War veteran Albert Burkill has finally got a medal for facing the deadly menace of U-boats almost 70 years ago.
Shortly after his 94th birthday, the Doncaster pensioner attended a special ceremony to be presented with the Atlantic Star campaign medal for his Merchant Navy service on oil tankers during the Second World War.
Mr Burkill, who lives in Tickhill, was at the Parish Room to receive the medal from the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, David Moody, and he was also presented with a UK Merchant Seafarers’ Veterans Badge by Capt Malcolm F Mathison, vice-chairman of The Merchant Navy Association and national secretary Tim Brant.
The late award of the Atlantic Star came about when fellow Tickhill resident John Sweed found out the ex-sailor had never been given it when the war ended.
Rev Sweed said: “It was only six months ago that I first found out from Albert that he did not have a medal from his war service in the Merchant Navy. With the help of Gordon Whitehead, a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, we contacted the Ministry of Defence and the result is Albert now has the Atlantic Star.”
The ceremony was witnessed by Mr Burkill’s wife, Margaret, family friends, Don Valley MP Caroline Flint and Mayor of Tickhill Ray Hill.
Ms Flint said: “We owe a debt of thanks to the Rev John Sweed and US army veteran Gordon Whitehead, who pursued the Ministry of Defence to obtain this medal for Albert. It is incredible that Albert has waited until 94 years of age to receive this recognition.
“For three years during that war, Albert worked on ships transporting petroleum as part of the Atlantic convoys.
“It was dangerous and uncertain work, and 30,000 of those brave men were lost.
“The presentation of the Atlantic Star is recognition of the incredible role of the seamen of the Merchant Navy, without whom we could not have won that war.”
Although working in engineering meant he was in a reserved occupation, Mr Burkill was eager to play his part and joined the Merchant Navy, serving for three years as an engineer officer on board tankers.
War service had its lighter moments for young officer
Carrying valuable supplies from the United States and the colonies to Britain during the Battle of the Atlantic was fraught with danger as German U-boats, operating in ‘wolf packs’, lurked beneath the waves waiting to attack the slow-moving convoys.
Some of the convoys Mr Burkill sailed on included carrying vital aviation fuel from New York. But time ashore in New York gave the crew chance to relax - and he got the chance to see Frank Sinatra and the Ink Spots at the Stork Club, and witness the memorable night Doncaster boxer Bruce Woodcock lost a title fight to Tami Mauriello at Madison Square Garden.
After the war he worked for many years with British Rail Engineering.