WW2 veteran gets Rus­sian medal for his naval hero­ics

Macclesfield Express - - HEALTH MATTERS - STU­ART GREER

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

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