War hero’s tale written in the Stars

Lisburn woman Marion Hiddleston (left) and her daughter Aileen McGarrigle with a photograph of Sam Leslie during his naval service and his posthumously awarded Arctic Star medal.
Lisburn woman Marion Hiddleston (left) and her daughter Aileen McGarrigle with a photograph of Sam Leslie during his naval service and his posthumously awarded Arctic Star medal.

A war hero has been posthumously awarded the Arctic Star medal after his Lisburn family mounted a campaign inspired by the Ulster Star’s story of the late Tommy Jess.

Some 75 years after her father, Samuel Leslie, served in the Arctic convoys supplying a beleaguered Russian army during World War Two, Lisburn woman Marion Hiddleston has received the medal recognising that service.

It marks the end of a determined effort that began when Marion read the Star’s November 2014 story about Tommy Jess and his receipt of the Russian Ushakov medal for service in the Arctic convoys.

At the time Tommy had already received the Arctic Star - instituted in the UK in 2012 in recognition of those who shipped supplies across the Baltic Sea.

Marion recalled her father had spoken about the Arctic convoys and brought home photographs capturing the sub-zero conditions aboard ship.

She and her daughter, Aileen McGarrigle, contacted the Ministry of Defence with the results of their own investigations showing Samuel to have served as coxswain aboard the convoy ship HMS Norfolk, but there was bitter disappointment in store when the Ministry first declared Mr Leslie ineligible for the medal.

Not to be deterred, and with the support of other family members, Marion and Aileen successfully demonstrated that Samuel had indeed earned the medal, and news of its conferral, almost 75 years to the day after his ship arrived in the Arctic Circle, was all the family had hoped for.

“We are so pleased that he has finally been recognised,” said Marion, who considers the medal a fitting tribute.