Arctic convoy veterans to be awarded special honour

First published in News

A SECOND World War hero who fought in the Arctic convoy campaign has welcomed news of a dedicated medal for veterans.

But he has vowed to fight on for the right to be awarded a Russian honour which the government says he can not have.

The Bolton News reported in October how Westhoughton pensioner David Tonge, aged 87, had been denied a Ushakov Medal for his service on the Arctic convoys.

At the age of only 17 Mr Tonge served aboard the destroyer HMS Venus, helping to keep open seaborne supply routes between the west and the USSR in sub-zero temperatures while coming under constant aircraft and U-boat attack.

But Russia’s decision to honour him was blocked by the Foreign Office, because campaign veterans “had not served Russia in the last five years”, and they had also received a medal from Britain — the Atlantic Star — for services at sea.

Although the government is yet to backtrack on that decision, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that following a review of medals by British diplomat Sir John Holmes, a dedicated Arctic convoy honour would be awarded in the new year, something which Mr Tonge and veterans had campaigned for for decades.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said: “More details will come from the Ministry of Defence in the new year, including how veterans can apply, but I am very pleased to tell the house that Sir John has recommended, and I fully agree, that there should be an Arctic Convoy Star medal.

“I am very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very dangerous work they did.”

Mr Tonge said: “It’s good news — this has been going on for 20 or 30 years.

“But I still want the Russian medal. The Russians have always been very grateful for what we did and I don’t see why we can’t have it.”

Bolton North East MP David Crausby, who has campaigned for the creation of an Arctic convoy medal, said: “I very much welcome the decision.”

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