Arctic Convoy: Call to award Russian medal to veterans

Chris Ruane (l) and Harry Ratcliffe Chris Ruane says veterans like Harry Ratcliffe (right) should receive the medal

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An MP has urged the UK government to reconsider allowing veterans of the World War II Arctic Convoys to receive a medal from Russia.

The Russian Embassy wants to award survivors its Medal of Ushakov but the Foreign Office says it is not allowed.

The UK government has created its own Arctic Star medal for convoy veterans.

But Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane says veterans who risked their lives to take supplies to Russia should be able to receive its accolade "with pride".

Those who took part in the maritime missions - which Winston Churchill said were the most dangerous of the war - battled storms, bombers and U-boats to ferry war supplies to Russia as they were fighting the Nazis.

Start Quote

This heroism has been recognised by the Russian Government and it is only right that veterans of that campaign should be allowed to accept the medal with pride”

End Quote Chris Ruane Vale of Clwyd MP

The Russian Embassy wrote to survivors of the notoriously perilous sea campaign to inform them it intended to award them with the Medal of Ushakov as a symbol of the country's gratitude.

But the move was blocked by the Foreign Office, which it said would "break rules surrounding the acceptance of medals".

The UK government's own medal for the convoy veterans - the Arctic Star medal - was created earlier this year and has been awarded to many participants or their families.

Arctic Medal The Arctic Star medal was created by the UK government this year

However, Mr Ruane believes veterans should still be able to receive the Russian accolade and has urged the UK government to reconsider its stance on the issue.

He has taken up the campaign of his constituent Harry Ratcliffe, of Rhyl, Denbighshire, who has received the Arctic Star medal but also wants to accept the Medal of Ushakov.

"Sailors such as Harry Ratcliffe risked their lives in treacherous conditions to ensure the Soviet Union could keep its war effort going and this played a huge part in defeating the Nazis," said Mr Ruane.

"This heroism has been recognised by the Russian government and it is only right that veterans of that campaign should be allowed to accept the medal with pride."

A Foreign Office spokesperson said it appreciated the Russian government's wish to recognise the "brave and valuable service given by veterans of the Arctic Convoys".

"However, the rules on the acceptance of foreign awards clearly state that in order for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned and that that service should have taken place within the previous five years," they said.

"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 II Atlantic Star."

The spokesperson said 10,000 Arctic Emblem badges had also been issued since 2006 and that Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced the creation of the Arctic Star medal for veterans who saw active service on the convoys.

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