LOCAL war veterans who embarked on "the worst journey in the world" are finally to be honoured by the Government 70 years on - but the announcement has come too late for one Stone man.
HONOURED . . . Don Gray and the late Ken Key. They endured freezing conditions and the constant threat of attack from the Luftwaffe and Nazi U-boats on the Arctic Convoys. During the four-year campaign there were 78 convoys transporting aircraft, tanks, trucks, food, fuel and other supplies to Russia. Their route took them round the North Cape to the North Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel. Around 65,000 members of the Royal and Merchant Navies were involved in the campaign but more than 3,000 lost their lives.
This week the Government announced Artic Convoy veterans would receive the Arctic Medal "within weeks", following seven decades of campaigning.
Applications from veterans and widows will be given priority but next of kin will be able to apply too.
Eccleshall great-grandfather Don Gray, who took part in six perilous convoys between 1944 and 1945, was awarded a medal from the Russian Government in 1988 but has waited a further 25 years for an equivalent honour from his home country.
The 89-year-old described this week's announcement as "a miracle".
But the news came just days after the funeral of fellow Arctic Convoy veteran Kenneth Key who died this month,aged 92.
Last month the Newsletter reported on the campaign to ensure former Stone resident Mr Key received his honour before it was too late.
Stone councillor Joyce Farnham and MP Bill Cash made an urgent appeal for Mr Key's medal to be issued as a priority.
Mr Key died peacefully at Hilcote Hall Residential Home. His funeral was held at St Michael's Church on Friday.
Councillor Farnham said: "We are delighted that at long last the campaign has come to fruition, but sadly it is too late for Mr Key. It is so tragic that has happened.
Veterans should not have to apply for the medal though. It should be presented to them by the Lord Lieutenant with dignity and pride."
Mr Gray said: "It is good news and I shall be pleased just to receive the medal.
It is something I didn't think would happen.” Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the Arctic Convoys as "the worst journey in the world".