UK

Cameron says Arctic convoy veterans should get medals

  • 12 January 2011
  • From the section UK
Reception at the Russian Embassy in London
Image caption The veterans were honoured at a reception at the Russian embassy last year

The prime minister has said Arctic convoy veterans, who delivered supplies which kept the Soviet Union going during World War II, should get medals.

David Cameron said they endured "incredibly harsh conditions" while escorting supplies to ports in the Arctic Circle between 1941 and 1945.

Winston Churchill described the convoys as the most dangerous of the war.

Last year the Russian government presented medals to scores of veterans who attended a reception in London.

In a ceremony on board HMS Belfast - which took part in the convoys - the then Consul General of the Russian Federation, Sergey Krutikov, said the medals were a sign of Russia's appreciation for the veterans' heroic deeds.

Many of the Arctic convoy veterans were merchant seamen, rather than Royal Navy servicemen, and served aboard 1,400 merchant ships which were pressed into service.

Supplies of British and American military equipment - everything from bullets to tanks and planes - enabled the Red Army to stay in the war and fend off the Germans until the battle of Stalingrad, when the tide was turned.

Picked off by U-boats

Thousands of British sailors were killed as their ships were picked off by U-boats which harried the Arctic convoys.

Mr Cameron told the House of Commons he had been in contact with the Ministry of Defence about the medals idea.

He said: "Of course you have to have proper rules here, but it seems to me that the important fact is that the people on the Arctic convoys served under incredibly harsh conditions and weren't actually allowed to serve for very long periods of time.

"There is a case for saying they have missed out. Many of them are coming to (the) end of their lives and it would be good if we could do something more to recognise what they have done."

Mr Cameron was responding to Caroline Dinenage, the Conservative MP for Gosport in Hampshire, who had asked if there were plans to honour the veterans.

She said: "I know you understand there is a huge amount of support for the Arctic convoy veterans of World War II to receive a medal.

"But do you appreciate that in order for the remaining representatives of this incredibly brave group of men to receive this recognition in their lifetime that the time to act is now?"

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