DUNKIRK VETERAN’S EXPERIENCE OF WAR:
97-year-old Victor Chanter captured the hearts of the nation as one of the Lark Hill Village residents on the television series Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds. The Dunkirk veteran tells JAMIE BARLOW about his experience of war and losing comrades
A 97-YEAR-OLD Royal Navy veteran who starred in a Channel 4 television series has described what it was like to serve in the Second World War and the heartbreak of losing close friends.
Victor Chanter, who lives at Lark Hill Retirement Village, in Clifton, served as a visual communicator, sending messages to war ships.
The Dunkirk veteran, who also served in Rosyth, Edinburgh, said there was a real camaraderie with those on board.
“It was a continuation of school time. You make friends, you have enemies probably – not many of them hopefully,” he said.
“You blend together – if you’re on a ship you have to work together. That’s what it was all about.
“You had to have the running-up exercises and things like that to get to know each other and how you fit in. If someone’s lagging behind you, you cheer them up a bit.
“You miss those pals afterwards. Especially when the ship’s running comfortably, and it’s all doing well, you want to stay together. Of course the skipper does as well or the admiral or whoever’s in charge.”
He said he served on HMS Southampton and HMS Galatea and also saw service in the Mediterranean.
He admitted that when there were casualties he often had no idea what happened to his friends.
“It makes it very bad if it’s someone you know,” he said.
“Sometimes you don’t know if you’ve lost them or not. They’re in different ships or even ashore and they get killed and you never hear
“There were certain times when I knew because I was in the convoy service in the Mediterranean and you get allotted a tanker or something like that to go as a liaison as a signalman. You knew very well someone had gone on a certain ship.
“When that got hit, you thought: ‘I wonder if it’s got away whoever he is.’ If it went down you probably never found out what happened to them – one of your mates or whoever it was.
“But you knew the ship you’d been allotted to had gone down.
“You had no time to check-up on people like that. It’s a shame really. You just thought: ‘Oh, I’ve lost another pal.’
“It happened a lot in the Mediterranean. It was a real graveyard, especially around Greece and Crete.”
He was on standby for five years after the end of the war but was never called up again.
Mr Chanter appeared in the series called Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds filmed at the retirement village, which is the largest in Britain.
The programme created a nursery inside the care home where the residents took part in activities with children and befriended them as part of a social experiment.
On the back of the show, he has been asked to go into schools and talk to pupils about his experiences.
Troops on board a Navy destroyer being evacuated from Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo in June 1940.
Victor Chanter, 97 of Lark Hill Village at The War Memorial in Victoria Embankment