A Navy veteran has finally been recognised for his role in one of the most perilous missions of the Second World War.
James (Jimmy) Newlands received the Arctic Star medal for his part in the 1941-45 naval convoys delivering vital military supplies to Russia.
Yesterday, at an emotional ceremony at Whitehill Point, North Shields, Commanding Officer of HMS Mersey, David Gillett, presented Mr Newlands with the medal, which he received on his 90th birthday.
It marks the end of a long-running bid by friends and family to see veterans of the Arctic Convoys recognised for their bravery.
Last year David Cameron announced the creation of the Arctic Star medal for surviving veterans of the convoys, which led to the death of 3,000 men who came under fire from German U-boats.
Mr Newlands attended the Royal Grammar School, in Newcastle, before leaving early to join the war efforts. As an 18-year-old he served on board HMS Kent on the Russian Arctic convoys, sailing from Liverpool.
Born and raised in Ryton, Gateshead, the 90-year-old who captained Tynedale Rugby Club in the early 1950s, said being on board HMS Kent was one of the most frightening times of his life.
“I was just a teenager and of course I was scared,” he said. “The weather was the worst thing. I had to take messages to the officers on deck and it was covered with inches of ice. When the waves hit you it was perilous. I was was battened down in the shell room so if the ship was sunk we had very little chance of getting out.”
Following his dangerous mission to Russia Mr Newlands was selected for seaman officer training and, as a 19-year-old Midshipman, commanded a landing craft during the D-Day landings in June 1944.
After the war Mr Newlands returned to his native North East to run the family clothing business J Newlands and Sons, retiring in 1989.
He now lives in a nursing home in Ryton and his son John Newlands, who also served in the Royal Navy, paid tribute to his brave father.
Lieutenant commander Newlands said: “It is believed there are fewer than 100 Arctic veterans alive, so today is very important for our family and the country as a whole.
“The Russian Government gave my father a medal for his service back in 1991, signed by Gorbachev and this is something he is particularly proud of.
“My father always had a gritty attitude. His nickname while playing rugby for Tynedale and Northumberland was ‘Dirty Ginger’. I think he had a reputation for getting stuck-in on the pitch.”
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