War hero is deprived of an honour

NDET 6-11-12 MC 6'Frank Wilson collecting for the RBL poppy appeal
NDET 6-11-12 MC 6'Frank Wilson collecting for the RBL poppy appeal

As a teenager Frank Wilson joined the Royal Navy and travelled on convoy ships enduring what is often described as “the worst journey in the world.”

The British Arctic convoy heroes carried out their missions in the most intolerable and dangerous conditions to help transport crucial supplies to Russia during the Second World War.

NDET 31-10-12 MC 15'Horrific conditions aboard Frank Wilson's Russian Convoy ship - the landing pad

NDET 31-10-12 MC 15'Horrific conditions aboard Frank Wilson's Russian Convoy ship - the landing pad

But now Mr Wilson, of Holme Hall Chesterfield, has been told by the Foreign Office that he cannot accept an honour for outstanding service as it would “break rules surrounding the acceptance of medals.”

The Russian Embassy wrote to survivors of the notoriously perilous sea campaign - which saw 3,000 comrades killed - to say it intended to award them with the Medal of Ushakov as a symbol of the country’s gratitude.

Delighted Mr Wilson, 88, said after all these years he was honoured.

He added: “Without us Germany would have taken Russia. If it had not been for the convoys the outcome of the war could have been very different, we would be speaking German now.”

NDET 31-10-12 MC 13'Horrific conditions aboard Frank Wilson's Russian Convoy ship

NDET 31-10-12 MC 13'Horrific conditions aboard Frank Wilson's Russian Convoy ship

But the Foreign Office blocked the Russian’s government’s plans and Mr Wilson and other Derbyshire veterans claim they feel let down - and have called for a rethink.

He added: “It’s ridiculous. I just feel it’s typical of this government.

“I don’t think a lot of people know what happened during the war and don’t realise what would have happened if we had not been doing these convoys. Germany would have taken this country too.”

At the age of 18 Mr Wilson was a gunner on escort carrier HMS Activity. The journey was fraught with danger including freezing weather and rough sea.

He said: “It was terrible. It was like working in a freezer.

“Once you started on a convoy run you didn’t have a wash for six weeks. You couldn’t take you’re clothes off as it was too cold.”

He saw comrades killed in the treacherous sea and was shot through the cheeks, smashing all his back teeth.

He added: “I had to stay on the ship for about a fortnight before I had any treatment. It left a hole clean through but I was lucky.”

Russia has already awarded the Ushakov medal to veterans from Australia, Canada and America. He added: “I hope the Foreign Office reconsider. This is a medal for valour but that doesn’t seem to mean anything any more.”

Barbara Barber, 75, of Bolsover, whose husband Len, 87, was on escort carrier HMS Nairana and has also been refused a medal, added: “I just think it’s disgraceful. I feel like writing to our government to complain, they should be ashamed of themselves.

“My husband said they were some of the worst seas you would ever sea and that is why the Russian people are so grateful.”

The Foreign Office said it “appreciated the Russian Government’s wish to recognise the brave and valuable service given by veterans of the Arctic Convoys,” but added permission to accept a foreign award could not be given unless there had been specific service to the country concerned within the previous five years.

A spokesman added that the Arctic convoy veterans were eligible for the World War II Atlantic Star.

But campaigners argue that men who served in the Arctic Convoys had already earned the Atlantic Star before being conscripted on to the dreaded ‘Russian Run’.

The Russian Embassy said the situation was “regrettable” and they would continue to make the case for the award to the British authorities.