Alumni Services

The Honourable Alumnus

An Edinburgh graduate has been honoured for the part he played in one of the most dangerous missions of the Second World War.

Ian Callan

Ninety six-year-old Ian Callan, who is one of the University's oldest alumni, is a veteran of the Arctic convoys, which delivered vital supplies to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945.

Mr Callan, who lives in Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire, is the proud recipient of the newly created Arctic Star medal, which has been only been awarded to British veterans this year.

The Arctic Convoy

The icy voyages claimed more than 3,000 lives - as well as 104 merchant ships and 16 military vessels - and were described by Winston Churchill as the worst journey in the world.

The supply ships were under constant threat of attack by German U-boats and aircraft and also had to negotiate severe cold, storms, and ice floes.

Although the Russian Government had issued several anniversary medals to Arctic Convoy veterans, the British Government has never done so until now.

The award was created after a long campaign by veterans of the convoys.

Mr Callan, who served with the Royal Naval Reserve, said he was pleased to receive the award:

The Russians gave us medals years ago but our own Government had not, it's nearly 70 years too late but I am glad to have the medal.

Ian CallanBSc Botany, 1941
Ian and Katharyn Callan

Botanical chemistry

Mr Callan, who was born in Prestwich, Lancashire, studied botany in Edinburgh University where he met his wife of 71 years Katharyn just prior to war breaking out.

The couple can claim to being one of the UK's oldest graduate couples.

Both Mr and Mrs Callan graduated with first class honours degrees in botany.