Old sailor Fred Peeters has waited 68 years to receive a medal for surviving the last Royal Navy ship to be sunk during the war in Europe.
The Doncaster OAP endured half a dozen Arctic Convoys during the Second World War but it was the final one that almost cost him his life.
Now Fred, a sprightly retired foreman who celebrates his 89th birthday tomorrow, can proudly display the new Arctic Star along with his other naval campaign medals.
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.
Long wait for survivor of frigate sinking
Fred knew nothing about the recently-created Arctic Star until an old Navy friend living in New Zealand told him.
“He suggested I apply and I didn’t think I’d hear anything and then a letter came to say the medal would be sent.
“I’ve never been a seeker of glory but I’m pleased to have it now. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad we have finally got recognition.”
Fred who has lived in Askern for almost 25 years with his wife, Gladys, after spending most of his life in Essex, is the third Doncaster man to have been awarded the medal, which follows a long campaign by the veterans who felt the hardship they suffered on the convoys to the USSR.merited a separate campaign medal.
What do you think: Have our war heroes had to wait too long to receive their medals?