Between 1941 and 1945 British warships escorted 78 convoys carrying thousands of aircraft, anti-aircraft guns, trucks and tanks, fuel, food, tools and other vital supplies through the Barents Sea to the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel in a voyage Winston Churchill described as ‘the worst journey in the world.’
The Foreign Office has blocked plans by the Russian government to honour Arctic Convoy veterans with a medal for valour.
The convoys kept Russia supplied to keep fighting the Nazis on Germany’s eastern front, and have been credited with ensuring Hitler did not triumph.
But while the Ushakov medal has been handed to veterans from Australia, Canada and the United States for their role in the convoys, the British government is refusing to allow it to be given to British veterans.
Apparently “rules are rules”
Under UK law, citizens are allowed to receive foreign medals and awards only if the British government gives them permission, and only if the award relates to the recipient’s activities within past five years.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: ‘The rules on the acceptance of foreign awards state that for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned and 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.
‘All British Veterans of the Convoys were eligible for the World War Two Atlantic Star. Additionally, a lapel badge (the Arctic Emblem) was introduced in 2006 and some 10,000 have been issued.’
This unbelievable, bureaucracy gone mad and it is a slap in the face for the veterans.
It is time that the faceless civil servants in Whitehall woke up and its time that our government stopped dithering with regard to recognising the exploits of our servicemen.
How can there ever be a time limit on recognising the sacrifices our servicemen make.
For once I am in complete agreement with Mike Hancock. He said
‘It is absolutely ridiculous and shameless. This country can’t even give them the medal but we can stop them from getting a medal from the people they went to help. It’s an absolute disgrace on his (Hague’s) part and it’s a slur on this country.
It seems that our government can waive this rule when it suits them which makes this decision much more of a slap in the face for the arctic veterans.
Veterans of a conflict in Malaysia in the 1960s were allowed to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal, given to them by the Malaysian government in recognition of their service.
Not only was that conflict 50 years ago, but the veterans of it had also previously been given a medal from the British government.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office accepted the rules had been waived once, but said that it had to treat all World War Two veterans the same or else be faced with thousands of medal requests.
Seems all the civil servants are worried about is a sudden increase in their workload.
It is time to get a sense of perspective and give these folks the medal they deserve.