Devon

Arctic Convoy WW2 veterans receive Russian medals at Exeter ceremony

World War Two veterans
Image caption The Russian embassy honoured 50 World War Two veterans in Exeter for transporting supplies to Russia

Fifty World War Two veterans have been honoured by the Russian Embassy for their part in transporting crucial supplies to Russia.

Counsellor of The Russian Embassy, Sergey Nalobin, presented Ushakov medals to the men of the Arctic Convoys at a special ceremony in Exeter.

The medal is awarded to sailors who have displayed courage in the course of defending Russia or its interests.

Winston Churchill said the trip was the "worst journey in the world".

Image caption The medal is awarded to sailors who have displayed courage in the course of defending Russia

Created by the Allied powers, the Arctic Convoys sailed through blinding snow storms and darkness under attack from German U-boats and fighter planes to deliver vital supplies to the Soviet Union in northern Russia.

More than 3,000 men died during the maritime campaign and by May 1945, the Arctic route had claimed 104 merchant and 16 military vessels.

Arctic Convoys veteran Leonard Fergus, aged 89, from Plymouth said: "I'm quite honoured. It's the last medal I'll receive now.

"I've got the Arctic Star but this one is a very nice one."

Image caption Veteran Leonard Fergus said he was "honoured" to receive the accolade

Sir Eric Dancer, Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of Devon, said the medal was "an award of the highest honour".

He said: "It is a medal for outstanding, distinguished and heroic service and I think it's absolutely marvellous this is being awarded on the decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, who has decreed you will receive this medal in recognition of the outstanding service you gave 70 years ago."

The Foreign Office initially did not allow Russia to honour the veterans as it broke rules that do not allow British soldiers to receive a foreign medal if the act happened more than five years ago.

Following a concerted campaign last year, it allowed an exception to the rule and President Putin presented the first medals during his visit to London on June 16 2013.

Image caption The Arctic Convoys sailed while under attack from German U-boats and fighter planes to deliver supplies

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