WW2 veteran gets Russian medal for his naval heroics
AWAR veteran who saw off Nazi attacks in sub-zero Arctic seas has finally been honoured by Russia seven decades later.
Dr Peter Wells, from Macclesfield, attended a special ceremony at Manchester town hall to recognise his brave efforts during the Second World War
e 89-year-old collected the Ushakov Medal for service on World War II Arctic Convoys.
This complements his British military awards, which include the Arctic Star, awarded to Convoy veterans in 2013.
In 1943, just after his 18th birthday, Peter joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer.
He served as an ordi- nary seaman on an ‘S’ class destroyer HMS Saladin, escorting convoys from the west coast of Scotland which were carrying supplies to the hard pressed Russian Forces.
Recalling his experiences, Peter said: “The massive seas we encountered buckled the forward stanchion, which supported the upper deck, but fortunately we were not stove in.
“On another occasion, I was nearly washed overboard, but managed to keep my rear in the air, and was just kept on board by the guardrail. Being washed overboard was quite a common occurrence while in convoy, and there was little or no hope of rescue. I was quite shaken by that experience but the only way to deal with it was to put it out of your mind. You would hear of men being washed over the sides quite regularly. It was frightening.”
Despite being descended from a line of Yorkshire whalers, Peter suffered badly with seasickness in the early days of his service. But somehow he got used to the treacherous conditions and rose up the ranks to gain a commission as mid-shipman in 1944.
Peter later served on minesweepers in the Mediterranean and Pacific.
He said: “That was dangerous work as well as you can imagine, but in all my years with the Navy I never saw seas as rough as those in the Arctic. Winston Churchill called the Arctic Convoy route ‘the worst journey on earth’. He was not wrong.”
There were 78 Convoys between August 1941 and May 1945, which delivered millions of tons of cargo and thousands of aircraft and tanks to the Russians.
The sailors of the Royal Navy and Merchant Marine who took part in the Convoys faced hazards that included U-Boats, German ships, mines, the Luftwaffe, icebergs, huge waves, storms and an unforgiving sea.
By the end of the war, 85 merchant navy and 16 military ships had been lost with the deaths of more than 3,000 Allied seamen.
Peter was demobbed in 1946 and returned home to train as a doctor.
For nearly a quarter of a century he ran a psychiatric service for troubled young people in Macclesfield before he retired in 1993. He now spends his time writing and painting.
Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko told war vets at the ceremony: “What you did 70 years ago, on what Winston Churchill rightly described as the worst journey in the world, was extraordinary.”
Tom Robinson from Prestbury was also awarded the convoy medal- see page 35
●● Dr Wells with his medal and, inset, Peter when he was commissioned as an officer
● Peter’s ship the HMS● Saladin and left, Peter ged 18 when he signeda up for the Royal Navy