Bexleyheath Arctic convoys veteran denied Russian bravery medal

Mr Gardner with the Russian medal he already has.

Mr Gardner in his Navy uniform.

A letter showing the medal.

A painting of his ship, HMS Westcott.

First published in Bexley News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

A BRITISH war veteran is "bloody mad" at being denied a medal for risking his life helping the Soviet Union fight Hitler.

Arthur Gardner, now 86 and living in Faygate Crescent, Bexleyheath, was awarded the Ushakov medal by the Russian government for serving in the Arctic convoys of the Second World War.

But like many other survivors of what Winston Churchill called "the most dangerous journey in the world", he is barred from accepting the bravery award.

The ex-naval Quartermaster has four decorative medals from Russia but can't have the Ushakov despite Australia, Canada New Zealand and the USA allowing their citizens to accept it.

Foreign Office rules on foreign awards state the recipient has to have rendered some service to the country concerned within the past five years.

He said: "I am bloody mad.

"What’s it got to do with the British government?

"If they sent me the medal why shouldn’t I be able to have it?"

The grandfather-of-four was just a 17-year-old naval recruit when he joined up in 1943 before doing three return trips to Russia on HMS Westcott. The W-class destroyer helped escort vessels carrying weapons, food and supplies to the Russian port of Murmansk.

The Seaman Gunner was then involved in D-Day before being promoted to Quartermaster and doing another three return trips on the convoys.

A builder after the war, Mr Gardner says a daily job onboard ship was using pick axes to clear up to four inches of ice from the guard rails.

He added: "A good day was when it was up and down with 60ft waves; when it was that rough you wouldn’t get any enemy attacks."

There is a British award for Arctic convoy veterans - the Atlantic star - though you could "cover it with a five pence piece" according to Mr Gardner.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the Russian government would need to provide evidence of direct support for Russia in the last five years for any British citizen to be awarded the Ushakov Medal.

The Arctic convoys

The Second World War Arctic convoys delivered vital supplies to the Soviet Union fighting Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front.

From 1941 to 1945 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.

Comments (4)

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3:44pm Mon 3 Dec 12

old nick says...

this is old news.
this is old news. old nick
  • Score: 0

4:42pm Tue 4 Dec 12

Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott says...

Why should Mr Gardner receive a medal for bravery? He simply 'did his bit', just as hundreds of thousands of other young men and women did.

If he thinks he is eligible for a medal for bravery because he hacked some ice off the deck of his ship and subsequently survived the war, then perhaps he is a bit of a legend in his own mind.

I think it's time he sat back and felt proud of what he did instead of demanding a medal for doing his duty.
Why should Mr Gardner receive a medal for bravery? He simply 'did his bit', just as hundreds of thousands of other young men and women did. If he thinks he is eligible for a medal for bravery because he hacked some ice off the deck of his ship and subsequently survived the war, then perhaps he is a bit of a legend in his own mind. I think it's time he sat back and felt proud of what he did instead of demanding a medal for doing his duty. Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott
  • Score: 0

4:55pm Tue 4 Dec 12

Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott says...

Incidentally, by 1943 the Battle of the Atlantic had been more or less won. The U-boat wolf pack threat had been crushed by that time owing to the development of sonar and the fact that the allies had acquired an enigma machine and cracked the code the German codes.

It actually makes me angry that this old guy thinks he deserves a medal for bravery. There are plenty of people resting at the bottom of the Atlantic - German and British - who haven't enjoyed the luxury of living to the ripe old age of 86-years-old. Every single one of them deserves a medal for bravery.

Get on with your life, Arthur. You're lucky to have it.
Incidentally, by 1943 the Battle of the Atlantic had been more or less won. The U-boat wolf pack threat had been crushed by that time owing to the development of sonar and the fact that the allies had acquired an enigma machine and cracked the code the German codes. It actually makes me angry that this old guy thinks he deserves a medal for bravery. There are plenty of people resting at the bottom of the Atlantic - German and British - who haven't enjoyed the luxury of living to the ripe old age of 86-years-old. Every single one of them deserves a medal for bravery. Get on with your life, Arthur. You're lucky to have it. Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott
  • Score: 0

5:01pm Tue 4 Dec 12

Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott says...

Read 'The Battle of the Atlantic' by Andrew Williams and 'Iron Coffins' by Herbert A. Werner if you want to learn more.

Then decide who REALLY deserves a medal for bravery.

Arthur, I will quite gladly buy you a pint for doing your bit, but please don't think you are any more special than any of the other guys who suffered and died taking part in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Read 'The Battle of the Atlantic' by Andrew Williams and 'Iron Coffins' by Herbert A. Werner if you want to learn more. Then decide who REALLY deserves a medal for bravery. Arthur, I will quite gladly buy you a pint for doing your bit, but please don't think you are any more special than any of the other guys who suffered and died taking part in the Battle of the Atlantic. Lord Erastus Theobald Piggott
  • Score: 0

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