Russia honours Arctic convoys veteran from Falkirk

Peter Gray with Ushakov medal
Peter Gray with Ushakov medal

A Falkirk veteran of what was described as “the worst journey in the world” has been honoured by the Russian Government.

Peter Merrilees Gray (90) was presented with the prestigious Ushakov Medal in Edinburgh last Thursday when survivors of the World War Two Arctic Convoys were rewarded for their “personal courage and valour”.

Mr Gray joined the Royal Navy when he was 18 and served on HMS Furious from 1942, protecting cargo ships from the threat of U-boat and air attacks as they carried vital aid to the Soviet forces and people in horrendous weather .

Now, almost 70 years after the end of the war, the medals have been presented by the Consul General of Russia, Mr Andrey Pritsepov.

Mr Gray said: “I felt very proud to receive the medal, it was a great honour.

“I am glad I was still alive to receive it; it’s been a long time.”

More than 3000 British veterans have now been presented with the medal, including 214 in Scotland.

The Medal of Ushakov, named after Russia’s most acclaimed navy commander, Fyodor Ushakov, is a state military award that was established in 1944 especially for those who demonstrated courage and prowess in sea warfare.

Mr Gray, of Belmont Tower, said: “It’s difficult to explain, you would need to have been there.

“It was not very comfortable, and every journey was difficult.

“You were always looking out for submarines and torpedoes, but it was the Navy.

“It wasn’t always wild, but it was mostly bad weather. But I had some great pals there.”

Between 1941 and 1945, 78 convoys risked attack as they made the hazardous journey to the Soviet Union.

The perilous missions, described by Winston Churchill as the “worst journey in the world”, resulted in the loss of almost 3000 sailors, 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships but allowed the Soviet forces to keep fighting.

In 2005, Mr Gray was among veterans who received the Freedom of Falkirk, and he was awarded the Arctic Star Medal in 2013.