The Russian embassy awarded 30 British World War II veterans with the Ushakov medal. The medals were presented by the Russian embassy’s defense attaché Captain Oleg Kornienko.
One of the Arctic Convoy veterans honored was 91 year old able seaman Charles Lewis from Calmore, Hampshire. Mr. Lewis pointed out that he was “honoured and delighted.”
Charles Lewis also added that he did not see himself as a hero but as a man whom together with his colleagues were doing what was required at a time of the war. He also cited Churchill’s quote on the Arctic convoys’ mission as being “the worst journey on earth.”
The arctic convoys were created by the Allied Powers to supply the Soviet Union in Northern Russia which was under a barrage of attack from German U-boats and fighter plans.
Efforts to award the Medals of Ushakov to the Arctic convoys’ veterans were initially blocked by the British Foreign Office because its rules did not allow British soldiers to receive foreign medals for service that went more than five years back. This effort has been the result of the Russian embassy’s correspondence with the survivors of the arctic convoys in 2012.
A concerted campaign in 2013 led to the creation of an exception to the five year rule leading to President Putin presenting the first batch of medals on June 16 2013 in London, the BBC News reports.
Speaking on the awarding of the medals, Minister-Councillor Alexander Kramarenko explained that the ceremony was done for the veterans because they had waited for decades to be recognized.
Kramarenko also said: “The Arctic Convoy was a material expression of our wartime alliance and they provided weapons and ammunition that armed us to defeat the Germans on the Eastern front.”
He also emphasized that Britain and the Soviet Union were in the war together.
It is estimated that the war casualty of the arctic convoys was more than 3,000 men. By the end of WWII in May 1945, the Artic Convoy route had destroyed 16 military and 104 merchant vessels.