Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Portsmouth City Council leader's WWII Arctic convoy medal plea

Herbert MacNeil
Image caption Arctic convoy veteran Herbert MacNeil has been honoured by Russia

The leader of Portsmouth City Council has said Downing Street need "to pull their finger out" over medals promised to World War II Arctic convoy veterans.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, a Liberal Democrat, was told it would take eight months to mint the medals but does not accept it can take that long.

He is concerned elderly veterans would not live to see their medals awarded to them and has written to David Cameron.

A Downing Street spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Mr Vernon-Jackson said there needed to "be a sense of urgency" as "people have been waiting since 1945 for this medal".

Image caption Gerald Vernon-Jackson said about 400 Arctic convoy veterans are still alive

"They need to pull their finger out and get a move on, it cannot take eight months," he said of Downing Street.

More than 3,000 seamen died over four years from 1941 on missions to deliver supplies to ports in the Soviet Union.

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

The service was not recognised with a medal and the veterans were unable to lobby for honours after the war because Russia became an enemy.

But in December, Mr Cameron told the Commons he had accepted an expert review's recommendation that an Arctic star medal should finally be minted.

Mr Vernon-Jackson said there were about 400 Arctic convoy veterans still alive but that most would be in their late 80s and 90s.

In his letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Vernon-Jackson said: "I am very conscious that the veterans who will receive these medals are becoming increasingly old.

"Every week before the award of the medals puts them at risk of not being able to receive the medals they so richly deserve."

Veterans have received recognition from the Russian government but have yet to be honoured by the British government.

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