War hero (87) banned from receiving medal

editorial image
Have your say

JOBSWORTH government officials have banned a well-known former Hucknall veteran from collecting a medal marking his brave efforts during World War Two.

Don Reynolds was a hero of the high-risk Arctic convoys and has been awarded a special Russian medal — but the British government says he cannot accept it.

Don Reynolds (87) served on HMS Virago, a destroyer whose job was to protect convoys taking ammunition and food to Russia, then Britain’s ally.

The Russians wanted to make a special award known as the Ushakov Medal to Mr Reynolds and other veterans to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the convoys.

But the Foreign and Commonwealth Office says the veterans cannot receive or wear the medal because it had to be awarded within five years of the service it covered.

The veterans braved sub-zero temperatures and faced a constant danger of German U-boats when their ships accompanied the convoys at the time the Nazis invaded Russia.

Mr Reynolds worked in his family’s former hosiery company on Watnall Road, Hucknall and later set up a new business, also in the textile trade, in Nottingham.

He was elected to the former Hucknall Urban Council as a Liberal and then Independent member.

He used to live on Private Road, off Wood Lane, Hucknall and is now a resident of Stocks Road, Kimberley.

Mr Reynolds received a letter from the Russian Ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko, to say he was in line for the Ushakov Medal.

But in a further letter, Mr Yakovenko told him of the veto by the Foreign Office, which stated that the medal ‘does not describe relevant service specific to Russia within the last five years’.

“Therefore, it will not be possible for the Foreign Office to seek permssion for UK citizens named by the Embassy to accept and wear the medal,” Mr Yakovenko’s letter went on.

“Under the circumstances, the Embassy expresses its profound regret that while the authorities of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA have granted permission for veterans to be awarded the Ushakov Medal, we are not in a position to honour in the same way the courage and sacrifice of the British heroes of the Arctic convoys.

“We hope this is not the end of the story since the very uniqueness of what you did in World War Two means that, due to that, nobody of succeeding generations has had to go through such trials.

“I wish to express once again, on behalf of people of Russia and the Russian government, our gratitude for your heroism and courage.

“This comradeship in arms was forged at a critical point in European and world history. I assure you that the Embassy will continue to make a case for the award by the British authorities and I will inform you of any developments.”

The Ushakov Medal, which is circular, silver and 36 millimetres in diameter, is intended to be worn on the left breast.

“I feel very disappointed by the British government’s decision because I am aware what a big honour it is for Russia to have offered the Arctic veterans this award,” said Mr Reynolds. He has previously received four medals from the Russians.

His plea for the Foreign Office to change its mind is being taken up by Hucknall Conservative MP Mark Spencer.

Coun Jim Grundy, a Hucknall Labour member of Ashfield District Council, said it seemed very unfair that Mr Reynolds was being cold-shouldered by the British government in this way.

In October 2006 Mr Reynolds was among 24 Nottinghamshire veterans of the convoys who were honoured in a ceremony at Nottingham Council House.

They were presented with the Arctic Emblem — more than 60 years after the end of World War Two. Not a medal, the badge can be worn with the Atlantic Star or Victory Medal, which were given to all service personnel after the war.

Another former Hucknall man, John Wass, was also among the recipients.

Bulwell Labour MP, Graham Allen, who organised the presentations, said the emblem was long overdue.

He thought the British government had been shamed by veterans having to receive recognition of their courage from the Russians.