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Article in Evening Telegraph 18 September 2014
Medal Presented toVeteran Harold Mason of 'the Worst Journey in the World'

Harold Mason aged 17
Harold Mason, aged 17

A veteran of the Arctic Convoys has been recognised by Russia for his service during the Second World War.

Harold, from Burton Latimer, received a Ushakov Medal from the Russian ambassador at a ceremony in London earlier this month. He was one of 48 British veterans who visited the embassy in London to receive the medal from Alexander Yakovenko.

The Ushakov Medal Harold Mason, wife Elizabeth and Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko
Ushakov Medal
Harold Mason, Wife Elizabeth and Alexander Yakovenko(the Russian Ambassador

Mr Mason, 89, took part in what Winston Churchill is said to have described as the “worst journey in the world” – sailing in the convoys across the Arctic Ocean between Britain and the Soviet Union. Thousands of sailors were killed during the missions.

Signing up for the Navy at the age of 17, Mr Mason served on board the HMS Zealous. Among the duties he carried out was the February 1945 rescue of more than 500 Norwegian refugees hiding from the Germans on Soroy Island in the Arctic Circle, from where they were ferried to the Soviet port of Murmansk.

However, the merchant ships on which they were later being taken to safety in Scotland, were sunk by the Nazis. A number of crew members died, but all of the refugees on board survived.

Harold’s son Derek, who is currently writing a record of his dad’s service, said: “This was where my father had to rescue these men, women and children in the water. He saved as many of them as he could – he saved their lives.”

During the same convoy, Harold also witnessed at close hand the sinking of HMS Bluebell. Derek added: My father saw the ship blow up yards from him. Out of 92 men, one survived. He saw it and couldn’t believe it – he had just been drinking with those men the night before.”

Russia has organised a number of similar ceremonies for Arctic Convoy sailors, and in a speech to Mr Mason and his fellow veterans, Mr Yakovenko said: “It is a huge privilege for me to thank you on behalf of the Russian Government for the invaluable contribution you and your comrades-in-arms made to the defeat of Nazi Germany.”

Elizabeth, Harold’s wife of 63 years, also attended the medal presentation alongside her husband and Derek. She said: “It was a beautiful occasion. They couldn’t do enough for us.” And Derek added: “My father is a real hero, a really special man.”

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