Sister pays tribute to Arctic veteran Eddie on day of his funeral

RESPECTED Eddie Grenfell pictured at home in Portsea
RESPECTED Eddie Grenfell pictured at home in Portsea
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THE sister of Arctic Convoy veteran Eddie Grenfell has paid tribute to her brother on the day of his funeral.

The 93-year-old retired navy commander will be laid to rest today at Portsmouth’s Anglican cathedral.

He died at his daughter Trudie’s Southsea home last month after battling problems with his heart.

The veteran is best remembered for his tireless campaigning on behalf of Arctic veterans who wanted a medal to recognise their bravery in the Second World War.

But today his sister has paid a more personal tribute to the man she remembered.

Speaking from Florida, where she now lives, June Mills-Marcum told The News: ‘We will miss him so much.

‘Even if he was 93 and not in the best of health this past year, he was not expected to leave so soon.

‘Unfortunately for me, he was at sea during the war so I didn’t get to spend much time with him except for brief moments when he was home, and then it was usually spent down the shelter during an air raid.’

Eddie’s death came only three months after he received his Arctic Star medal at a ceremony in Portsmouth Guildhall.

It followed a long and often bitter fight for recognition which spanned nearly two decades.

Less than 24 hours before his death, some of Eddie’s colleagues received their medals after an armed forces parade in the city.

Hundreds are expected to turn up and pay tribute today during Eddie’s funeral at the cathedral in Old Portsmouth.

Mrs Mills-Marcum added: ‘He had such a special way with children, they loved him.

‘He was also a funny man.

‘I remember one time walking down the high street with him.

‘One of us had bought a lampshade and Eddie promptly put it on his head, covering his entire face, and began walking down the high street.

‘That was quite a sight, to see Commander Grenfell walking down the high street with a lampshade on his head.’

The funeral takes place at 11am until midday.

Anyone who would like to send donations, which will go to The Rowans Hospice, can send them to the Co-operative Funeral Directors at 131 Eastney Road, PO4 8DZ.

‘I ARGUED WITH MY MAKER THAT, AT 22, I WAS TOO YOUNG TO DIE’

COMMANDER Eddie Grenfell was known for his indomitable spirit and unbroken resolve during two battles – the war with Germany and the fight for recognition for his brave colleagues.

It was this spirit which led Cdr Grenfell to survive for 10 minutes in the freezing Arctic waters after his ship was sunk on May 27, 1942.

He was a 22-year-old radar operator on the supply ship Empire Lawrence when it was torpedoed in the icy waters.

A bubble of air from the sinking ship shot Eddie and other survivors to the surface, where he was able to find an overturned lifeboat.

He was eventually rescued by the corvette HMS Hyderabad and taken to a bombed-out military hospital in Murmansk.

What happened to Cdr Grenfell on that day understandably remained etched on his memory.

Recalling his memories for a special publication by The News, he said: ‘I hit the water, and after sailing through the air surrounded by chunks of metal, I went deep down in the icy cold sea.

‘I opened my eyes expecting to see a green sea. Instead it was a frightening black colour, probably caused by oil.

‘My lungs near bursting, I not only prayed, I argued with my maker that I was too young to die.

‘I started to sink – something was hanging from my right arm. In panic, I heaved up whatever it was and the head of someone split in two by a piece of metal broke the surface.

‘I loosened his fingers holding on to my sleeve and he drifted away. I had to swim for it.’

When Eddie and his colleagues were eventually rescued, they were wrapped in blankets and placed in bunks deep down in the ship.

After the war, he was stationed at the British Embassy, in Bonn, West Germany, and used his knowledge to advise and rebuild the nation’s navy.

Eddie added: ‘My story is no different to those of hundreds of others.

‘What we all did was get supplies to Russians, which kept them in the war.’

· Commander Eddie Grenfell. Born on January 17, 1920, died June 28, 2013.