Tommy, 101, finally gets his Arctic Star

Tommy Leanord with Commodore Dickie Baum
Tommy Leanord with Commodore Dickie Baum

Royal Navy veteran Tommy Leonard has survived being sunk three times, being classified as dead, and he finally received his Arctic Star medal as a centenarian.

Tommy, who is 102 in August, was presented with the medal by Commodore Dickie Baum, for his service on the Arctic Convoys.

Tommy, front right, with a group of Yorkshire Lads during his naval service

Tommy, front right, with a group of Yorkshire Lads during his naval service

It was only in December that Prime Minister David Cameron announced the creation of the Arctic Star medal.

Thousands of men lost their lives on the convoys taking supplies to the Soviet Union on what Sir Winston Churchill called the “worst journey in the world.”

Tommy, who lives at Savile Park Care Home, Halifax, was called up into the Royal Navy in 1941 when he was aged 30.

He was a gunner on HMS Pozarica which was part of the ill-fated Arctic Convoy PQ17 and later when it was torpedoed off North Africa.

He then served on HMS Birmingham which was also torpedoed. His last ship was the Aldenham which hit a mine and sunk in two minutes.

“I was always there when something was going off,” said Tommy.

“There are some memories that won’t pass my lips.”

His daughter Kathleen Daveney said over the years he had talked about the terrors of being under constant attack on the Pozarica.

“He recalls watching it go down very slowly and helping to get his pals who had died and those who were injured to shore,” she said.

And, on the Aldenham on which he suffered a broken spine and at a reunion about 20 years ago discovered his name in a book of remembrance: “Dad recalls going down under the weight of his duffle coat and expecting not to survive. When he did resurface he watched the ship split completely in two as she sank.”

Commodore Baum said he was awestruck by Tommy’s exploits and he was an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

“Tommy’s story shows the sacrifice people like Tommy made and some of his shipmates made the ultimate sacrifice.”

After the war Tommy returned to Halifax to continue working at Fletcher Brothers Dye Works as a labourer for a further 37 years.