The British Arctic convoy heroes who risked their lives to help transport crucial supplies to Russia during World War II have been told they cannot accept a medal for valour from the country.
The Russian Embassy wrote to survivors of the notoriously perilous sea campaign - who saw 3,000 of their comrades killed - to inform them it intended to award them with the Medal of Ushakov as a symbol of the country's gratitude.
But the Foreign Office has blocked the Russian's government's plans to honour Britain's Arctic heroes, because it said it would break rules surrounding the acceptance of medals.
Russia has already awarded the Ushakov medal to veterans from Australia, Canada and the U.S. for their role in the Arctic convoys, which ferried vital supplies and munitions to the Soviet Union to help fight off the advance of Hitler between 1941 and 1945....
The Foreign Office said permission to accept a foreign award could not be given if a UK award had been given for the same services, and pointed out that the Arctic convoy veterans were eligible for the World War II Atlantic Star.
A spokesman for the veterans, Commander Grenfell, has previously dismissed suggestions that the Atlantic Star - created in recognition of a separate Naval campaign and extended to include those who served on the convoys - was adequate recognition for survivors of the terrifying trips as he continued to press for a specific Arctic medal.
A statement from the Foreign Office said: 'The rules on the acceptance of foreign awards state that for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned and that that service should have taken place within the previous five years.
‘Additionally, permission cannot be granted if they have received, or are expected to receive, a UK award for the same services.'
The Russian Embassy said the Foreign Office decision was a matter of 'deep regret', and added it hoped the British government would disregard the 'bureaucratic formality' and change its position.
Last year Commander Grenfell told of the sense of betrayal among Britain's Arctic convoy survivors over David Cameron's failure to introduce a specific Arctic medal.
While in opposition the Conservative pledged to recognise the veterans with a dedicated commemorative medal if elected.
But after becoming prime minister Mr Cameron pointed to the extension of the Atlantic Star Medal to those who served in the Arctic as a mark of the nation's gratitude.
But campaigners argue that 95 per cent of the 66,500 men who served in the Arctic Convoys had already earned the Atlantic Star before being conscripted on to the dreaded ‘Russian Run’.
Commander Grenfell said that most Arctic sailors had been drafted from the Home Fleet and so would have been eligible for the Atlantic Star regardless.
Like I said all a bit confusing but sad for the last remaining veterans of which the Tinker, at 87, is one of the youngest. But anyway the Tinker had applied before all the hoo hah and when something Russian arrived for him a few weeks ago he was delighted with it....
It is the Medal of Ushakov and now we fully expect the Tinker to be taken off to the tower for having it in his possession. He is very grateful for the award, because it was indeed jolly nippy up there and pretty dangerous too....here are his thoughts...
In every area of conflict during WWII, men who participated were awarded a Campaign Medal, that is all except one, the Arctic Convoy campaign. The Russian Government have indeed granted Russian medals it is true, and recently they have asked all living veterans of the Arctic Convoys, and there won’t be very many now, to apply to the Russian Embassy for the Order of Ushakov to be awarded by a grateful country. I therefore applied and after a considerable time, received a Russian commemorative medal as a keepsake but which cannot be worn, together with a letter apologising for the fact that the British Government would not give permission for the award to be made.
Personally, my nose was not put out of joint, we had our medals, but what of the memory of 30,000 Merchant Navy men who died under those bitter icy conditions in a bitter campaign, all of whom were volunteers.
They deserved more than that.
The Tinker's account of the Arctic Convoys will be on here tomorrow, and he may or may not be marching in the town's Remembrance Day parade, but he takes great pride in his medals...
... and his highly symbolic off-white Artic convoy beret.. off-white to signify the colour of blood on snow.