A FORMER Leigh soldier who took part in some of the most dangerous missions of World War Two has been recognised for his courage.
Veteran, Joseph Atkinson, who was part of the brave crews in the infamous Arctic Convoys nearly 70 years ago, was presented with his Arctic Star medal last week.
Mr Atkinson, 88, was honoured for his service in the convoys, which sailed from the UK, Iceland the USA to northern ports in the former Soviet Union to deliver vital supplies.
Between 1941 and 1945, 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were lost in the convoy missions, while hundreds of sailors died in the freezing waters after attacks from German U-boat submarines and aircraft.
Mr Atkinson, of Wigan Road, received his medal from Leigh MP Andy Burnham after serving in 1945 as a gunner on board the merchant ship D/S Skiensfjord sailing from Clyde in Scotland to Murmansk, which is now in Russia.
Mr Atkinson, 88, said: “It was very nice indeed to get the recognition as it’s been a long time coming.
“I only made one trip to Russia and one trip back with the convoys but that was enough and we were very lucky.
“I was called up in 1943 and travelled all around the world. I was 18 when I started and I spent one birthday in the Suez Canal and another in New York.”
The ships battled snow and poor visibility as well as enemy forces, with one escort vessel being torpedoed and having to be towed into harbour and beached.
Winston Churchill described the routes taken by the Arctic Convoys as “the worst journey in the world”.
Following his time in the Armed Forces Mr Atkinson worked in the grocery trade and for the bus service until 1986. He was presented with his medal in front of his family by Leigh MP Andy Burnham, who had called for constituents to come forward and receive the award.
The decision to award the star to convoy veterans followed a long campaign for recognition of the bravery of those who served in the Arctic seas.
Mr Burnham said: “I was delighted to present Mr Atkinson with his Arctic Star.
“It is a fitting tribute to his contribution and I know that the town of Leigh will join me in paying tribute to Mr Atkinson and all those men who served in the convoys, who faced treacherous weather conditions as well as attack from the enemy.”