Two ex-sailors from Northampton who braved some of the most brutal conditions of the Second World War are finally to be honoured 70 years later.
Raymond Smith, from Westone, and John Haynes from Kislingbury, served on the HMS Middleton north of the Arctic Circle.
They are among only 200 surviving sailors who protected supply ships to Russia, keeping it in the war long enough to ensure German defeat.
Mr Haynes, aged 87, who was the ship’s cook, said: “The thing that set the Arctic convoys apart was the awful weather conditions. We were lucky to survive.
“Some nights I find myself back there on the ship. The memories stay with you.”
Winston Churchill called it “the worst journey in the world” and of the 78 voyages made between 1941 and 1945, 18 Navy warships and 87 merchant ships were lost, with 3,000 casualties.
Mr Smith, aged 87, sailed from 1943 onwards. He said: “The living conditions were just horrendous.
“You would wear every single piece of clothing you had to keep warm. Apart from the cold was the immense size of the waves. You knew that if you were washed overboard that was it. You wouldn’t drown, you’d freeze to death.”
The Government announced last week it was issuing Arctic Star medals to veterans or their families.
Previously, the only British recognition had been a lapel badge. By contrast, the Russian Government had sent the sailors commemorative medals to mark 40 and 50 years since the end of the war.
Mr Smith said: “It’s nice to get a bit of real recognition from my own country now. It was a happy ship, and a lucky one compared with what happened to others. It’s a pity it has taken so long, the final reunion of the HMS Middleton is due in April because our numbers have dwindled so much.
“At least finally getting our British medal will be a good note to out on.”