A Second World War veteran has finally been recognised for his bravery 70 years after serving in the Navy.
Gerard Grant, 91, of St Annes, was presented with the Ushakov Medal, awarded to sailors who have displayed courage in the course of defending Russia or its interests, because of his role in what has become known as the “Arctic Convoys” of the Second World War.
The Convoy was made up of vessels which travelled from Britain to Russia to keep the Soviet Union supplied with vital goods and weapons during the war.
Despite the treacherous conditions and the threat of attack from German U-Boats, Mr Grant, who was a Petty Officer of the Watch in Naval Communications in the Royal Navy, says he was never fearful.
Mr Grant, known as Gerry, said: “I was never scared, you had to have a strong mindset to keep going.
“I had served in Malta two years before where there was no food and air raids every day, once you have no food whatsoever, that’s scary. The hardest part of the convoys was the lack of sleep as you would sit down on a seat no bigger than a foot wide in the freezing cold.”
Mr Grant was delighted for friends and family to celebrate his medal but he was quick to remember those who had lost their lives.
He said: “I have waited a very long time for this medal.
“But I always think about all the people who did not make it to this stage to be commemorated.”
After being unable to make last year’s ceremony in London, Mr Grant asked Blind Veterans UK to present the medal to him at his home on Hardaker Court following the help they have given him during the past 15 years.
Mr Grant has received support from Blind Veterans UK since 2001 after losing his sight overnight due to what is known as an “eye stroke”.
He said: “Losing my eyesight was traumatic. I went to bed perfectly fine after a nice drive in my car and woke up without being able to see anything at all.”
Mr Grant’s daughter, Frieda Arrowsmith, was proud to be present to see her father receive the medal.
She said: “The family is overwhelmed by everyone coming today, we thought it would be a small gathering with a few friends and family.
“I am proud of my father every day, especially to see how he has coped with the loss of his eyesight, but today is extra special.”
Chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “It is only right that the brave Arctic Convoy veterans like Gerry should be recognised for the incredible sacrifice they made in the Second World War.
“It is a great honour for Blind Veterans UK and myself personally to play a part in Gerry’s special day.
“We realise there will be lots more people in the country who have suffered from serving their country and Blind Veterans UK is here to help them.”
The Foreign Office had blocked the Russian government’s plans to honour Britain’s Arctic heroes, because it said it would break rules surrounding the acceptance of medals.
But after a wave of public pressure, David Cameron finally announced in December 2012 that veterans of Arctic Convoys would be given campaign medals.