[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 20:57 GMT
Fury at Arctic convoy emblem plan
Arctic convoy veterans
Veterans insist their efforts must be recognised with a medal
The leader of a fight for a campaign medal for veterans of World War II Arctic convoys is furious at plans to award them a special emblem instead.

Tony Blair announced the plans at a Downing Street reception for the veterans, who ferried vital supplies to Russia during the war.

Cdr Eddie Grenfell, 85, from Hampshire, labelled it "the most dreadful thing that has ever happened to veterans".

But other survivors appeared happier - many of them cheering Mr Blair's offer.

During the convoys, merchant ships were escorted by the Royal Navy through U-boat-dominated waters, in freezing conditions, to take war materials to Russia.

The only way that a campaign will go down in history is by a medal - a badge means nothing
Cdr Grenfell
Arctic convoy veteran

Just under 3,000 British sailors and merchant seamen were killed during attacks by U-boats and Luftwaffe bombers.

The veterans have long complained that the Arctic campaign is the only one of the war not to have its own medal.

The prime minister said the emblem - which will also be made available to next of kin - could be worn as a recognised addition to medals.

He said the decision to award an emblem or badge was taken after "careful thought" and he paid tribute to the veterans' "exceptional service".

But Cdr Grenfell, who vowed to continue to fight for a medal, said he and fellow veterans were "absolutely disgusted" when they heard the proposals.

It's about time there was some recognition
Sid Tiffin

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The only way that a campaign will go down in history is by a medal. A badge means nothing - all sorts of badges are worn by veterans.

But other veterans cheered the announcement and expressed delight at the emblem award.

Bob Robertson, 84, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, commented: "[Mr Blair] said he would give us some kind of distinction. That's fair enough."

And Sid Tiffin, 81, of Kingston, Surrey, said: "It's about time there was some recognition, after all this time."

Government 'failure'

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the dispute was due to the fact that the veterans had been awarded the Atlantic Star after 1945 by the Committee of Honours, Decoration and Medals.

But a specific campaign medal for service in the Arctic was not issued.

He said: "The committee cannot retrospectively award new medals more than five years after the event."

The spokesman said that the issuing of a second medal for the same achievement was not permitted, but added: "The prime minister and the Cabinet believe that their achievement should be recognised, given the conditions undergone, in the form of a badge."

But Shadow Defence Minister Gerald Howarth said: "The government has failed to take this opportunity to recognise the sacrifice of veterans of the convoys by awarding a dedicated campaign medal."

A veteran says he is 'disgusted' with the decision

Arctic veterans march for medal
15 May 04 |  London
War veterans denied medals
07 Aug 02 |  UK News


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific