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Early 90th birthday gift for war hero Bill

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It has been a long time coming, but veteran Bill Merry is delighted to have received a campaign medal – 70 years after he served in the Arctic convoys of the Second World War.

Bill Merry, 89, was one of thousands of sailors on warships that defended vessels carrying weapons and food to the Soviet Union.

While Mr Merry and his colleagues were given medals by the Russian Government for their service, it was only last year that David Cameron announced the Ministry of Defence would thank the veterans with an Arctic Star.

Mr Merry, from Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, said: "I feel absolutely great.

"In two weeks' time I will be 90 years old, so I am really happy to have got this medal now.

"It certainly is nice to be honoured after all these years. It is a long time coming, after all."

He received his medal in the post.

"To be honest, I didn't know what it was," he said.

"It was in a package and all wrapped up, and came in a nice box. It's lovely."

Mr Merry served on HMS Westcott as a stoker between 1943 and 1945 and took part in 14 convoys between Iceland, Scotland and the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel.

He said the temperatures were below zero and he would often experience 22 hours of darkness a day.

"Always, at the back of your mind, was the thought a U-boat might be about to sink us," Mr Merry said.

"It was hard and frightening."

Mr Merry will add his star to a collection of nine other medals he received for his service.

"I had them all put in a special frame, so now I suppose I will have to have a new one done."

The Arctic convoys were reportedly called the "worst journey in the world" by Winston Churchill.

About 3,000 died while serving on convoys.

The sailors were never recognised by the British military for their service. However, following a campaign by a 93-year-old veteran from Portsmouth, David Cameron announced in December that convoy veterans would get a medal late last year.

The Prime Minister awarded the first of the newly-created Arctic Stars at a ceremony at Downing Street earlier this month, to 40 of the surviving 400 men who served on the convoys.

The MOD said surviving veterans would receive the medals first, and then widows, followed by other next of kin.

Early 90th birthday gift for war hero Bill


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