The Arctic Star
Official recognition for the veterans of the Arctic convoys
HMS Venomous left Seidesfjord on the east coast of Iceland at 5 am on the 29 April 1942 as an escort for Arctic Convoy PQ.15
and arrived with its 22 surviving merchant ships at Polyarny, the
Russian naval base on the Kola inlet near Murmansk in northern Russia,
on 5 May. After sixteen dreary days surviving on black bread and whale meat they joined
the escort for the return convoy QP.12 which left Kola Inlet on the 21
May and reached Iceland on the 29 May 1942. The full story of PQ.15 and
QP.12 is told in A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomouswhich one reviewer compared to The Cruel Sea for its realistic portrayal of life on a small warship.
Arctic Convoys carrying vital supplies to Russia to the Arctic ports of
Arkhangelsk and Murmansk, ran in two series, normally twice per month.
The first from September 1941 to September 1942 assembled in Iceland and ran to Arkhangelsk during the summer months when the ice permitted but
as the pack ice increased in the Arctic winters the convoys only went
as far as Murmansk. The second series, from September 1942 to the end
the war, assembled at Loch Ewe on the rugged west coast of
Scotland which faced north, was sheltered from the prevailing
westerlies and was
considered safer than the main naval base at Scapa Flow in Orkney.
The veterans on the merchant ships and the convoy escorts and their families can now apply for the award of the Arctic Star.
has been announced today, the 26 February 2013, by the Minister of
State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Mark Francois that
all the details have been confirmed for the Arctic Star and the Bomber
Command Clasp and the application process has now opened. This follows
Sir John Holmes’ independent medal review and the announcement by the
Prime Minister, on 19 December 2012, that these awards should be made
in recognition of the great bravery of those who contributed to two
very significant campaigns of World War Two.
veterans and next of kin are now encouraged to apply using the relevant
application forms, whichcan be found on this page, or by telephoning
the MOD Medal Office on 08457 800 900 (a local rate number) for further
details. An application must be made as it is simply not possible for
the MOD to contact veterans or families of all of those who may be
eligible going back almost 70 years."
The USSR embarrassed the UK
government by awarding the veterans of the Arctic convoys their own
commemorative medal on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war but
it has taken a long campaign by the veterans to win recognition from
their own government. Although long overdue it is very fitting that
recognition comes now seventy years after the turning point in the
Battle of the Atlantic in 1943 which is being commemorated in this
anniversary year by events in Londonderry, Liverpool and London.
men who served on the convoy escorts and the merchant ships formed the
North Russia Club (1985) and the Russian Convoy Club (1988) to keep in
touch with former shipmates. They went on to campaign for wider
recognition of the contribution the Arctic convoys made to winning the
war. That was slow in coming. No campaign medal was issued for veterans
of the Arctic convoys and they were only eligible for the Atlantic Star
if they had served in the western Atlantic for at least six months.
1986 the USSR showed its gratitude by awarding the commemorative medal
celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the war’s end to veterans of
the Arctic convoys and 270 attended an investiture and reception at the
Russian Embassy. In 1991 the Russian Federation invited veterans to
reunions in Murmansk and Archangel and on the 31 August, the frigate
HMS London sailed into the
White Sea and up the Dvina River to Archangel to commemorate the
arrival fifty years earlier, on that exact day, of the first convoy
bringing aid to our new wartime ally. Further reunions were held and
medals were awarded on the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries but
these can not be worn by the Arctic veterans alongside their British
In June 1995 Fred Thomas, the RDF operator on Venomous was
amongst a party of fifty Arctic veterans led by Rear Admiral A.B.
Richardson, the Patron of the North Russia Club, who visited St
Petersburg and Murmansk on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the
1997 the Queen Mother and the Russia Ambassador attended a memorial
service in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral and unveiled a memorial
tablet to the three thousand men who lost their lives on the Arctic
convoys. In 2005, at a reception for Arctic veterans the Prime
Minister announced that an Arctic Emblem (not a medal but could be worn with the Atlantic Star) would be awarded to those who
served on the Arctic convoys with no minimum service requirement.
2008 both the Russian Convoy Club and the North Russia Club had been
dissolved but the Loch Ewe memorial commemorating the
sacrifice of those who lost their lives on the convoys stands near Pool
House, the former command centre for the convoys, on the shore of Loch Ewe. Jock
Dempster (1928-2013), the Russian speaking Chairman of the Arctic
Convoy Club Scotland who was sixteen when he went to Murmansk on the
tanker, MV San Venancio, and campaigned for the award of the medal, died six weeks after receiving his Arctic Star at 10 Downing Street. Convoys Remembered
is an online archive of stories contributed by veterans and plans are
being made for a multi-site Russian Arctic Convoy Museum on the shore
of Loch Ewe where the convoys assembled in 1943-5.