03:28AM, Saturday 23 March 2013
A war hero is celebrating winning a 70-year fight to receive appropriate recognition for the men who braved the freezing weather and raging seas of the Arctic Convoy voyages.
Mike Alston, of Belmont Park Road in Maidenhead, was one of 40 veterans to receive the Arctic Star medal from Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, honouring the men who helped deliver vital weapons and supplies to the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
The Arctic Ocean trip, described by Winston Churchill as the 'worst journey in the world', played a key role in the Allied fight.
Mike said he feels he has now received the right recognition for his time serving on HMS Middleton in 1943, escorting merchant vessels carrying supplies to just beyond the Arctic Circle on three convoys.
The father-of-four was just an 18-year-old when he joined the crew, but despite temperatures well below freezing and towering waves, he fondly remembers his time on the ship.
He said: "The weather was absolutely freezing. We kept watch on an open bridge and when we came off our faces were white.
"The cold was one thing but it was the waves which hit the ship hardest. The ship was tossed around like a cork."
The 88-year-old added: "It was my first ship and I thought the weather was normal. As little more than a schoolboy I saw it as a great adventure. I had friends all around me."
The former Royal Borough councillor said conditions were so harsh it even kept enemy submarines away and said it was 'great luck' nobody suffered serious injuries on his ship during his service.
After his time on the convoys finished, Mike became a midshipman with a fleet of minesweepers in the Mediterranean before returning home in 1946 and spending more than 35 years working for Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in Slough.
Convoy veterans became eligible for the Atlantic Star and received the Arctic Emblem in 2006, but many survivors have long campaigned for a specific Arctic medal to be issued.
The veterans still hope to persuade the Government to relax rules on accepting foreign medals to allow surviving members of the convoy to receive the prestigious Ushakov medal from Russia, but Mike said the award of the Arctic Star 'brought a happy end to the story' after a long fight.
He said: "After many years of pleading for recognition we feel we have finally got it."
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