Merchant Navy man Tommy is awarded - more than 70 years after making “the worst journey in the world”

Wisbech Council presentation.Mayor presents Tommy Thompson with Arctic Star medal.

Wisbech Council presentation.Mayor presents Tommy Thompson with Arctic Star medal. - Credit: Archant

A 90 year old merchant navy veteran has been awarded for his bravery during the Second World War by the Wisbech Mayor.

Tommy Thompson went to sea in 1942 as a fireman in the engine department and took his first trip to sea on an arctic convoy sailing to Russia.

The journey was described by Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world.”

Mayor councillor Michael Hill said: “Disgracefully for a country that depended upon merchant shipping convoys for its survival it took 70 years for those who sailed on the Arctic Convoys to be recognised by the award of the Arctic Star.

“It was not by any effort on behalf of HM Government that these men were honoured but by the persistent campaigning of those who had served on Arctic convoys in memory of their shipmates who did not return.”

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The Arctic Star is awarded to those, like Mr Thomspon of Emneth, who sailed north of the Arctic Circle.

Cllr Hill added; “As an ex-engineer officer of the Merchant Navy, I understand how unnerving that must have been in war working below the waterline and no doubt the very place the torpedo would strike.

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“It would be easy to say that Tommy was one of the lucky ones who came home but there are many, perhaps even Tommy, who asks why he was chosen to live when he saw so much horror and losses on those convoys.

“Those memories are hard to live with.”

A spokesman for the Federation of Merchant Mariners said he was delighted that the veteran had been: “Recognised by the Mayor of Wisbech, a port and people who know the sea and have prospered from the bravery of merchant seafarers.

“By saluting Tommy you should applaud yourself, Mr Mayor, for undertaking this presentation and understanding just how much this means to Tommy and those like him who served his Country and gave us our liberty and values of today.”

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