Russian medal for veteran of deadly wartime Arctic Convoys

Alan Gray, from Hindley, being presented with the Ushakov Medal at his home
Alan Gray, from Hindley, being presented with the Ushakov Medal at his home

A seaman who braved some of the most dangerous missions of World War Two has received a medal from the Russian Government.

Alan Gray, from Hindley, served on the deadly Arctic Convoys which kept the Soviet Union supplied and has now been recognised with the Ushakov Medal.

“It was a very proud moment and it’s a beautiful medal.”

Ann Harrison

Staff from the Russian Embassy visited Mr Gray’s home on Elliot Drive to present the medal, which is one of the highest wartime honours given out by the country’s Government.

The convoys were described by Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world”, with crews braving constant attacks from German U-boats and aircraft as well as freezing temperatures as they escorted supplies to Russian ports.

Mr Gray, 90, has rarely spoken about his wartime experiences but his daughter Ann Harrison said he joined the war effort aged just 18, having joined the navy following his upbringing in Liverpool.

She also spoke of her family’s pride at the medal ceremony, which was attended by several veterans including Mr Gray’s fellow members of the Royal British Legion (RBL).

Russian Embassy employee Oleg Shor presented the medal, which the Russian Government is giving out to living veterans who took part in the convoys.

Ms Harrison said: “It was a very proud moment and it’s a beautiful medal.

“I don’t know much about what happened during his war service. He doesn’t like to talk about it and I think that’s often the case, but I know there was a lot of ice and how cold it was.

“It was all quite short notice. The embassy just phoned me and said they would bring the medal to the house,so it was a huge surprise.”

Mr Gray left the navy due to his wife becoming ill and went on to work for Yorkshire Imperial Metals until he retired.

Born in Liverpool, Mr Gray moved his family to Ashton in the 1970s and the great-great-grandad has now lived in Hindley for around a decade.

The Russian Embassy’s speech given at Ushakov Medal ceremonies described how thousands of British seamen lost their lives in the convoys and thanked the veterans for their extraordinary courage.

John Burns, chairman of the Ashton RBL branch, said the prestigious honour was very well deserved.

Mr Burns said: “The honour for Alan and also for the branch is tremendous. It is a job I don’t think many people would like to have done.

“He is a wonderful man who always wears his white beret to RBL events and meetings with great pride.

“We have three veterans of World War Two in our branch and we will move heaven and earth for them.”