Doncaster sailor who survived torpedo attack to be honoured with medal

Fred Peeters with his Arctic Star medal.
Fred Peeters with his Arctic Star medal.
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A Doncaster sailor who survived a World War Two torpedo attack on his boat is to be honoured for his bravery tomorrow.

Fred Peeters survived the last Royal Navy ship to be sunk during the war in Europe and will be presented with the Ushakov Medal by Russian officials at the Mansion House.

The Doncaster OAP, now 91, endured half a dozen Arctic Convoys during the Second World War but it was the final one that almost cost him his life.

It is his second medal in two years after being presented with the Arctic Star medal just after his 89th birthday - 68 years on from the incident which nearly killed him.

Able Seaman Peeters was one of only 26 men to survive the sinking of the frigate HMS Goodall in April 1945 in the Kola Inlet as it completed its last convoy to the Soviet Union.

His previous convoy escort runs to Russia on the cruiser HMS Sheffield and the Goodall had been relatively uneventful but still memorable for the terrible weather conditions the crews had to endure.

Fred, by then a helmsman, said: “We got a ping on our underwater detection device and went in to attack but we walked into a trap with U-boats on either side. A torpedo hit us and blew the ship in half because it hit the ammunition.

“I had just left the wheelhouse on the way to my action station’ when there was an almighty explosion and I was thrown on deck. I got up, rather dazed, and saw half the ship was missing.

“Ammunition was exploding all around me and as I crawled aft I could see limbs lying around. It was terrible, a duffle coat lay near me with just an arm in the sleeve. Reaching the port side I got into a raft with six others.”

HMS Goodall didn’t sink straightaway but as other Navy ships came to its aid the bow wave from one upturned the raft and one of Fred’s comrades was killed by the propellers.

“Once again we were up to our necks in the very cold water. There were only four of us left then and luckily we were picked up by a Russian motor torpedo boat.

“I tried to move but couldn’t because my left leg had no feeling - all the skin had been taken off. One of the Russian sailors picked me up, I was stripped off, rubbed down with vodka and given some of it to drink, then laid across the diesel engine casing to warm up.”

He was treated in a Russian hospital before being shipped home.

Fred, who lives in Askern, was presented with the Arctic Star after applying.

Tomorrow's presentation of the Ushakov Medal at the Mansion House will be the fifth time Mr Peeters has been honoured by Russia. An updated version of the medal is presented to recipients every ten years.