TWO Melksham World War II veterans who survived what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world” have been recognised for their bravery during the conflict.
Commander Harry Thompson and Tom Edwards both from Melksham 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.
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.
70 years on their heroic actions have been recognised as they received their award after Wiltshire MPs and Wiltshire Council invited local residents who had received the Arctic Convoy Star Medal from the Ministry of Defence to come along to a presentation ceremony at County Hall.
The medal has been awarded to 24 veterans from both the Arctic Convoys and the Bomber Command. These brave men and their families attended to be presented their medal by their local MP and receive a commemorative scroll.
Duncan Hames MP who presented the medal to both Commander Harry Thompson and Tom Edwards said, “It was a fantastic occasion and great to hear some of the stories these brave men have lived through. The only real shame is that they were not recognised earlier as it would have been nice for more servicemen to have been honoured.”
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.”
Christine Crisp, chairman of Wiltshire Council said, “We are all delighted that after a wait of 70 years these men have finally been awarded the Arctic Convoy Star Medal to honour their gallantry, and it’s a source of enormous pride that we have so many of them living in Wiltshire.”
A representative of the Russian Embassy, Igor Chamov, also attended to say a few heartfelt words of thanks to the men.
Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council said, “It was a huge privilege to be able to host this special ceremony at County Hall today and welcome so many Wiltshire veterans to both the Arctic Convoy and of Bomber Command.”