A ROYAL Navy veteran from Leeds who braved the brutal Second World War Arctic convoys as a teenage sailor has finally been recognised by the country he helped more than 70 years ago,
Leslie Postill, 91, was a 19-year-old gunner on Royal Navy destroyer HMS Broke in 1942 when he took part in the convoys, described by Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world”.
More than 3,000 men died as Royal Navy warships escorted merchant ships through German blockades to deliver vital supplies of food, weapons, aircraft, ammunition and medicines to Russia.
Mr Postill, a great-grandfather-of-six of Swarcliffe, Leeds, yesterday said he was delighted to finally receive his long-awaited Ushakov medal, awarded by Russia to sailors who have displayed courage in the course of defending Russia or its interests.
The British Government created the Arctic Star in 2012 following a long campaign for the convoy veterans to be recognised.
But campaigners believed veterans should still be able to receive the Russian accolade. The Russian Embassy said the convoys allowed its soldiers to defeat the Germans on the Eastern Front,
The Foreign Office, which initially said British servicemen and women could not receive a foreign medal if the action happened more than five years ago, allowed an exception last year.
President Vladimir Putin presented the first medals during his visit to London last June.
Mr Postill’s failing health meant he was unable to travel to the Russia Embassy in London to receive his Ushakov medal.
Leeds East MP Georgie Mudie collected Mr Postill’s medal from the embassy and arranging for it to be presented by the Lord Mayor of Leeds at yesterday’s ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall.
Mr Postill said: “It is out of his world to finally get the medal I have been waiting 70 years for.”
He recalled firing at Stuka bombers as they descended on the ship during a convoy, adding: “They used to come straight down, just like a scream. They put the fear of God into you.
“It was very rough. We couldn’t touch the frozen metal rails on the ship because it would have torn the skin from our hands.”
His wife Joyce, 75, said: “He really wanted this medal He is just really glad he has finally got it.”
Mr Postill, who was presented with his Arctic Star medal earlier this year, survived when his ship HMS Broke was sunk by German gunfire in late 1942 after landing troops in Algiers in North Africa. He also took part in the D Day landings in June 1944 on a ship carrying Sherman tanks, lorries and troops to Sword Beach.
The latest honour brings Mr Postill’s medal tally to eight. His previous medals include the North African campaign medal and the France and Germany medal.
After he was de-mobbed in 1945, Mr Postill went back to working as a tailor at Williams in West Street, Leeds.
George Mudie MP said: “I am delighted to have been of assistance in collecting the Ushakov medal on behalf of this very brave man.”
Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun David Congreve said: “He is a wonderful character and a very brave man.”