Norwich man receives Russian medal 72 years on

From left, an attaché from the Russian Embassy, Dian Daynes and Arthur Towlson. Photo: Submitted

From left, an attaché from the Russian Embassy, Dian Daynes and Arthur Towlson. Photo: Submitted - Credit: SUBMITTED

As a young man he was involved in one of the most audacious raids of the Second World War, an attack on one of the mightiest ships of the German navy.

An aerial photograph taken by Arthur Towlson of the bombing of Tirpitz

An aerial photograph taken by Arthur Towlson of the bombing of Tirpitz - Credit: Arthur Towlson

Now, more than 70 years on, Arthur Towlson has received an honour in recognition of his bravery. The 94-year-old was awarded an Ushakov Medal from the Russian government for his role in Operation Tungsten, an April 1944 raid by British aircraft against the battleship Tirpitz, which was anchored in a Norwegian fjord.

The presence of the mighty warship was a major menace to the Allied Arctic convoys carrying supplies to the Soviet Union.

Operation Tungsten was aimed at neutralising that threat and saw Royal Navy aircraft launch a surprise attack on the vessel. The assault put the ship out of action for several months before it was eventually sunk by Lancaster bombers in November that year.

Mr Towlson's actions were officially recognised on Thursday following a visit by an attache from the Russian Embassy. The former pilot, from Grove Walk, in Norwich received his medal from his bed at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.


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His partner, Dian Daynes, said: 'Arthur is very humble about it and he never speaks about it unless someone asks. But these men didn't, they didn't talk about it and brag. He always described himself as a survivor.'

Mr Towlson joined the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm in December 1939 and flew the Fairey Barracuda dive bomber during the Tirpitz operation. Speaking previously to this newspaper in 2013, he recalled how the attack was carried out in daylight. He said: 'The Tirpitz was huge. I don't think we had a ship as big as that. We were briefed to attack the centre line of Tirpitz from stern to stern.

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'The bombing practice runs had shown that we could be much more accurate attacking in line than sideways. In fact when it became my turn to bomb, the ship was partially covered by smoke.' Mr Towlson also served in the Mediterranean and during the Burma campaign against Japanese forces.

After the war he worked as an architect in Norwich until his retirement in 1986.

Do you have a story celebrating one of our veterans? Email luke.powell@archant.co.uk

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