The campaign by a Whitchurch resident, and former mayor, Roy Dykes continues to push for the awarding of an Arctic Star medal to veterans of the World War II Arctic Convoys which supplied Russians with vital food and military equipment.
The UK Government has so far refused to award such a medal for this and instead had asked for an independent review to be done by Sir John Holmes. His review was completed in July but the Government then asked Sir Holmes to conduct a re-examination of issues that have been the subject of past campaigns, such as the Arctic convoy medal, and report back by the end of 2012.
The Prime Ministe stated in July, “I welcome the report and have asked Sir John to lead a second stage of work to make further recommendations using the principles he has proposed to implement his findings. This work will be completed as soon as possible in the Autumn.”
RUSSIAN MEDAL AWARDED, BUT NOT IN UK
This summer, the Russian Government asked the UK Government if it could award the veterans its Ushakov Medal in recognition of their heroic efforts. The UK Government refused their request. Other countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA did agree to the presentation of the Russian medal to its veterans.
The Prime Minister was asked about this in the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 by MP Ian Swales. Instead of answering that question, the Prime Minister stated that the review into a British medal for the Arctic convoy veterans was still under way by Sir John Holmes.
To date, 28 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to allow Russia to present the medal to UK veterans.
The Russian Embassy in London stated that they are “in receipt of a note of the Foreign Office which…states, inter alia, that the information supplied ‘does not describe any relevant service specific to Russia within the last five years’. Therefore it will not be possible for the Foreign Office to seek permission for those UK citizens named by the Embassy to accept and wear the Ushakov Medal.”
Sir John Holmes’ Military Medals Review for the Government was completed in July 2012. In it, Sir Holmes stated:
Veterans of the Arctic Convoys to Russia from 1942-1944 have been campaigning for a separate Star for the Arctic on the basis that this both comprised a distinct theatre of war in its own right and was particularly fundamental to the eventual Allied Victory, by keeping the Soviet Union in the war.
His report continued,
Some veterans suspect that an Arctic medal was not awarded after the war for political reasons related to the deepening rift with the Soviet Union, and argue that it therefore only became appropriate to lobby actively for such a medal in the 1990s, once the Cold War had ended.
It is estimated that at least 95,000 members of the Royal Navy served in the Arctic campaign, together with a similar number from the merchant navy.
The campaign page for the Arctic Star medal is HERE. The full statement from the Russian embassy is HERE. A BBC report on another convoy veteran’s reaction to the UK government decision is HERE. You can watch the brief exchange in the House of Commons on YouTube HERE – fast forward to 16:30.