A FORMER crew member of HMS Ledbury who helped to clear mines in the Falklands will now get to wear his campaign medal with pride, following a 30 year battle for recognition.
Ian McVite said his successful campaign, fought alongside anther former sailor, Nigel Morris, who served on HMS Diomede, could lead to medals for thousands of other forces veterans from the same campaign.
Mr McVitie was a 21 year Radio Operator, First Class, when he was sent to the South Atlantic, on board HMS Ledbury, the fibre-glass hulled "Hunt" class minesweeper, - a vessel still in service.
The ship arrived shortly after the end of hostilities but with the stormy seas around the Falklands still live with danger, in the form of Argentinian mines.
Mr McVitie, who only retired from the Navy in 2004 and served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf, believes it was an oversight that the South Atlantic Medal, Without Rosette, was not awarded to Falklands veterans like himself at the time.
He first started to campaign to get the medals awarded in 1983, and at last the Government has reviewed the criteria, and applications or the medals can made made by eligible veterans after October 1.
He said: "We had to destroy six mines and locate and mark the wrecks of HMS Ardent, Antelope and Coventry. It was a dangerous time, although we don't want to overshadow the people who did the fighting."
Mr McVite believes the criteria for the award of the campaign medal was set to soon, and the Government has finally agreed with him.
The medal will now go to veterans who served in the Falklands campaign up to October 21, 1982, just before HMS Illustrious sailed away, and the islands were considered defensible on their own.
Mr McVitie, aged 54, who has recently fought a battle with stomach cancer, said: "In a way, we have changed a little bit of history. We have been very proud to represent so many of the veterans, and we feel so proud to have been able to do this.
"It has been an honour and a privilege representing so many thousands of veterans."
The crew of HMS Ledbury was granted the Freedom of Ledbury in February 2007, and they have exercised that freedom on a number of occasions since, with marches through the town centre.
But Mr McVite, who lives in Peterlee,County Durham, revealed that strong links with Ledbury go back much further.
Back in 1983, he was involved in a formal visit to the town back, completing a tiring marathon run before enjoying a civic reception and taking part in the traditional football match against a Ledbury Town
He said: “The locals treated us like royalty and really took us to their heart. It was a fantastic experience.”