Veterans Minister, Keith Brown MSP, has welcomed ‘constructive talks’ on the award of an Arctic Convoy Medal to veterans of those awesome World War II relief convoys to Russia, into the Kola Inlet and Murmansk.
These veterans of course include Scottish heroes who served these convoy. The Minister, a former member of the armed forces himself, says that these men must receive the recognition their courage and dedication deserves.
During a meeting in London with UK junior Defence Minister, Mark Francois, Mr Brown insisted that the UK Government honour its pre-election commitment to award arctic convoy medals.
It remains a stain on the good name of this unsteady government that an unequivocal pledge given by David Cameron in the election campaign was abandoned quickly once in power and faced with continuing and classist MoD resistance to the award. [Many of the veterans were in the Merchant not the Royal Navy. This really matters to some people.]
Speaking of the meeting – which covered a range of issues of importance to veterans, Keith Brown says: ‘I held constructive talks with Mr Francois on a range of important issues, like housing and the vital transition from service to civilian life.
‘We also discussed the fact that – 67 years after the end of the Arctic Convoys = the UK Government has not recognised the survivors with a dedicated campaign medal of their own.
‘Each year there are fewer and fewer of these remarkable veterans – with survivors now in their 80’s and 90’s – to whom we owe such a great deal.
‘In Scotland, we do not have the power to award campaign medals, but we are clear that these brave Scottish heroes deserve urgent recognition.
‘The Russian government is eager to honour the sailors’ courage with an Ushakov medal, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not allowing this to happen – I would like to see this decision reassessed without delay.
‘While recognising that Sir John Holmes is continuing his work on behalf of the MoD to review the awarding of military medals, these remarkable men have waited long enough.
‘It is vital that the UK Government recommends to Her Majesty the Queen that a campaign medal is struck.’
Everyone will be interested to know on what basis ‘the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not allowing this to happen’?
The Russians have been continually generous in their honouring of the veterans whose unbelievably dangerous supply runs, under attack from U-boats, surface ships, the Luftwaffe and the Arctic sea conditions, kept their country not only in the war but out of the hands of their enemies.
What interest can the Foreign Office have in obstructing another of these heartwarming gestures from Russia – when these men’s own country remains indifferent to their contribution to that war and to their experiences?