91-year-old former WW2 radar operator receives Arctic Star service medal at Ilford nursing home
PUBLISHED: 09:29 07 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:59 07 May 2013
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A 91-year-old former World War Two radar operator, who was involved in what Sir Winston Churchill described as the "worst journey on earth", has received a medal for his bravery.
Leonard Austin, who joined the Royal Navy in 1942, was presented with the Arctic Star, his eleventh medal, at Woodlands Nursing Home, Gordon Road, Ilford, on Wednesday of last week by Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Muhammed Javed.
The veteran sailed in the Arctic Convoys, where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, delivering vital aid to the Soviet Union while dodging enemy submarine, air and ship attacks.
Leonard’s son, Ken Austin, 62, of Woking, said: “My father is 50 per cent paralysed, but when I told him about the medal he managed to give me a thumbs up, and a beaming smile.
“During his time in the Navy, he always told me that ship’s weren’t allowed to stop to help others as it would make them vulnerable. However on one occasion their captain announced they would be stopping to pick up some casualties and they must be very quiet.
“On chatting to one of the men they had helped, my father discovered that he lived around the corner from him, quite some feat in an entire ocean.”
On returning home, the soldier he had met visited Leonard’s parents in Ashburton Avenue, Goodmayes, to reassure them their was son was fine and that he “had a nice captain”.
Leonard was also based on the King George V battleship for the D-Day landings on June 6, also his birthday, and by chance, while stationed in Alexandria, met up with his brother for the first time in three years who was also there.
Leonard’s wife of 19 years, Pat, 87, of Woodford Green, added: “He was so happy and very surprised to be receiving the Arctic Star after all these years. He said he wished he could do the whole day again.
“He so felt so proud to have been in the navy and happy his work was recognised.”