Medals sent to Sunderland Arctic Convoy heroes

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A WAR veteran today welcomed news that a new medal will be sent to veterans of the Arctic Convoys as early as next month.

The Ministry of Defence has finally agreed on a design for the new Arctic Star medal and the honours could be handed to former servicemen within weeks.

Surviving veterans and widows will be the first to receive the awards.

John Clayburn, 87, from Fulwell, who served on the convoys between 1944 and 1945, today said he was pleased with the honours but feared they had come too late for many of his former colleagues.

He said: “It does seem like it’s a bit late in the day, and it’s taken a long time to get to this stage.

“There are now only four of us left from North East Russian Convoy Club.”

The families of those who served but have since died will also be able to apply.

More than 3,000 men died in the freezing waters of the Arctic as they worked to keep supplies flowing through German blockades to Britain’s ally, the Soviet Union, in Operation Dervish.

Mr Clayburn, who served on the last of the convoys, said: “I’m looking forward to seeing the medal, and I do hope it’s in the shape of a star.”

Mr Clayburn spent his Arctic mission looking out for U-boats which were coming in from the West.

The final design for the medal was agreed following consultation, after Prime Minister David Cameron announced the awards in December.

The mission to keep supply lines to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel open was described as the “worst journey in the world” by former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Russia has previously wanted to present its own Ushakov Medal to Britons who had served on the convoys, but the move was blocked by the UK Foreign Office (FCO).

The British Government said its rules on foreign awards meant permission could not be granted if veterans had received or were expected to receive a UK medal for the same services.

The FCO added that before the announcement of a specific award for the Arctic Convoys, all British veterans were eligible for the Atlantic Star.

Twitter: @craigjourno

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