George’s war bravery rewarded 70 years on

Real Lives - George Stevenson is awarded the medal by Captain Chris Smith, the naval regional commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland
Real Lives - George Stevenson is awarded the medal by Captain Chris Smith, the naval regional commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland
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A WAR hero from Gorgie has been presented with the prestigious Arctic Star medal, some 70 years after he took part in the Arctic convoy mission during the Second World War.

George Stevenson, 90, collected the medal at a small ceremony at Holmesview Care Home in Broxburn where he lives.

Many of his family were in attendance to see his courage formally acknowledged, with several relatives able to watch the presentation from Canada live via the internet.

The medal was presented by Captain Chris Smith, the naval regional commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In 1940, aged 17, George joined the Royal Navy to serve with HMS Sheffield, or “Shiny Sheffield” as it was affectionately known.

The ship was one of several charged with protecting the merchant navy while undertaking dangerous journeys to deliver much-needed supplies and armaments to their allies in the Soviet Union.

From 1940 to 1945, three Arctic convoys braved attacks from deadly German ships and U-boats to make the treacherous trip from Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands to the port of Murmansk in Russia.

At the time George was the second youngest member of the ship’s crew, only two months older than the youngest man on board.

George and his heroic crew members faced some of the worst conditions for Allied sailors. Temperatures could reach as low as -50C, which still causes George to suffer frostbite on his ears and nose to this day.

The loss rate for ships was higher than any other allied convoy route. At the time, Sir Winston Churchill described it as “the worst journey in the world”.

George was involved in the famous sinking of the Bismark and the Scharnhorst, and still finds it difficult to talk about his ordeal.

Those closest to him know that the memories of the sailors they could not save still haunt him.

George’s son-in-law Jim Price said: “He doesn’t speak much about the war as every time he does he gets upset.

“It is unbelievable that it took 70 years for their bravery to be recognised. These men put their lives at risk in some of the most horrendous conditions imaginable.”

George was born in Gorgie Road in 1923. After the war he married his wife Ethel, now late, and worked in the transport industry as a railway guard, taxi driver and the manager of a petrol station.

The couple had two daughters, Heather and Brenda, and George now has four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Jim said: “The whole family are delighted as he, and the rest who served, thoroughly deserve recognition for what they went through. It was an incredibly proud day for all of us.”