A GRANDFATHER who endured the hardships of the Second World War Arctic Convoys, which Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”, has been awarded a medal in recognition of his bravery.

Stan Everington, 89, of Northallerton, served as a leading coder on the destroyer HMS Wanderer, which helped lead a convoy of 45 merchants ships to Bear Island, in the Barents Sea.

It was the largest convoy sent to Russia during the war and the maritime mission is credited with having bolstered the Eastern Front.

The merchant ships, which had cargoes ranging from food supplies to ammunition, all arrived safely at the Soviet northern port of Murmansk.

However, while returning from the operation in February 1944, the convoy was attacked by 14 German U-boats which hit another destroyer, HMS Mahratta, with two torpedoes. Only 16 of the 236 crew survived.

As HMS Wanderer, which had no balast and was overcrowded with sailors, returned to the Faroe Islands to refuel, it was rocked by a Force 12 storm.

One of Mr Everington’s colleagues was swept overboard as he chipped ice off the ship.

The retired chief executive of Northallerton Cooperative said: “The gunner lost his footing, went over the side and when we got him out we put hot water on him and blankets, but it was too late for him.”

Mr Everington said the loss of HMS Mahratta and the gunner were memories that had remained vivid 69 years on.

He said: “We didn’t feel particularly brave, it was just a job we had to do like thousands of other chaps.

“We became fatalistic about the situation because there was nothing we could do.

“After the war I put it behind me and got on with living. It was only when it was announced that the Arctic medal was to be awarded that I thought about it.”

Mr Everington joined the Royal Navy in 1943 aged 18 and was first engaged in supporting Atlantic Convoys, bringing vital supplies to the UK from the USA and Canada.

After his perilous Arctic sea campaign, he was deployed to escort convoys to the D Day landings.

He said he was pleased the efforts and sacrifice of those who took part in the Arctic convoys had been recognised after a 16-year campaign by veterans.

Earlier this month, the Government was urged to reconsider its decision not to allow Arctic Convoy veterans to receive the Medal of Ushakov from Russia.