Merchant Navy veteran flies from Canada to finally receive war medals in Portsmouth

John Sale
John Sale
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

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A MERCHANT navy veteran flew all the way from Canada to be presented with medals he earned during his wartime service in Portsmouth.

John Sale, 95, was a merchant seaman who helped supply the naval fleet during the Second World War.

His service saw him spent around six years at sea travelling around the world on board cargo ships and oil tankers in the Atlantic as well as during the treacherous Arctic Convoy missions.

Mr Sale never collected the medals he earned for his hard work, so his family arranged for him to fly to Portsmouth to be presented with them by the Lord Mayor Steven Wylie.

Mr Sale said: ‘I lost every ship I was ever on, they all went down at some point, so for me this was about collecting my medals on behalf of the thousands we lost.

‘It feels good to finally get them and I’m so pleased to be back in Portsmouth.’

Mr Sale said he has decided to move back to Portsmouth from Canada, where he emigrated after some of his children moved to Ontario.

Mr Sale added: ‘I intend to come back to live in Portsmouth soon and stay here for the rest of my life.

‘A lot has changed since I left here decades ago – the most noticeable thing being Gunwharf Quays which I think is wonderful.’

Mr Sale lived in Portsmouth for many years, and ran a signmaking ship for more than 20 years.

He served as a bosun’s mate in the merchant navy.

‘I spent about three years in the Atlantic,’ he said.

‘And that was the worst – we lost about 60,000 men there. We were out in one big battle and we lost 33 ships and I remember seeing hundreds of lifejackets in the water.’

Mr Sale was invited to the Lord Mayor’s parlour at Portsmouth Guildhall yesterday to receive his medals in front of his 
children and family.

Cllr Wylie, the Lord Mayor, said: ‘I think it’s great that we’ve been able to finally do this for him.

‘He told me about all those journeys that he did and it’s just another inspiring story.

‘Being the home of the navy it’s fantastic to do this here in Portsmouth and highlight this and do something for someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to get their medals.

‘It’s been great to host them in the Lord Mayor’s parlour and give them some of the grandeur that they deserve.’