War hero is remembered with Russia’s highest medal

Irene Robson (front left) holding her late husband Alexander's medal with her daughter Brenda (back second left), Dr Paul Paes and Northumbria Healthcare nursing staff.
Irene Robson (front left) holding her late husband Alexander's medal with her daughter Brenda (back second left), Dr Paul Paes and Northumbria Healthcare nursing staff.

The family of a late Merchant Navy veteran awarded one of Russia’s highest medals for the role he played in helping the country in the Second World War has received the award on his behalf.

Alexander Robson, of North Shields, died in December last year at the age of 87 in North Tyneside General Hospital, surrounded by his wife of 60 years Irene and daughter Brenda.

Alexander knew he was being awarded the medal, it was his highest honour and he was incredibly proud

Irene Robson

Last year he was notified he would be awarded the Ushakov Medal by Russia in recognition of his part in getting supplies through to Russian soldiers in the Arctic Convoy during the war.

Alexander, known as Alec, was just 16-years-old when he joined the Merchant Navy and served on SS Empire Lionel, braving sub-zero temperatures and enemy U-boats and warplanes to keep the supply lines open to Russia between August 1941 and May 1945.

Irene, 84, said: “Alexander knew he was being awarded the medal, it was his highest honour and he was incredibly proud.

“Whilst he was ill he was waiting for it and when he was admitted to hospital the staff on the unit called the Russian Embassy in London for him to try and speed things up so he could have it before he died.”

Their granddaughter Emma Robson visited the Russian Embassy in London to receive the medal in his honour.

Irene added: “The Russians have never forgotten the Arctic Convoys getting supplies through to them.

“Alexander had already received the Artic Star medal. He was so young when he was in the convoy but he said it was an ‘adventure’ for him.”

Irene and Brenda have returned to the palliative care unit at North Tyneside General Hospital, run by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, to thank staff for the care they gave Alexander and to show them the medal.

“We couldn’t fault the care he received. We got to know everyone really. It was beautiful, and we found it a great comfort. He liked to have a joke. They all liked him,” said Brenda, who works in medical records at the hospital.

Alexander’s family praised the efforts of community staff including district nurses and his specialist heart nurse who visited him at home as well as hospital staff in the palliative care unit where he spent the final month of his life.

Dr Paul Paes, head of palliative care for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so pleased that Alexander was able to be awarded the Ushakov medal, one of Russia’s highest honours during his lifetime, which is a great comfort for his family.

“He was a very modest man but the medal meant a lot to him.

“We were touched they chose to visit to show us the medal and tribute and thank us for the care he received.”