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

Beer’s last coastguard awarded Arctic Star

11:00 03 May 2014

Ronald Russell in his Navy uniform

Ronald Russell in his Navy uniform


Beer’s last full-time coastguard was modest about his wartime achievements but would have worn his Arctic Star medal with pride.

Ronald Russell's posthumously awarded Arctic StarRonald Russell's posthumously awarded Arctic Star

Ronald Russell died in 2005 at the age of 80, but not before inspiring three generations to take to the seas to keep people safe.

Awarded to World War Two’s ‘unsung heroes’ almost 70 years on, his medal arrived the day before his wife Bette’s funeral and brought welcome relief to their mourning relatives.

“He was a proud man who never really spoke much. He was very quiet and reserved,” said their daughter, Bev Giles.

“Dad wore his medals with pride, but whatever he went through he didn’t talk about it – he was just of that generation.”

The mission to the Arctic CircleThe mission to the Arctic Circle

The Arctic Star was awarded to members of the British Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy for serving in the Arctic Circle during the World War Two.

The first ones were awarded last year.

Ron’s son-in-laws, Roger Hoare and Nick Driver, made the application, and the medal arrived just in time to be displayed in pride of place at Bette’s funeral.

“I think he would have applied for the Arctic Star if it had been brought in sooner – then maybe we would’ve heard more stories about [his time in the Arctic,” added Bev’s sister, Kaye Cook.

“It’s nice they are being recognised for their efforts – they are the war’s unsung heroes.

“As a family we were so emotional after Mum died. To think it came a few days later made a real difference.”

After leaving the Navy, Ron served with coastguard crews from Falmouth to Northumberland for almost 30 years, ending in Beer.

Bette became Britain’s first woman coastguard, and their four daughters’ husbands have followed him onto the water, as have their grandsons.

Ron’s efforts were repaid when he was diagnosed with dementia in his later years.

“The village was wonderful to him, people would call us if they saw him somewhere unfamiliar,” said Bev.

And when he broke out of his nursing home, coastguard crews from Beer, Sidmouth and Exmouth searched tirelessly through the night, refusing to give up until they knew he was safe and well.

“They said ‘We aren’t giving up – this is Ron Russell we’re talking about’,” said Kaye. “We found him fine and smiling after being out all night. All he wanted was a cup of tea.”

An avid topiarist, he kept the hedges at the former coastguard station ship-shape –literally – and they are still maintained as a popular attraction by the current occupants.

Bev and Kaye’s sisters, Lynne Hoare and Lizz Driver, both also still live in the village.

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 16:30
New Kennaway House manager, Nikki Dawkins, with Michael James, David Leach, Bryan Dawkins and Michael Gordon-Lee. Ref shs 4446-47-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

A new manager and chairman have taken the helm at a charity-run arts centre with a growing reputation in and beyond the Sid Valley.

Read more
Yesterday, 06:59
Betty Williams with Lamb and Flag landlord, Ron Miles, and Ottery mayor, Glyn Dobson. Ref sho 4475-52-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton

A widow, whose generous gesture to people facing Christmas alone last year touched hearts around the world, has spoken of her delight that preparations are under way for another festive feast.

Read more
Fri, 19:37
An ariel view of the PegasusLife plans for Knowle.

A developer lined up to buy the East Devon District Council (EDDC) offices at Knowle has unveiled its vision for a retirement community on the site.

Read more
Fri, 16:59
The Sidmouth Friends of the Samaritans held their AGM this week. Pictured are chairman Sue Kensdale with from left Ron Harbour (treasurer), vice chairman Gerald Hayne and Denis Jones (sec). Photo by Simon Horn. Ref shs 3446-08-14SH. To order your copy of this photograph go to

The loss of Sidmouth’s Samaritans support group will have a ‘major impact’ on the running of the service, says the leader of the charity’s Exeter, Mid and East Devon branch.

Read more
Fri, 12:59
MP Hugo Swire visit the King's School this week where he is pictured meeting students in the Teen Health Group. Ref sho 7123-48-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Hugo Swire praised students for their ‘passionate determination’ to address important issues

Read more
Fri, 06:30
Sally Neal has become Sidmouth's first female Crew Manager. Ref shs 7512-48-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

A firefighter has made history after becoming the first woman in Sidmouth to reach the rank of crew manager.

Read more
Thu, 19:30
Plans have been lodged for Hillside House

A former hotel and restaurant in Newton Poppleford could be converted into a 13-bed care home.

Read more
Thu, 14:30

A temporary tariff of £2 per day will be introduced at Sidmouth’s town centre car parks next week.

Read more
Wed, 18:30
Natasha Koshti.

The Budleigh Salterton Committee for Cancer Research UK is holding an Evening In India on Saturday, November 28, at 7pm in the Public Hall.

Read more
Wed, 17:41
The dip in Temple Street, Sidmouth. Ref shs 7614-48-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Devon County Council has announced drainage works will take place along Temple Street for five weeks from Monday, January 18.

Read more

Local Weather



max temp: 12°C

min temp: 8°C

Most Read News

Great British Life

Great British Life

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

Local business directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Find a job in Sidmouth

Find planning applications