Arctic Star medal struck – and will be posthumously awarded

After the obstructionism of decades, who would have thought that the UK government would have the grace to act as quickly as it has.

Late last year, 2012, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, made it known that the decision had at last been taken to award a medal. There was, however, no set timescale  – although veterans’ organisations have lobbied hard for speed – and no statement on whether or not the medal would be restricted only to surviving veterans.

It was announced earlier today that the Royal Mint in Wales has now struck the Arctic Star medal, recognising the unique contribution to the UK’s and Russia’s very survival in World War II from those who served on the fearful Arctic Convoys to Murmansk and Archangel.

Even better news is that the Arctic Star medal is to be awarded posthumously, with the next of kin of veterans who have since died entitled to apply for the award of the medal in their name.

For those wishing to make such an application, the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum in Loch Ewe already has a ‘talk you through the process’ item on its website here. Just follow the links on the site.

This medal and its posthumous award – necessary with the almost 70 year gap between the service and today – will be a new conduit for the pride felt today for what those veterans  who survived the convoys endured  – with an awful attrition rate as easy prey for U-boats and the Luftwaffe.

It was the success of these grimly determined convoys in carrying vital supplies to Russia that kept that ally of Britain in the war and underpinned the eventual Allied success.

Many of the Arctic convoys gathered and left from Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, where the Russia Arctic Convoy Museum Project is running its 2013 Russian Arctic Convoy Week from 6th to 10th May – with more surprises promised in what is always a varied and interesting programme. Last year they had an Enigma machine.

Imagine what two occasions are going to be like this year.

The week at Loch Ewe in May will see the veterans who will be there sharing the delight of the long delayed formal recognition of their worth.

And the 2013 National Remembrance Sunday Parade at the Cenotaph in London is bound to see every single Arctic Convoy veteran who can possibly get there, in the parade, wearing this medal with pride and tears in their eyes.

The downside for surviving veterans today is the sorrow in remembering colleagues who have died and will not personally have the honour of wearing that medal.

Tobermory on Mull will share the pleasure in this medal, as the location of the training of the naval escorts for the Arctic convoys.

Jock Dempster, a former President of the Russian Convoy Club Scotland and who, as other veterans, has written for us, was on television earlier this evening, talking of a fellow veteran and friend of his who had died only a week ago. That sad loss was clearly aggravated by the loss of the opportunity to share the moment of the actual possession of the Arctic Star.

Jock’s email is H.DEMPSTER – and, curiosity irresistible, the question was eventually asked, The story is hilarious.

Jock’s father set off from home in Edinburgh to register the name of his baby son. On the way he met an old friend and the pair of them went for a quick drink, which became a few slow ones.

When his father, by then very sentimental, got to the registry office, he departed from the agreed name and registered his son by the name of the friend he had just met.

Jock’s disgusted voice on the phone, saying ‘Henry’, in tones of absolute recoil, offered no offence to the many Henrys whose relationship to their names is comfortable. Jock’s problem was that he never saw himself as a ‘Henry’ – so when, as a very young man, he was in the Merchant Navy and on the Convoys – and was inevitably called ‘Jock’ – he took it to himself with joy.

Now he and his convoy colleagues have the Arctic Star – to add to the long list of medals and awards an enduringly grateful and respectful Russia has showered upon them down the years. At one unforgettable ceremonial reception in Murmansk to mark such as award, Jock gave the response on behalf of the veterans – in Russian.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • I’ve been following the campaign and was delighted with yesterday’s news, agreeing with my family that I’d apply for my Great Uncles medal on his behalf. Unfortunately Gt Uncle John was too unwell to apply himself. My application was submitted by 5pm only to receive the really sad news later last evening that John had passed away in the hospice he was living in in Ohio, another medal earned but will not be seen.
    Rest assured we will celebrate the medal on his behalf.

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    Chris Davies February 27, 2013 1:05 pm Reply
  • Shame on past Governments for not recognizing the terrible price our merchant seaman paid in WW2 to help save our Nation, and our Allies.

    This award is at least 60 years overdue, who the hell was against it in the first place,appalling.

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    mike scutt February 27, 2013 1:08 pm Reply
  • My father posted his application for this medal this morning. As Mike Scutt says well over due to all who served.
    These awards were curtailed by King George V1 and later by John Major. Shame on all goverments who do not award for service to their country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Roger Grain February 27, 2013 4:32 pm Reply
  • Well done, guys, wear it with pride.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    S. White February 28, 2013 1:01 am Reply
  • My father sadly passed away 2 year ago aged 88, he would have been so proud to have heard this news. The Arctic Star shines bright tonight Dad.

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    TOM STEVENSON February 28, 2013 11:49 pm Reply
  • My father was in the arctic convoys and I would like to apply for his medal on his behalf, as sadly he died aged 90 in January this year.
    We would love to have this service honoured – I do not have his serving seamans number.
    Can someone tell me how to do this ??
    Many Thanks

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    julie campbell white July 29, 2013 5:00 pm Reply
    • Julie – email FAO Jackie Brookes to the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum:
      Tell her your problem and ask for her advice.
      This will be sorted out and the defence authorities will help you.

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      newsroom July 29, 2013 11:24 pm Reply
  • my father went to Russia in convoy in 1942 on Empire Snow
    on 20/8/1942 and returned to South Shields on 4/12/1942.
    His discharge book number is R264716,unfortunately he died on 31/3/1958 aged 34 years, I hope you can help me secure his convoy medal as we are very very proud of his service to his country, Yours respectfully,Roy Steel, son

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    roy steel February 27, 2015 4:02 pm Reply
    • HPw sad that he died so young. But you will certainly get his medal.
      You can download an application form from or write to The Arctic Star, MOD Medal Office, Imjin Barracks, Innsworth, Gloucester, GL3 1HW.
      The criteria for the new meda, which your father and you as his family certainly meet, are:
      The Arctic Star is granted for operational service of any length north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 32’N) from September 3 1939 to May 8 1945, inclusive.
      The Arctic Star is intended to commemorate the Arctic Convoys and is designed primarily for the ships of the convoys to North Russia and their Escorts. Eligibility is defined as follows:
      Navy and Merchant Navy – Naval and Merchant Navy service anywhere at sea north of the Arctic Circle to include, but not limited exclusively to, those ships participating in, and in support of, Convoys to North Russia.

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      newsroom February 28, 2015 11:13 am Reply

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