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Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Russia decorates Gravesend veteran for Arctic convoys

Edward Cordery spoke to BBC South East's Katherine Downes

A Navy veteran from Gravesend has been decorated by the Russian government for his role in Second World War Arctic convoys.

86-year-old Edward Cordery received a medal in recognition of his part in getting vital supplies to the Russians.

Twelve other veterans were also awarded medals for making the perilous journeys in sub-zero temperatures.

The route of the Arctic convoys were described by Winston Churchill as 'the worst journey in the world'.

The HMS Belfast and ships of both the Merchant and Royal Navies sailed through Arctic waters to reach the northern shores of Russia where temperatures reached as low as minus 30 °C.

Edward served on the HMS Belfast during the convoy between September 1942 and August 1944.

Good and bad memories

Medal from the Russian government
Thirteen veterans were decorated for working on the Arctic convoys

The medals were awarded onboard the HMS Belfast, which is now moored in the River Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Being back on board HMS Belfast brought back both good and bad memories of the Arctic convoys for Edward.

Good memories he said were of "the comradeship of the ship and the people on it and the Northern Lights. I loved the northern lights, I've seen them several times."

Of the bad times, Edward described how they once hit a hurricane on the way to Iceland. The journey "took about, nearly 36 hours to get to Iceland, which is a very very long time.... got into Iceland ready for the convoy with not a lot of things to rescue us if we went over the side!"

When asked his reaction to receiving a medal for his efforts Edward said "I've done what I did and that's finished for me...I was there to do a job and I was fortunate to come back".

The Arctic convoys delivered 4 million tons of supplies, including over 5,000 tanks and 7,000 aircraft for use by Soviet forces who were fighting against the German Army on the Eastern Front.

Mr Vladimir Borisovitch Osipov, Chief of the Presidential State Decorations Directorate in Russia, handed out the medals.

Heavy fighting

Edward also saw heavy fighting during his naval career. He fought in the Battle of North Cape, off the Coast of Norway. It was one of the last great ship-to-ship battles and it ended with the sinking of the German battleship, the Scharnhorst.

Edward was on the front line, firing three torpedoes at the Scharnhorst. He said "My torpedo officer always credited me with the last sinking of the Scharnhorst. When he moved the ship round to take a second shot it had gone, it had sunk".

The battle took place over the Christmas period of 1943. Edward and his comrades celebrated Christmas on the 12 January 1944.


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