NINETY-ONE year old Ivor Frost braved the bitter chills of the Arctic during seven years of dedicated service to the navy, and has been awarded the Arctic Star in recognition of his efforts.
Ivor, of Rodbourne, joined the navy in 1939 when he was 17, and served in Dunkirk, the Mediterranean, and the Arctic, despite not being able to swim.
“I don’t really enjoy the attention, because I am quite a quiet person,” admitted Ivor at his award ceremony.
He said he had been thrown into service because the navy recruits were scarce.
“While I was in there they were so short of men, they were desperate,” he said. “When Dunkirk was going on there were not enough people to help get everyone off the beaches.
“They got all of us trainees together and got us down to Dover straight away. We had to pick up the boats and load them onto a merchant ship to take us over. They threw the boats down away from the shore and we had to row back and forward. “We were there for the best part of a week trying to get people to safety.
“While we were waiting there one of the bridges blew, cutting a lot of them off. We would fill the boats and help push them out, with water up to our waists and higher. “There were French, Belgians and Polish there as well, and they all had the same chance. Not all of them were lucky. They were being bombarded by dive bombers the whole time all along the beach.”
Ivor joined two convoys to the Arctic taking supplies to Russian troops, and his ship, HMS Dido, even gave pursuit to the infamous German battleship Bismarck near Norway.
“Often it was so cold we would be chipping ice from the ship,” said Ivor. “We were bringing all the supplies to the Russians, because they were up there with nothing. “They were so short of ships we were in high demand.
“We then ended up in the Mediterranean for three years, and while in Greece our ship got hit. “They sent us out there to take troops to northern Greece because we were occupying it. “The Germans were pushing us the whole time, and it was like Dunkirk but on a smaller scale.
“We got the troops off safely but a German ship had spotted us. “We had to wait until dawn to leave, and while we were waiting a spotting plane came over us. It started dive bombing and they attacked the troop ship. In their last attack we were hit on the port side, which blew a turret off and went through the side of the ship just below water level.
“They didn’t come back, luckily for us. We only had two guns in action at the time. A lot of water was coming in, so we emptied the oil and water tanks to the opposite side of the ship. We came into harbour at an angle, leaning to one side.“ The award was presented by Mayor of Swindon, Nick Martin, at Orchid Vale Care Home where Ivor lives.
“Ivor is superb,” said Coun Martin. “It does feel embarassing that this is 70 years late. I was astonished how many of these convoy veterans are still living in Wiltshire.”