Final farewell to a heroic navy veteran

A Royal Navy veteran who survived Arctic temperatures, U-boat attacks, mine explosions and the D-Day landings sadly died on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 12th January 2017, 12:00 pm
John Sneddon and his daughter Louise Paterson were in Paisley for the presentation of Johns Legion dHonneur medal last year

John Sneddon (90) passed away suddenly and was buried in Bo’ness Cemetery last week.

In his last years the Bo’ness man enjoyed a quiet and peaceful time in sheltered housing in Falkirk’s Thornhill Court but there was nothing quiet, peaceful or sheltered about his early life when he and his shipmates defied the Nazis during the dangerous days of World War Two.

An able seaman on board destroyer HMS Swift from 1943 to 1944, John took part in the Arctic Convoys which helped ensure vital supplies reached the Soviet Union. The convoys were almost a sitting target for German U-boats and 100 merchant ships were sunk over a three-year period.

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HMS Swift fell victim to a mine off the coast of Normandy on June 24, 1944, while supporting the D-Day landings, plunging John and his shipmates into the sea and costing 44 crew members their lives.

John ended his wartime naval career serving aboard a minesweeper, clearing mines from Malta to China and on his return to civilian life he worked for ICI in Grangemouth.

Entering his twilight years John started to get the recognition he so thoroughly deserved for his wartime exploits.

Given the Freedom of Falkirk and awarded the Ushakov medal from Russia he also received the Arctic Star for his time on the Arctic Convoys and just last year was awarded the Legion d’Honneur for his service during D-Day.

Sadly John’s wife of 50 years, Jessie, died in 2006 and never saw him receive his final two medals, but his daughter Louise Paterson, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren were able to share his happiness.

In an ending worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster, John came to the attention of the international media at the D-Day celebrations in Normandy in 2009.

Getting on the wrong bus, John and his family ended up at the American war cemetery and were treated as VIPs for the day, with John shaking hands with President Barack Obama, meeting Prince Charles and rubbing shoulders with actor Tom Hanks.