January 31 2015 Latest news:
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
A veteran of the Arctic convoys that took arms and munitions to the north of Russia during the Second World War has received an Ushakov medal to honour his service.
Royal Navy veteran Raymond Banger, from Bramerton, near Norwich, was one of 38 surviving naval personnel who received their medals at a ceremony at the Russian Embassy in Kensington Gardens in London last month.
The medal recognises the efforts made by the British to deliver goods to Soviet forces, defying German submarines.
Until last year, Foreign and Commonwealth Office rules stated that British veterans could not receive a foreign medal if the act they honoured happened more than five years ago.
Last year, however, the British government gave Arctic Star medals to convoy veterans, before a decision was made to allow veterans to receive the Ushakov medal 70 years on.
Mr Banger joined the Royal Navy at the end of 1942, aged just 17, and after training as a wireless officer was drafted to HMS Conn, a frigate and leader of the 21st Escort Group.
The Conn’s duties were convoy protection and its journeys twice ended near Murmansk, northern Russia.
A convoy was usually collected from Iceland or joined up with at sea.
The Conn operated from Belfast and Mr Banger has fond memories of the Northern Irish city where they were warmly welcomed.
During the last two years of the war the Conn sank two U-boats and helped in the destruction of three others.
Mr Banger, 88, who lives with his wife Joan, who is a sculptress and the authoress of “Norwich at War”, said: “It was a proud moment receiving the medal from the Russian ambassador. The medal had originally been refused by our government.
“I had a letter from the Russian Embassy telling me that Vladimir Putin’s visit to David Cameron had persuaded the PM’s mind.
“And the medals were presented in such a special way; they could not have done anything more for us – we were treated like royalty.”
Born-and-bred in Norwich, Mr Banger’s father was a cartoonist for the Pink ‘Un.
After returning from the war, he became a woodworker and a sales rep. He has one son and two grandsons.
The journey to the northern ports of Russia was once described by Winston Churchill as “the most dangerous journey in the world”.
Between August 1941 and May 1945, 78 convoys risked attacks from Nazi U-boats and aircrafts as they travelled dangerously close to occupied Norway and German air, submarine and ground forces.
There was also a likelihood of severe weather conditions, fog and strong currents. About 1,400 merchant ships delivered supplies to the Soviet Union, and they were escorted by ships of the Royal Canadian and US navies.
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