A SECOND World War veteran who fought to win official recognition for his fellow heroes of the Arctic Convoys has died – just days before he had been due to wear his medal for the first time in public.
Jock Dempster, from Dunbar, passed away yesterday morning at the Royal Infirmary, following a stroke which he suffered the previous weekend.
He had been due to travel to Wester Ross on Wednesday for a series of events to mark Arctic Convoys Week, when he would have worn his Arctic Star campaign medal, which he was presented with by Prime Minister David Cameron, for the first time.
He had also been determined to wear the medal during the traditional remembrance commemorations in November at the Cenotaph.
Jock, who celebrated his 85th birthday last week, made his first of two convoy trips to Murmansk in 1944 when he was only 16 and had campaigned tirelessly for veterans to receive official recognition for their sacrifices during the Arctic Convoy campaigns.
Maggie, who was married to Jock for 35 years, said that since suffering the huge stroke eight days ago, her husband had “struggled heroically” in what was the “biggest battle he ever fought”. He died at around 9.15am after suffering respiratory failure.
She added: “I will remember him as a remarkable man who has not lived one life, but three. He had three careers and was very well respected in all of them.
“He was also a good Samaritan and a good friend. He looked after me extremely well. He wouldn’t let the wind blow the wrong way if he could help it while I was about. He knew my thoughts before I knew them. I will miss him terribly.” After his experience in the convoys, he became a fluent Russian speaker as part of his role with the RAF, during the Cold War.
On one of his return visits to the country in recent years he delivered a speech in fluent Russian at Murmansk, stunning his hosts.
“He was stood in front of all of these dignitaries and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Maggie said.
Jock, a former head of Scotland’s own Russian Arctic Convoys Club, was presented with his medal at Downing Street by David Cameron in March at an event in which he spoke at length with the Prime Minister.
Speaking after it was announced in December that the veterans would finally be honoured with a medal, Jock said it “meant everything”.
He set sail from Loch Ewe, where this week’s commemorations will take place, in 1944 on the MV San Venancio as a deck hand.
Speaking to the Evening News in February, Jock said: “I was never frightened of death, I implicitly believed in the life thereafter. What I was scared stiff of was the fact that I was on a tanker and I knew if we got hit, it would go on fire. I dreaded the thought of being hideously burnt or losing an arm or a leg.”
When awarding the Arctic Star medals at Downing Street, David Cameron singled Jock out for special praise in his speech and said he had helped run an “extraordinary campaign”.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We were sorry to hear about the death of Jock Dempster. He recently came into Downing Street to be presented with an Arctic Star medal by the Prime Minister, in recognition of the unique contribution he and others made protecting Britain. All those who served on the Arctic Convoys deserve nothing but the utmost respect and admiration from us.”