A former grocer who played a key role in helping defeat Nazi Germany in the Second World War is celebrating a hat-trick of recognition.
Jim Elliot served on the minesweeper Onyx during the famous and infamous Russian Convoys.
He was one of the men who risked his life in icy waters, evading attack by German U-boats and aircraft, to accompany vital supplies safely to Russia.
It was famously dubbed by British prime minister Winston Churchill the “worst journey in the world”.
Two years ago Jim, of Temple Green sheltered accommodation in South Shields, finally received long overdue recognition from the British government when he was awarded the Arctic Star in honour of his service.
That award came 28 years after he received a commemorative medal from a grateful Russian government.
Now to mark celebrations marking VE Day, the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has bestowed on him a third commemorative medal – the ‘Certificate of State Award’.
A letter accompanying the medal states: “It is a huge privilege for me to thank you on behalf of the Russian government for the invaluable contribution you and your comrades-in-arms made to the defeat of Nazi Germany.”
The new honour marked a remarkable August for Jim – arriving as it did in the post on the same day he celebrated his 90th birthday
Widower Jim, who also worked as a delivery driver for the Gazette, said: “The worst moment on the convoys was seeing ships being sunk and not being able to pick up survivors, because three minutes in the water in the Atlantic and that was it.
“When I look back I am proud to receive this medal but it is awarded not just for me but the people who didn’t survive. I was lucky because thousands were lost and I feel very fortunate that I survived.”
Father-of-two Jim was called up on his 18th birthday in August, 1943, and went on to serve until 1946.
He added: “We helped get tens of thousands of supplies to Russia by escorting guns, aeroplanes and tanks. The weather was so bad you had to keep chipping the ice off our minesweeper.
“There’s not many of us left now and I’m proud to accept this on behalf of those who aren’t here anymore.”