THE devastated daughter of an Arctic Convoys veteran has told of her heartbreak after her elderly father died still waiting for a medal to honour his war efforts.
Dee Lloyd Payne has spoken out to urge the government to end the 66-year wait for an Arctic Star medal after her father Walter Kitching passed away aged 90 on February 3.
The former Royal Marine, who served as a gunner aboard HMS Berwick on the gruelling Second World War missions, was among the original band of veterans who started the News-backed Arctic medal campaign in 1997 to fight for recognition.
But despite pounding the streets of Portsmouth and Havant collecting thousands of signatures in support of the campaign, the war veteran from Waterlooville has died empty-handed as the government continues to stall on setting up yet another long review into the honours system.
His daughter Dee, 53, of Horndean, said: ‘I’m very sad and I’m cross this has happened. For me, I feel very sad that I will never see my dad get what he deserved.
‘It’s too late for dad but it’s not too late for the other veterans who are still alive and the government must do the right thing now before they are all gone.’
Mr Kitching served in the Royal Marines from 1938 to 1957 and has got medals for every other campaign apart from the Arctic, Dee said.
She added: ‘Dad fought hard for this medal. It was important to him – not just for himself but for all the others who went through hell with him. It was important to him to have recognition for what they did. I think he and all the other Arctic Convoy veterans really deserve a medal but now dad has gone and he’s never going to receive one.
‘It was awful what he went through.
‘The conditions were horrendous – I heard him talk about chipping the ice off the ship and one horrible story about the time a ship was torpedoed and he went out on deck to pick his mate up but when he did his friend’s legs came away from his body.’
Despite the Conservative party making pre-election promises to strike an Arctic Star medal the next time they came to power, the new coalition government placed the matter under review with the Ministry of Defence in July 2010.
That review was axed by prime minister David Cameron last October after it was branded a ‘whitewash’ by veterans because a draft decision was produced without consulting them.
At the time, Mr Cameron announced a new, independent review into the medals system would be set up.
But six months later, veterans are still waiting to hear when the review will begin or who will lead it.
Arctic veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell, 92, of Portsea, attended Mr Kitching’s funeral at Portchester Crematorium on Tuesday.
He warned there were fewer than 200 surviving Arctic veterans still alive and said: ‘Having spoken to other veterans over the last few weeks, we feel this new review is a cynical move on the part of the government to keep us waiting and waiting, knowing if they keep us waiting long enough there will not be enough of us left to receive a medal.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace.’