A SEAMAN who risked his life to ensure Allied troops received vital supplies during the Second World War has finally seen his efforts honoured – thanks to decades of campaigning by his family.
The late James Cain Berry, of Trimdon Village, County Durham, was one of thousands of men who ran the gauntlet of U-boats and German bombers during the Arctic Convoys of 1941 to 1945.
Despite being bombed, torpedoed and icebound in Murmansk and Archangel in the Soviet Union for months on end, Mr Berry, an engineer in the Merchant Navy, survived the war.
Loading article content
Sadly, in 1947, at the age of 32, he was killed in an engine room accident, while qualifying for his chief engineer's ticket in home waters.
Since then, his five sisters, Mary, Margaret, Eleanor, Betty and Joan have campaigned tirelessly for his service to be recognised, but to no avail.
However, following the introduction of the Arctic Star last year, Mike Hogarth, Mr Berry’s nephew, decided to try again and this time the family were successful.
Yesterday (Saturday, May 17), more than 30 relatives from across the UK and New Zealand, attended a poignant ceremony at Trimdon Grange Cemetery, where Mr Berry is buried beside his parents, John and Annie Berry.
His only surviving sister, Joan Reine, from Seaham, was among those present, having accepted five posthumous awards on her late brother’s behalf.
Mrs Reine, 86, said her brother had rarely spoken of the horrors of the convoys but had told funny stories to put people’s minds at rest.
“He would love the fact everyone is here today,” she said.
“He was the kind of man who never sought to be the centre of attention but he always was because he had such a sparkly personality.
“He was very well known and popular in the village and in Sedgefield and Fishburn too.”
Described by then Prime Minister Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world,” the Arctic Convoys carried food, ammunition and other essentials to the Eastern Front.
The men were in constant fear of attack and more than 3,000 died.
As well as the Arctic Star, Mr Berry was awarded the Atlantic Star, the War Medal 1939 -1945, the France and Germany Clasp and the France and Germany Star.
Mr Hogarth, from Beverley in North Yorkshire, said: “I think it is marvellous my uncle’s contribution has been recognised. My aunts fought for this for so long and it means a great deal to us all.”