Medal at last for Arctic Convoy veterans – but too late for some

George Barker
George Barker
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SCORES of Arctic Convoy veterans missed getting a new medal because they “died waiting” for the Prime Minister to act, campaigners said yesterday.

David Cameron yesterday announced that a new Arctic Convoy Star medal should finally be minted – 67 years after the end of the Second World War.

Only around 200 veterans of the convoys are still alive, among them George Barker, 88, from Hull, who said the waiting had “gone on far too long”.

Mr Barker said friends who 
had accompanied him to a reception in London in 2005, when Tony Blair announced 
they would be awarded a lapel badge rather than a medal, had died.

“It has made my Christmas – recognition at last. But, as we say in the Navy, too many of my shipmates have crossed the Bar and it is too late for them,” he said.

Only recently the Government denied veterans the chance of accepting the Ushakov medal from the Russians and Mr Barker, who lied to join the Navy aged 17, said he suspected yesterday’s announcement was motivated by embarrassment over the episode.

“To me, this has reluctantly been given to us,” he said.

The campaign’s official representative Commander Eddie Grenfell, 92, said: “We are pleased but not delighted. As soon as David Cameron came to power I reminded him of the promise – only now has he got around to doing it.

“In the meantime God knows how many of my Arctic Convoy chums have died waiting.”

More than 3,000 seamen died over four years from 1941 on missions to keep open supply lines to Soviet ports which were dubbed the “worst journey in the world” by Winston Churchill.

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

It also means a clasp will be awarded to “heroic” veterans of RAF Bomber Command, the Prime Minister said.