Arctic convoys veteran from Gosport invited back to Russia

John Crossman, 87, from Gosport, served on HMS Belfast and will return to Russia. Picture: Sarah Standing (142350-5857)
John Crossman, 87, from Gosport, served on HMS Belfast and will return to Russia. Picture: Sarah Standing (142350-5857)
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AN ARCTIC Convoys veteran is heading back to Russia but this time under very different circumstances.

John Crossman is going to St Petersburg at the end of this month on the back of receiving his Ushakov medal in recognition of the work he did during the treacherous mission during the Second World War.

The 87-year-old, who joined the Royal Navy when he was aged 16 and served on board HMS Belfast is going to Russia for the unveiling of a memorial to remember the 3,000 lives lost during the mission.

Mr Crossman, of Stocker Place, in Gosport, said: ‘I’m looking forward to going.

‘I’m there for a few days and we have a range of things to do.

‘One of the key events is the unveiling of the memorial. I was honoured to be invited by the Russians.’

Mr Crossman added it will be odd seeing the country again as he only remembers it being at war.

‘When I got the invitation, memories kept coming back of the Russia I remember,’ he said.

‘It will be a very different country now so it is a lot to take in.’

Originally from London, Mr Crossman signed up for the Royal Navy and was immediately put to training.

The first ship he worked on was Townclass light cruiser HMS Belfast.

He spent just over a year on the ship which went to the Arctic to ensure merchants could reach Russia with their supplies.

He added: ‘I can just remember how cold it was on board the ship. It was unbelievably cold.

‘We had to chip ice off the railings on the top deck and at one point, there was 500 tonnes of ice frozen to the ship.’

Mr Crossman was invited to the Russian Embassy in London, last Thursday to receive his Ushakov medal.

He said it was a great honour to receive it with the 11 other veterans.

His wife of 63 years, Jean, added that she was proud of him.

‘We were told this medal was coming but it has been a long wait,’ she said.

‘But I’m just so proud of him. It is a great honour.’

The HMS Belfast Association has paid for Mr Crossman and his carer David to go to Russia.

Mr Crossman added: ‘I’m very grateful to them paying for this trip. I’m very much looking forward to it.’

But it wasn’t just the Ushakov medal Mr Crossman recently received. He was also posted the Arctic Star medal awarded by the government which was fought for by veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell.

In a 16-year campaign, backed by The News, Eddie won his battle and received his medal, along with many others, in March last year.