Norfolk World War Two hero involved in the Arctic Convoys receives medal

Kenneth Dearn has received a medal from the Russian ambassador for service in Arctic convoys to Russia during WW2. 
Picture by SIMON FINLAY. Kenneth Dearn has received a medal from the Russian ambassador for service in Arctic convoys to Russia during WW2. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Thursday, September 4, 2014
4:08 PM

A veteran who served in the Navy during Second World War has received the Ushakov medal after his involvement in the Arctic Convoys which helped transport ammunition to Russia.

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HMS Swift, on which Kenneth Dearn served, sinking off the coast of Normandy 1944.HMS Swift, on which Kenneth Dearn served, sinking off the coast of Normandy 1944.

90-year-old Kenneth Dearn, who lives in Hellesdon, was awarded his medal by the Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko at the Russian Embassy in London last month.

Mr Dearn’s ceremony was one in a series in which all British service personnel involved in the Arctic Convoys, which saw four million tons of crucial supplies and ammunition transported to Russia between 1941 and 1945, awarded the medal after the ban on British veterans receiving foreign medals was lifted by the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Conscripted by the Royal Navy when he was 18, Mr Dearn was an engine stoker on the destroyer HMS Swift which helped protect the merchant ships carrying the cargo from German air, naval, U-Boats and land attacks, in what many described as “suicide missions” before the ship was involved in the Normandy Landings.

“It’s not so much about the medal as about the principle of it, of finally being allowed to have it,” said Mr Dearn, who was born in Great Yarmouth.

Kenneth Dearn during WW2
.Kenneth Dearn during WW2 .

The Arctic route took the ships from the top of Scotland, past Iceland, over the top of German occupied Norway and into Russia’s northern ports of Archangel and Murmansk and Mr Dearn describes the cold conditions the servicemen had to face all year round.

“Everything was covered in ice, and it was thick ice. It was bitter all year round, if you went overboard, you only had three to four minutes to survive.

“We were under threat from German U-Boats, which you couldn’t detect, from the air and the route took us close to occupied Norway.

“You just had to put it all out of your mind, if you thought about what might have happened to you, you wouldn’t do it.”

HMS Swift was involved in the Normandy Landings which took place on June 6 1944, with the ship patrolling the English Channel and bombarding German forces to help the allied troops onto shore.

After D-Day, the destroyer was sent on patrols around the Normandy coast to keep an eye on Germany naval movements before the ship sunk on June 24 1944.

“18 days after D-Day we were doing night patrols and as we were anchoring the ship hit a mine and it blew in half. I jumped off and was in the water for about 30 minutes before a landing barge picked several of us up. 53 men died,” said Mr Dearn, who has two daughters who was born in Great Yarmouth.

“I had just changed shift so had come up onto the deck, the mine exploded near the boiler room, I had someone watching me that day.”

Mr Dearn served until the end of the war, marrying his wife Dorothy, who passed away last year, in 1948. The couple have two daughters and Mr Dearn worked for DCL Yeast before moving to Australia and working in the Insurance business for 13 years.

• Have you got a story about our war veterans? Email rebecca.murphy@archant.co.uk

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