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Russian medal for flying Arctic weatherman from Bardwell

Retired wing commander Bryn Lewis with his Russian Ushnakov Medal for his Arctic Convoy duties ANL-161212-233526009
Retired wing commander Bryn Lewis with his Russian Ushnakov Medal for his Arctic Convoy duties ANL-161212-233526009

As ex-Cold War bomber crew, Bryn Lewis was a wary when he had a message from someone with a Russian accent asking him to call them.

But when the second message to his Bardwell home mentioned the Russian Embassy he called back to discover they wanted to give him a medal for the part he played in protecting the Arctic Convoys in World War Two.

Bryn Lewis' Ushnakov Medal ANL-161212-233846009
Bryn Lewis' Ushnakov Medal ANL-161212-233846009

On Saturday, an embassy official presented the 92-year-old with the Ushnakov Medal.

As an 18-year-old, Met Office metrologist, Bryn volunteered in May 1943 for the RAF’s new Meteorological Reconnaissance Squadron as a met air observer.

Their job was to fly out of Wick, Caithness, in twin-engined Hampdens, Hudsons or Venturas to radio back weather conditions. But Bryn recalled: “We also carried depth charges in case we saw any submarines. We didn’t see any but if they saw us they would crash dive which kept them away from the convoys.”

That was how he ended up over the Arctic Convoys going to Archangel and Murmansk.

A few years ago David Cameron and Vladimir Putin announced an Arctic Star campaign medal for the convoys and Bryn applied and got it, though most went to seamen. At the time, Mr Putin said they would also qualify for the Ushnakov Medal, which Bryn also applied for.

“I got nothing back,” he said. “It was at the time of Crimea and the Ukraine so relations between the two countries were poor. I thought that was that.

“I’m very proud to have received it. It’s the most delightful medal.”

After the war, he took a short term commission as an accounts officer but then retrained as a navigator – a job he did on the first Vulcan jet bomber to circumnavigate the world in 1959. He retired as a wing commander in 1975.


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