Foulden’s Arctic Convoy hero to receive medal

PETER Daniel of Foulden is to be awarded a service medal as a survivor of a dangerous Royal Navy operation during World War Two.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 2nd March 2013, 5:55 am

The government’s decision to award medals to veterans of the Arctic Convoys, one of the most dangerous operations of World War Two, has been welcomed by veteran groups.

The convoys saw 3,000 servicemen die in the Arctic Sea as they worked to transport vital supplies to Russia between 1941-45.

After more than 60 years of pressure, it was announced this week that veterans would receive a specific medal - the Arctic Star medal.

Sign up to our daily Berwickshire News Today newsletter

Peter is one of those survivors who have been invited to apply for the medal.

He joined the Royal Navy straight from school, aged just 18, and immediately found himself running a gauntlet of German U-boat and plane attacks between Scotland and Arkhangelsk in northern Russia.

He was one of the crew of the HMS Flamborough Head, part of the fleet that escorted supply ships across the Arctic Sea.

Conditions may have been tough, but Peter was at least glad of certain small mercies: “I remember it being a great adventure,” he told ‘The Berwickshire News’, “and at least I wasn’t trying to fly those damned planes!

“The ship, my very first ship, was an aircraft carrier, and there wasn’t a great deal of room to land planes on it.

“They were flying these incredibly out of date Swordfish biplanes. I didn’t envy them that.

“My role was to be the captain’s writer, so I was in charge of writing up reports to the admiralty and things like that.

“It was very cold, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that for most of the journey we were trying to repair broken pipes. That was a major problem.”

Speed was naturally of the essence protecting convoys, said Peter: “We basically tried to scuttle in and out as quickly as possible. We would get stuck in storms, which was worse than anything.”

There were lighter moments in Peter’s navy career, as he remembers: “We used to enjoy what we called ‘organised sport’, which was really just us in the local pubs.

“So when I was applying for a commission, my superior officer put on his report that I was ‘a keen rugby footballer’, which wasn’t exactly the ‘organised sport’ we meant!”

And after braving what Winston Churchill called “the worst journey in the world,” the danger didn’t let up, even in British waters.

Peter remembers returning from one convoy run, only for the ship to slip its mooring and drift across Scapa Flow, off the Orkneys. And once the missions were over, an administrative error meant that the sailors weren’t paid off on time, which led, says Peter, to “a lot of time spent living for free in Edinburgh pubs.”

He welcomes the late award of the medal, especially after several attempts by Russia to honour the convoy heroes were rebuffed by Britain over the years.

“They definitely appreciate the efforts that we made much more than over here,” says Peter.

“I have a Russian friend who is determined to come over and visit, to see me with my medal.

“I’m very much looking forward to it, especially because those crews seemed to separate after the war.

“Things like the Russian Convoy Club have helped to keep in contact to some degree, but I’m definitely going to apply for the new medal.”