An Arctic Convoy veteran from Heanor has finally received a medal to honour his bravery during the Second World War.
The ‘Arctic Convoys’ took vital supplies to the Russians on the Eastern Front during the conflict. The missions were hugely dangerous and thousands of men died.
Monty Riley, 89, was a radar operator on the HMS Duke of York, which was among shipswhose efforts to get vital supplies through to the Russians wase pivotal to the Allied Forces winning the war.
On the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin last year, the Russian Embassy began tracking down the surviving veterans in the UK who were part of the Arctic Convoys so they could be awarded the Ushakov Medal for bravery.
An estimated 66,500 British sailors manned convoys of merchant transport ships to Russia, guarded by Allied warships during the course of the 1939-45 war.
More than 3,000 seamen died in attacks by Nazi German U-boats.
British Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill once called the convoys, ‘the worst journey in the world’. It was known as one of the most dangerous missions that British sailors had ever embarked upon.
Monty said after returning from the Russian Embassy in London where he was presented with his medal: “I volunteered for the Navy in 1943. I wasn’t 18 yet, but by the time I was called up and did my training I was. I remember setting off to join a convoy on the way to Russia, there were battleships on the outside of the convoy while the merchant ship carrying arms and food was in the middle, being protected.
“I was somewhat lucky enough to avoid the cold harsh weather conditions as I spent the majority of my time in the depths of the ship as I was a radar operator.
“I didn’t see too much of what was going on up top as I was always monitoring the scanners for enemy aircraft.”
Asked whether he and his fellow servicemen were aware and feared the dangers surrounding them at the time Monty shrugged it off saying: “When you’re young you don’t think of the dangers you’re presented with.
“You just get your head down and get on with the job at hand.”
He received his Ushakov medal at a ceremony on Thursday, August 21, which he now proudly displays alongside his other medal, the Arctic Star.
He said: “We left at 6am to get into London, although we ended up arriving slightly early, so I went and had a walk around the area surrounding the Russian Embassy.
“The actual ceremony was very nice and really enjoyable. I was treated well by the hosts and everybody was very pleasant, my only complaint on the day was that they got my name the wrong way round!
“There were around 30 people at the ceremony receiving the medal, although unfortunately I didn’t recognise any of them myself. To end the day we all sat and had a cup of tea and mingled. It was a memorable day and it was very nice of President Putin and the Russian Embassy to do this for us.”