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TWO Melksham World War II veterans who survived what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world” have been honoured by Russia for their bravery during the conflict.
The Russian Embassy honoured Commander Harry Thompson and Tom Edwards from Melksham who were part of the Arctic convoy ships of the Royal and Merchant Navies who made repeated perilous journeys to ensure vital supplies of both arms and food supplies reached Russian shores during the war.
They had both already received the Arctic Convoy Star Medal last year from the Ministry of Defence and were invited by the Russian Embassy to a ceremony at County Hall to receive the Ushakov Medal, a Russian military honour.
Many involved in the arctic convoy lost their lives to the attentions of Axis aircraft, ships and submarines but their efforts are widely recognised as helping Russia’s war effort and significantly shortening the entire World War II conflict. It has taken over 70 years for their heroic efforts to receive proper recognition.
A representative of the Russian Embassy, Alexander Kramarenko, Minister-Counsellor, said a few heartfelt words of thanks at the ceremony to the men.
Speaking about his award Tom Edwards said, “At the ceremony they kept using the word “hero” but I’m not a hero. There were heroes there and those that lost their lives and sacrificed everything. They are the real heroes.”
Roy While, chairman of Wiltshire Council said, “We are all delighted these men are being recognised again to honour their gallantry, and it’s a source of enormous pride that we have so many of them living in the South-west.
“It was a huge privilege to be able to host this special ceremony at County Hall today and welcome so many veterans. I’ve already spoken to a number of the veterans this morning, all over 90 and very keen to be here.”
The Ushakov Medal is awarded to soldiers and sailors for bravery and courage displayed while risking their lives to defend the Russian Federation.