ARCTIC Convoy veterans deserve their own medal, a leading historian has said.
Professor Eric Grove spoke out in support of Second World War veterans who are fighting for a medal to honour the 66,500 men who braved gruelling conditions to supply the Soviet Union.
More than 3,000 British sailors perished on the freezing ‘Russian runs’ which delivered four million tonnes of ammunition, tanks and other war supplies through the Arctic Circle under attack from Nazi U-boats and planes.
But successive governments have refused to strike an Arctic Star campaign medal and the few ageing veterans who are still alive are beginning to lose hope.
Prof Grove, who is one of Britain’s top historians, said: ‘These people fought in such extremely vigorous environment and in a campaign which was so important to the war. The Arctic Convoys were at the heart of the naval war against Germany from 1941 onwards and these men deserve proper recognition.’
Prof Grove’s comments come after Prince Michael of Kent threw his weight behind the Arctic medal campaign.
Between 1941 and 1945, 101 British ships were sunk in the freezing Arctic. Eighty-five of the ships were Merchant Navy vessels manned by volunteer sailors – many as young as 15 and 16.
Winston Churchill ordered the convoys in 1941 to help Russia repel the Nazi invasion and called it ‘the worst journey in the world’. But the supplies were essential to help the Red Army bog Hitler’s forces down in the east – enabling the Allied forces to push from the west and eventually invade Germany to end the war.
But, when war medals were being handed out after the conflict, the Arctic veterans were denied their own medal.
Instead, they were given the Atlantic Star – a medal for a separate campaign 800 miles away from the Arctic.
For the past 15 years, The News has backed calls for an Arctic medal.
In opposition, the Conservative Party made pre-election promises to strike a new medal but David Cameron recently went back on this pledge, shocking the veterans in a letter which said they’ve already had enough recognition.
The government has now ordered a fresh review of the medals system.
Arctic Convoy veteran, Commander Eddie Grenfell, 91, of Portsea, said: ‘We don’t need a review.
The Conservative Party promised us a medal, now they must honour their promise.’