Arctic convoy veteran gets medal - finally

Tommy Leonard, 101, is finally recognised by the British government for his involvement in the Arctic Convoy. Pictured with his daughter Kathleen Davaney and Peter Davaney.
Tommy Leonard, 101, is finally recognised by the British government for his involvement in the Arctic Convoy. Pictured with his daughter Kathleen Davaney and Peter Davaney.
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Calderdale war veteran Tommy Leonard is finally to be rewarded for his bravery on the Arctic convoys - after a 70 year wait.

Calderdale war veteran Tommy Leonard is finally to be rewarded for his bravery on the Arctic convoys - after a 70 year wait.

Tommy Leonard pictured as a young man

Tommy Leonard pictured as a young man

The 101-year-old Navy veteran, who now lives in Savile Park Residential Home, played a vital role in the Arcvic convoys, which delivered fuel, food and munitions to Russia during the Second World War.

Despite Tommy receiving multiple medals from the Russian government over the years, the incredible bravery of the men on the Arctic convoy has never been recognised by the British Government - until last week.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review by the former diplomat Sir John Holmes - who was asked to look at rules on military decorations - concluded Arctic veterans should have their own medal to mark “the very difficult work they did”.

Tommy’s daughter Kathy Deveney said: “I am delighted he has got it. I’m thrilled for dad. It’s history and his great grandchildren will get all his memorabilia. Personally I think it’s a shame he’s had about five medals from Russia but never from his own country.

“He is pleased. He’s pleased for the people who have lost their lives because they are talking about giving it post humously to families of those who died on the convoy. But he said it was hard-earned. I said ‘I know it was, dad’ because I have grown up with the stories. I just hope it’s designed and manufactured and presented while he is still with us, I really do.

“His short term memory is very poor but he remembers the Arctic convoy like it was yesterday. He is pleased but more concerned about the guys who lost their lives alongside him.”

More than 3,000 seamen were killed during 78 convoys that delivered cargo. Eight-five merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy vessels were destroyed. It is thought 66,500 men sailed on the convoys, but only 200 are alive today.

**The Arctic convoys crossed icy waters travelling within hundreds of miles of the North Pole to reach the northern Russian port of archeangel in the Barents Sea.
They were under constant attack from German planes and submarines. Tommy served on HMS Pozarica which escorted ships on the ill-fated PQ17 convoy - later dubbed the Convoy to Hell. The convoy was given the order to scatter after reports of German battleships and cruisers sailing to intercept them. Tommy previously told the Courier: “I can remember that Captain Lawford gathered us all on deck and gave us the order to scatter and just make our own way to Russia. He said we should get plenty of sleep and he also said we should prepare to meet our maker.”
The decision to scatter left ships in unchartered waters, across a wide area and stripped of mutual protection as well as trained escort.
Of the 36 ships on that convoy, 23 were sunk. HMS Pozarica and Tommy survived.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill later called the event “one of the most melancholy naval episodes in the whole of the war”.