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Darlington war veteran set to receive Russian naval medal
A VETERAN who survived a torpedo attack whilst serving on Second World War destroyers is set to receive a naval medal from the Russian government.
Bill Barker, 91, served as a torpedo man on Royal Navy destroyer convoys in the Arctic Ocean throughout the war.
He was involved in the shelling of Brittany beach during the D-Day Landings and part of a fleet responsible for attacking Nazi convoys as they returned to Germany from Norway to defend their country from the Allied forces.
In July Mr Barker, of Darlington, was awarded the Arctic Star medal and has now received a letter telling him that once checks are made he is likely to receive the Russian equivalent; the Ushakov medal.
He said: “I was surprised to get the first medal, and surprised when I got the letter about the Russian one, especially after such a long time.
“I don’t think we recognise these things enough in this country – if you look at the Americans they have tonnes of medals across their chests because they got them for anything.
“There were 30,000 merchant seaman and naval personnel who were killed in the convoys, so I was very lucky.”
Mr Barker admitted that he was “terrified” for much of his naval campaign – having joined the convoys at just 16-years-old in May 1939 – but said he was proud of his contribution to the war effort.
He still has vivid memories of his time on the boats and said that despite the cold, the terrible living conditions and the constant fear of attack, he does have some fond memories of his time served.
He said: “We managed to have some laughs and I knew some great men.
“I am glad I did it, I would not have missed it for the world.”
One of Mr Barker’s most dramatic experiences came when his boat was torpedoed in a Dakar port, leading to crewmen dying in front of him.
He said: “It was terrifying, and you were too scared to go and help.
“But when you are brought up as a boy in the navy there is a thing called discipline and you might be frightened to death but you just do the job.”
Mr Barker left the navy in 1947 and returned to Darlington where he worked as a railway engineer for 39-years.
He married his wife Irene in 1949 and the couple still live together in the Neasham Road area of Darlington.
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