A World War Two submariner has said the long-awaited Arctic convoy medals awarded to him and his comrades ought to be presented officially.
Eric Wills, aged 92, of Kingsthorpe, made two treacherous journeys between Britain and Russia, protecting vital supplies that kept Stalin’s soldiers fighting on behalf of the Allies.
He is one of more than 200 remaining survivors of the Arctic convoys and is finally due to be sent an Arctic Star medal from the UK government. He said: “I was thrilled to bits when I heard we’d finally been recognised. But it would be nice for there to be some sort of presentation rather than it being handed over by the postman.
“It seems there are a handful of us left in Northampton so it would be a worthwhile ceremony.”
Although the Russian Government had issued several anniversary medals to Arctic Convoy veterans, the British Government had never done so. Unofficially, the reason was believed to be that Britain and Russia became Cold War enemies soon after World War Two, so a decoration linked to Russian aid was thought inappropriate.
However, veterans told of enduring horrific weather conditions of minus 30C and mammoth waves for the Allied war effort, as well as enemy fire from land, sea, air and beneath the water.
Even submarines were not able to keep out of the terrifying conditions, Mr Wills said.
“We were a close escort to the ships we were protecting, which meant we had to be on the surface all the way to Russia unless the really heavy German ships attacked,” he recalled. “It was an unusual job from that aspect alone.
“But we were told that if we dived there was a good chance we’d hit our own convoy’s depth charges. As a result we were very exposed to enemy planes.”
Roger Conroy, Mayor of Northampton, said: “We need to recognise what they went through because I think it’s despicable how they’ve been ignored.
“I, for one, would be fully supportive of an official presentation of the medal, and I’d be prepared to do it myself if that’s allowed.”
Councillor Conroy said any potential recipients of the Arctic Star, or families of deceased veterans who have applied for the medal, can contact the Chronicle & Echo on Northampton 467033 so interest in a local medals’ ceremony can be gauged.