Shortly before Christmas the UK prime minister’s office announced that veterans of Bomber Command and the Arctic Convoys will receive military decorations in honour of their wartime contributions. Yesterday in Parliament David Cameron went further, giving details of the medals and clasps to be awarded to Arctic Convoy and Bomber Command veterans, respectively.
Who will be awarded the Arctic Convoy Star medal is still not clear, and this may have something to do with the geopolitics of the situation. As far as the history books record it, the principal role of the Arctic Convoys was the relief of the USSR, but their work began before the German siege of Russia, and should be considered along with that of the Atlantic Convoys. In fact it always was, but politics and military sensitivities have left gaps in the formal historical record.
The chances are that the new medals will only go to those who served in the Atlantic/Arctic Convoys after the USSR entered the war in 1941. In that case the service of many fallen sailors will remain unrecognised, among them my maternal grandfather Charles John Sedgemore, who served as a stoker on the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi.
Granddad Sedgemore’s ship was sunk on 23 November 1939 in the Iceland-Faroe passage, a month before the birth of his daughter Margaret Hope Catherine. Rawalpindi’s captain Edward Kennedy was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, and a few of his crew were also decorated. Most were forgotten.
If my grandfather and his fallen comrades fail to get the recognition they deserve, their descendants should kick up a fuss. But any failure of the state to honour its moral obligation to those who served in WWII will not detract from their heroism.
We will remember them.
See also: Shaun Downey