UK: First Arctic Star Medals Made

First Arctic Star Medals Made

The first Arctic Stars to be worn by veterans of bitter convoys to Russia have been produced by experts at the Royal Mint. Just hours after the Government announced that Royal Navy and merchant sailors, airmen and soldiers who survived the four-year campaign could apply for the medals, the first Arctic Stars have been made.

Up to 120,000 veterans – or their next of kin – are believed to be eligible for the star, whose design mirrors similar WW2 campaign medals, such as the Atlantic Star.

The medal recognises service between 1941 and 1945 delivering vital aid to the Soviet Union, running the gauntlet of enemy submarine, air and surface ship attacks.

The campaign cost the lives of around 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen – over 100 civilian and military ships were lost, with the nadir coming in the summer of 1942 when convoy PQ17 was mauled by the Luftwaffe and nine U-boats.

Beyond the threat of the enemy, men endured fearful weather conditions, the darkness of the polar winter and 24-hour daylight at the height of summer. If ships were sunk, sailors perished in minutes in waters barely above freezing.

Given the horrors they faced, Gavin Elliott, Commemorative Coin Head of Production at the Royal Mint, said his colleagues were treating each Arctic Star struck with great care.

“Each medal is individual – it’s important that the quality of the medal is right. Each one is handled with great care and attention.

“We take great pride in what we are doing. We’re very conscious that this is very important to those who will be receiving the medal.”

Although nearly seven decades have passed since the last WW2 campaign medals were produced, Mr Elliott said the manner of striking the bronze awards had not changed. He explained:

 “They are made in exactly the same way as the 1939-1945 stars. Bronze is our traditional metal and we are producing these new stars in the traditional manner.”

It is thought between 200 and 400 sailors – all now in their late 80s at their youngest – survive from the four-year-long campaign, a mission Churchill acknowledged was “the worst journey in the world”.

The Arctic Stars are produced by the same team responsible for providing the MOD with up to 40,000 medals a year, such as the Afghanistan Operational Service award – upholding a tradition of campaign medals going back to Waterloo in 1815.


Naval Today Staff, March 6, 2013, Image: Royal Navy