HE stood for hours at a time on the deck of a British cruiser in freezing temperatures, signalling to other ships in his convoy so vital supplies could get through to the Russian army in World War II.
Now Albert Stringer, who regularly ran the gauntlet in Arctic Convoys during the war, has been recognised for his war effort by the Russian Federation.
The former Royal Navy signalman received one of the country’s top war service medals for supporting the Russian people during some of their darkest hours.
Mr Stringer, who had not even turned 18 by the time he sailed on his first mission, said the award had come ‘out of the blue’ arriving with a congratulatory letter from Australia’s Russian ambassador.
“It was such a surprise,” he said.
Mr Stringer tried to enlist as part of his country’s war effort before the legal serving age.
“Both times dad came and got me but the third time mum said ‘let him go, if that’s what he really wants to do’,” he said.
As a young lad of 13 he stood beside his mother as their family home burnt down and watched the nearby Coventry Cathedral go up in flames during the blitz, which brought England to its knees during World War II.
“When I was 15 I joined the boys’ service and I was fasttracked so I actually went to war when I was 17 and a half,” Mr Stringer said.
Life onboard the Royal Navy Cruiser HMS Berwick was spartan.
“We used to do four hours on the deck signalling and four hours off. It was bitterly cold,” Mr Stringer said.
“When I knew I had to go up on deck I would put my pyjamas on and my long johns on the top and then my uniform. I could hardly get my trousers on.”
He has some memories from those days on the convoys that will stay with him forever.
While on duty one night he looked across to one of the convoy’s destroyers and saw it quickly slip beneath the waves, with all souls lost.
“The German submarines got it and there was no sound or explosion like you see in a Hollywood movie,” Mr Stringer said.
“It just slipped quietly under.”
Breaking away from the convoy to pick up survivors was not an option for any of the ships in the convoy.
“You would just be picked off so you had to keep going. We could rescue some of the lads if they came across our path but there was no going back for them,” he said.
However, Mr Stringer said, as a teenager, he saw his war service as an adventure.
“All the young fellows did then. There was no real fear, we just did the job,” he said.
Mr Stringer moved to Australia after meeting his wife Isabel on a tour of duty in Sydney.