Arctic Convoy: Russia reaches out to British mariners who provided WWII lifeline
The Russian embassy in London has tracked down the UK veterans of the Arctic Convoys who delivered vital supplies to the Eastern Front during WWII. The embassy wants to ensure that all the heroes are awarded the Ushakov Medal for bravery.
So far, over 3,000 veterans have been included in the list of
those entitled to the medal, but the work is still under way.
Some estimates put the likely number of surviving veterans, now
in their nineties, at around 100.
The medals, named for Russia’s own naval hero, Admiral Ushakov,
can now be awarded because an ancient law forbidding Royal Navy
mariners from accepting foreign military decorations was finally
lifted by the British government this summer. To celebrate the
occasion, the first 20 veterans were awarded with the Ushakov
Medal at a ceremony in Downing Street in June.
As both countries race to award the medals, the Russian Embassy
in London has been pulling out the stops to find the veterans and
make sure they receive the recognition they deserve.
This year, the embassy has been writing personally to all Arctic
Convoy veterans with the help of the the British Foreign Office
and the Ministry of Defense’s medal office, and is planning to
award the medals to any veteran who served in one or more convoy
to Soviet waters during World War II.
There were 78 Arctic convoys between August 1941 and May 1945.
About 1,400 vessels delivered much-needed war supplies to the
Soviet Union under a lend-lease program. The merchant ships were
escorted by the Royal Navy, the US Navy and the Royal Canadian
Navy. Sixteen Royal Navy warships were lost in the operation, as
well as 85 merchant vessels.
Some Arctic Convoys veterans have been writing back, with many saying just how touched they were to have been bestowed with this honor.
“We have got some really emotional letters,” Liza
Vokorina, an attaché at the Russian Embassy in London, told RT.
“People are writing from their hearts, they’re really thankful
for this medal, for the plan to give it. This is such great
feedback, sometimes we even read with tears these great letters
because it was really touching.”
Some of the veterans say they thought they would not live to see
“Unfortunately, we can’t all go on forever, but I’m so happy
that I have lived long enough to have this honor,” Arctic
Convoy veteran Jimmy Pitts told RT. “It is important that
recognition goes to the people. I am looking forward to receiving
this Ushakov Medal. In fact, it will give me great pride to wear
The majority of the Convoy veterans are entitled to wear the
Arctic Star, a similar award announced in late 2012. However,
hard work is being done to find every one of those sailors who
embarked on the freezing journey through the Arctic waters to the
For more on the Artic Convoys and the Ushakov Medal, watch RT’s
Polly Boyko’s report from London.