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Farewell to WWII Arctic Star Commander Eddie Grenfell

by Sally Simmonds

Friends and family gathered today for the funeral of a war veteran - described by the Prime Minister as a hero. Commander Eddie Grenfell - who was 93 - lobbied tirelessly for a medal to honour his comrades who kept suppies going to Russia during the Second World War.

The Government finally backed down and agreed to acknowledge the Arctic Convoy veterans last year and in March Commander Grenfell was presented with the medal he'd waited 70 years for. Sally Simmonds reports.

Final farewell to Arctic Convoy hero

Commander Eddie Grenfell
Commander Eddie Grenfell holding the Arctic Star medal he received in February 2013

The funeral is to take place today of Commander Eddie Grenfell from Hampshire.

The retired naval commander died at the age of ninety-three. He fought for years to win recognition for the role he and his comrades played during the Arctic Convoys of World War Two.

Commander Grenfell died last month at his daughter's home in Southsea in Portsmouth.

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WWII veteran campaign leader first to receive medal

Commander Eddie Grenfell
Commander Eddie Grenfell receives his 'Arctic Star' medal in Portsmouth

The veteran who led the campaign for those involved in the Arctic Convoys to receive the 'Arctic Star medals' has finally received his medal after years of campaigning.

Commander Eddie Grenfell, aged 93, was too ill to travel to a special ceremony at Downing Street where some of his colleagues will receive their wards from the Prime Minister. Commander Grenfell was the first person to receive the medal.

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Veterans at Downing Street for WWII 'Arctic Star' medal

Douglas Turtle
Douglas Turtle is on his way to Downing Street to receive his 'Arctic Star' medal

An Arctic Convoy veteran from the Isle of Wight has begun his journey to London to collect his medal from The Prime Minister at Downing Street. Douglas Turtle was involved in one of World War Two's most dangerous naval missions. He has been invited to a special ceremony by David Cameron.

The award of the Arctic Star and the Bomber Command Clasp follows years of campaigning for proper recognition for armed services personnel from the Arctic Convoys and Bomber Command during the Second World War.

Arctic veterans will meet Prime Minister

The Prime Minster will meet with 65 Arctic Convoy and Bomber Command veterans to present them with the first of their medals and clasps. At a special ceremony in Downing Street, around 40 men will be presented with the Arctic Star medal. Another 25 will receive the Bomber Command clasp.

The men, who are in all in their 80s and 90s, are bringing wives and family with them to the presentation. They will all be treated to tea and cakes in the Downing Street State Rooms once they have received their medals and clasps and had their picture taken with the Prime Minister.

One of those who helped put pressure on the government to recognise the Royal Navy sailors is Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage. We spoke to her and asked how important it was that the men were finally being recognised for their efforts.

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Arctic heroes: What did they do?

Today the first Arctic Star medals and Bomber Command Clasps will be presented to veterans by the Prime Minister.

  • Veterans undertook what was dubbed "the worst journey in the world", delivering supplies to Russia
  • More than 3,000 seamen died on the journey, which made sure Germany had to fight a war on two fronts
  • The seamen delivered ships which carried crucial supplies, including 13,000 tanks, 22,000 aircraft and 417,000 motor vehicles
  • Some 58 of the 811 merchant ships involved were sunk by German U-boats, battleships and Luftwaffe bombers
  • With freezing temperatures of minus 20 degrees, anyone who fell into the water died within three minutes
  • The men covered a 1,500 to 2,000-mile run across the North and Barents Seas, one of the deadliest convoy routes during the war
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Veterans to receive Arctic Convoy medals today

Prime Minister David Cameron will present the first Arctic Star medals and Bomber Command Clasps at Downing Street today.

Artist's impression of the new Arctic medal Credit: MOD

Up to 250,000 veterans, and the families of those who died, are eligible to receive the new awards.

It comes after David Cameron's announcement in December that he was accepting the recommendations of a review of military decorations.

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