THE Lord Mayor of Portsmouth has launched a stinging attack against the government, saying it’s ‘shameful’ David Cameron has not yet awarded Arctic Convoy veterans their own medal.
Cllr Cheryl Buggy spoke out after the Prime Minister appeared to go back on the Conservative Party’s pre-election promise to strike an Arctic Star the next time they came to power.
She urged the public to sign an online petition calling for the medal and said: ‘I really can’t understand why this should be causing any opposition at all. It’s a no-brainer.
‘The more I learn about the horrendous conditions these men went through in the Arctic and the bravery they showed, I really can’t see why they have never been recognised with their own medal.
‘These men risked their lives for our freedom in what was a crucial campaign of the Second World War.
‘It’s a small ask to give them what they want and it is shameful that a medal has not been forthcoming from the government.’
More than 3,000 British sailors lost their lives on Winston Churchill’s freezing ‘Russian runs’ which delivered four million tonnes of ammunition, tanks and other war supplies to the Soviet Union through the Arctic Circle under attack from Nazi U-boats and planes.
Between 1941 and 1945, 101 British ships were sunk in the freezing Arctic.
Eighty-ﬁve of the ships were merchant vessels manned by volunteer sailors – many as young as 15 and 16.
Churchill ordered the convoys to help Russia repel the Nazi invasion and called it ‘the worst journey in the world’.
Historians have credited the 66,500 sailors on the convoys with turning the tide of the conflict against Adolf Hitler.
But after the war the veterans were not given their own medal. Instead, they were lumped in with the Atlantic Star – a medal for action 800 miles away from the ships in the Arctic.
Despite a vociferous 15-year campaign backed by The News, successive governments have refused to deliver a new medal.
In opposition, the Conservative Party promised to support a new medal but David Cameron recently went back on this pledge, shocking the veterans with a letter which said they’ve had enough recognition.
The government has ordered a new, independent review of the medals system but the ageing veterans fear they won’t live long enough to see it through.
Hundreds of people have been signing an epetition urging the government to end their 65-year wait and award a medal now. Visit portsmouth.co.uk/ arcticconvoys to sign the petition.