A Kirkcaldy war veteran is one of only a few in the country to receive a new medal after braving what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”.
Thomas Lawson (88), who is now a resident at Elizabeth House care home in Kirkcaldy, recently received the newly-created Arctic Star medal for his service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He risked his life on several occasions in order to keep Russian forces supplied on the Eastern Front.
Mr Lawson was presented with the medal by Captain Chris Smith, Naval Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland, surrounded by his proud family, including his two daughters, Lynne Brown and Anne Stuart, on Sunday.
Lynne told the Press her dad had no idea he was to be honoured with the award. She said: “We were told that sadly there are not many men left alive to receive the medal, so it was great to share it with dad.
“He served on quite a few voyages and he was very young, only 19. It was a really bad time and a lot of the men didn’t want to talk about it – they just moved on and this is probably why a lot of their families didn’t know about what they did.”
Mr Lawson was a member of the crew aboard destroyer HMS Undaunted which undertook one of the most perilous sea duties of the conflict – the protection of Arctic convoys. He was one of around 66,000 sailors who risked their lives to help the Soviets fend off German advances by supplying them with arms and ammunition. More than 3000 died on the trips, which saw crews run the gauntlet of German U-boats and aircraft, as well as ice fields.
Lynne said she found out about the new Arctic Star medal after reading a story about it in a national newspaper earlier this summer.
“I saw a feature in the paper about it and who it was being awarded to and I knew my dad had served on HMS Undaunted,” she said. “I realised he might be eligible so I sent off the form and they got back in touch to say he would be given the medal.
“I was then able to get in touch with someone at Faslane naval base and they were able to ask Captain Smith if he could present the medal to my dad which he did. That made it even more special for him.”
Lynne added: “My dad has always been a very hard working man and he was delighted to be presented with the medal. My sister and I are very, very proud of him.”
The Arctic Star was only issued last year after a near 70-year campaign by veterans to have their service recognised.