Arctic convoy hero marks 100th birthday

12:30 04 May 2014

Four generations of the Cobley family. Lt Cdr Kenneth William Cobley is sat in the centre.

Four generations of the Cobley family. Lt Cdr Kenneth William Cobley is sat in the centre.

Archant

A World War Two veteran who took part in a military operation described by Winston Churchill as ‘the worst journey in the world’ has celebrated his 100th birthday.

HMS Duke of York in March 1942 whilst escorting an Arctic ConvoyHMS Duke of York in March 1942 whilst escorting an Arctic Convoy

Lieutenant-Commander Kenneth William Cobley, who lives in Ottery St Mary, marked the milestone on April 24 with a birthday lunch, a card from The Queen and a get-together with three generations of family in Metcombe.

Lt Cdr Cobley saw action in the freezing waters north of the Arctic Circle between 1943 and 1945 as a gunnery officer on the battleship HMS Duke of York.

And for his part in ensuring vital supplies reached Russia, he was decorated with the Arctic Star in August last year – a medal introduced at the start of 2013 to recognise sailors who had been part of the treacherous convoys.

“Because he was a gunnery officer his hearing is quite bad now,” said Lt Cdr Cobley’s nephew, Jim Cobley. “But his eyesight is unbelievable – he can spot boats on the horizon off Sidmouth that I struggle to see, even with my glasses on.

Members of Duke of York's gun crews after the battleMembers of Duke of York's gun crews after the battle

“It was remarkable what these men went through - they have some amazing stories to tell.”

The Duke of York was the flagship of a fleet tasked with supporting supply convoys between Iceland and the Soviet Union, and although the fleet was spared the worst of air attacks, it was under constant threat from submarines.

Sailors had to endure sub-zero conditions, rough seas and just an hour or two of daylight each day.

In December 1943, the fleet, which was already suffering heavy losses from U-boat attacks, came under additional threat from the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst.

The German cruiser had set sail to sink allied supply ships, but was intercepted by the British fleet on December 26, damaged by the Duke of York’s guns and finally destroyed by torpedoes.

For his part in directing the gunfire during the three-hour battle, Lt Cdr Cobley was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross by King George VI.

Lt Cdr Cobley retired from the Navy in 1959 before moving to West Hill. He now splits his time between a home in Ottery and a flat in Sidmouth.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Sidmouth Herald visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Sidmouth Herald staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Sidmouth Herald account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 06:30
Paul Walker.

Land earmarked for housing could be used instead for education if Sidmouth Primary School’s aim to expand is included in East Devon’s development blueprint.

Read more
Straitgate quarry plans aerial view

Ottery’s community has united in opposition to a proposed 100-acre quarry that has been slammed as ‘shocking’ and ‘detrimental to the town’.

Read more
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Sidmouth Lifeboat's new tractor

The vital role of launching and recovering Sidmouth Lifeboat can continue with renewed vigour after the arrival of the crew’s new tractor.

Read more
Friday, July 3, 2015
Baby Beaver.
Tom Buckley/Devon Wildlife Trust

Residents eager to find out more about the first baby beavers born on the River Otter are invited to attend a public meeting.

Read more
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7712-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

A £500,000 budget has been proposed for the district council to provide dedicated gypsy sites across East Devon.

Read more
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Alan Durrant, chairman of Sid Vale Association, presents Dr Duncan Hall of the Beacon Medical Centre with a donation towards the planting of trees and shrubs around the grounds. Ref shs 9545-25-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Sidmouth’s multimillion-pound medical centre has received a boost to its £16,000 project to improve the look of its car park.

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Wood(bury) Stock 2015. Doctors Orders. Photo: Neil Ewins.

A successful blues, roots and folk music festival took place recently at Woodbury’s Malsters Arms.

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Branscombe Preschool achieved an 'outstanding' result from their latest Ofsted inspection. Ref shb 9478-25-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Ofsted has give staff at Branscombe Pre-school top marks for their “innovative and exciting programme” after their latest inspection.

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Devon County Council is planning to close Green Close Care Home to cut costs

Sidmouth’s Green Close is being offered for tender and could reopen as a care home, offer other social care – or be converted into housing.

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7712-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

The welfare of an endangered bat population at East Devon District Council’s Knowle site could be in jeopardy if planned building works go ahead, say worried residents.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 17°C

min temp: 13°C

Most Read News

Great British Life


Great British Life

Family notices
Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Submit a Story
Buy Photos
Competitions
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus Page
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Sidmouth Herald e-edition today E-edition



Devon's trusted business finder