War hero’s long wait for award for service

Tom Baker war hero pic of him with medals he's already got, hopes to get Arctic Star and Ushakov medal from Russia for his service on Arctic Convoys. 'Photo Emma Mitchell'16/7/13

Tom Baker war hero pic of him with medals he's already got, hopes to get Arctic Star and Ushakov medal from Russia for his service on Arctic Convoys. 'Photo Emma Mitchell'16/7/13

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A Bearsden war hero hopes that he won’t have too much longer to wait to receive awards for the part he played in helping to defeat the Nazis.

Tom Baker (89) of Ledi Drive, Bearsden, has already collected four medals, including a 65th anniversary one from the Russian embassy three years ago, as well as awards for Europe, Atlantic, Italy and the victory medal.

Now he hopes to take home The Arctic Star medal for his service on the Arctic convoys in World War Two.

This retrospective award, comes nearly seventy years after he was a sailor on board the HMS Sheffield.

He is also waiting to hear whether he will be given the Ushakov medal from Russia, which is one of the highest medals you can get.

Tom, who was just 19 years old in 1943 when he was in the British Royal Navy, is one of only a handful of sailors still alive today who ran the notorious Arctic convoys, dodging icebergs and German U-Boats to supply food and munitions to the Soviet Union as it fought against Hitler’s regime.

Tom said: “It would be great to be awarded the Arctic Star.

“I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed that it’s taken so long.

“I realise these things take a while to arrange but I’m 89 years old now - surely it shouldn’t take the British Government that length of time.”

The convoys were described by Churchill as ‘suicide missions’ because the odds were stacked against them with appalling weather and a relentless enemy that attacked from both sea and air.

The soldiers transported four million tons of crucial supplies and munitions to Russia between 1941 and 1945.

Germany occupied Norway so the British ships had to take a treacherous northerly route, often skirting the arctic floes, before dropping south into Russian ports, including Murmansk and Archangel

Tom said: “Our ship was hit by a shell once and we lost one of the four propellors but we were able to continue our journey to Murmansk.

“Many others weren’t as lucky as me, thousands of men died when their ships were hit.

“They didn’t stand a chance - as soon as they touched the water they perished because it was just so cold. Our role was very dangerous and I don’t think people always realise what we did, the Russians know far more about it as they learn at school.”