the diary of signalman John Emrys Williams
Records and Medals
message was sent to me by Giles Allen:
"I read your Grandfather's account of
his time on HMS Diadem with interest tonight as I'm currently in
the process of applying for the Arctic Star on behalf of my own
late Grandfather, Thomas Knight who also served on Diadem between
13th December 1943 and 27th May 1946. I can remember as a small
boy my Granddad telling me that the Diadem was stationed off Juno
beach on D-Day bombarding the shore and the bitter cold of the Russian
convoys but not much else I'm afraid; certainly nothing as detailed
as your Grandfather's own account. I have recently acquired his
Naval service record as part of my own family research and your
Grandfather's account of this time certainly helps to bring it all
to life." - Giles Allen, Portsmouth, May 2006.
It's always good to hear from family members of other HMS Diadem
shipmates and I replied to Giles to thank him for getting in touch.
A discussion between the two of us via email ensued, and here's
the gist of our discussion:
I'm interested in how you went about getting hold of your grandfather's
Naval Service Records and hearing any nuggets of information you
managed to glean from this.
Normally these records are closed for a period
of 75 years, but are available to family members on request. A fee
of £25 is normally applied unless the application is made
by 'next of kin' in which case it is waived. I'm pretty sure that
the procedure has changed since I made an application (on behalf
of my Grandma), but if you telephone the Directorate of Personnel
Support (Navy) on 01283 227913, I'm sure they'll be able to point
you in the right direction. The Service records themselves contain
personal information relating to individual, Ship/Shore establishments
served in, Ratings held, Conduct Badges and Character information.
My Grandfather held two ranks whilst on board HMS Diadem; these
were: Temporary Petty Officer Cook and Petty Officer Cook.
Incidentally, on your website, I think you've
missed the name of a village out in the
D-Day section immediately preceding the words 'Sur Mer'.
It may be an omission by my Aunt who wrote the transcription. I
worked from her transcriptions, not the original diary, so I'll
try and get hold of the master document and double check. It's most
likely that 'Sur Mer' is what Taid wrote in his diary. I had thought
it might have been Courseulles-Sur-Mer or possibly Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer,
because that's what was indicated on the
Wikipedia page about Juno Beach (link).
But this page from the Historical
Officer of Canadian HQ (link) says:
"and two British cruisers, "Belfast" and "Diadem"
(R.C.N. Historical Records Overseas, "R.C.N.'s Part in the
Invasion"). The cruisers were to assist the aerial attack on
the VER-SUR-MER and BENY-SUR-MER batteries by engaging them from
H minus 30 minutes onwards; similarly, the destroyers were to bombard
the beach defences on the flanks of the landing from H minus 40
By the way, it's good to see such an interesting page
about HMS Diadem (link) in the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
Gareth: I haven't heard of the Arctic Star Medal. Do you
have any details please?
I have attached part of an article published
in the Portsmouth News a few weeks ago detailing the Government's
recent decision to recognise the contribution by all those who took
part in the Russian Convoys of WWII. The campaign was spearheaded
by Cdr Eddie Grenfell and The Portsmouth News and marks the culmination
of many years of lobbying:
Here's a transcript of the above newspaper clipping:
Snow-white star that means so much.
new Arctic Star is available to any veteran who served for 24 hours
or more above latitude 63 degrees north during the Second World
War. This includes the men who served in the Russian convoys, the
ones based in Murmansk and Archangel and the men who fought the
ill-fated Norwegian campaign of 1940. It is also available to the
families of men who died in the war of since. The white enamel star
with red centre, designed by Cdr. Grenfell, can be pinned on the
Atlantic Star's ribbon or the 1939 to 45 Star. To apply, letters
marked Arctic Emblem Application need to be sent to DS Sec-Honours
1, Floor 8, Zone J, MOD Main Building, Whitehall, London SW1A 2HB.
Copyright note: I've reproduced this Portsmouth News cutting with
photo without permission in the interests of making this information
available to as many shipmates and their families as possible, and
I'm hoping the rights holders will let me know if they'd like me
to remove it from the site.
I see from your website that your
Granddad was awarded the Russian Convoy medal from the Russian
Embassy. Is this something that all Russian Convoy Veterans are
My father and his siblings were the ones who went about applying
for the Russian Convoy Medal on Taid's behalf. I guess we were fortunate
in being able to get his medal for him while Taid was still alive.
That was a really proud moment for Taid and all our family. I believe
the Russian Convoy Medal is something Russia wanted to award to
everyone who served on one of the ships that escorted the Russian
convoys during WWII by way of saying 'thank you' to them. I think
the best way to begin the process of applying for the Medal is by
contacting the Russian Embassy in London. Anyone who wants to do
this can feel free to include a link to this website or to print
the picture of my grandfather with his medal if this might be helpful.
I'd like to see recognition for the bravery of every single one
of HMS Diadem's veterans. In many cases now these medals will have
to be awarded posthumously - and that makes me feel sad.
Contact details for Russian Embassy in London (according to http://www.great-britain.mid.ru/contact.html)
Embassy of the Russian Federation 13 Kensington Palace Gardens,
London W8 4QX; tel.: 020-7229-26-66, 020-7229-72-81; fax: 020-7229-58-04;
Giles. If you do remember Temporary Petty Officer Cook and Petty
Officer Cook Thomas Knight who served on HMS Diadem between 13th
December 1943 and 27th May 1946, please let me know and I'll put
you in touch with Giles.
from Giles Allen, October 2006.
Giles Allen has written with an update, to let us know that his
Granddad's Arctic Star medal had arrived, along with a certificate
"With the compliments of the Under Secretary of the Defence and
Minister for Veterans. This Arctic Emblem is presented to you in
recognition of your service to your country having served north
of the Arctic Circle and west of the Urals for at least one day
between 3rd September 1939 and 8th May 1945. Ministry of Defence,
Whitehall, London SW1A 2HB"
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