Kirkcaldy war veteran’s honour from Russia

Tommy Lawson receives his medal from Andrey Pritsepov. Pic: FPA
Tommy Lawson receives his medal from Andrey Pritsepov. Pic: FPA

A Kirkcaldy war veteran is one of only a few in the country to receive a new Russian medal for valour after braving what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”.

Tommy Lawson (89), who is now a resident at Elizabeth House care home in Kirkcaldy, was presented with the Ushakov medal - an award for bravery - 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 new medal by Andrey Pritsepov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh, surrounded by his proud family including his two daughters, Lynne Brown and Anne Stuart, on Sunday.

The move comes a year after Mr Lawson was presented with the newly-created Arctic Star medal, again for his service during the war in keeping the Russian forces going with supplies.

Lynne told The Press: “Last year after dad was given the Arctic Star medal, I received a letter from the Russian Embassy which said he could be in line for a Russian medal.

“I had a form I had to complete and send back to see if dad was eligible. I didn’t hear anything until I had a phone call two weeks ago when they got in touch saying he was eligible for the medal. They asked if dad was able to go to Edinburgh to receive the award, but when I explained that dad has good and bad days and so it wouldn’t be possible, they said they would make arrangements to come to Elizabeth House.

“Sadly there are not many men left alive to receive the medal, so it was great for Anne and I to be able to be there to share it with dad. We were really pleased to see him receive this honour.”

In May and June last year the first British Arctic Star Medals were presented to veterans. The Russian Government then followed by presenting the Russian Ushakov Medal to British veterans for bravery and courage.

In November, 2014, the Russians presented the Ushakov to veterans in Scotland at four ceremonies in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. The Consul General, Andrey Pritsepov, and the Russian Federation have been trying to ensure the veterans, particularly those who could not attend these ceremonies, received their medals before Remembrance Day 2014.

The world’s worst journey

Arctic convoys would see civilian sailors brave freezing conditions to supply the Soviets with vital supplies while they fought Hitler’s Germany on the Eastern Front. The Russian Embassy said the convoys allowed Russian soldiers to defeat the Germans. The convoys were under constant threat of attack and had to deal with severe cold and storms. By May 1945, 104 merchant and 16 military vessels were lost.