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Scarborough Navy Veteran Receives Russian Honour For 'The Worst Journey In The World'

Able Seaman Waller (far left) at a Royal Navy inspection by Winston Churchill at Dover in 1946

A World War II Royal Navy veteran who undertook ‘the worst journey in the world’ three times will receive an honour from the Russian government at Scarborough’s Armed Forces Day event on Saturday 27 June.

Norman Waller (90) will be presented with the Medal of Ushakov on the town’s seafront at noon.

The presentation will be made by the Mayor of Scarborough, Councillor Tom Fox, and a citation will be read by local MP Robert Goodwill on behalf of the Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakvenko.

The Medal of Ushakov is a state decoration which recognises sailors who have displayed courage while defending Russia or its interests. Mr Waller’s award is for his role in the notorious Arctic convoys of World War II, described by Winston Churchill as ‘the worst journey in the world’.

Mr Waller with his other medals including, centre right, the Arctic Star
Mr Waller with his other medals
inc, centre right, the Arctic Star
In 2013, Mr Waller was awarded the Arctic Star by the British government, a newly instituted medal following a long campaign to recognise convoy veterans. He also holds, among other medals, the Atlantic Star with D-Day bar.

Russia also wanted to recognise the convoy veterans, but the Foreign Office had a ruling which said that British servicemen and women weren’t allowed to receive a foreign medal for action which took place over five years previously.

Recently, however, the restriction was lifted, and Mr Waller received a letter from the Embassy of the Russian Federation telling him he was to be awarded the Medal of Ushakov.

Mr Waller was Able Seaman Waller in 1943 when, aged just 18, he took part in three Arctic convoys, braving unimaginably severe conditions.

The convoys sailed from Lock Ewe in Scotland to Murmansk, escorting merchant vessels through German blockades to ensure the safe delivery of supplies including food, medicine and weapons to Russia. The Russians believed the convoys were key to their defeat of Germany on the Eastern Front.

Mr Waller who sailed on the HMS Westcott, a destroyer which had originally served in World War I, said:
"It was intended for a crew of 110, and there were 200 of us on board. We were living in each other’s pockets, and received 3d a day hard-lying money in compensation. Water was short, too, so we could get another 3d a day for not shaving!" 
"We used to say that there were two main enemies – the German submarines and aircraft – but the sea was the third. Average waves were 60 feet high, and the spray would come over the ship and freeze before it hit the deck."

There was often little rest for the crews, says Mr Waller.
"I remember arriving in Murmansk one December morning, and having to turn straight round and head back again that afternoon, with absolutely no respite."

The Russian Ambassador’s citation says:
"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 attached by German 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."

Mr Waller was born in Calverley, near Leeds. After four years of national service in World War II, he went into banking, and worked at various banks around the country before retiring to Scarborough.

Councillor Tom Fox said:
"I’m delighted to be able to present this medal to Mr Waller on behalf of the Russian government – he’s a true hero, and deserves to be recognised."

In its seventh year in Scarborough, Armed Forces Day 2015 pays tribute to veterans of World War Two and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Events will include wingwalkers of AeroSuperBatics, with 1940s bi-planes; an RAF Spitfire display from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight; and demos from the new red-and-white Sikorsky search and rescue helicopters that recently replaced the bright yellow RAF Seakings.

New this year along the seafront is the Vintage Village, with music and marches, military vehicles, and vintage stalls. The day will end with the traditional Last Night of the Proms concert at the Open Air Theatre, featuring the Military Wives Choir York, and headlined by Britain’s favourite tenor, Alfie Boe.

Scarborough Navy Veteran Receives Russian Honour For 'The Worst Journey In The World' Reviewed by Editor on 22:12:00 Rating: 5

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