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East Ham veteran Allan Florence’s joy at receiving medal

Allan Florence, 90, with the Ushakov Medal that he was recently awarded Allan Florence, 90, with the Ushakov Medal that he was recently awarded

Saturday, June 7, 2014
1:04 PM

Nearly 70 years after the end of the Second World War, British sailors who braved German attacks and bitter cold on Arctic convoys have been honoured. Here we tell the stories of two east London heroes.

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Allan Florence in uniformAllan Florence in uniform

Allan Florence, 90, from Hatherley Gardens, in East Ham served on board HMS Activity when it played its part in the Arctic Convoys.

Although he can remember very little, due to suffering from Alzheimer’s, Allan’s son James said he was “very excited” at receiving the Ushakov Medal.

He said: “He is very pleased and has been showing it to everyone.”

James remembers his father telling him how he cycled with friends to a recruiting office in Epping to sign up.

James said: “One of the stories he has told us about was when he was on leave at home in East Ham. They were in an air raid shelter when they heard all the roof slates coming off the roof.

“The house was on fire, so he ran upstairs to put it out with a bucket full of earth. It was the bedclothes that were alight. Then the air raid warden joined in and pushed down on everything so hard that it fell through the floor to the dining room and kitchen.

“His mother, my nan, was absolutely fuming because it burnt the carpet downstairs. She was really upset because she was so house-proud.”

Another story Allan told James was about docking in Russia: “He said, when they were let off the ship in Russia, they scrambled up to some fences and looked through them. They saw a noose and then they saw all these rifles pointing towards them, so they scarpered back to the ship and made sure they never went off it again.”

Nick Hewitt, naval historian at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said HMS Activity was an escort carrier which served as a platform for aircraft which tackled German U-boats and submarines. Although the ship only served on the Arctic convoys for a short spell, she did escort one convoy in which her aircraft sank several U-boats.

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