Its difficult to hope after such a long sequence of lack of interest, evasion and broken promises – the most galling of which was the current Prime Minster’s unequivocal commitment to awarding medals to the veterans of these unimaginably demanding and dangerous World War II supply convoys to Murmansk in Russia.
This commitment was made when he was in opposition,
Once in office, it wasn’t that he was distracted by other matters. It was a shameful refusal to carry through.
This will have been fed by the classist Ministry of Defence, which has always rejected the award of a medal for these actions because it would – of course – include members of the merchant navy.
The first filters for courage is such circles are rank and membership of the armed forces – yet this country awarded service medals to civil servants working in administration in Iraq, in the aftermath of our ill-guided engagement in the Bush-Blair destruction of that country.
There are now fewer than 400 of the Arctic Convoy veterans still living. Will we continue to bury this in committees and talking shops until they are all gone?
A report commissioned by the UK government has now concluded that their case for a medal is ‘impressive’. It was what they did that was impressive. There should not need to be ‘a case’ -but the report is well meaning. Let’s hope it is influential.
Sir John Holmes, the former diplomat who carried out the review, has said that this award should be a top priority.
However, he also says that, in the resolution of this ‘significant injustice or inconsistency’, independent experts in the award of military decorations ‘should look again rapidly at the long standing controversy’.
This does take us back into the world of talking shops, meeting infrequently.
We note that the Prime Minister’s welcome of the report asked him to produce another.
For God’s sake, if, in honour, we are to do anything on this matter, we need to keep the issue out of the long grass before that grass embraces the few remaining veterans.
Note: The broadcaster, Richard Baker’s book. The Terror of Tobermory, on the individualist officer who led the initiative, Vice Admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson.