Arctic Convoy veterans - including Hornchurch man, 87 - to be decorated, David Cameron decides
Veterans of the Second World War Arctic Convoys, including an 87-year-old Hornchurch man, are to be awarded medals following a high-profile battle with the British government.
The decision comes in the wake of national outrage that the convoy veterans would not be allowed to receive medals offered by the Russian government.
The Foreign Office had ruled that the Second World War was too long ago for its servicemen to be decorated.
Outraged Romford MP Andrew Rosindell mounted a campaign earlier this year to get the government to reverse its decision. His open letter to the Foreign Office attracted 31 other MPs’ signatures.
“Obviously I’m thrilled at the news,” he told the Recorder today (Thursday).
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“The fact they’ve decided to do this now means these surviving veterans will be able to accept the awards themselves and do so with enormous pride. It’s a great Christmas present for them.”
But convoy veteran Gordon Copson, whom the Recorder interviewed back in November, greeted the news hesitantly.
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Mr Copson, of Bush Elms Road, pointed out the government was offering veterans a new British award, rather than allowing them to accept the Ushakov medal offered last year.
“It’s a relief, but we’d still like to get the Russian one as well,” he said.
“It might be that once they’ve given their own medal they’ll let us have the Russian one because they’re embarrassed.”
David Cameron made the announcement yesterday (Wednesday) in parliament, mid-way through a review of the Foreign Office’s rules about military medals that was commissioned at the start of the year.
A Downing Street spokesman said there were no plans as yet to allow the award of the Ushakov medal – because it was being offered by a foreign government.
But she added Sir John Holmes’ review of the rules around war medals, whose undertaking was part of the coalition agreement, had not yet been concluded.
The 78 Arctic Convoys took place between 1941 and 1945, and saw servicemen brave freezing temperatures, enemy bombardment and near-constant darkness to deliver supplies to the Eastern Front.
Three thousand people died in the missions. More than 800 Allied ex-servicemen are eligible to receive the Ushakov medal – with Britain the only country to block it.