War hero honoured at last for Arctic missions

Alan Beck's late grandfather's (pictured) Albert Tungate has been honoured with The Arctic Star medal. Picture: Ian Burt Alan Beck's late grandfather's (pictured) Albert Tungate has been honoured with The Arctic Star medal. Picture: Ian Burt

Friday, May 2, 2014
9:59 AM

A hero of two world wars has finally been given official recognition for his role in a brutal and vital mission – 37 years after his death.

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Alan Beck's late grandfather's Albert Tungate has been honoured with The Arctic Star medal. Picture: Ian BurtAlan Beck's late grandfather's Albert Tungate has been honoured with The Arctic Star medal. Picture: Ian Burt

An Arctic Star has been awarded posthumously to Wells man Albert Tungate for his work on the Arctic convoys of the Second World War.

Mr Tungate, who died aged 83 in 1977, served on the Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Speedwell.

He and his colleagues played a vital role helping to escort merchant ships loaded with tanks, warplanes, guns, jeeps and other crucial supplies to Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union after the giant communist state was attacked by Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

The government awarded its first Arctic Star medals last year after calls for the tens of thousands of veterans who served in the Arctic convoys to be properly recognised.

Alan Beck's late grandfather's Albert Tungate has been honoured with The Arctic Star medal. Picture: Ian BurtAlan Beck's late grandfather's Albert Tungate has been honoured with The Arctic Star medal. Picture: Ian Burt

Mr Tungate’s grandson, Alan Beck, who lives on Northfield Avenue, Wells, applied to the Ministry of Defence for the medal on his grandfather’s behalf.

It has arrived in the last few days.

Mr Beck, 42, who is manager of French’s fish and chip shop in Wells, said: “I felt it was really important to get this official recognition for my grandfather.

“The Second World War could have turned out differently if it hadn’t been for the work of him and his colleagues.

“My grandfather died when I was six, so I never knew him very well, but I know he was proud of the service which he gave to his country and he, and my mother, Albert’s daughter, who died 18 months ago, would be delighted that he has finally received this recognition.”

The sailors faced repeated attacks by German U-boats, surface warships and long-range Luftwaffe bombers in mountainous seas, freezing temperatures and gale-force winds.

Mr Tungate and his comrades would have battled bone-chilling temperatures plunging to a deadly -50C as thick ice coated British and Allied ships heading north to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel deep inside the Arctic Circle.

Mr Beck added: “It was a brutal mission in very difficult conditions.

“Many suffered frostbite. My grandfather was one of the few to come out of it without injury.”

Mr Tungate, who also worked as trainee chemist in Wells and a forester at the Holkham Estate, served as an able seaman with the Royal Navy in both world wars.

He now has nine war medals for his service.

At 5ft 1ins tall, he was known to many as “little Jimmy.”

Mr Beck said he had become fascinated by military history and is enjoying learning more about his grandfather’s wartime exploits.

He said: “He was one of the youngest able seamen in the First World War, at 18, and because he didn’t want extra responsibilities, he was one of the oldest able seamen in the Second World War when he was in his 50s.”

He added: “I heard one story about, how in the Second World War, he was 24 hours late returning for service.

“The ship he was supposed to be on was torpedoed and everyone on it died.

“He was incredibly fortunate that he got his dates wrong on that day.”

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