SENIOR MPs who have backed The News’ 15-year Arctic medal campaign are being urged to honour the Conservative Party’s pre-election pledge that they would award a medal to Russian Convoy veterans.
In a ‘last roll of the dice’, 91-year-old veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell has written to 23 MPs asking them for help as the Ministry of Defence remains opposed to medal for men who braved a gauntlet of German gunfire to deliver arms to the Soviet Union in the Second World War.
The hazardous campaign, which claimed the lives of 3,000 men, has never been recognised with its own war medal.
And despite successive Conservative leaders promising they would strike an Arctic Star medal when they next came to power, David Cameron still has not given the veterans what they deserve.
The government is now caught up in a prolonged Ministry of Defence review into war medals which threatens to outlive ageing veterans.
Cdr Grenfell, of Portsea, said: ‘I’ve already had two of my Arctic comrades pass away since the review began last year. Time is running out.’
A draft report of the medal review’s conclusions – made without consulting veterans – concluded the Arctic Convoy servicemen be denied a medal yet again.
This is despite the prime minister telling the House of Commons in January that Arctic Convoy veterans should be awarded a medal.
Campaigners, who have fought for a medal for years, have gained strong support from MPs who now hold senior positions in the coalition government – including top ministers George Osborne, Vince Cable and Leader of the House of Commons Sir George Young.
Cdr Grenfell has written to them and 19 other politicians asking for them to persuade David Cameron to intervene and award an Arctic Star medal now.
He said: ‘I’ve written to people who have supported us to help get this sorted out. This is the last roll of the dice, we can’t go on waiting forever.
‘For whatever reason, the MoD is against us getting a medal. Mr Cameron should stick to his guns, ignore these civil servants and sort this mess out.’
A No.10 aide refused to be drawn on whether Mr Cameron can intervene, while a spokesman at the MoD said the medal review was ongoing and veterans’ comments on its draft ‘will be carefully considered before decisions are made.’
‘The Conservative Party promised to award an Arctic campaign medal when again in power, but a year has since passed during which many Arctic veterans have ‘Crossed the Bar’ without seeing their vitally important Russian Convoy battles honoured.
‘If the prime minister will do the right thing and award the promised medal, we hope he does it before the summer recess.
‘If not, the passage of time will mean that more Arctic veterans will not be around to receive it.
‘You have already supported the Arctic war veterans’ claim for a campaign medal. I ask you to take the matter further by again supporting us and writing to the prime minister on our behalf.’
William Edward Grenfell, Commander Royal Navy (rtd.) Elected leader of the Arctic medal campaign.
Lieutenant-Commander R.F Dykes Royal Navy (rtd.), DSC, VRD. Deputy Leader of the Arctic medal campaign.