Five medals for war hero – 40 years after he died


THE sister of a modest war hero has finally collected her brother’s five medals – more than 70 years after they were earned and almost 40 years after he died.

Merchant seaman Ian McCuaig served his country during the Second World War from the perishing cold of the Arctic to the searing heat of the Suez Canal.

At one stage during the conflict, Ian, from Patrick, Glasgow, was reported missing presumed dead.

Despite the enormous personal risks he took, Ian never spoke about the war and never claimed the five campaign medals he was due.

Ian tragically died in a fall in 1976, aged 51, and it appeared to his family that the Arctic Star, Africa Clasp, Atlantic Star, War Medal and 1939 to 1945 Star would never be presented.

Christina McKay with the Arctic Star medal
Christina McKay with the Arctic Star medal


It was only after his sister contacted her local councillor that efforts were made to present Ian’s relatives with his medals.

Christina McKay, 84, was delighted to receive the medals at a touching ceremony at Edinburgh City Chambers this week.

Christina who was accompanied at the ceremony by her son, daughter and three grandchildren, said that it was a “proud and emotional day.”

She said her brother would bring her ribbons when he came home on shore leave, remembering “he was a happy guy, he could pull all the girls”.

Christina said the worst part of the war was when two officers called at their Glasgow home to say Ian was “missing presumed dead”.

“Mother cried all night,” said Christina.

Seven decades on, little is know about what happened to Ian except that he was rescued alive and well.

She said that they had no idea that he was due the medals, recalling “he never talked about it.”

It was only in 2012 when the decision was taken to award an Arctic Star medal that the family realised veterans such as Ian were due campaign medals.

Dominic Heslop, Conservative member for Pentland Hills, and his assistant Moira Fraser set out on a marathon year and a half long research session, contacting the National Archive, Ministry of Defence and the Seafarers’ Association.

Ms McKay, who was nine when her brother fought in the war, was initially told that he did not qualify for the Arctic Star, but that he did qualify for four others: The 1939-45 Star, The War Medal, The Atlantic Star and the Africa Clasp.

But after further research it was discovered that he did in fact qualify for the Arctic Star, and Mr Heslop arranged for the Lord Provost, Donald Wilson, to present the awards to Ms Mckay and her family on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Heslop said: “I was so delighted to be able to help her get recognition for her brother. This is a special day for her.”

The Arctic Star recognised the bravery of Merchant Navy personnel who ferried supplies to the besieged Soviet Union.

Between 1941 and 1945 the allies sailed across the seas to deliver military and civilian supplies in temperatures which could drop to -50C.

Over the 1,600 mile journey ships had to contend with thick blocks of ice forming on their decks and guns while being harried by the German Navy, U-Boats and Luftwaffe.