Medal red letter day
5:30am Monday 24th February 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
THERE was a double celebration for a war hero at the weekend as Reginald Smart was presented with his Arctic Star Medal on his birthday.
Friends and family gathered at the Ladymead Care Home in Wroughton to see the medal presented to the veteran, who turned 94 on Sunday.
Reginald spent more than 30 years in the navy serving all over the world, including the Middle East and Korea, whilst also being involved in the D-Day landings.
However, his toughest hardship came while serving in the Arctic where he served on board HMS Scorpion and was involved in the famous sinking of the German battleship Schamhorst, in 1943.
“We are all very proud of him and very pleased to see him receive the award,” said his son Anthony Smart, 69.
“It’s fantastic we have been able to arrange for him to get it on his birthday. He was very proud of his time in the navy.
“We all know the terrible conditions sailors had to go through on the Arctic convoys. The spray would come up onto the ship and freeze almost instantly. The crew, regardless of rank, would have to work four hour shifts to clear the ice.”
Reg in 1935, when he joined the The Royal Navy aged 15
Reginald is among only a handful of veterans to receive the medal as it has only recently been created. He is also soon to get a medal from the Russians for his service in helping them defeat the German army as a result of the convoy.
“It used to be that British personnel could not accept foreign medals but following a meeting between David Cameron and Vladimir Putin last year it announced that was going to change,” said Anthony.
“We have applied for the Ushakov medal and it should arrive soon. It is a recogntion by the Russians of the sacrifices which were made by sailors which meant they could defeat Hitler.”
The medal was presented to Reginald by Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson.
He said: “It is a great honour to be giving this medal and it’s just a shame that it is so late. For those of us who only know about the Arctic convoys from the history books or films we can only imagine the awful conditions they went through.
“But it was a vital job they did in an incredibly hostile environment.”