Family’s plea for medal for convoy veteran

Arctic Convoy veteran Eric Prigmore
Arctic Convoy veteran Eric Prigmore

The family of a veteran of the Second World War Arctic Convoys say he deserves a medal so his efforts are recognised.

Eric Prigmore, 91, from Burton Latimer, served as a gunner on the destroyer HMS Faulknor and is believed to be the only person who served on the ship still alive.

In March, 40 convoy veterans received the first Arctic Star medals at a special Downing Street ceremony from David Cameron, who announced the creation of the award last year. However, Eric was not among their number.

And his family have been frustrated by delays which have hampered their attempts to have him recognised.

The 91-year-old said: “It’s not about the medal, it’s about the principle.”

Eric, originally from Wellingborough, served in the St John Ambulance before the war and expected to be drafted in as a medic – but was made a gunner.

The convoys sailed from the UK, Iceland and North America, providing supplies to their Soviet allies.The journeys were described by war-time PM Winston Churchill as the worst in the world.

Although it took until December 2012 before the United Kingdom recognised their efforts with a medal, the Russian authorities have handed out the Ushakov medal to foreign sailors who took part. But British authorities – unlike their counterparts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US – do not officially recognised foreign medals.

“It was so rough,” Eric said. “The weather was so bad you would be on top of the wave and the water would disappear and you just dropped.

“The water in the mess deck was about six inches high. By the time you got to Russia you had got nothing left in your stomach and you were still retching.

“After about six months you started to get used to it.”

But Eric was lucky to have been on the Faulknor, as the ship he was supposed to have been on was sunk.

Mr Prigmore’s daughter, Pat Abbott, said the family felt at a loss as to why Eric had yet to receive a medal.

“We feel annoyed for dad,” she added. “Whatever you feel about the war (in Afghanistan), these lads have been terribly brave.

“But at the same time, you shouldn’t forget about the older chaps. There should be some acknowledgement.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman insisted living veterans had priority in terms of being presented with an Arctic Star medal.