Don't miss a story sign up to Sidmouth Herald's FREE daily newsletter CLICK HERE

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.


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.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

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

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, 16:02

Disappointment over exclusion from meeting on ‘crucially important issues’

Read more
Yesterday, 06:40

Vast programme of experiments, activities and talks attracted record numbers

Read more
Fri, 19:30

Devon’s highways chief is calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to give councils more powers to stop drivers parking on pavements – saying it threatens safety and pushes up costs.

Read more
Fri, 16:30

A ‘scoping study’ to explore how Port Royal could be redeveloped is set to begin in November – and take around four months to complete.

Read more
Fri, 16:03

Should the Sidmouth Victoria Hospital inpatient beds remain or go?

Read more
Fri, 11:02

Committee issue plea after unwanted goods dumped at Millennium Green

Read more
Fri, 10:25

Casualties suffered minor injuries in collision near Sidmouth this morning

Read more
Fri, 06:30

A Sidmouth man died as a result of serious failings at an Exeter mental health unit, an inquest heard.

Read more
Thu, 19:30

Next week is the last chance to see special exhibitions at Sidmouth Museum before they are dismantled to make way for new displays in 2017.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 12°C

min temp: 9°C

Most Read News

Useful Links

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

Family Notices 24

Read Online

Read the Sidmouth Herald e-edition E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Local business directory

Devon's trusted business finder


Show Job Lists

Find planning applications