Keith Brown welcomes constructive talks on medal for Arctic Convoy heroes

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?

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Related Articles & Comments

  • In years gone by I worked with a Minard resident – Bill Holmes – who’d been on the Arctic convoys, and the memories clearly haunted him.
    From recollection, he was talking about going way beyond Murmansk, to Arkhangel in the White Sea.
    Just how unfit for purpose is the MOD heirarchy, when you add this stubbornness to their historic and staggering ineptitude in managing procurement? And the FCO – what’s their problem?

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    Robert Wakeham November 4, 2012 6:03 pm Reply
  • They can keep their problem to themselves once we are independent

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    Graeme mccormick November 4, 2012 8:54 pm Reply
  • What does he mean by “welcomed ‘constructive talks”? All his government has to do is stand by their pledge and say “YES” to the awarding of the medals to these brave chaps before they start passing on. It is not that difficult.

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    Iain McCallum November 5, 2012 9:59 am Reply
  • Alas, it is already way too late for many, including my own father, who served as a voluntarily signed up sub-lt on the Arctic convoys amongst his service as a Merchant Seaman, but all on Royal Naval Ships from 1942 until 1948, when he was Honorably Discharged. Two of the ships he served on were torpedoed and sunk. To the day he died in 2005 (aged 89), he was very reluctant to talk about any of his war experiences, becoming visibly upset, and admitting to a profound sense of guilt that he was one of the few survivors, and had witnessed the horrific deaths of many of his pals and colleagues. He told me that the convoys he took part in left from ‘the tail o’ the bank’ in Greenock, and headed North to Murmansk, where their supplies were unloaded to go by land the rest of the journey to Archangel.

    I really don’t think a medal would have mattered to him one iota, as nothing on earth could take away those dreadful experiences for him, and indeed, perhaps it would only have served as an unpleasant reminder?
    Having said that I agree that it defies logic, as to why our Government has chosen not to recognise the remarkable contribution to the war effort that such men made. To say that they were ‘merchant seamen’ as opposed to Royal Navy, is an absolute nonsense, as exemplified by men like my dad, who actually did all his service on Royal naval ships – how can there possibly be any difference in the job done? (I understand the incentive offerred to such young single men signing up, was that they would receive a slightly higher rate of pay, but in return, although the job would be identical, they would not be entiled to any veterans pension. – a fact many such young men did not think through, as having no family / dependents, at the time, never thought to consider the effect on their subsequent lives,/ eventual widows etc.)

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    Hilary Graham November 12, 2012 4:08 am Reply
    • In every way this is a substantial addition to our collective understanding of the experiences and values all of the convoy veterans shared – and an insight into the extent to which young, carefree men who naturally did not think the long game, were exploited, even in war. Thank you.

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      newsroom November 12, 2012 8:15 am Reply

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