Medals must be awarded as a matter of priority

COMMENT: Attraction will capitalise on the riches in our midst

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He has fought for 15 years with an admirable mix of dignity and determination.

And, despite being hospitalised following a series of heart problems, redoubtable Commander Eddie Grenfell is still fighting.

Last month, after tirelessly leading a News-backed campaign for veterans of the wartime Arctic Convoys to be honoured for their heroism, the 93-year-old finally heard the news he had been waiting for – the government would be awarding a medal.

But to Cdr Grenfell, that is far from the end of the matter. Because to him and fellow veterans, time is very much of the essence.

As the days go by, their number dwindles still further.

They simply cannot afford to wait while Whitehall mandarins get around to having the medals struck.

Cdr Grenfell himself has experienced concerning health issues.

Taken to hospital after having trouble with his heart rate, he was discharged but then readmitted within 24 hours after losing consciousness at his Portsea home.

Ten months ago, he was also hospitalised after suffering a heart attack.

As Cdr Grenfell says: ‘The important thing is now that David Cameron has approved the medal, he needs to make sure that the veterans who are still alive get it by March at the latest.

‘If the government does take longer than March, one chap after another will cross the bar and that’s happening now.

‘In the last month three people have gone, and there may be more.’

Cdr Grenfell has been told surviving Arctic Convoy veterans will receive their medals as a matter of priority, while relatives of deceased convoy veterans will get medals for their loved ones at a later date.

That is right and proper.

But the government must act quickly to order production of the medals so that the couple of hundred convoy veterans who are still alive get to wear what they have long campaigned for.

It means so much to them and they deserve nothing less.