'All we had to worry about was the U-boats' - says World War 2 veteran Eric Brunning
ROYAL Navy veteran Eric Brunning has been awarded a prestigious new medal for his part in protecting British maritime convoys from the threat of German U-boats during the Second World War.
Yorkshire-born Mr Brunning, 88, who now lives in Cainscross, served as a submarine detector operator aboard the American-built frigate HMS Berry between 1943 and 1946.
The vessel was tasked with escorting merchant ships across the North Atlantic and also took part in a mission through the treacherous Arctic Circle in the winter of 1945, for which Mr Brunning has been honoured with the Arctic Star medal.
Introduced last year by the Government, the medal recognises the courage and bravery of the Royal Navy sailors who endured horrendous weather conditions, sub-zero temperatures and enemy attack as they guarded supply convoys heading for Russia.
Mr Brunning was responsible for monitoring HMS Berry's sonar equipment as the frigate took its turn at the front of one of the convoys, scouring the waters ahead for signs of danger.
Sitting on the ship's bridge and wearing headphones, Mr Brunning would listen for echoes picked up by the radar system.
The pings he heard would come from the presence of fish, whales, dolphins, tides, wrecks, rocks or enemy submarines stalking the Allied vessels.
"We were an anti-submarine sweeping escort for a convoy of merchant ships taking supplies to Russia," Mr Brunning recalled.
"We escorted them as far as the Kola inlet where they dispersed unharmed.
"I had spent a long time in the North Atlantic before being part of the Arctic convoy. It was towards the end of the campaign when I went there."
The humble and self-effacing veteran added: "I only did the one voyage in the Arctic so to be honest with you I feel a bit unworthy to be the recipient of the same medal as those who were engaged in the earlier convoys, which were exposed to surface vessel attack and attack from the Luftwaffe.
"All we had to worry about was the U-boats," he added, without a hint of irony.
Mr Brunning's striking humility is matched only by his sense of humour - he describes his wife Dorothy, whom he met at school, not as his 'childhood sweetheart' but as his 'school day antagonist'.
Asked whether he was ever frightened by the prospect of a German submarine lurking below the depths, Mr Brunning said he only ever felt excitement when at sea.
"I was 18 years-old when I joined and I was imbued with the bloody stupidity of youth. I couldnÕt even swim," he said.
"Was I ever worried though? No, I don't think so. I was excited."
After the war finished, Mr Brunning spent one more year with the Royal Navy working to clear the North Atlantic of underwater mines before he moved to Stroud and joined the police.
He served with Gloucestershire constabulary for 31 years, retiring in 1977.
The Arctic Star wasn't the first medal the father-of-two received for his service during the Second World War, having previously been decorated by the Russians in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the campaign.
But this latest recognition is sure to occupy a special place in his heart.
"I'm proud enough of the medal but I don't want to make too much of a fuss," he said.
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