Arctic Star medals were finally presented to 25 Wiltshire veterans in a ceremony at County Hall, Trowbridge, on Friday, more than 70 years after their Second World War heroics.
Third Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Igor Chamov, joined Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Rose Troughton and five Wiltshire MPs to presented the medals.
Described by Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world”, the Arctic Convoy ships of the Royal and Merchant Navies made repeated perilous journeys in sub-zero temperatures, to ensure vital food and arms supplies reached Russian shores.
Many lost their lives and the efforts of all those who took part are widely recognised as helping Russia’s war effort and significantly shortening the Second World War. It has taken more than 70 years for their efforts to receive formal recognition.
Addressing the men, Mr Chamov said: “It is a great honour to have the opportunity to congratulate you on behalf of the Russian Embassy.
“I would like to express deep gratitude for your invaluable contribution. At the time of war, the aid provided by the Arctic Convoys was crucial and indispensable for the Soviet Union. We shall not forget the Nazi Germany’s defeat that saved so many lives. You have made huge sacrifices. We respect it and will remember it.”
Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire, presented medals to Joseph Grant, of Trowbridge, Alan Stubbs, of Trowbridge, Denis Pickett, of Holt and Gilbert Grace, of Trowbridge.
He said: “We do a lot, as MPs, but being involved in this is the biggest honour of my career. It’s a privilege to be here and it is 70 years too late.”
Medals were presented by Chippenham MP Duncan Hames to Tom Edwards, of Melksham, Commander Harry Thompson, of Melksham, and Corsham men Fred Andrews and Mervyn Salter.
Mr Pickett, 88, who was born in Trowbridge, said: “It means a great deal and it’s nice to know that we have been acknowledged after all this time. It’s really nice to be able to reminisce with fellow servicemen.
“I was involved in two trips and I wouldn’t want to do them again. I was only 18 at the time and it was quite overwhelming.”
Mr Grant, 88, who served with the Royal Navy, said: “It’s great to be recognised and it has been a long time coming, but you just don’t think about it, really. It feels good to finally be awarded the medal.
“We were protecting the merchant ships and there were some very scary times.
“When I think back about it now, it was scary, but at the time I was only 18 and thought it was a thrill.”
Mr Grace, 88, added: “I am very pleased to receive the medal after all this time. It’s long overdue. We were all very young at the time and I don’t think we quite knew just how dangerous it was.”
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