Harrogate hero receives final naval medal after years of waiting

NADV 1509072AM1 John Raistrick's Ushakov medal. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1509072AM1)
NADV 1509072AM1 John Raistrick's Ushakov medal. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1509072AM1)

After years of waiting, a World War II Navy hero who survived the Battle of North Cape has finally been awarded the Ushakov Medal.

John Raistrick joined the Navy when we has 18 in 1942 and spent his career on the Russian Convoy on the escort ship, HMS Opportune.

Whilst on the Opportune, John helped transport survivors of the torpedoed Somali destroyer to Scapa Flow as well as escorting the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to Canada for the Quebec Conference in 1943.

However, the highlight of John’s naval career came on December 25 when the Opportune was deployed to join the battle against the German battleship Scharnhorst off North Cape in Norway.

The Scharnhorst was eventually sunk by the destroyers but despite saving many Norwegians in the water, as well as killing almost 2,000 sailors on board the Scharnhorst, John still thinks back to those he could not save.

He said: “ There were many instances when we went to save boats that had been attacked by the Germans but sometimes those people in the water were in sight but not in range.

“We could see them but they were too far away so we couldn’t save them.

“I still have nightmares about that. I always think about the Norwegians in the sea that we could not save.”

John came out of the Navy in 1946 and went to work at Robert Hirst’s clothing factory in Bradford and, when the business moved to Harrogate, followed with his wife Margaret.

Although he had been awarded three of the four Russian medals, John was made to wait for the Medal of Ushakov which was awarded to sailors for courage and bravery defending the Soviet Union.

However, after writing to the Russian embassy, John and Margaret were sent the medal in August after the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin signed off for its delivery.

John said: “It’s a proud moment for me.

“I’m 92 now any my life has revolved around the Navy, it meant so much to me. Being in the navy and fighting during the war shaped me as a person.

“The people I served with were all wonderful. I used to go to all the Opportune reunions but there are only three of us left.There were about 60-70 of us.

“I enjoyed being in the navy but while I was away I could only write to my family. I saw them on leave but that was one of the hardest parts for me because I missed them.”