Over 3000 died in the sub-zero hell of the seas of the Arctic, ferrying vital supplies to the Soviet Union in a desperate attempt to keep them in the war against Nazi Germany. Seventy years after their sacrifice, these men are to be recognized with the Arctic Star medal.
Captain Richard Onslow's account of the attempts to rescue sailors from the sunken destroyer Somali, quoted in Mike Walling's Forgotten Sacrifice, shows the horrifying risks faced by these men;
'It was heartbreaking work. The ship was rolling drunkenly and we were drifting so fast that inevitably a few of those in the water were trapped under our bilge keel before we could grab them...
We could only pray that the ships to the windward would see them in the blinding snow and spindrift. I was proud of our men that night. Many of them showed great courage and endurance, particularly those who went over the side, at the risk of themselves being caught under the bilge keel. But their courage was of little avail. Of those they brought on board none was still breathing, and only one responded to artificial respiration.'
The Ministry of Defense also announced that veterans of Bomber Command who flew at least one mission with an operational unit will receive a clasp to their 1939-1945 Star.
Veterans and their families ares being encouraged to apply for the medal now. More information about the procedure can be found on the Veterans UK website.
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