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Bill Sunderland to receive Arctic convoy medal at last
AN ARCTIC convoy veteran from York looks set to receive a long-awaited medal within weeks.
Bill Sunderland, 86, of Foxwood Lane, is one of about 200 veterans nationally who will finally receive the Arctic Convoy Star in recognition of their bravery in atrocious conditions almost 70 years ago.
The Government announced yesterday that production has started of the newly designed decoration, along with clasps for veterans of Bomber Command.
Veterans Minister Mark Francois said that everyone who served on the convoys and in Bomber Command deserved nothing but the utmost respect and admiration, and they would begin to receive the decorations they had so long deserved in the next few weeks.
He also revealed that the families of those no longer alive would also be able to apply for the awards in recognition of their loved ones’ bravery.
Mr Sunderland, a widower who was a Royal Navy signalman during the war, said: “I’m delighted. I was concerned that by the time the medals were ready to be presented, some of those due to receive them might have passed away.”
He hoped the medal might be presented at a meeting of the York branch of the Royal Naval Association.
The decision to award the medals was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in December, but Mr Sunderland said he had feared it would still take a long time for them to be made.
He has spoken previously of his disappointment that the decision to present the medal had come too late for many veterans who had passed on.
However, he said he was pleased there was recognition of the conditions the veterans went through, as they came under enemy fire while also suffering from terrible weather.
More than 3,000 seamen died over four years from 1941 on missions to keep open supply lines to Soviet ports which were dubbed the “worst journey in the world” by Winston Churchill.
Last year, The Press reported Mr Sunderland’s delight after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree to award him and other veterans the Ushakov Medal in recognition of their “outstanding contribution to the allied co-operation” during the Second World War.
But his joy turned to disgust in the autumn when it emerged that the British Government had blocked the Russian proposals.