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Medal campaign victory celebrated at ceremony

Wednesday 30th January 2013 (Andrew Griffiths)

A CEREMONY has taken place to mark the efforts of those involved in a campaign to gain recognition for a Russian bravery medal.

The nation offered its Ukashov Medal to all British veterans who served in the Arctic convoy missions during the Second World War.

But strict British military convention prevented the Russians from handing out the medal — until David Cameron recently intervened and asked officials to examine ways round the ban.

Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, whose late father Bob (above right) served in the Arctic convoys and could become posthumously eligible for the medal, said the ceremony was ‘extremely emotional’.

“We must all be extremely grateful to these brave men who went out to Russia as boys and came back as heroes,” he said.

The ceremony, attended by seven Arctic convoy veterans aged up to 92, was held at the Russia Cultural Centre in London and marked the end of a long campaign that drew to a close when MPs — including Mr Griffiths — demanded that the British government should allow its veterans to receive the medal.

Jim Reed, 87, of Winshill, who joined the Royal Navy aged 17 and served in five Arctic convoy missions, could also receive the medal once the Government has finished drawing up the exact eligibility criteria.

Mr Griffiths said: “I was asked to speak at the ceremony in London as one of the instigators of the campaign. It was a real celebration to recognise the bravery of these men and what they did for the Russian people.

“Neither we nor the Russians will forget the sacrifices they made on our behalf. It was an emotional evening.”

Royal Navy vessels were used in the Arctic convoys to transport and protect vital supplies from German U-boat attacks as they were shipped into the Soviet Union from Europe and America.

Winston Churchill described the voyages across the north Atlantic and Arctic oceans as ‘the worst journey in the world’.

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