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War medal recipient: never forget those lost

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: July 06, 2013

STAR RECIPIENT: Arthur Frazier, being presented with the Arctic Star medal by Ralph Curr, in St Austell.

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A SECOND World War veteran from Mevagissey has finally received recognition for his bravery in the Arctic Convoys 67 years after the end of the war.

Days before his 93rd birthday Arthur (Bill) Frazier was awarded the Arctic Star medal for his part in the victory, which Winston Churchill described as "the worst journey in the world".

Their role was to protect the vital supply link to the Russian front.

Mr Frazier – the longest and oldest serving member of the St Austell branch of the Royal Naval Association – is among about 200 veterans from those missions still alive to receive the long-awaited medal; stalled by politics for nearly seven decades.

He received his papers in 1940, aged 20, and was drafted onto HMS Victorious in 1941. Mr Frazier spent five years onboard; his duty was to maintain all 60 boats on the ship.

Victorious played a "vital part" in the initial engagement in the hunt for German battleship Bismarck and also escorted Russian convoys, making Victorious one of the founding members of the missions.

Throughout 1941-42 Victorious carried out up to 20 missions across the treacherous icy course of the Arctic Ocean.

More than 3,000 seamen were killed during the convoys, which lasted until the end of the war.

The widower, like so many other men, endured unbearable conditions as they were harried by German U-boats and aircraft.

Mr Frazier, who now lives in St Austell, said: "It was so frightening, so unacceptable; surely not meant for any human being to endure."

He was among the large convoy the PQ17, which, in July 1942, suffered the biggest number of losses of any of the convoys.

Speaking of the perils he said it was a "disaster" and the "unbearable destruction" raged for days, when 23 boats were sunk.

"There was a heavy loss of life. Just a few ships made it through to Archangel. How could we forget? It was known to us as the Gateway to Hell. For those of us who returned home, we will never forget those who lost their lives."

He added: "Looking back over 1941-1942, these convoys played a vital role in the war effort, yet to us they were a nightmare."

Mr Frazier received the Arctic Star medal at an emotional branch meeting on Wednesday.

On receiving the award he said he wished his wife Audrey, who died earlier this year, could have been at his side.

"I am honoured. It has been a long time coming but I appreciate it."

He dedicates his medal to all those on the convoys who didn't live to see a medal, saying they too will be forever remembered.

Surgeon Rear Admiral Ralph Curr, branch president, who presented the honour said after 67 years of those brave men being left unrecognised a wrong had finally been righted.

"This medal was long overdue."

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  • emurfitt  |  July 06 2013, 11:14AM

    Congratulations, Mr Frazier. This is long overdue and well deserved. It is Britain's shame that you had to wait so long. Now what about the equally brave merchant seamen who faced the U-boats in the Atlantic? These forgotten merchant seamen suffered greater losses than any of the armed forces - and kept the UK population from starving. When do we remember these? Isn't it odd that a country with such a long maritime history should neglect the contribution of its civilian seafarers in the Merchant Navy?

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