THOUSANDS of veterans who sailed on Arctic convoys have again had their efforts snubbed by the British Government.
About 3,000 Merchant Navy seamen sailed on the convoys to transport supplies to Russia during the Second World War in what Winston Churchill described as the worst journey in the world.
The servicemen who battled treacherous Arctic conditions were offered the Ushakov medal from the Russian government for their service.
They have now been told by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that to accept it will be breaking rules in this country.
Orston Bulman, 93, from Pinfold Court, Cleadon, served in the PQ16 convoy in 1942.
It was the largest convoy and was so successful that it was decided more ships would sail to Russia.
“It is disgraceful, our Government are just messing about now really,” said Mr Bulman.
“When they said that we were going to receive the medal from them for our efforts after all this time, I thought it was a step in the right direction.
“Now, the way they have mucked about I think I would prefer to get the medal from the Russian government.”
Mr Bulman – who was an engineer on the ships – and his comrades sailed to Murmansk on the PQ16, battling 30ft Arctic waves and the threat of German bombs and torpedoes.
“I have received a medal from the Russian government, and two from the British government, but none of them are directly for efforts made in the Arctic Convoy,” he said
“Our Government just keep trying to play it down.”
The FCO told veterans that because they have already been honoured with the Atlantic Star campaign medal, they could not accept the Ushakov medal.
They said that their service had to have taken place in the last five years for them to be eligible.
Recently it was announced that a specific British Arctic campaign medal to recognise the severe hardships of the convoy is to be created.
A spokesman for the FCO said the department appreciated the Russian government’s wish to recognise the “brave and valuable” service of Arctic convoy veterans.
He said: “The rules on the acceptance of foreign awards clearly state that in order for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned and that that service should have taken place within the previous five years.
“Additionally, permission cannot be granted if they have received, or are expected to receive, a UK award for the same services.”
A petition asking the Government to reconsider the decision can be found on Downing Street’s website at submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/40174