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Great to get this recognition, say Wiltshire's Arctic Convoy heroes
7:00am Saturday 28th September 2013 in News
More than 70 years after their Second World War heroics, 25 Wiltshire veterans finally earned special recognition when they received their Arctic Star medals at a presentation at County Hall in Trowbridge this afternoon.
Third secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Igor Chamov, joined Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Rose Troughton and five members of parliament from Wiltshire and Swindon, who 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, but it has taken over 70 years for their heroic efforts to receive proper recognition.
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland presented medals to Philip Strong and Eric Whyte and Cecil Maynard.
Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, presented medals to Ken Beard of Ludgershall, Kenneth Stevens of Devizes, Nelson Foyle of Netheravon, Richard Jaggar of Etchilhampton, Arthur Ayres of Tidworth and Arthur Staynings of Leigh.
Chippenham MP Duncan Hames presented medals to Fred Andrews of Corsham, Mervyn Salter of Corsham, Tom Edwards of Melksham and Commander Harry Thompson of Melksham.
Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire, presented medals to Admiral Sir William O’Brien of Sedgehill, Joseph Grant of Trowbridge, Alan Stubbs of Trowbridge, Denis Pickett of Holt, Bernard Howell of Mere, Gilbert Grace of Trowbridge and Thomas Goff.
MP for Salisbury, John Glen, presented medals to Edward Williams of Wilton, Robert Batty of Bulford, Gerald Pocock of Amesbury and Norman Gray of Salisbury.
Denis Pickett, 88, who was born in Trowbridge and now lives in Holt, 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.
“I was part of the Royal Navy and our job was to escort the convoy ships. It’s been 70 years, so it’s taken a long time to be recognised, but it’s been a well-organised ceremony.”
Fred Andrews, 88, who served in the Merchant Navy and now lives in Corsham, said: “It’s been very interesting and it means a lot to get the medal after so long. It’s a shame it has taken 70 years, though.
“I was in the radio department, so I was tasked with keeping continuous watch as we could be hit at any time. It was obviously very scary, but you just sort of got used to it.
“I remember one particular occasion when a convoy ship next to our ship which was carrying iron ore was hit and sunk immediately. It was very scary at the time as you didn’t know what was going to happen.
“I’m pleased to see so many make it along and it’s been a long time. It was great that Igor could come and give a speech. I was stationed in Russia for a year and I was on a crane ship, which was used to lift tanks.”
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