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Russia honours Irish war veteran

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    Medals For Heroes

    Medals For Heroes

    Russia Honours Arctic Convoy Veterans

    FOUR IRISH veterans of the Arctic convoys which helped bring supplies to the Soviet Union during the second World War were yesterday presented with medals of honour on behalf of the Russian people.

    The men, or their next-of-kin, were presented with the 65th Anniversary Medal of the Great Patriotic War 1941-45 by Mikhail E Timoshkin, ambassador of the Russian Federation, at a ceremony at the Russian embassy in Dublin.

    Ted Jones, from Clontarf in Dublin, and Geoffrey Medcalf from Dalkey, Co Dublin, were accompanied by their families to collect their honours.

    June O’Neill collected a medal on behalf of her late husband Gerry O’Neill, and Helen Sparksman was presented with the award for her late husband Norman Sparksman, who died aged 89 on December 31st last.

    Mr Jones (87), volunteered for the RAF just after the age of 18 and received his wings after training at Pensacola, Florida, in 1942, where he flew Catalina flying boats.

    On his return to England he was sent on a special operational training course.

    “You would normally go there to train to be second pilots, but two of us were so brilliant we were made captains immediately,” he said.

    “Just two days after I was 20 I was captain of a 17-ton flying boat.”

    He subsequently joined the 210 squadron up in Shetland, doing 18-hour patrols between Iceland and the Faroes and periodically monitoring the convoys taking supplies on the long journey to Russia – long missions carried out under constant threat from German U-boats armed with anti-aircraft guns. Mr Jones began taking helicopter flying lessons four years ago, and still flies aircraft. He raised more than €7,000 for a hospice when he undertook a tandem parachute jump three years ago.

    The ambassador said the medals were being presented on the eve of the “great event” of the 65th anniversary of victory against fascism, which had been a threat to all mankind.

    Mr Timoshkin said it was also a “most important” anniversary for his own family, as his father had fought fascism and had died, aged 92, last year. His own uncle Mikhail, after whom he was named, had been shot and killed nine days before the victory near Berlin, and it was very important to remember all those who died.

    Just three veterans of the Arctic convoys are still alive in the Republic. Last month, John Hallahan (93) from Mercier Park in Cork was presented with the same medal at a ceremony at Cork City Hall. Mr Hallahan, who has been in hospital, was allowed out for a few hours to attend yesterday, but was unable to do so.

    His wife, Peggy Hallahan, travelled to Dublin for the event.

    The event was also attended by the acting head of the Defence Forces, Maj Gen Dave Ashe.

    Victory Day marks the signing of the German surrender to the Soviet Union in the second World War.

    Photo: Russian ambassador Mikhail Timoshkin (centre) with (from left) Ted Jones, Helen Sparksman, June O'Neill and Geoffrey Medcalf at a reception in the Russian embassy to mark Victory Day. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

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    started a topic Russia honours Irish war veteran

    Russia honours Irish war veteran

    Russia honours Irish war veteran

    AN IRISH veteran of the Arctic convoys which helped supply the Soviet Union during the second World War was yesterday honoured by the Russian people when he was presented with the 65th Anniversary Medal of the Great Patriotic War.

    John Hallahan from Mercier Park in Cork city joined the Royal Navy at a recruiting office at Haulbowline in 1939, months before the war began, and he spent the next six years on the heavy cruiser, HMS Devonshire.

    Now 93, Mr Hallahan was allowed out of hospital for a few hours to attend yesterday’s ceremony at Cork City Hall, hosted by Lord Mayor Cllr Dara Murphy, where he was presented with the medal by the consul at the Russian embassy, Andrei Nikeryasov.

    Mr Hallahan’s daughter, Claire McGeough, said her father, who is just one of three veterans of the Arctic convoys alive in the Republic, was hugely honoured to receive such an award from the Russian people for his role in bringing supplies to Murmansk and Archangel.

    Mr Hallahan was accompanied yesterday by his wife Peggy, his son Tony with wife Jackie and son Christian, and Ms McGeough, her husband Frank and their children Aisling, Conal, Roisin and Dara.

    Mr Nikeryasov, accompanied by assistant to the military attaché Lt Col Alexander Kuznetsov, said it was thanks to people such as Mr Hallahan and fellow Royal Navy veterans Ted Jones and George Metcalfe from Dublin that the Soviet Union had survived.

    “We owe them a huge debt – it was thanks to them and their comrades that the Soviet Union was able to get food and medicines and weapons from our allies in Britain and the United States, which helped thousands survive and contributed to the victory over the Nazis,” he said.
    Photo: John Hallahan (93) with daughter Claire McGeough (left) and granddaughter Aisling at Cork City Hall yesterday, where the Russian embassy honoured him for his role in a second World War aid convoy. Photograph: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision.