PM honours World War II veterans
Prime Minister David Cameron ended nearly 70 years of waiting for two groups of Second World War veterans, as he presented the first Arctic Star medals and Bomber Command clasps.
In two separate ceremonies at Number 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron praised the veterans, and apologised for their long wait for recognition, speaking of the sacrifices made by both groups.
The creation of the Arctic Star medal, along with the new Bomber Command clasp, was announced by Mr Cameron in December, 67 years after the war, following a long-running campaign.
The decision followed recommendations of a review of military decorations by former diplomat Sir John Holmes, who also concluded that Bomber Commands had been treated "inconsistently" with their Fighter Command counterparts.
More than 3,000 seamen died over four years from 1941 on missions to keep open supply lines to Soviet ports, travelling what wartime prime minister Winston Churchill dubbed the "worst journey in the world", and the Prime Minister also described how 55,000 of the 125,000 people who joined Bomber Command lost their lives.
He joined three Arctic Convoy veterans for a tour of HMS Belfast, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of its launch last weekend, as they showed him where ice was cleared from the deck in perilous circumstances.
Mr Cameron said the decision to create a Bomber Command clasp was the right one, telling veterans and their families it had been vital in defeating Nazi Germany, and praised those who had campaigned for the medal, including Commander Eddie Grenfell, 93, who was too ill to travel to London but received his award in a special ceremony.
Jock Dempster, 84, who showed Mr Cameron around HMS Belfast, said: "Today has been one of the most rewarding days of my life, not just for myself, for all the veterans and not just for the veterans who survived, for the ones who have passed and the ones who got killed."
Mr Dempster, who travelled to London with wife Maggie from Dunbar, Scotland, said the event was tinged with sadness as one of his close friends, also a convoy veteran, died two weeks ago, and also among the Bomber Command veterans was Doug Radcliffe, 89, from Hampstead, north west London, who said: "We are deeply honoured. It really is an honour to be here, a very special day."
Veterans Minister Mark Francois said: "Even if your father or grandfather passed a number of years ago, if they served on the Arctic Convoys or served as air crew in Bomber Command, the family will still qualify for the medal, which we think is important."
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