A former sailor has received a prestigious Russian military honour, at the behest of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, for his efforts in Second World War rescue mission.
Derek Albert Tilley, 90, from Mansfield was presented with the Ushakov Medal on Tuesday, April 12 as a veteran of the Arctic Convoys between August 1941 and May 1945, believed to have saved millions of Russians from starving to death.
The convoys were constantly under attack from enemy ships, submarines and mines and sailors had to withstand appalling Arctic weather conditions on what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”.
In 2014, Russian President, Vladimir Putin ordered that the bravery medals would be presented to a numebr of British veterans among American and Canadian allies who provided safe massage for merchant ships.
Mr Tilley joined the navy in 1943 and served as a ‘Target Ranger’ on the destroyer, HMS Scourge which accompanied merchant navy ships carrying essential supplies on the perilous journey to ports in northern Russia.
He recalls: “I remember having to regularly chip the ice away from the superstructure of the boat and how it seemed to be cold and dark constantly. I used to feel especially sorry for the merchant navy ships who we were there to protect because they were the ones that were being targeted for attack the most but we were all in danger all of the time.
“We were part of the convoy that was with the HMS Lapwing when that was sunk (in 1945). It was terrible. I remember hearing a loud thump in the darkness and then seeing the flames when it was hit (by a torpedo from a submarine).
“Our captain went against orders and tried to pick up survivors but using the searchlight was putting our ship from attack in danger as well.”
Coun Sybil Fielding, collected the Ushakov medal on behalf of Mr Tilley at a ceremony in Nottingham last year, and was pleased to finally present him with the honour.
She said: “It’s a privilege to meet Mr Tilley, present him with this thoroughly deserved recognition of his bravery.
“The courage of Mr Tilley and his Arctic Convoy colleagues should always be remembered. Without them the war against Hitler may well have been lost.”