‘This is the year for Arctic veterans to finally get a medal’

MEETING Cdr Eddie Grenfell with veterans minister Andrew Robathan in the Great Hall in Winchester in June
MEETING Cdr Eddie Grenfell with veterans minister Andrew Robathan in the Great Hall in Winchester in June

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THE government has been urged to make a New Year resolution to end the 62-year wait for an Arctic Star medal.

MPs are to pile pressure on Downing Street and the MoD to make 2012 the year Britain finally honours the 66,000 Royal Navy and Merchant Navy sailors who took part in the Second World War Arctic Convoys to Russia.

Around 3,000 men perished in the icy Arctic waters as they sailed treacherous voyages to supply the Soviet Union under attack from German planes and U-boats.

But governments since the war have failed to give the veterans their own campaign medal – including David Cameron’s Tory ministers who made pre-election promises of an Arctic Star.

As the public anger grows at yet another Whitehall review into the issue, supporters of The News-backed campaign for a medal have vowed to strengthen their resolve.

Gosport’s Tory MP Caroline Dinenage, who recently secured a debate in the House of Commons on the matter, said: ‘This has to be the year where a decision is made in favour of these men and it has to be done as quickly as possible because time is not on their side. These men are in their 80s and 90s and they should not have this uncertainty hanging over them.

‘It’s utterly disgusting that people who sacrificed so much for this country should be left waiting in this way.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, also a Conservative back-bencher, said: ‘This review needs to be done quickly and me and my colleagues are pushing for that to happen. All the evidence is in with the MoD and it all points towards giving these men the medal they so rightly deserve.

‘Every day that goes by where these guys don’t have a campaign medal for what they went through in the Arctic is another day when justice is not served.

‘We’re going to keep the momentum up on this.’

The veterans’ minister Andrew Robathan, who apologised last month after comparing the Arctic Star medal to awards doled out by dictators, says the Arctic Convoy veterans were rewarded with the Atlantic Star medal in 1946.

But the Arctic vets – many of whom had already earned an Atlantic Star medal with the Home Fleet – feel they deserved another medal for the separate Arctic Convoys which sailed some 800 miles north of the Atlantic.

It’s not too late to join the campaign...

The News is calling on readers to stand up against the bureaucracy that has robbed Arctic Convoy veterans of a medal by signing an online petition which can be found at portsmouth.co.uk/arcticconvoys.

More than 3,000 sailors died running a sub-zero gauntlet of German warplanes and U-boats to keep Russia supplied and fighting in the war.

But successive British governments have ignored their plea for proper recognition – despite the veterans being hailed as heroes in Russia.

These veterans need people to get active online and start spreading the word about this 65-year injustice.

Twitter users are urged to tweet the above link using the hashtag #arcticmedal and to ask prominent Tweeters to spread the word to their followers. People not on Twitter can email friends and work colleagues the portsmouth.co.uk/arcticconvoys link and ask them to send it on to other people they know.

If 100,000 people sign the epetition it could lead to the Arctic Medal campaign being debated in parliament. Arctic Medal campaign leader Commander Eddie Grenfell said: ‘It would be wonderful if we can get 100,000 signatures. On behalf of the veterans, I thank everyone for all their fantastic support.’