WWII veteran receives Russian bravery award
On Friday Arthur Beales, a 90-year-old veteran of WWII, found himself in Belfast at the harbour Office, where he was one of just 17 ex-servicemen from Northern Ireland to receive Russia’s highest award for bravery - the Ushakov Medal.
He and the other veterans received their awards from the Russian Ambassador, who told them that the Arctic Convoys were “a brilliant and one of the toughest operations in the Allied effort to bring about the Victory”.
Recalling his war service, Arthur said: “Most of us on the ships that worked to help the Russian convoys have been recognised for that. After so many years it seems they have decided that we deserve a medal. It is mostly the United Kingdom men who got this medal. I was on the Russian Convoy on a British ship, helping to bring over material to Russian and back again from Russia to the United Kingdom.
“I served in the Royal Navy and we was on escort duty to the convoys.
“They never told us about it until we were at sea. Everything was all kept top secret. We kept calling at different parts of Norway, stay overnight and next morning pick up the convoys and escort them on to Murmansk. We never docked in Russia, we delivered the ship and then turned and came straight back to Norway, and we helped other ships coming back along the way back to the United Kingdom.
“I served in the Battle of the Atlantic as well, you know. I was involved in the crossing to Boston and from Boston to New York and from new York to Bermuda. From Bermuda then we transferred up to Newfoundland, and when we left there were on escort duty to ships coming over from there to the United Kingdom,” said Arthur.
Asked how he came to receive the Ushakov Medal, Arthur said it was down to his son, Paul, who had heard about it and asked him if he was involved in escort duties to the Russian convoy.
“He said ‘No dad, if you are entitled to it I’ll ask all about it for you’. I was not going to bother as I am not much good at using computers, but Paul did all the work and it all came about from there.”
At the harbour Office Arthur, accompanied by two of his sons, Paul and Arthur Jnr, were treated to a plush reception and awards ceremony. Asked how he felt about receiving the medal, Arthur said simply “very proud, I feel very proud”.
Arthur has lived in Londonderry for over 70 years, but it is only in recent years that he has spoken about his war duties and his experiences of the London Blitz, when he endured horrific sights as the UK captial was pulverised by German bombing raids.
Each of the Ushakov Medals were presented with an imitation passport
Presenting the awards was Russian Ambassador Yakovenko, who told the recipients of his delight: “It is a huge privilege for me to thank you on behalf of the Russian Government for the invaluable contribution you and your comrades-in-arms made to the defeat of the Nazi Germany. What you did 70 years ago, taking part in what Sir Winston Churchill rightly called ‘the worst journey in the world’, was extraordinary even among what is considered to be beyond the call of duty.
“Thousands of Allied seamen lost their lives as the British ships sailed in the unwelcoming, stormy waters of the Arctic Ocean under a constant threat of being attacked by Germany U-Boats and aircraft. Your heroism will always be remembered in Russia and Britain. Your deeds will continue to serve as the supreme expression of bravery and a high point in human spirit.
“I am confident that it was not by accident that our nations found themselves on the right side of history, which the followers of the ideology of hatred wanted to stop, while depriving nations of their inalienable right to decide their destiny. The allied effort required all the best in the national spirit of the British and the peoples of the Soviet Union, the very strength of character that we are rightfully proud of.
“The comradeship-in-arms, which was born at the truly critical juncture of history will forever remain an important part of European spiritual heritage and our bilateral relationship, including the ties between the two navies,” he said.
Ambassador Yakovenko said he made the presentations on the instruction of the President, Vladimir Putin.
The Medal of Ushakov was a Soviet military award created on March 3, 1944 and was named in honour of Russian admiral Fyodor Ushakov who never lost a battle and was proclaimed patron saint of the Russian Navy.
It is awarded for bravery and courage displayed while defending Russia and the public interests of the Russian Federation in naval theatres of military operations.