Praa WWII veteran calls for convoy recognition

First published in Cornwall

A VETERAN of the World War II Arctic Convoys is leading calls for the government to recognise the courage of his colleagues on the hazardous missions.

The men, who risked their lives to deliver vital supplies to Russia, have been offered the Ushakov medal by the government in Moscow.

However, due to Foreign Office rules on collecting medals from foreign countries, the veterans have been barred from picking up the awards.

Geoff Helmore, who lives in Praa Sands, said: “It is a disgrace. It is unnecessary and it’s petty.

“I am just one of the people being deprived of this.

“Why should we be told ‘you can’t have this medal when Governments of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America have said ‘yes please’?”

Mr Helmore’s call has been backed by the Royal British Legion, whose annual conference called for an Arctic Convoy medal to be created this summer.

The convoys were described as the ‘worst journey in the world’ by Winston Churchill.

Mr Helmore described the conditions he faced, saying: “It was cold, about minus 30, and when the sea splashed on deck it froze instantly.

“One man on our ship froze to death on watch.

“In my two convoys we never had a calm sea, it was always violent.

“The warship I was on was considered expendable and the merchant ships we were protecting in the convoy travelled so slowly they were sitting ducks.

“We were going within 20 or 30 miles of the coast, well within range.”

A foreign office spokesman said: “We very much appreciate the Russian Government's wish to recognise the brave and valuable service given by veterans of the Arctic Convoys.

“However, the rules on the acceptance of foreign awards clearly state that in order for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned.”

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