Arctic convoys: PM announces medals for veterans

David Cameron announced the move at PM's Questions

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Veterans of the Arctic convoys in the Second World War will be awarded medals, David Cameron has announced.

The prime minister said the "brave men" who ensured supplies would get through German blockades to the Soviet Union "richly" deserved recognition.

There would also be a "clasp" for veterans of Bomber Command, he added.

More than 3,000 seamen died in Operation Dervish, with only an estimated 400 veterans still alive. The decision follows a long campaign.

The demand for medals has previously been turned down on grounds of protocol.

The mission to keep the supply lines to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel open was described as the "worst journey in the world" by former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.


'The worst journey in the world'

Arctic convoy ships
  • The Arctic convoys were groups of vessels which travelled from Britain to northern Russia to re-supply the Soviet Union during World War II
  • Under constant threat of attack by German U-boats and aircraft, the craft also had to deal with severe cold, storms, and ice floes
  • By May 1945, the Arctic route had claimed 104 merchant and 16 military vessels. Thousands of Allied seamen lost their lives
  • Winston Churchill reportedly called the route the "worst journey in the world"
  • The bravery of those on board enabled the Red Army to fend off the Nazis until the battle of Stalingrad, when the tide was turned

Source: National Maritime Museum

Mr Cameron told MPs he had accepted the recommendations of a review of military medals carried out by former diplomat Sir John Holmes.

He said: "I am very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic Convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very dangerous work they did.

"On Bomber Command, Sir John concluded that they have been treated inconsistently with those who served in Fighter Command."

Gosport Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage, who has been a prominent campaigner for Arctic convoy medals, said it was essential they were awarded soon.

She said: "I'm delighted that the government have addressed the huge injustice suffered by the Arctic convoy veterans.

"I would now urge the government to deliver on the medal as a matter of urgency, after years of waiting. Time is no longer a luxury that these brave men have on their side."

The announcement came during the last Prime Minister's Questions session of the year.

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