Wilmington Arctic convoys veteran denied Russian bravery medal

Wilmington Arctic convoys veteran denied Russian bravery medal

Vaughan Williams at his home in Wilmington.

Mr Williams the young naval officer.

Mr Williams with, from left to right: granddaughter Emma Eisinger, aged 32, great-grandson Oscar Eisinger, nine months, and daughter Christine Jefferys, 60.

First published in News This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

A BRITISH war veteran who risked his life to help the Soviet Union fight Hitler has been denied a medal by "heartless" bureaucracy.

Vaughan Williams, now 89 and living in sheltered housing in Wilmington, was awarded the Ushakov medal by the Russian government for his service in the Arctic convoys of the Second World War.

But like many other survivors of what Winston Churchill called "the most dangerous journey in the world", the Foreign Office has barred him from accepting the bravery award.

The ex-naval officer has four decorative medals from Russia but can't have the Ushakov despite Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA allowing their citizens to accept it.

Foreign Office rules on awards from abroad state the recipient has to have rendered some service to the country concerned within the past five years.

Speaking to New Shopper, Mr Williams said: "I feel upset and I think I should have that medal.

"I have tried very hard but I don’t think I will get it now."

The great-grandfather-of-three was just a 19-year-old naval recruit in 1943 when he served four months on HMS Matchless.

The M-class Destroyer helped escort vessels carrying weapons, food and supplies to Russia through the mine-riddled Arctic Ocean.

The retired Ford industrial relations manager remembers hours spent freezing on duty supplying the ship's rear gunner with ammunition to shoot down German aircraft.

He said: "Was it cold? Oh God yes.

"One time a plane came right down 10ft above the water and dropped a torpedo.

"The ship just swerved out of the way so it missed us."

His 60-year-old daughter, Christine Jefferys, told News Shopper: "It’s heartless.

"My Dad is very precious and the family would like him to have this medal before it's too late.

"It makes me angry."

There is a British award for Arctic convoy veterans - the Atlantic star - which Mr Williams has received.

This was first created for a different campaign and veterans groups argue a mere lapel pin it is not as prestigious as a medal.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the Russian government would need to provide evidence of direct support for Russia in the last five years for any British citizen to be awarded the Ushakov Medal.

After seeing Mr Williams’ story on the News Shopper website Dartford MP Gareth Johnson raised Mr Williams' case in the House of Commons on Thursday (November 22).

This Is Local London: HMS Matchless

Mr Williams served on HMS Matchless. 

The Arctic Convoys

The Second World War Arctic convoys delivered food, weapons, munitions and vehicles so the Soviet Union could fight Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front.

From 1941 to 1945 around 1,400 merchant vessels sailed with naval escorts from Britain, Iceland and north America to the Soviet ports of Archangel and Murmansk.

Eighty-five merchant vessels, 16 Royal Navy warships and more than 3,000 sailors were lost.

Comments (3)

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6:52pm Wed 21 Nov 12

Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott says...

How quickly we have forgotten.

God help us all.
How quickly we have forgotten. God help us all. Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott
  • Score: 0

9:03pm Thu 22 Nov 12

Rhinoback says...

I agree with Lord Piggot. With Remembrance Day just over a week ago, when we all remember those whom gave their lives for our freedom and safety, we need to stop and think of the brave soles that are still with us, especially the ever dwinderling numbers from the Second World War. The fact that the Government appears to be treating ex-servicepersons so poorly troubles me greatly. Shame on you UK Govenment.
I agree with Lord Piggot. With Remembrance Day just over a week ago, when we all remember those whom gave their lives for our freedom and safety, we need to stop and think of the brave soles that are still with us, especially the ever dwinderling numbers from the Second World War. The fact that the Government appears to be treating ex-servicepersons so poorly troubles me greatly. Shame on you UK Govenment. Rhinoback
  • Score: 0

7:11pm Wed 28 Nov 12

Redshadie says...

My late grandfather served in the Artic Convoys on HMS Harrier and whilst he rarely spoke about his experience it was apparent that his and his comrades service deserves to be recognised. These men endured hardships that we could not even try to imagine and their courage and dedication to bring us freedom should be duly respected and honoured.
My late grandfather served in the Artic Convoys on HMS Harrier and whilst he rarely spoke about his experience it was apparent that his and his comrades service deserves to be recognised. These men endured hardships that we could not even try to imagine and their courage and dedication to bring us freedom should be duly respected and honoured. Redshadie
  • Score: 0

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