British Mariners Awarded For Arctic Convoy During WWII

The Arctic Convoy saved millions of lives during the Second World War, by delivering vital supplies to the Eastern Front. Over 3,000 former servicemen have been located and listed among those who are entitled to the medal and the search continues. However, the number of surviving veterans has lowered considerably in the past decade, which means that maybe 100 of a total of 3,000 will actually be awarded the medal.

Until last summer, it was against the law for the Royal Navy mariners to accept foreign military decorations, a rule which was finally lifted by the British government in 2013. In June 2013, 20 veterans were awarded the Ushakov Medal, during a ceremony in Downing Street.

The Russian Embassy in London is determined to find and award every single veteran who went on one or more convoy to the Eastern Front during the Second World War and has been writing to every one of them, helped by the British Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defense’s medal office, the RT News reports.

Between August 1941 and May 1945, 78 Arctic convoys delivered vital supplies to the Eastern Front, with the help of at least 1,400 vessels. During the convoys, 16 Royal Navy ships and 85 merchant vessels were lost, while they were escorted by the Royal Navy, the US Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.

A few of the former mariners have replayed to their letters from the embassy, showing such enthusiasm and honor to have been selected for this award. Liza Vokorina from the Russian Embassy in London said they sometimes read the letters with tears in their eyes, that people are so kind to reply, that they are thankful to be part of the plan and happy to receive such a distinction. Others didn’t think they would survive to see this happening.

“It is important that recognition goes to the people. I am looking forward to receiving this Ushakov Medal. In fact, it will give me great pride to wear it,” said Jimmy Pitts, one of the Arctic Convoy veterans.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE