It’s 70 years overdue, but veterans will get medal

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It was an announcement some thought would never come, even though most right-thinking people have believed for years it was a no-brainer.

Today’s news from the Ministry of Defence that at long last the medal for the heroic men who served in the Arctic convoys during the Second World War will be available from next month, is the best.

Yes, it is about 70 years overdue, but at last the sailors who played such a crucial role in determining the outcome of that conflict will get their just deserts. The Arctic Star is their reward and the MoD today promised that the first – now very old – veterans of that campaign will receive the medal from March.

About 200 of them are still alive and they, quite rightly, will be the first to have the medal pinned to their proud chests.

Widows will also be in the vanguard, receiving the medals on behalf of their late husbands.

It was last December that David Cameron finally announced a medal would be struck. It came 15 years after Portsmouth convoys veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell, backed throughout by The News and our readers, took the bit between his tenacious teeth and launched broadside after broadside at governments and civil servants demanding recognition.

Thanks to Eddie, the Russian Convoy Campaign has not been allowed to be forgotten and it’s worth reminding ourselves of its importance.

The Soviet Union, at the time an ally, was coming under real threat of collapse. As the Germans advanced, supply lines were cut. One of the only ways to keep Stalin in the war was to supply arms and food via the Arctic Ocean. Hundreds of British sailors of the Royal and merchant navies sailed through that desolate place where minus 20C was a good day.

In two years more than 3,000 died in the most horrible ways and a fifth of the ships that sailed were sunk.

But the campaign succeeded in keeping the Soviets in the war and the rest is history.

That is why a little piece of metal finally presented in a few days is so important, not just to Eddie and his cohorts but to the rest of us.