Windsor veteran Ben Barnes, 91, has waited 70 years to receive a medal commemorating his bravery in the Arctic Convoys of World War Two. Now, thanks to the Coldstream Guards, Ben has finally been awarded the Arctic Star.
Mr Barnes, who is partially sighted, was awarded the medal by Adam Afriyie MP in a ceremony surrounded by his family, friends and representatives of the Royal Navy and Army.
1st Battalion Coldstream Guards organised the event so it could be close to where Mr Barnes lives. Lt Col Toby Till, Commanding Officer of the Coldstream Guards, based in Windsor, said he was “absolutely delighted to offer to help”.
The four-year struggle to provide material to support the Soviet war effort cost the lives of around 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen – more than 100 civilian and military ships were lost.
Adam Afriyie MP recalled the day in Parliament when, by a unanimous vote, The House agreed that the Arctic Star medal should be created for those who had manned the Arctic Convoys to Russia in the Second World War.
He said: “ I’m incredibly proud to present this medal. What you and your fellow sailors went through was in some cases more dangerous than being on the frontline. Congratulations, you deserve it, and thank you very much for helping to defend our country.”
Mr Barnes was presented with a limited edition book –“The Royal Navy Day by Day” from the Commanding Officer of HMS Ocean, Commander Tony Rackham RN. It was inscribed with the words: “The Navy remains in awe of the achievements of those such as yourself involved in the Arctic Convoys”.
He was then given a plaque with the Badge of the Coldstream Guards as a final memory of his day, before being treated to lunch in the Coldstream Guards’ Officers’ Mess.
It’s thought between 200 and 400 sailors – all now in their late 80s at their youngest – survive from the campaign, a mission Churchill acknowledged was “the worst journey in the world”.