HE ran the gauntlet of U-boats and the Luftwaffe, braved sub-zero polar temperatures and survived a double torpedo attack that led to the sinking of a Navy escort ship.
Now 70 years on, John Kermode’s widow Marjorie – who is 89 in two weeks’ time – has applied for him to be presented with a medal from the British government for his role in the infamous Arctic convoys.
And Marjorie, who lives in the Cooil-ny-Marrey sheltered housing complex in Ramsey, believes that there may be other widows and relatives of survivors of convoys living in the island who could be eligible for the Arctic Star – but may be unaware of the recent announcement that the medals are finally to be awarded.
She said: ‘The convoys were a real suicide mission. It’s taken 70 years for the crews to get recognised. My husband would have been 93 if he was still alive today. I want the medal for my boys.
‘Nobody seems to know about this medal. It’s not been well publicised. A neighbour of mine came across the website while surfing the internet.
‘I just want to let people know about it as there may be other survivors of the convoys in the island – and it’s not just survivors or their widows but their children and grandchildren.’
The Arctic Star recognises the service of Royal Navy and merchant sailors who delivered vital aid to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945.
It is thought between 200 and 400 sailors, all now in their late 80s at their youngest, survive what Churchill acknowledged was ‘the worst journey in the world’ in which crewmen endured constant attack by enemy submarines, aircraft and surface ships as well as atrocious polar weather conditions. If ships were sunk, sailors perished in minutes in freezing waters.
Marjorie’s husband was just 19 when he joined the Navy in November 1939 as a blacksmith. After training in Plymouth, he joined the crew of the HMS Edinburgh, a Navy cruiser which was subsequently tasked with escorting the Arctic convoys taking vital supplies to the Russian port of Murmansk.
Returning from Murmansk in April 1942 with a 4.5 ton cargo of gold bullion intended as payment for Allied supplies to the Soviet Union, HMS Edinburgh was torpedoed twice by a U-boat. Marjorie’s husband should have been in the engine room, where the first torpedo struck, but he survived because he had gone on deck to the forge. Edinburgh, having sustained a second torpedo attack, was scuttled to prevent the gold getting into Nazi hands.
John met Marjorie on Paddington station in 1946 when both were returning to Plymouth from leave.
They married the following year and went on to have four sons and one daughter.
After completing his Navy career as a Petty Officer, John worked as an agricultural engineer for Booth W. Kelly in Ramsey.
He died in 1997.