- Arctic Star to mark the 'heroism and bravery' of those who served on ships keeping Russia supplied
- First ones will be awarded to survivors 'as a matter of priority' within a month
- They have waited for their sacrifice to be recognised for 70 years.
- The Arctic Star: This new medal with honour the heroes of the 'Russian Run' convoys
But next month the 200 frail veterans of the Arctic Convoys will finally have campaign medals pinned to their chests. The 4cm by 4cm medal will hang from a ribbon incorporating colours that represent the three Armed Services, red for the Merchant Navy and a central white stripe, emphasised by black edging, marking the Arctic. It will be embossed with King George VI’s cipher - the letters G, R and I - and carry the words ‘The Arctic Star’. Designs were submitted by the Ministry of Defence to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee and their recommendation was submitted to The Queen for approval. As many as 250,000 veterans or their families could be eligible for the new award. Defence Minister Mark Francois will announce today the details of the Arctic Star to mark the ‘heroism and bravery’ of those who served on ships keeping Russia supplied and fighting in the war. Production of the medals will begin this week and the first ones will be awarded to survivors ‘as a matter of priority’ within a month. Medals will also be awarded posthumously, meaning widows and families of those Arctic Convoy veterans who died during the Second World War or since can collect one on their behalf. The family of Commander Eddie Grenfell, 93, the leader of the 16-year campaign for justice, said he would be ‘extremely proud and relieved’. More than 3,000 British naval and merchant seaman died between 1941 and 1945 on the convoys, risking their lives braving sub-zero temperatures, ferocious seas and a gauntlet of German warplanes and U-boats. The ice-covered convoys carried four million tonnes of cargo including tanks, warplanes, fuel and food to slow Germany’s advances on the Eastern front. More than 66,000 Royal Navy sailors and merchant seamen took part in what Winston Churchill described as the ‘worst journey in the world’. Eighty-seven merchant ships and 18 Royal Navy warships were sunk. However, the onset of the Cold War meant it was politically difficult to give them a medal for assisting the Soviet Union and it only now their sacrifice has been properly recognised. Those eligible for the new Arctic Star are all those who served for any length of time north of the Arctic Circle.
Brave veterans of the Arctic Convoy, pictured last year.
People can apply for the medal on the website www.veterans-uk.info or by telephoning 0845 780 0900.