PORT William’s only remaining World War Two veteran Johnny McBryde has resigned himself to never getting a medal of recognition from the British Government for his war service in one of that conflict’s most dangerous missions.
Ninety-year-old Johnny braved the sub-zero temperatures in the North Atlantic for 14 months when he served in the 17th Destroyer Flotilla on HMS Obedient guarding the Allied ships taking vital supplies to Murmansk. The North Atlantic convoys helped keep the then USSR in the war against Hiltler after they were invaded by the Nazis in 1941. Their continued participation eventually secured the Allied victory in 1945.
But although the men who risked their lives during that time have had medals heaped on their lapels from a grateful Russian nation they have never received a campaign medal from their own Government - just a small badge.
Now, after waiting 70 years without success, the Russian Arctic Convoy Club Scotland was disbanded last week due to dwindling numbers.
Johnny told The Galloway Gazette: “The last meeting was last Monday in Edinburgh but it was too far for me to travel. We always hoped we would get a British medal and it’s sad that we won’t now but what can you do.”
Johnny has travelled to the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh with other veterans to receive medals to mark the 40th, 50th, 60th and 65th anniversaries of what the Russian call the “Great Patriotic War”. The last time was in 2010 and Johnny hopes he will still be around in 2015 when, once again, the Russians will honour the veterans.
The journey that the sailors, both by the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy undertook during the darkest days of the war was both dangerous and unpleasant. Freezing temperatures, mountainous seas and the constant threat of torpedo attack from an enemy submarine led Churchill to describe the trip as “the worst journey in the world”.
Over 3,000 sailors were lost as well as 87 merchant ships and 18 RN warships.
The Conservative Government promised to introduce an Atlantic medal when they were in opposition but since they came to power no medal has been forthcoming.
If it ever does appear it may come too late for Johnny McBryde and the 40 or so other Scottish Atlantic Convoy survivors still living.