Romford MP Andrew Rosindell leads campaign after government refuses to let veterans receive bravery medal
Romford MP Andrew Rosindell is leading a campaign to get a group of Second World War veterans recognised for service in the Arctic Circle – after the Foreign Office refused to grant them bravery medals.
Men who served with the Arctic Convoy have been denied the medals, which were offered by the Russian government, because of a bizarre rule stating medals can only be awarded in respect of conflicts within the last five years.
The move makes the British government the only one to refuse the decorations, after America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all accepted them.
Hornchurch man Gordon Copson, who served with the Arctic Convoy in 1944-45, called the reasoning “infantile”.
“Unless you’ve had service within the last five years they can’t give you a medal,” he said. “Considering I’m 87, I would have been hobbling around on crutches at the time.”
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Mr Rosindell has put his support behind the veterans and written a letter to the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Declarations and Medals, appealing for the decision to be reversed.
He cites the “exceptional circumstances” that justify the late award of the medal, including the changed relationship between Britain and Russia since the end of the war, and the fact Russia had only decided to confer it upon foreign servicemen last year.
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“It feels like we’re being treated as second class citizens,” said Mr Copson, of Bush Elms Road. “We feel we’ve been left behind.
“The worst thing [about serving with the Arctic Convoy] was the cold, and for a large part of the year it was dark – so you were groping your way around on deck.
“It was a job to breathe, it was that cold – and if you went into the water, after a minute and a half you were dead of hypothermia.
“I saw a ship sank, and the people were in the water and quite a few died of hypothermia – when you’re young, that’s something you don’t forget.”
Mr Rosindell’s letter is addressed to the committee’s Richard Tilbrook and supported by 31 other MPs.
“I am sure that I do not need to remind the [committee] of the incredible importance of such daunting missions in keeping vital supply routes open between our allies,” it states, “as well as the immense bravery of our Arctic veterans during this period in which 3,000 servicemen perished.”
More than 800 British servicemen like Mr Copson are eligible to receive the Ushakov Medal in recognition of their Arctic Convoy missions.