Arctic Convoy veterans win recognition at last
The long battle for recognition staged by veterans of one of the Second World War's most brutal campaigns has at last been won.
Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday revealed that the men who took part in the Arctic Convoy – many of whom hail from the Westcountry – would be rewarded with their own medal.
It was also announced that veterans of Bomber Command would be awarded a special clasp.
Geoff Helmore, who lives near Helston, served on two of the Arctic Convoys – missions that even Churchill described as "the worst journey in the world."
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The 89-year-old said it was fantastic news, but it had been a long time coming.
"It is amazing, but I almost can't believe it," said Mr Helmore, a retired head teacher.
"After all these years and all that effort by so many people and after so many Governments have said 'no', this really is wonderful news.
"It has taken too long, far too long, but I'm delighted for all the veterans of the convoy and Bomber Command," he added.
The Arctic Convoys were a vital lifeline thrown to Russia following the outbreak of hostilities on the eastern front in 1941 which effectively hemmed in Britain's ally. In a series of audacious missions, Merchant Navy vessels escorted by Royal Navy warships deemed "expendable" transported vital munitions and supplies through the Arctic Ocean to the ice-free port of Murmansk.
More than 3,000 sailors perished in the convoys, their lives claimed by freezing conditions and the fact that convoys passed perilously close to Nazi-occupied Norway.
Previously veterans have been allowed to wear the Atlantic Star and survivors' efforts to secure formal recognition for the Arctic operation had been repeatedly rebuffed over many years on the grounds of protocol.
Only about 400 veterans are thought to still be alive.
St Ives MP, Andrew George, who has campaigned on behalf of veterans of the Arctic convoys, said he was "delighted" by the announcement.