UK medal for braving a gauntlet of German gunfire to supply the Soviet Union 70 years ago. But they were promised an Arctic medal by the Conservatives when the party was in opposition.
Commander Eddie Grenfell, 91, of Portsea, who is leader of the Arctic Medals Campaign, said: ‘I don’t understand what is taking so long. I’ve always trusted David Cameron and I remember how he and many other Conservative MPs supported our campaign. They promised us we’d get an Arctic medal when they next came to power but one year has gone by now and we’ve had nothing.
‘As a lifelong Conservative voter, I’m extremely disappointed with what has happened.
‘I don’t understand why they started a review in the first place. You can’t review a promise.’
The government launched the review in November last year. It is not known what its conclusions are.
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘I’m appalled this is taking so long. If David Cameron is going to live up to the promise he made in opposition he must do so quickly.
‘Every week that passes, the number of veterans still alive gets fewer. An Arctic medal must be presented promptly and it must also be awarded posthumously.’
More than 20,000 men fought in the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War to keep the Soviet Union armed against 150 German army divisions on the Eastern Front. Almost 3,000 sailors perished in horrendous conditions.
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North is also pressing for an Arctic medal.
She said: ‘This is something David Cameron clearly pledged to do in opposition and the clock is ticking.’
Despite repeat calls, No.10 did not comment by the time of going to press.
Medal campaigners fighting to end years of injustice
VETERANS have battled hard against government bureaucracy ever since the campaign for an Arctic medal began in 1996.
Ministry of Defence civil servants are less than keen to strike a new campaign medal for the men who helped supply the Soviet Union in the fight against Nazi Germany because they were originally classed as falling within the Atlantic Campaign – of which only six Arctic ships were eligible for that medal.
But after a 45,000-strong petition to Downing Street and a protest march on Whitehall, the Labour government agreed to award an Arctic Star lapel badge in 2006 – recognising the Arctic Convoys as a separate campaign for the first time.
Veterans reluctantly agreed to accept the badge because Conservative MPs had promised they would award a proper Arctic Medal the next time they came to power.
But one year since the Tory-led government formed, the ageing veterans are still left waiting.
DAVID Cameron pledged his support for an Arctic Medal in a phone call with The News at 11.30am on July 19, 2004.
A register of MPs who backed our campaign was compiled by The News’ former political editor David Maddox, who wrote to and called every MP.
Other names on the list include the defence secretary Liam Fox, foreign secretary William Hague, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin, defence ministers Peter Luff and Gerald Howarth, welfare minster Iain Duncan Smith and home secretary Theresa May.