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Medals on their way to Sussex sailors at long last
Sailors will finally receive a Second World War campaign medal some 70 years after risking their lives dodging U-boats in the Arctic.
Thousands of British sailors kept supplies flowing across freezing waters to the Russians as part of Operation Dervish.
But despite risking their lives on a daily basis and seeing many of their friends die, they never received a service medal.
However, after a long-fought campaign, the Government has announced that the new Arctic Star medal will be issued within weeks.
Harry Watson, 89, signed up as a 17-year-old to serve as a radar operator on the aircraft carrier HMS Pursuer.
Mr Watson, who lives in St Aubyns Mansions Villas, Hove, said: “I’m very proud but can’t help thinking about all those who didn’t make it.
“Our carrier had the dangerous job of escorting the supply ships.
“As a radar operator I would see first hand the dots falling off the chart, it was horrifying.
“The pilots were the brave ones.
“I would count them going out on a mission but they never all came back.
“Even if they did make it they had a treacherous landing – especially in rough seas.”
The operation was vital for the war effort, with Winston Churchill describing their convey route as the “worst journey in the world”.
Mr Watson added: “U-boats were a constant worry. There were so many of them and it was almost impossible to know where they were.
“Then there were the conditions. The water was icy cold and if the planes overshot the runway then the pilots wouldn’t last long.”
More than 3,000 men died in the Arctic waters delivering supply ships to the Soviet Union.
The Russian government previously wanted to present its own medal to the British sailors who served but the move was blocked by the Foreign Office.
In December Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the medals would finally be issued following a long campaign.
The final design for the medals has now been confirmed, with servicemen and their families told to expect them within weeks.
Members of Bomber Command, who carried out numerous dangerous raids over Germany towards the end of the war, will also receive a medal.
Mr Watson, who was just 17 when he volunteered, said: “We didn’t have the attitude that many have today.
“We knew that we were needed so we just got on with it.”
Did you serve in Bomber Command or in the Arctic convoy fleet? Call 01273 544536 with your memories.
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