It was a proud moment. World War Two hero Val Burn found out that he would be honoured with a medal for his bravery during the bitter Arctic convoys. But sadly, the veteran never got the chance to see it.
Shortly after being told that he would receive the prestigious award from the Russian Consulate – to recognise the courageous efforts of troops delivering vital aid to Russia during the conflict – he died, aged 97, on April 18, 2014.
Now, more than two years on from his death, the accolade has finally arrived; too late for Val, but his proud family are delighted to have it in their possession at last.
And in a mark of respect to him and his loving wife Annie, who passed away in 1983, aged 66, a special plaque and tree have recently been placed in the Column Field, Alnwick.
It was a favourite spot for the couple, who lived in the town all of their lives, apart from when they were serving in the Second World War.
Their daughter Julia Phillips, who was raised in Alnwick but now lives in the south, believes it is a fitting tribute to them.
She said: “My parents met in the corner café at the top corner of the Market Place, they used to walk to the column and spend time there when they were courting, when we were small and with their grandchildren.
“My dad ran Burns paper shop and bookshop in Bondgate Without and my mother was from a large Alnwick family.
“They both served during the Second World War; mum was in the Women’s Royal Air Force and they lived in Alnwick all their lives except for their war service.
“Their wedding was in 1944 in the town’s St Michael’s Church, where my father and his father and brothers were choristers before the Second World War.”
Val served as a Royal Marine on HMS Furious during the Arctic convoys, which legendary Prime Minster Winston Churchill described as ‘the worst journey in the world’.
Val received the Arctic Star in 2014 in recognition of his efforts, but never got the chance to get his medal from the Russian Consulate.
Julia said: “Sadly he did not live to see the medal from the Russian Consulate – which has just come through – but he was incredibly proud of getting the letter from the Russian Consulate and receiving the Arctic Star.”
Retelling her father’s account of the Arctic convoys, Julia said: “He once told me that he never learned to swim and that he knew if they were sunk and if he could swim, it would be a long lingering ordeal and worse for him in the cold water.
“He said that many of the Marines and sailors thought like that.”