Medal of honour for Normacot Arctic hero Donald Gray
A WAR veteran who sailed across freezing waters to help deliver vital supplies to Russia is to finally receive a medal for his bravery.
Donald Gray, who served in the Second World War, is among hundreds who risked their lives 70 years ago in the infamous Arctic Convoy missions.
Sailing across the Norwegian sea, the servicemen battled ice and storms in dozens of missions to escort supply ships carrying fuel, food and munitions to the embattled Soviet Union.
Now the 89-year-old, from Normacot, and his former comrades, will have the chance to apply for a new medal after the Government pledged to recognise their heroic efforts.
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Many of Mr Gray's fellow veterans have passed away, but their families will also be eligible to apply for the Arctic Star medal.
Mr Gray, whose contribution has already been recognised by the Russian government, spoke of his delight at the ruling.
The pensioner, who now lives in Oak Road, Eccleshall, and joined the Navy at the age of 19, said: "I have waited 70 years for the medal and I think it's about time.
"It's an awful long time to wait but I shall be delighted to receive it. I applied for one from the Russian government about 30 years ago, who sent it over in the post."
Donald sailed on the destroyer HMS Caprice, which travelled from Portsmouth to Iceland, across the Norwegian Sea and on to Russia.
He added: "It was very cold and the conditions were terrible. You had to chip the ice off but we managed it. I do miss the comradeship."
Mark Francois, minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans, said veterans from the Bomber Command division of the RAF will also be recognised.
Production of the medals began this week, and up to 250,000 veterans will be eligible.
The minister said: "All those who served our country in Bomber Command and on the Arctic Convoys deserve nothing but the utmost respect and admiration from us. That's why I am delighted that these special individuals will, in the next few weeks, begin to receive the Bomber Command clasp and Arctic Star that they have so long deserved.
"I am also pleased to announce that the families of those no longer alive will also be able to apply for these awards in recognition of their loved one's bravery."
Mr Gray will be celebrating his 70th wedding anniversary later this year with his wife, Gladys, aged 88.
Mrs Gray married her husband during the war, while she worked at the Milk Marketing Board, which controlled milk supplies during the conflict.
She said: "It's been a long time coming. The other award he received was like a little scout badge so it will be nice for him to have a medal."
Eligible veterans and their next of kin are now encouraged to apply for the awards.
Details can be found at www.veterans-uk.info or by telephoning 08457 800 900.