Category: Markets / Finance / February 26, 2013 4:03 PM EST
The UK government announcement on Tuesday (February 26) that servicemen and women who manned and defended the Arctic convoy route between Britain and Russia during World War II would be recognized with medals, the UK defense minister said. Speaking after the announcement, Mark Francois said it was an overdue recognition of the fighting that those manning naval ships and bombing aircraft carried out in securing safe passage for the transport of weapon and supplies to the Soviet Union during the war. "The Prime Minister asked Sir John Holmes a couple of years ago to start looking into this issue in detail to try and settle it once and for all, and assisted by a man called Brigadier Paris, they went back and looked at the actual archives, at the record from the time, and on the basis of that really detailed research they recommended a medal for the Arctic convoy veterans, which is the Arctic Star, and a clasp for the men of Bomber Command, which puts them on a par with the men of Fighter Command from World War II," Francois said. The government has said that the medals could go out to veterans and the families as soon as next month. The move follows a long campaign to pay tribute to the efforts made by the seamen and pilots who defended the vital supply route to the Soviets in what was described by Winston Churchill as "the worst journey in the world", which had previously been rejected on the grounds that it did not follow protocol. Francois said their contribution to the war effort should finally be recognized alongside those of others who fought elsewhere, overdue as this recognition may be. "These men, in both categories, did great things for the defense of our country, so that we can live in a free country, which we should never take for granted," he said. "So I think we're proud, I think the government's proud, from the Prime Minister downwards to be honest with you, that I hope we have finally done the right thing, and within a few weeks we can start to give out these awards to surviving veterans and then to next of kin for people who so richly deserve them," he added. It's estimated that around 250,000 veterans and the families of those who have died could be eligible to receive the new award, the Press Association reported. Priority for the new awards will be given to applications from veterans and widows, while other next of kin will also able to apply and will receive their awards shortly afterwards, it added.