Time running out to honour convoy veterans
Last updated at 15:52, Monday, 12 November 2012
IT CLAIMED the lives of more than 3,000 people and even Winston Churchill himself described it as “the worst journey in the world”.
Yet the few remaining survivors of the Second World War’s Arctic convoys are still waiting for proper recognition from the British government.
Barrow veteran Harold Wilkes made the treacherous crossing between Britain and Russia 14 times between September 1942 and December 1945.
The convoys, which comprised merchant ships under Royal Navy escort, braved deadly German planes and U-boats to transport vital supplies to Soviet soldiers on the Eastern front.
But as another Remembrance Day comes around, the 88-year-old sailor is losing heart that he and his comrades will ever get the acknowledgement they deserve.
Mr Wilkes, of Ramsey Park, said: “There’s only about 200 of us left now.
“Something should be done about this.
“We want a proper medal that recognises our service.”
The reluctance of successive British governments to strike a medal recognising the Arctic convoys is especially galling given that Russia has already officially recognised the men.
While Mr Wilkes is unable to read the Russian-language citation, the medal sits proudly alongside his other British-issued service medals.
The best the British government has offered the survivors is an Arctic Star button badge, which Mr Wilkes regards as an insult to the many men who gave their lives on the missions.
He said: “They don't understand how dangerous it was and how vital what we did was.”
The father-of-five and grandfather and great-grandfather to many more, vividly recalls being just 18 when he began serving on the 8,000-tonne HMS Kent.
Mr Wilkes worked as a radar operator.
That made him responsible for detecting U-boats lurking under the ocean and ready to strike.
So formidable was the weather encountered on the journeys that the sailor remembers his eyelids freezing shut on many occasions when he was on deck to de-ice the ship.
These days the Chadderton-born man lives a much quieter life with his second wife Elsie in his adopted town of Barrow.
But as he reflects on his time in the war, his one wish this Remembrance Day is that all the men who played such a vital role in the Allies’ victory get the recognition they deserve.
First published at 16:43, Friday, 09 November 2012
Published by http://www.walneylocal.co.uk
‘Grassland pioneers’ to be attracted by Walney dunes work
- ‘Grassland pioneers’ to be attracted by Walney dunes work
- Walney seagull enjoys Moroccan holiday (2 comments)
- Antlers found on Walney beach could be up to 20,000 years old - expert (3 comments)
- Tributes to Walney pensioner (2 comments)
- Barrow mum took £19k dream wedding cash from daughter (8 comments)
- ‘Bronze age’ stag’s head is a find for former Walney pub landlord
- Barrow police still investigating rape allegation
- Making others happy always comes first for selfless Barrow boy
- Barrow summer ice show (2 comments)
- Barrow Police appeal after horses set loose on Walney
- ‘Son would be dead if we’d stuck with FGH’ - Barrow mum (13 comments)
- Lifesaving volunteer team put forward for community award
- Hopes high that road will stop erosion splitting Walney in two (4 comments)
- Permission granted for Walney windfarm development (7 comments)
- Beached buoy removed from Walney (4 comments)
- Large buoy washed up on Walney
- Delight as work starts on Walney sea defence (1 comment)
- Barrow OAP claims pavement remains a trip hazard (3 comments)
- Staffie muzzle order after fatal Barrow dog attack (26 comments)
- Steps taken in bid to boost Barrow school in special measures
- Walney Island’s much-loved wildlife haven is set for a spruce-up
- Islands could be built in Morecambe Bay as part of Barrow to Heysham tunnel project (5 comments)
- Cumbria suicide dad left cash for loved ones
- Barrow Police hunt Walney chocolate thief
- Barrow Police and coastguard respond to incident near Walney Airfield