Medal campaigners fear broken pledge

ANGRY Veterans on the Arctic Convoys march in London in 2004
ANGRY Veterans on the Arctic Convoys march in London in 2004
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SECOND World War veterans who served in the Arctic Convoys fear the government will not honour its promise to award them a medal.

Hopes are fading after defence minister Andrew Robathan wrote to the 91-year-old leader of the Arctic Medal Campaign, Commander Eddie Grenfell, and made no assurances a medal will be given to the sailors who braved sub-zero conditions, German bomber planes and U-boats to deliver aid to Soviet Union forces.

In the letter, Mr Robathan wrote: ‘The United Kingdom’s 1939-45 Star and the Atlantic Star both recognise operational service at sea in the Atlantic and the Arctic.’

This has enraged Cdr Grenfell, of Portsea, who said: ‘The idea the Atlantic and Arctic operations were the same thing is absolute tosh. We had the same thing when Labour was in power.

‘I don’t blame Mr Robathan. I blame civil servant advisors in the Ministry of Defence who will not admit they are wrong about this. I worry we’re not getting anywhere.’

The veterans have been fighting for a medal since 1997 in a campaign backed by The News.

In 2006, Labour recognised the Arctic Convoys as a separate campaign when an Arctic Emblem badge was created – to the dismay of the campaigners who want a proper medal.

In opposition, many Conservative MPs – including Mr Cameron – supported the veterans. Former Tory leaders Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith both promised a medal would be created when the party next came to power.

But nothing has been forthcoming from the current government despite Mr Cameron urging ministers to ‘do more’ for the veterans.

Cdr Grenfell said: ‘I had to convince members of the Russian Convoy Club to take the emblem in 2006 on the basis it was better than nothing and we had been promised a medal by the Conservatives.

‘But now it’s under review and it has been for nine months. They promised us a medal. You can’t review a promise.’

The Ministry of Defence said defence ministers recently heard the findings of the review. It has been passed on to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg before it is made public. There is no timeframe for the process to be completed but it’s expected it will conclude soon.

Cdr Grenfell said: ‘We can’t wait much longer. We’re not getting any younger. All we’re asking for is justice to be done and for the Conservatives to make good on their promise.’