Medals ceremony for Arctic Convoy veterans

 

At the meeting of Full Council this evening, Woking Borough Council held a civic ceremony to honour veterans of the Second World War’s Arctic Convoys, who received the prestigious Ushakov medal from representatives from the Russian Embassy.

 

The Arctic Convoys were a series of highly secretive missions which were vital in delivering aid and supplies through the Arctic Ocean to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945, often under heavy bombardment from German naval forces. Over four years, 85 merchant vessanls and 16 Royal Navy warships were lost, and around 3,000 British sailors killed in what Winson Churchill described as “the most dangerous journey in the world.” Although the Russian Government has sought to award the Ushakov Medal to British veterans of the Arctic Convoys for some time, Foreign & Commonwealth Office rules meant it could only be accepted from 2013.

 

Today there are only three surviving veterans of the Arctic Convoys living in Woking. Douglas Potts and Reginald Guy attended the ceremony at the civic offices and received their medals in person from the Russian diplomats, while Edward Tann was represented by Royal Navy Commander Graham Turnbull. Mr Nalobin gave a respectful speech in which he spoke of Russia’s gratitude towards those who served in the Arctic Convoys, and also said it was important for those in Britain not to forget the heroism and sacrifice of those who helped keep the Soviet Union in the war.

 

After the ceremony, Mr Fedichkin told me that the Russian Embassy has extended the offer of Ushakov Medals to 800 veterans around the country, and they intend to award as many of these in person as possible. Similar ceremonies to that in Woking have also been held in other local authorities in recent months.

 

Following the decision by the Foreign Office to allow British sailors to receive the medal, I suggested that the council host a ceremony to provide one last recognition for those who carried a mission that was so dangerous, but crucial to the war effort. I was hugely honoured to play some small role in recognising the contribution of our borough’s veterans to our shared victory in the war.

 

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