Real hope for medal recognition for Arctic Convoy veterans?

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.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • We all live in hope, but won’t be holding our breath

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    Iain McCallum July 22, 2012 1:02 am Reply
  • I served on the convoys to Russia in HMS Myngs, a Zambesi
    class destroyer-still waiting for the decission om the medal

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    COLIN CHURCHER MBE October 21, 2012 4:21 pm Reply
    • And so are so many who served on the convoys you know more about than most of us who vigorously support the medal award.
      We imagine you know about the current defence minister who is said to have described the campaign for the Arctic Convoy Medal as ‘something a regime like Libya would give in to’.
      One does despair at the values of people like this.

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      newsroom October 21, 2012 9:17 pm Reply
      • I would have thought that the current defence minister was more intelligent than that.

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        Robert Wakeham October 21, 2012 9:27 pm Reply
        • It was not the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond [who has more sense but who has not awarded the necessary Arctic Convoy Medal] but one of his juniors, Armed Forces Minister, Andrew Robathan MP.
          Mr Robathan is also in trouble for asking to have the House of Commons public gallery cleared of service veterans during a debate on the proposed cutting of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

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          newsroom October 22, 2012 12:39 am Reply

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