New lifeline of hope for Arctic Convoy veterans

CAMPAIGN Arctic Convoy veterans marching in London in May 2004
CAMPAIGN Arctic Convoy veterans marching in London in May 2004

Winchester jail put in special measures

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THE Ministry of Defence review into war medals has been stopped after 17 months after veterans blasted it as a ‘whitewash’ by officials.

The government has ordered a new, independent review to reconsider veterans’ claims for a medal – including the men who served in the Second World War Arctic Convoys and proudly wear white berets, as shown on the front page.

The backtrack comes after The News revealed Prime Minister David Cameron had appeared to drop his support for the Arctic veterans when he signed a letter saying they had already been recognised with a medal for the separate naval campaign in the Atlantic – a line MoD pen-pushers have often used to deny Arctic veterans’ claims for their own medal.

A Downing Street source has since told The News Mr Cameron had been acting on MoD advice when he wrote the letter which caused fury and disgust among Arctic Medal campaigners.

Now Mr Cameron has sidelined the MoD civil servants in favour of an independent review which campaigners hope will finally end 65 years of waiting for justice.

The 91-year-old leader of the Arctic Medal Campaign, Commander Eddie Grenfell, said: ‘It was clear that the review was being overtaken by the same MoD civil servants who have been dead against from the very start.

‘It was turning into a whitewash and I don’t understand why it wasn’t an independent review in the first place. I hope whoever runs the new review will finally pay attention to us.’

Cdr Grenfell, of Portsea, warned time is not on the ageing veterans’ side and said the new review does not take away their anger at the Conservative Party which made pre-election promises to award an Arctic Star medal, only to order a lengthy review when they got into power last year.

He said: ‘We’ve already waited far too long. They promised us a medal. You can’t review a promise.’

Officials could not confirm how long the new review will last but said it will have a larger remit to examine the rules of the Honours and Decorations Committee which awards medals.

A MoD spokesman said: ‘The government has committed to a fresh review of the rules governing the award of military medals.

‘This review will be conducted by an independent reviewer with full consultation with interested parties. The scope of the review and who is to lead it are expected to be announced shortly.’