It was wrong that veterans had to wait so long for medal

Share this article
Friends and family released balloons on Portsdown Hill on what would have been Katie's 15th birthday on February 4

CHERYL GIBBS: Inspirational Katie touched the hearts of so many in her short life

Have your say

They should never have had to wait this long. But we’re delighted to report today that veterans of the Arctic Convoys are finally to be allowed to wear a medal awarded to them by a grateful Russia.

The Ushakov medal is a heartfelt thank-you from a nation that appreciates what these men did for them by braving freezing conditions and mountainous seas to ensure that vital wartime supplies got through.

For too long they have been denied the Ushakov because of bureaucracy.

Despite pleas from the veterans, the British government maintained its stance that citizens are only allowed to receive foreign medals and awards if it (the government) gives permission and if the award relates to the recipient’s activities within the past five years.

The argument went that awarding the medal would have meant breaking the rules.

But, as Arctic Convoy veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell rightly points out today. those same rules didn’t stop the government awarding medals for the Malaysian, Malta and Suez campaigns.

The truth is that this could have been resolved much earlier if somebody had had the will to do so.

Instead, Cdr Grenfell and his comrades were mired in frustrating intransigence.

Happily, this is all history now though. Because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made a U-turn, meaning that veterans can now proudly wear the Ushakov along with the recently-struck Arctic Star, another award for which they also had to campaign long and hard.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office is quoted as saying: ‘The Prime Minister feels that, given all the sacrifices and hardship they undertook for our collective wellbeing and security, it is only right that these brave men are given the chance to receive and wear what is a very high honour from the Russian State.’

We agree. But what still leaves a somewhat sour taste is that the veterans had to fight to be heard by politicians and civil servants when making what was always a hugely convincing case.