Bexley war hero to get Arctic Convoys medal after 70-year wait
A BEXLEY war veteran has said he is “as pleased as punch” after being told he can finally get a medal for his bravery in the Second World War, but it has come “70 years too late”.
Arthur Gardner, now 86 and living in Faygate Crescent, Bexleyheath, served in the Russian Convoys, what Winston Churchill called “the most dangerous journey in the world".
His task was to escort ships carrying weapons, food and supplies to Russia.
He personally had to stand watch while torpedo bombers and submarines tried to attack his destroyer ship.
But he, along with thousands of other service men on these ships, have never been awarded British medals for their work.
Their supporters have been campaigning for more than 30 years to have it recognised, along with those in Bomber Command who dropped bombs over enemy lines.
On Wednesday (December 19) the Prime Minister told the House of Commons there would be a new Arctic Convoy Star medal.
Mr Gardner said: “I’m as pleased as punch for getting the medal. But we have been trying to get one for years.
“It’s too late now for all the boys that have died. There were thousands of us after the war, but now there’s only a couple hundred.
“It’s about 70 years too late. We should have got one at the end of the war.
“I think the reason we didn’t was that it was political. What with the Cold War, they didn’t want to reward us for helping the Russians.”
The Prime Minister told the Commons: “I am very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic Convoy will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very difficult work they did."
Mr Gardner went on six trips in total to Russia in the convoys.
He said: “You were at actions stations a lot of the time and it was bitter cold like you couldn’t believe.
“If you touched metal with your glove off you’d burn the skin off your hand.
“Once you started you didn’t take your coat off for 10 days.”
Mr Gardner is still in limbo over a medal he was awarded by the Russian government for his work in the Arctic Convoys.
But Foreign Office rules say foreign awards have to be for service done within the past five years.
Mr Gardner added: “I’m pleased about this new medal but I don’t understand why they are stopping the Russians sending the other one.”