A SOUTH Tyneside war veteran has welcomed the news he is to receive a new medal – from Russia with love.
Heroes of the famous Second World War Arctic Convoys are set for double recognition this year.
For years, convoy veterans were denied medals by the British Government.
But in a landmark turnaround, politicians have now granted them not one, but two.
In June, former Merchant Navy seamen received the Arctic Star, which honours their part in transporting supplies to Russia between 1941 and 1945.
And last week, the men received a letter to say that they will also be awarded the Ushakov Medal from the Russian government.
It has previously been denied to participants of Operation Dervish – the Arctic Convoys – but in June, Secretary of State William Hague said approval had been given for “an exception to the rules” on the acceptance of foreign awards.
Under current rules, medals can’t be accepted when more than five years have passed since the events.
One of the veterans, Bob Robertson, 92, of Mortimer Road, South Shields, welcomed the latest recognition.
Mr Robertson said: “The Canadian and the Australian governments had allowed their citizens to receive medals, but until now the British government had refused, so this is a welcome U-turn.
“I have received a letter saying I can apply for the Ushakov medal, and it’s certainly something I will be doing.”
Mr Robertson took part in the convoys between 1942 and 1943 as a 23-year-old. His most vivid memory was of Boxing Day, 1943, when the German battleship Scharnhorst was sunk by HMS Duke of York off North Cape, in northern Norway.
The enemy vessel was en route to attack Mr Robertson’s convoy at the time.
He added: “When we received the Arctic Star earlier this year it was presented by the Lord Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear at the town hall in South Shields. It would be nice if we had a formal presentation of this new medal also.”
Some 3,000 seamen died serving on the convoys as they made what Winston Churchill referred to as “the worst journey in the world”.
The route the convoys took was particularly hazardous, not only because of the severe weather in winter and increased visibility during the long hours of daylight in the summer, but also because the convoys passed close to Nazi-occupied Norway, which left them vulnerable to attack by U-boats, surface vessels and aircraft.