NEWS that veterans of the Arctic convoys are to be honoured with a new medal has been hailed a huge victory for a plucky Pensnett widow who has campaigned tirelessly for greater recognition for the brave sailors.
Phyllis Coyle has spent the last 12 months and her life savings on a quest to commemorate the sacrifices made by the WWII heroes who endured what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”.
And her efforts were rewarded when Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed a new campaign medal would be created to commomorate those who braved perilous seas, freezing temperatures and German U-boats to deliver vital supplies to Russia.
Gutsy great-grandmother Mrs Coyle, whose late husband Mick was one of the brave sailors, said: “It’s great news. It’s a lovely way to end the year.
“These men have waited 67 years for these medals and it’s finally happened.”
Dudley MP Ian Austin said the Prime Minister’s announcement on December 19 was a “huge tribute” to the work of campaigners such as Mrs Coyle.
Mr Austin, who wrote to Mr Cameron urging him to issue a new medal in addition to the existing Arctic Star badge, said: “She’s campaigned tirelessly for greater recognition for the brave men, including her husband Mick, who served on the Arctic convoys.
“He and his colleagues played a hugely important role in keeping the Soviet Union supplied on the Eastern Front and this medal is a fitting tribute to their contribution.”
News of the new medal comes just four months after Mrs Coyle celebrated the unveiling of Britain’s first Arctic convoys memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.
The 84-year-old and her daughter Jennifer Picken, aged 62, from Brierley Hill, used their savings to pay for the £18,000 black granite memorial - plus a further £12,000 for its upkeep of the monument which is inscribed in English and Russian with the words: “Their great sacrifice was made for our freedom.”
More than 3,000 seamen lost their lives on the ships between 1941 and 1945.
Mr Coyle survived his stint but suffered a leg injury while serving on HMS Bulldog that remained with him for life.
The former Navy man never let it dampen his spirits though. He raised a family, raked in thousands for charity over the years and as president of Stourbridge Royal Naval Association he made it his duty to remember fallen comrades.
But it was always a source of disappointment to him that there was no official UK memorial to those who died on the ‘Russian Run’.
So after his death from lung cancer in November 2010 at the age of 85 - Phyllis set about trying to grant his final wish.
Thanks to her efforts wreaths can now be laid for convoys comrades every Remembrance Sunday at the memorial at Alrewas and Phyllis will be able to collect one of the new medals on Mick’s behalf.
She said: “I put the memorial up and it’s shaken the country up. I’m really quite proud.”