Sorry for your wait, Cameron tells veterans
Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday ended nearly 70 years of waiting for two groups of Second World War veterans, as he presented the first Arctic Star medals and Bomber Command clasps.
In two separate ceremonies at Number 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron praised the veterans – including former Bomber Command member Mr Harry Hughes, of St Ives – and apologised for their long wait for recognition.
The creation of the Arctic Star medal, along with the new Bomber Command clasp, were announced by Mr Cameron in December, 67 years after the war, following a long-running campaign.
The decision followed recommendations of a review of military decorations by former diplomat Sir John Holmes, who also concluded that Bomber Commands had been treated "inconsistently" with their Fighter Command counterparts.
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Yesterday Mr Cameron spoke of the sacrifices made by both groups. More than 3,000 seamen died over four years from 1941 on missions to keep open supply lines to Soviet ports, travelling what Winston Churchill dubbed the "worst journey in the world".
The Prime Minister also described how 55,000 of the 125,000 people who joined Bomber Command lost their lives. Mr Cameron said: "They are heroes and I think it's just so right that we are honouring them today for their incredible service 70 years ago, and I'm really proud as Prime Minister to have set up that review, to make that decision and to get them that medal they so richly deserve.
"When you hear their stories, it's truly humbling and I think it's absolutely right they get their medal.
"It shouldn't have taken 70 years for this to be recognised. They were very brave people and were struggling against appalling odds on those Arctic Convoys. They were performing vital duties as well, resupplying our allies in the battle against Hitler, so it's right that they should get this medal and I'm pleased the Government has taken the right step." He said the decision to create a Bomber Command clasp was the right one, telling veterans and their families it had been vital in defeating Nazi Germany.
The Prime Minister praised those who had campaigned for the medal, including Commander Eddie Grenfell, 93, who was too ill to travel to London but received his award in a special ceremony.
Veterans, who enjoyed a reception with their families after the ceremony, spoke of their joy at finally getting recognition, but sadness that some comrades could not be with them.