In two special ceremonies at Downing Street today, the Prime Minister presented medals to Second World War veterans, commemorating their service in the Arctic Convoy campaign and Bomber Command.
Arctic Convoy Star
In the morning, a ceremony was held to present the Arctic Convoy Star medal to 41 surviving veterans of the Arctic Convoy campaigns during World War II.
Described by Winston Churchill as ‘the worst journey in the world’, the Arctic Convoys of the Second World War saw ships of the Royal and Merchant Navies make perilous journeys in sub-zero temperatures to ensure vital supplies reached Russian shores.
The Prime Minister said:
There are lots of extraordinary people I have met in this room in the last three years and lots of events I have been very proud to hold, but I can’t think of a group of people that I am more proud to have in Number 10 Downing Street.
I am only sorry that it has taken 70 years to get to here and to say thank you for what you did.
You were involved in the most important struggle of the last 100 years when you were supplying one of our allies in the battle to defeat Hitler and to defeat fascism in Europe.
You are a group of heroes, thank you.
The Prime Minister then accompanied three of the veterans to the HMS Belfast, one of the surviving ships that took part in the Arctic Convoy campaign, for a tour of the historic vessel.
Bomber Command Clasp
This afternoon, the Prime Minister also awarded 24 veterans the Bomber Command Clasp.
Bomber Command operated from the first day of the War in Europe to the last. Of the approximately 125,000 aircrew who served in the Command 55,573 were killed.
The Prime Minister said:
On behalf of the whole country I want to thank you for what you did all those years ago. It is an incredible thought for my generation, who’ve had to suffer so little, to think of the extraordinary odds that you faced and the incredible sacrifice of the Bomber Command crews.
It’s worth remembering just some of the reasons why today’s decision is so justified. Bomber Command was one of the few commands that flew missions from the very start of the war, to the very end of the war. Bomber Command was absolutely vital in defeating Nazi Germany and in saving our continent for freedom.
We’re very grateful for what you did, we’re sorry that it’s taken 70 years to recognise properly the full scale of the action, the courage, the bravery and the sacrifice that you showed, but we’re proud to say that today and to thank you for all you did for our country, for our freedom and for our safety. Thank you.
Today’s events follow Sir John Holmes’ review of the guiding rules, principles and processes for medallic recognition. The Prime Minister announced to the House of Commons in December that the Arctic Convoy Star and Bomber Command Clasp would be awarded.