Double celebration for 90 year old veteran

tis   Leslie Mackown with his Arctic Star.  (130621M5b)
tis Leslie Mackown with his Arctic Star. (130621M5b)

A Second World War veteran is celebrating twice this week after receiving his Arctic Star medal and turning 90 years old within days of each other.

Leslie Mackown from Bilton waited almost 70 years to receive his Arctic Star medal for his Royal Navy service during the Second World War.

“It just came through the post, I nearly tripped over it after it came through the letterbox.”

Mr Mackown was just 18 years old when he voluntarily enlisted to fight for his country in 1941.

“My three brothers and brother-in-law went into the army so I chose the Navy to be different.

“I served on the HMS Whitehall, 30 of us new recruits joined the ship at the same time.”

The Arctic Convoys escorted merchant ships delivering vital supplies to Russia and more than 3,000 servicemen died on the dangerous missions.

Mr Mackown was one of the lucky ones and his ship was never hit.

“We were never hit but came close. I remember one particular battle on Christmas day. There were ships falling everywhere.” he said.

The treacherous missions took the ships into the arctic circle.

Mr Mackown said: “One time we were in an arctic storm, an extreme storm that damaged the ship.

“We were on stand by to abandon ship. We had no food during the storm, we survived on rum and biscuits.”

Mr Mackown said his ship sunk three U-boats during the war and he witnessed the full horror of war.

“I remember a man dying before my eyes.

“We were rescuing people from the sea after an attack.

“The man had oil in his lungs from being in the seas. I offered him a cigarette and he just dropped dead.

“It was the first time I saw death, I was only 18.”

Mr Mackown turned his back on military life at the end of the war. He returned to his job as an electrician and met his wife Enid whom he married at St Luke’s Church in 1951 and the couple have four children, nine grandchildren and two great children.

The family will be celebrating Mr Mackown’s 90th birthday with a meal at The Smiths Arms in Beckwithshaw.

“It’ll be nice all the family who live locally together,” said Mrs Mackown.