Jim Galloway mowed through treacherous Arctic weather to take supplies to the Allies during the Second World War. And on Wednesday, at his 90th birthday party, he finally got a medal for it.
Galloway has received numerous awards over his life, both for his time with the Royal Canadian Navy and for his 39-year career as a Hamilton police officer.
But on Wednesday, Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino made a surprise appearance at Galloway’s birthday party at the Hamilton Police Association hall on Upper Wellington Street. He presented Galloway with the Arctic Star, a medal established in 2012 for veterans who served in the Arctic during the Second World War.
Galloway enlisted as a teenager and joined Arctic convoys on the Huron, delivering supplies across northern Europe to Murmansk in Russia. He still remembers the cold.
“They were tremendous seas,” he said. “Wind and rough water and ice. If you fell overboard, if they didn’t get you out of the water in about three minutes, you were dead.”
A native of the north end, Galloway was raised by a firefighter father and a mother who was active in the community. He joined the navy in 1942, the year he turned 18. He met his late wife Doreen while on leave in Manchester, and when they came back to Canada, they bought a home on East 19th Street. They had three children — Stewart, Gail and Lynne — and seven grandchildren.
He retired from his policing career as a staff sergeant and is still active in the police retirees association.
Galloway recalls doing the convoys during winter, fall and early spring because summer brought so many daylight hours. During the spring and fall, “the only daylight you saw was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon,” he said.
“The ice would form slush on top of the water,” he said. “That’s salt water, not fresh water. It’d be pretty cold.”
Galloway knew about the party, but his friends and family kept Fantino’s visit a secret, said his son Stewart. “We lied a lot.”
As for the medal, he said, it’s “absolutely fabulous.”