New Arctic medal review gets underway

REVIEW John Holmes
REVIEW John Holmes
Police outside student accommodation in Stanhope Road, Portsmouth on Friday Picture Ben Fishwick

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THE government announced the start of a new review today which will decide if Arctic Convoy veterans can finally get a war medal.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced a fresh, independent study of the rules governing the award of military campaign medals,

And, as revealed previously by The News, it will be led by experienced diplomat Sir John Holmes.

In a written ministerial announcement, Mr Cameron said: ‘This government is fully committed to recognising all that our armed forces do to keep us safe.’

He said the review will be concluded ‘by the summer’ but did not give a specific date.

Veterans of the Arctic Convoys have waited since 1946 for a medal. They were snubbed by the government after the Second World War despite serving in freezing supply missions to the Soviet Union while under attack from Nazi U-boats and aircraft. Three-thousand sailors lost their lives in the convoys.

Successive Conservative leaders, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard, made pre-election promises to the Arctic heroes that they would be awarded their own medal the next time the Tories came to power.

However, in July 2010, David Cameron ordered the Ministry of Defence to carry out a review.

This was axed after 16 months in October last year amid claims from veterans that it was a whitewash.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage hailed the news of the start of a new, independent review as a ‘critical step forward’ in the long running campaign to secure a medal for the veterans.

She said: ‘It is entirely right that the case of the Arctic Convoy veterans is reconsidered. These brave men endured dangerous and freezing conditions to keep the supply line with Russia open in the Second World War and yet have still not been rewarded with a specific campaign medal. I am delighted that the government has launched this independent review, to give the veterans’ case a fair hearing and hopefully grant them the medal they so greatly deserve.’

Sir John’s study will also take in medal claims from other veterans’ groups, including Second World War Bomber Command veterans and sailors who served aboard HMS Concord in the Yangtze incident in 1949.