A SECOND World War veteran from Northwich will finally receive a prestigious Arctic Star medal – nearly 70 years after the war ended.

Ernie Nelson is one of less than 200 veterans alive today who will receive the honour in person and will be watched by family and friends as he is presented the coveted award at a special ceremony at Chester Town Hall on Monday, June 3.

The Arctic Star is a retrospective award which has been produced this year for those, like 89-year-old Ernie, who served on the Russian Arctic Convoys.

Winston Churchill described the Russian Arctic Convoys as ‘the worst journey in the world’ and were known as ‘suicide runs’ with more than 3,000 personnel killed.

They suffered German submarine and air attacks in appalling sub-zero weather conditions, often as low as minus 30 degrees as they took munitions and vital supplies to Russia.

Ernie - who lives in Hartford with Constance, his wife of 63-years – was 18-years-old when he joined the Royal Navy in 1942 as a wireless telegraphist.

He was tasked with reading Morse code messages, including those from the British Admiralty in London.

For two years he was stationed on HMS Scourge and although the vessel came under attack and was heavily bombed many times, it never sank – something Ernie puts down to it being a ‘lucky’ ship.

“We were shelled a lot but we still made it through and we made non-stop journeys taking supplies to Russia,” said the father-of-two.

“I made 12 Arctic Convoys and apart from the danger of attack there were horrendous weather conditions which included two hurricanes.

“In the winter it was 23 hours of darkness and in the summer, 23 hours of daylight. This was when the attacks were more frequent.”

In 1943 Ernie was on board when HMS Scourge escorted Winston Churchill to America to meet President Roosevelt.

He was also on the Arctic Convoy that was attacked by the large German battleship cruiser, Scharnhorst but the Scourge and the convoy were able to continue on their way as the Battle of North Cape raged on.

The vessel was also part of the ill-fated 23rd Destroyer Flotilla of which two ships were sunk in action during the Normandy D-day landings.

But despite the dangers faced at sea during the war, Ernie says one of the most nerve wreaking times was after the truce had been declared.

“Two destroyers including the Scourge were told to travel to Copenhagen to accept the surrender of German vessels,” he explained.

“It was a frightening moment sailing into the harbour, surrounded by German ships with peace only six hours old.”

Ernie’s medal ceremony will take place at 2pm on Monday.

Clr Jill  Houlbrook, who will present the award, said: “I feel very honoured to be able to present this medal to Ernie.

“I know that he does not talk a great deal about the harsh and terrifying conditions he experienced day after day but he is a real hero and I know that many of his family and friends are attending the ceremony.”