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Pensnett widow unveils country's first memorial to Arctic Convoys heroes
12:00pm Monday 3rd September 2012 in News
DUDLEY North MP, Ian Austin , said he "never felt so honoured" than when he attended the unveiling of a memorial to the heroes who served on the Arctic Convoys.
Pensnett widow Phyllis Coyle campaigned for the monument at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to remember the brave sailors, including her late husband Mick, who made what Winston Churchill described as the “worst journey in the world”.
Mr Coyle, who was president of Stourbridge Royal Naval Association, made a number of perilous trips on the Russian convoys - delivering vital supplies to Russia during World War II.
Around 3,000 British seamen lost their lives while serving on the ships.
Mr Coyle survived but suffered an injury to his leg while serving on HMS Bulldog that would remain with him throughout his life.
The gutsy former Navy man, however, never let it dampen his spirits. He married, brought up a family and raised thousands of pounds for worthy causes over the years by staging charity New Year dances at Brierley Hill Civic Hall.
The great-grandfather also made it his duty to remember his fallen comrades - marking Remembrance Sunday as the most important date in his calendar.
However - it was a source of disappointment to the old sailor that there was no official monument to those who died on the ‘Russian Run’ at the National Memorial at Alrewas where Britain’s war sacrifices are remembered.
So after his death from lung cancer in November 2010 his wife Phyllis started a campaign to get Britain’s first Arctic Convoys memorial erected at the arboretum.
Mrs Coyle, aged 84, and daughter Jennifer, aged 62, used their savings to pay for an £18,000 black granite memorial inscribed in English and Russian with the words: “Their great sacrifice was made for our freedom.”
But Mrs Coyle has to raise an extra £7,500 to pay for its upkeep and insurance over the next 20 years. She has so far collected around £5,500 from generous donors after a fundraising campaign which began in January but still needs to raise a further £2,000.
She said: “My husband always said the country had never recognised those who served on the convoys. So after we had a tree planted for him at Alrewas I thought I’m going to get a memorial put up for him and his shipmates. “I think he would be very pleased.”
Ian Austin MP and Wall Heath councillor Dave Tyler were among 300 people attending the unveiling of the six-foot, nine-tonne memorial, designed by Dudley-based Jones Memorials, on August 19.
Mr Austin said: “I was proud to know Mick Coyle, proud to count as a friend someone who had done so much for his country, for his comrades through the SSAFA and the Royal British Legion and for the people of Dudley."
He added: “I have never felt so honoured and so privileged as I was when Phyllis Coyle invited me to join her family and friends and others from Dudley to unveil a memorial to the heroes who served on the Arctic Convoys.
"Phyllis Coyle is a great woman. She has achieved a lasting memorial to men who braved perilous seas, freezing temperatures and German u-boats to keep vital supply lines open.
“These men and women did not just win the war, they won the right of the rest of us to live in a country governed by the great British values of democracy, equality, freedom, fairness and tolerance."
Mr Austin said he believes every school in the borough should take pupils to Alrewas to reflect on the sacrifices made by Britain's armed forces past and present.
Anyone wishing to make a donation towards the memorial can send cheques made payable to Arctic Convoy Memorial Upkeep Fund to Jennifer Pickin, 331 Gayfield Avenue, Brierley Hill, DY5 3JE.
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