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Chilling horror of the Artic U-boat menace

PUBLISHED: 16:09 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:10 11 August 2010

A FORMER Navy stoker who witnessed the horrors of war in the Arctic has told of the sacrifices made to rid the world of a brutal dictatorship. Arthur King, 87, of Whiting Avenue, Barking, served on HMS Domett, a Captain class frigate. It was part of the

A FORMER Navy stoker who witnessed the horrors of war in the Arctic has told of the sacrifices made to rid the world of a brutal dictatorship.

Arthur King, 87, of Whiting Avenue, Barking, served on HMS Domett, a Captain class frigate.

It was part of the lifeline Arctic convoys bringing food to Russians fighting the Nazis in Murmansk, from 1943 until the end of the war.

He and his fellow sailors were under constant threat from German U-boats (submarines), which could have blown them up at any time.

He said: "Most of the time it was very sad because you lost a lot of mates.''

Those who survived a U-boat attack would jump overboard - but invariably perished in the icy waters because helping them would have been too dangerous.

"We could not stop to pick them up because that meant the Germans would blow us up,'' said Arthur.

"As much as you wanted to, as they screamed for help, you could not help. That happened quite a few times - quite a few times too many.

"We had to be on our toes 24 hours a day. If you got hit you did not stand a large chance. It was up to you to jump.

"It was either 'stand and see what is coming to you or freeze to death.'

"You saw your mates from other ships floating by in the water, screaming for help and you could not stop to pick them up."

But Arthur was not even meant to be fighting.

His father, Richard, fought in the First World War and did not want his son to follow suit, so sent him to work in a Stratford foundry.

"My father got me in there to stop me from going into the service. I thought joining the Navy would be the lesser of two evils.''

His father was not impressed. Arthur said: "He called me all the silly things he could lay his tongue on."

Arthur was in Australia when VE Day was declared. His vessel was sent to America to be scrapped and he returned home to wife Ellen.

They had married just before he left for the war, when he was 21.

Arthur had met her at 17 when he lived in Stratford. He used to go to the cinema with a neighbour, who brought along the 15-year-old Ellen one day.

"We were together since then," said Arthur. "She was a very quaint lady. She never did things by halves."

Ellen, who passed away in April, was a hard worker, too. She managed the household, brought up two daughters and still found time to work for Worms shipping firm in Barking and as a British Home Stores' window dresser.

Arthur, a former carpenter, said: "She never complained. She did everything for me. Sometimes I wonder if she was too good.


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