28 December 2012

WWII Awards better late than never

I missed this before Christmas but the Government is proposing two new awards in respect of WWII service.  The Number 10 website reported on 19 December  that veterans of Bomber Command and the Arctic Convoys will receive specific decorations.

In Parliament today, the Prime Minister welcomed the conclusion of the second part of Sir John Holmes’ review into the rules and principles governing the award of military campaign medals.
As part of his review, which was requested by David Cameron, Sir John Holmes has recommended a new medal for veterans of the Arctic Convoys and a “clasp” for veterans of Bomber Command.
The Prime Minister has agreed that there is a case for the awards.

Veterans of the Arctic Convoy campaigns will get recognition with an Arctic Convoy Star medal. Meanwhile, the aircrew of Bomber Command who played such a vital role in the war will be awarded a Bomber Command clasp.

The Coalition Agreement included a commitment to review the rules surrounding the award of military campaign medals, as part of work to strengthen the military covenant.

The remainder of the second part of Sir John Holmes’ review will report back in the New Year, when the Ministry of Defence will also set out eligibility criteria for the medals and clasps.

I am pleased that those who served on the Arctic Convoys are getting specific recognition. It was one of the worst most dangerous and least regarded activities of WWII. To add insult to injury they were  treated like sit when the arrived in the Soviet Union even though these sailors helped provie the USSR with vital supplies. There are about 200 surviving veterans.

There is a lie that Bomber Command was the only arm of service not to receive its own campaign. WWII camaign medals were for areas of service althouhh the prime recipients of the Atlantic Star was the Royal Navy. Similarly the prime recipients of the Aircrew Europe Star (the medal covered service fro 1940 to D-Day RAF personnel were then became eligible for the France and Germany Star) were Bomber Command personnel.  It is true that eligibility rules meant that far too any crews did not live long enough to earn the decoration having first to earn the 1939-45 Star. The clasp, presumably to be worn on the 1939-45 Star, is the ideal recognition for those who served in Bomber Command and it would put them on the same footing as those who served in teh Battle of Britian - who whee awarded a clasp to the 39-45 Star.

Better late than never I suppose


Francis Sedgemore said...

My maternal grandfather Jack Sedgemore was a stoker on the HMS Rawalpindi, an armed merchant cruiser that helped guard the first of the Arctic convoys in the North Atlantic. The Rawalpindi was sunk in November 1939, a month before my mother was born.

jams o donnell said...

Sadly the ship never stood a chance not up against the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. We will know in the new year what the eligibility criteria will be for the medal.I suspect that it may be limited to after the USSR entered the war.

Francis Sedgemore said...

As you say, the Rawalpindi never stood a chance against the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, so one must ask why Captain Kennedy refused to accept the German invitation to surrender.

Part of the blame lies with the British Admiralty, which knew from Kennedy's signals that the two enemy battleships were in the Iceland-Faroe passage, but did nothing to help.

Was Kennedy instructed from Whitehall to stand and fight, futile though everyone knew it would be?

Attributed to Kennedy: "We’ll fight them both, they will sink us, and that will be that. Goodbye."

You may be right about the politics and medal eligibility criteria. Even so, we should lobby for some form of posthumous recognition for the Arctic Convoy personnel.

jams o donnell said...

It makes no sense to fight against such odds when the ship has no chance of inflicting any significant damage on the enemy.

It's not as if it were in the same situation as the Jervis Bay the following year. It was another converted merchantman and which was the sole escort for a convoy when it ran into the Pocket Batttleship Admiral Scheer.

Fogarty Fegen had no choice ut to take on the ship to give the convoy time to scatter. I can't see what Rawalpindi's loss served