HMS Diadem
HMS Diadem

the diary of signalman John Emrys Williams

Naval Records and Medals
This 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:

Gareth: 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.

Giles: 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.

Giles: 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'.

Gareth: 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 minutes onwards."

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?

Giles: 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:
from Portsmouth News
Here's a transcript of the above newspaper clipping:
Snow-white star that means so much.
The 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.

Giles: 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 entitled to?

Gareth: 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
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; e-mail: office-at-rusemblon-dot-org

Gareth: Thanks 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.

UPDATE 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 saying:
"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"

Arctic Star medal and certificate



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