Russian medal for Arctic hero Don

War veteran Don Reynolds at his home in Kimberley with his latest medal he received from RussiaWar veteran Don Reynolds at his home in Kimberley with his latest medal he received from Russia
War veteran Don Reynolds at his home in Kimberley with his latest medal he received from Russia
A Hucknall Second World War navy veteran who braved subzero temperatures and enemy attacks during the conflict has been awarded a medal by the Russian Government.

Former businessman and ex-councillor Don Reynolds has received a coveted sixth medal for his role on the high-risk Arctic convoys in World War Two.

Don (90), who now lives in Kimberley, was among 17 Nottinghamshire veterans of the convoys who attended a presentation ceremony at Nottingham Council House.

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He was handed a Ushakov Medal, which is the highest honour in the Russian Naval Forces.

A booklet presented with the medal was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Don served in HMS Virago on the convoys, which helped to provide safe passage for Merchant ships which took food and ammunition to the Soviet Union, then an ally, between 1941 and 1945.

Crews braved sub-zero temperatures and faced a constant danger of German U-boats in what Winston Churchill called ‘the most dangerous sea journey in the world’.

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The Virago played a part in sinking the German battleship, Scharnhorst.

Don received his medal from Commander Igor Yelkin, deputy naval attaché to the Russian Embassy, and the ceremony was attended by the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Bulwell’s Coun Jackie Morris.

“I feel very proud to have received this award, which brings my total of Russian medals to six,” said Don.

“We used to set out from the Orkneys in 1943 - the first convoy was at the end of December and we went round the North Cape to Murmansk with the ships in convoy. Then at Christmas we came back with the empty ships, ready to escort another lot.

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When we were crossing over we heard the Scharnorst was readying to attack us with a convoy of destroyers. The Duke of York battleship came along from Iceland for the battle. It was quite a fight and the Germans lost more than 1,900 men when it was eventually sunk.

“It was devilish cold and very difficult to survive if you went overboard. The seas were rough and the weather was atrocious.”

One of Don’s memories of the convoys is a huge wave hitting his ship whileas an 18 year old, he was running along the deck with a ham hock and Mars bars for his mess.

“I lost the whole lot and i had to ask the Naafi for more. It was the day before Christmas.

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He was also a member of the Virago crew when the ship took part in the D-Day Normandy Landings, bombarding Sword Beach.

Don’s family formerly had a hosiery company on Watnall Road, Hucknall, and he served on the old Hucknall Urban Council, first as a Liberal and then as Independent.