War heroes to get their medals after government u-turn

Don Reynolds
Don Reynolds
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BULWELL Labour MP Graham Allen is celebrating success after a ten-year battle for brave veterans of World War Two’s Arctic convoys to be rewarded with medals.

Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed that 200 survivors of the treacherous convoys will finally be recognised.

His announcement came just FIVE DAYS after a front-page Dispatch report in which we highlighted the case of former Hucknall man Don Reynolds.

Mr Reynolds, who now lives in Kimberley, served on the convoys but has been prevented by red tape on the part of the British government from receiving a medal from the Russians to mark his sacrifices.

The veterans had to cope with sub-zero temperatures on what Winston Churchill called ‘the worst journey in the world’ to keep open supply lines to Russia at a crucial stage of the war. Seven decades later, they are to be presented with the Arctic Convoy Silver Medal.

Mr Cameron told MPs he had accepted the recommendations of a review of military medals carried out by former diplomat Sir John Holmes.

He said: “Sir John has recommended awarding the medal and I fully agree with him. I am very pleased that brave men who served on the Arctic convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very dangerous work they did.”

In October 2006, Mr Allen organised presentations at Nottingham Council House of an Arctic Emblem — not a medal — to Arctic convoy veterans. Some of the recipients had links with the Dispatch district and they included Mr Reynolds.

Speaking in the Commons on November 6 2002 — just before Remembrance Day — Mr Allen drew attention to the ‘forgotten’ service personnel of the Arctic convoys and other campaigns.

He said: “Most of the veterans are now in their eighties but they have still been denied reconigition because the Ministry of Defence has a mean-minded, pettifogging interpretation of the rules and regulations, some which are half a century old.”

He called for action to ‘cleave through the bureaucracy’ and present medals to the veterans ‘while they are still with us’.

At that time, the Prime Minister said he joined Mr Allen in paying tribute to all who made such sacrifices during both wars so that Britain could remain a free and democratic country.

But he pointed out that the present policy on medals was the same as had applied with successive governments over a long period.

Mr Allen said he was delighted with the victory which had now been achieved over the medals, even though it was very long overdue.

Mr Reynolds (87) served on HMS Virago, which helped to protect convoys taking ammunition and food to Russia. The Russians wanted to award the Ushakov Medal, marking the 70th anniversary of the convoys, to Mr Reynolds and other veterans.

But the Foreign Office stated that British veterans could not receive the medal because it ‘does not describe relevant service specific to Russia within the last five years’.

Mr Reynolds has welcomed the news that he and other veterans will finally get the Arctic Convoy Star. But he added that there had been no further developments with regard to the Ushakov Medal.