Russian medal is awarded to World War Two veteran

Mr William Weeks and MP Greg Barker SUS-140910-120138001
Mr William Weeks and MP Greg Barker SUS-140910-120138001

A former Royal Navy Seaman Gunner has been awarded a long-awaited Russian medal for his service on the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War.

Mr William Weeks, 92, joined naval colleagues at the Russian Embassy where they were presented with the Ushakov medal for service on the Arctic Convoys during WWII.

The Russian Federation awarded the medal to British veterans of the Arctic Convoy who took supplies to Russia during WWII in recognition of “outstanding contribution to our allied cooperation during WWII”.

However, the Foreign Office initially did not allow Russia to honour the veterans as it broke rules on foreign medals.

The British Government created the Arctic Star medal in 2012 following a long campaign for the convoy veterans to be recognised. But campaigners, including Mr Weeks, believed UK veterans should still receive the Russian medal, particularly as Australia, US, Canada, and New Zealand had allowed the medal to be awarded to their veterans.

Mr Weeks wrote to Bexhill and Battle MP Greg Barker to see if he could help, and Mr Barker, along with others, campaigned for the decision to be reversed.

Sir Winston Churchill referred to the Arctic Convoy as the “worst journey in the world”. The conditions were extremely harsh and the journeys made in complete darkness as it was winter. The Allies’ support, supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia, was instrumental in helping to defeat the Germans on the Eastern Front. Mr Weeks served on two Arctic Convoys between November 1943 to mid 1944.

Mr Weeks moved to Bexhill after he retired and lives in Pebsham. He is an active member of the North Russia Club of veterans and visited Russia several times with other Arctic Convoy veterans and says they were greeted warmly and well-looked after.

Following the campaign for the Ushakov medal the Foreign Office allowed an ‘exception to the rules’ and Mr Weeks was presented with his medal at the Russian Embassy last month.

He said: “We’ve waited a long time to receive the Ushakov medal awarded by the Russian Federation to those of us who served on the Arctic Convoys between 1941-1945.

“I was extremely proud to receive my medal from the Russian Ambassador at the Russian Embassy in London

“ I am grateful to Greg Barker for his help in obtaining permission from the UK Government for the medals to be issued.”

Mr Weeks relayed the good news to Greg Barker and they met up at the De La Warr Pavilion. Greg said he was delighted that Mr Weeks and other veterans of the Arctic Convoy had been recognised. “It was a real privilege to celebrate with Mr Weeks the award of his Russian medal, 70 years on from the extraordinary feats of bravery and heroism that were the hallmarks of the Arctic Convoys.

“Mr Weeks is a remarkable man. We owe all of the men and women who served in World War Two a huge debt of gratitude but I was particularly glad to hear of this important episode in the struggle against Nazi Germany at first hand.”

Greg said a full description of Mr Weeks’ wartime experiences are now with Bexhill Museum, adding: “Others and generations to come will be able to understand what those men went through to secure the freedoms that we all enjoy today.”