Real Lives: Arctic Convoy man thanked for bravery

Andrei Pritespov awards the medal to Tom Davidson. Picture: comp
Andrei Pritespov awards the medal to Tom Davidson. Picture: comp
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A WAR veteran has been decorated with the Russian Federation’s highest military medal.

Tom Davidson served as a flight controller on HMS Searcher in the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War, taking part in the notoriously perilous task of delivering vital supplies to the Soviet army and its people.

In July last year, Lord Lieutenant for Midlothian Patrick Prenter presented Tom with Midlothian’s first Arctic Star medal during a special ceremony at Archview Lodge Care Home in Dalkeith, where he has lived for six years.

More recently, the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Scotland, Andrei Pritsepov, popped in to pay his respects and awarded Tom the most senior honour in the Russian Army – the Ushakov Medal, toasting his bravery with a shot of Russian vodka.

Mr Davidson was brought up in Wallyford, first attending the local primary school and then Crookston Secondary.

On leaving school he worked for Edinburgh Collieries at the Wallyford pit and local brickworks.

But when war broke out a few years later he signed up at the age of 19.

As well as the Arctic Convoys he saw action in both the north Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Mr Davidson, now 92, still vividly remembers his experiences during the harrowing journeys.

He said: “It wasn’t a very nice place – cold, miserable and dangerous.

“We had a crew of 600 and the temperature was often below freezing. We had to turn back during one episode north of Norway because the sea was horrendous – the waves were coming right over the top of us.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 70 years. There are mixed emotions when I think back to those days. It was difficult but then you just had to get on with it. It’s prepared me for life because when you go through something like that you can face anything.”

HMS Searcher also participated in attacks on key German battleship Tirpitz at her base in northern Norway during 1944.

In 1944, Mr Davidson returned to Wallyford and found a job at the Prestongrange Pipeworks.

Soon he met, and married, Chrissie Paterson from the nearby village of Smeaton. In later life he returned to Wallyford to work as a janitor at the local school.

He was a keen birdwatcher and became a member of the Scottish Ornithologist Club. Much of his time locally was spent pursuing his hobby at the Musselburgh Lagoons.

At Archview, the keen gardener helped tend the plants and pottered around in the greenhouse.

He has found a new role as an ‘HR consultant’ sitting on interviews with potential employees. Management find his experience of life valuable in judging people – and they rarely disagree with his assessments.