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'He should have not survived': War veteran's brush with death remembered at funeral

PUBLISHED: 16:05 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 08 August 2019

RNPS Lowestoft. Charlie Harris in front of the memorial.
Photo: Andy Darnell
Copy: Chris Hill
For: EDP
Archant © 2007 (01603) 772434

RNPS Lowestoft. Charlie Harris in front of the memorial. Photo: Andy Darnell Copy: Chris Hill For: EDP Archant © 2007 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2007

A local stalwart who survived a brush with death and was awarded an Arctic Star has been remembered as an "integral part of that brotherhood of the sea".

RNPS Lowestoft. Charlie Harris in front of the memorial.
Photo: Andy Darnell
Copy: Chris Hill
For: EDP
Archant © 2007 (01603) 772434RNPS Lowestoft. Charlie Harris in front of the memorial. Photo: Andy Darnell Copy: Chris Hill For: EDP Archant © 2007 (01603) 772434

Charles Alfred Harris, from Lowestoft, died on July 3 at Stradbroke Court in the town aged 98, and his funeral was held on July 26 at St Margaret's church.

As a long standing member of the Royal Naval Patrol Service Association, president Garry Titmuss described the Second World War veteran as "the person you could depend on" at his funeral.

"It has become the norm for people to refer to all second world war veterans as heroes, but Charlie would hear nothing of that, as far as he was concerned he was just doing his job. The heroes were the ones that did not come back," Mr Titmuss said.

In January 1942, aged 21, Mr Harris had joined His Majesty's Trawler SHERA in Milford Haven, according to the late seaman, it was "apparent the ship was unstable" and top heavy when weapons and equipment has been added.

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Mr Titmuss said at his funeral: "It was also perhaps not a wise decision to order the SHERA to sail along with another whaler to meet up with the Arctic Convoy PQ12 and then continue along the hazardous route to the Russian port of Murmansk.

"In the Barents Sea on March 8, ice was building up on the upper deck of Charlie's ship, so much so that he and his shipmate on watch decided themselves to try and clear the ice."

While Mr Harris was sleeping, the bunk on top of him collapsed the ship lurched over and then turned on her port side.

"As he exited the hatch he was met by a scene of chaos, saw a man struggling to get free, and with one arm he pulled the man up onto the ship's side," he said.

At that point, he saw the other trawler and knew it was his only chance of survival and jumped into the freezing conditions and swam for 20 minutes.

He then found a floating cork life jacket which he hooked under his arm.

"Charlie should not have survived, but he did and I am sure that everyone who knew him is so grateful that he could be with us."

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