Hospice brings war veterans together 70 years after Arctic combat
war veterans from Burnham-On-Sea and Weston who are to be awarded
the Arctic Star medal have been inadvertently reunited at a local
Walker, 93, from Southern Lea Road in Burnham and John Wyatt,
89, from Weston, both served in the Arctic Circle with the Royal
Navy in World War II.
two gentlemen did not know each other before attending Weston
Hospicecare's Day Hospice, but have now become firm friends.
Walker joined before the war broke out and served for 15 years
as an (AB) Torpedoman. He joined the Crew on the HMS Zambesi,
a destroyer, in 1944 as part of an escort convoy. They were dispatched
as an escort for a Russian Convoy. On the way they were sent to
evacuate the population of Soroy, a small island just off Norway,
which was under attack by the Germans.
who remembers the experience well, said: "We left Scapa Flow
and were told we were heading to Russia. There was only one duffle
coat to share, once we finished our watch we would hand it to
the next shipmate so he could keep warm on his watch!"
picked up around 500 women and children from Soroy where German
soldiers had destroyed the village and captured their men. We
took them to empty convoy ships. Unfortunately, one of the ships
holding the evacuees ran into engine trouble shortly afterwards
and was attacked by German aircraft. We circled back for those
who were left and got them securely on to another ship for them
to be brought to safety in Russia."
days later, in the early hours, we ran into rough weather with
waves of about 40ft. A piece of the ships equipment broke
loose in the early hours and we were sent out to fix it when one
of the lads got washed over-board. Id lost shipmates before
on my first ship The HMS Isis. One in particular was a good friend
and when he died I wrote to his sister. We kept in contact via
letters and sending pictures for four years. We finally met and
everything clicked, we fell in love and married."
nice to be recognised for what we did because it was a hard life.
We were one of the poorest Navies and we had to make our own food
and mend our own clothes but I liked it, it was a good
Wyatt joined the Navy in 1942 as a medic on the HMS Smiter. He
said: "I only did one run up to the Arctic Circle. I remember
it was freezing, so cold that sometimes your eyelids froze."
was a hard life, you did your job and I was one of the lucky ones
who made it home again. Im glad to receive the Arctic Star
Medal, but its a shame it didnt come sooner as there
arent very many of us to accept it now. It was great to
meet John, it's nice to have someone to talk to not only about
what we are dealing with now, but also to exchange stories about
Stewart, a sister at the day hospice, said: "It is humbling
to know John and John, men who went through so much for their
country, and it is fascinating to listen to their stories of difficulties
so few of us can even imagine. It's fantastic to see them finally
getting the recognition they deserve after all these years of
Top, John Walker (left) and John Wyatt who have been reunited