Atlantic Heroes – Recognition at last.

Courage rewarded at last
Courage rewarded at last

Atlantic Heroes – Recognition at last.

When I wrote my blog on the 9th January 2012 about the injustice of the Arctic Convoy Veterans not being recognised by the UK Government it was in support of those who have fought and campaigned for over 70 years.

I have to admit I wasn’t hopeful that the Government would move from years of prevarication to actually doing something so to see the veterans of the arctic convoys receiving the Arctic Star is tremendous.

Even if it was only to put the rules to one side and allow the medal to be awarded on behalf of Russia but wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if it had been from the UK Government on behalf of the British people?

It is difficult, in fact impossible to imagine what they, some as young as 16 experienced in performing their duty in carrying out the vital role played by the convoys from 1942 to the end of the war.

What is certain is that over 3,000 men died in the convoy crossings, battling not only the extreme weather, in itself bad enough, but also the German bombardment from the air and threat from U boats all to help keep a supply line with Russia open.

Harshness of convoys was unimaginable
Harshness of convoys were unimaginable

There is no doubt that the conditions the Royal Navy and Merchant Sailors had to deal with we’re amongst some of the worst faced by any sailors not only during the Second World War but since.

Waves in the unforgiving Arctic seas whipped up by gales reached as high as 60ft with extreme low temperatures and the added problem of having to negotiate the convoy through pack ice, quite simply conditions that made it almost impossible to see anything that might have been in the sea.

In fact temperatures were so low that if the human skin made contact with the metal of the ship it would freeze to it.

Abandoning ship if sunk almost certainly led to death from hypothermia unless, and some were, fortunate in being immediately picked up by the next ship in the convoy.

Most of the survivors have now reached or are approaching their 90th year and may sadly not be with us for much longer.

All the more reason to give credit to the Government for recognising the veteran’s contribution and for all of us to say thank you.

And when we look at the photos and faces of the Arctic convoy veterans today try to think of them as they were then, young men, most who had never been to sea before who were suddenly by a stroke of fate thrust into one of the harshest theatres of the war.

But also think about those who didn’t survive and who missed out on the great adventure of life and the opportunities it offers.

All the more reason why their sacrifice should never be forgotten.