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Wilmington war veteran finally wins recognition - 70 years on
AN 89-YEAR-OLD survivor of what Winston Churchill described as “the most dangerous journey in the world” has finally won recognition for his bravery.
Vaughan Williams, of Barn End Lane, Wilmington, risked his life to help the Soviet Union fight Hitler during the Second World War.
But the great grandfather of three, like so many of the veterans of the arctic convoys, was blocked from receiving his bravery award by the Foreign Office.
The ex-naval officer has four decorative medals from Russia but cannot receive the Ushakov – despite Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA allowing their citizens to accept it.
Foreign Office rules on awards from abroad state the recipient must have carried out some service to the country concerned within the past five years. However, Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday announced the war veterans will receive a British medal - much to the delight of Mr Williams and his family.
The great grandfather of three told News Shopper: “I did not expect to get this medal in my lifetime.
“I’m really delighted, this means a great deal that my country has rewarded mine and many others' efforts.”
Mr Williams was just a 19-year-old naval recruit in 1943 when he served four months on HMS Matchless, passing ammunition to the front of the boat to shoot down German aircrafts.
“Sometimes the planes would be 10 feet above the water and he would see the torpedos steaming through," said his daughter Christine Jeffreys, 60. “He was very aware of the danger of death.”
After seeing Mr Williams’ story on the News Shopper website Dartford MP Gareth Johnson raised his case in the House of Commons last month. Mrs Jeffreys, of Mayors Lane, Wilmington, said: “We’re delighted that the bravery and endeavour of arctic convoy veterans will be recognised.
“We are personally grateful for the support of our MP and all our friends and family.”
The Second World War Arctic convoys delivered food, weapons, munitions and vehicles so the Soviet Union could fight Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front. From 1941 to 1945 around 1,400 merchant vessels sailed with naval escorts from Britain, Iceland and north America to the Soviet ports of Archangel and Murmansk. Eighty-five merchant vessels, 16 Royal Navy warships and more than 3,000 sailors were lost. The Arctic Convoy Star Medal will replace the Atlantic star lapel pin which Mr Williams received but was created for a different campaign.