Sir John has a chance to right an awful wrong

The Rev Canon Bob White with representatives of the groups involved in our Christmas campaignh run with churches in Portsmouth - Comfort and Joy

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We urge Sir John Holmes to keep in mind an old adage as he prepares to consider whether or not heroes of the Arctic Convoys should be given their own campaign medal. It is this: Two wrongs do not make a right.

As an experienced diplomat, we are sure that Sir John will bring a lively and sage mind to the issue.

And we hope that he will soon recognise that, well-meaning as it might have been, the decision so many decades ago not to award a medal was undoubtedly wrong, just as the subsequent intransigence of governments that could not bring themselves to change the historic snub was also wrong.

We have rehearsed the arguments before and make no apologies for reiterating them today as Sir John prepares to begin his inquiry.

More than 3,000 sailors died between 1941 and 1945 running a gauntlet of German warplanes and U-boats in sub-zero temperatures to keep Russia supplied and fighting in the war.

Winston Churchill called it the ‘worst journey in the world’.

But the survivors were overlooked when medals were handed out in 1946 because of tensions with the Soviet Union. They were told they could have the Atlantic Star – actually a medal for a different campaign.

Veterans started their medal campaign in 1997, pointing out the Cold War was over.

Backed by The News, the campaign collected 45,000 signatures and marched on Whitehall.

In 2006, the Labour government finally recognised the Arctic Convoys as a separate campaign, but only to the extent of awarding a lapel badge.

It was a victory over obduracy, but could not be the end of the fight, for it was not what the veterans deserved.

Successive Conservative leaders were among leading Tory MPs who promised an Arctic Star medal would be created when the party next got into power.

David Cameron voiced his support, but action has not been forthcoming since he marched into Downing Street.

Now at last Sir John has a chance to right an awful wrong.