A SECOND World War veteran has been recognised by Vladimir Putin for his part in defeating the Nazis.

Douglas Sayles, from Heighington, County Durham, recently received a medal from Russia commemorating his service and bravery as a sailor in the Arctic convoys.

An accompanying letter from the office of Vladimir Putin commended Mr Sayles for his extraordinary heroism and the invaluable contribution he and his comrades made to the defeat of the Nazi party during the conflict.

As a young man serving in the Royal Navy, Mr Sayles took part in numerous convoys, narrowly escaping death on several occasions.

The Northern Echo:
HONOURED: Douglas Sayles, aged 21

Today, the 96-year-old reflected on his experiences and urged the world to learn lessons from the horrors he lived through.

He said: “I should have received this medal years ago but it was denied to us by the British government.

“It’s a mark of relations softening between Russia and the west and I hope it grows to better understanding.

“Getting it now brings back a lot of raw memories – for years, I didn’t speak about the war at all.

“We were being bombed and torpedoed at the same time and I cannot understand why I’m still alive.

“Over the years I saw thousands killed – I still see them.

“I saw ships I should have been on sink and every man on board killed, that happened to me time after time.

“It happened so many times I think I’ve got an angel on my shoulder.”

He added: “Nothing has been learned from all of this and it’s difficult to see war still happening, it makes me sad.

“I want this generation to be serious, not frivolous – we must stop these wars.

“Men and women being killed every day, people blowing themselves up in crowds, it’s incomprehensible, lessons have not been learned.”

Mr Sayles received the Arctic Star medal - the UK equivalent - in 2013, one of 12 he has received since he began serving in the Navy.

The Northern Echo: HONOURED: Navy veteran Douglas Sayles who is 96 years old and lives in Heighington has received a Russian medal to mark his service in the Arctic Convoys. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH
HONOURED: Navy veteran Douglas Sayles 

His other medals include those given for service in Africa and Malta and one awarded for his help in controlling the influx of Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany to Palestine in the Second World War.

The letter from Russia said: “Your heroism will always be remembered in Russia and Britain.

“Your deeds will continue to serve as a supreme example of bravery and a high point in human spirit.”