MORE than seven decades after he risked his life to defeat the enemy, Arctic convoy veteran Stan Cooper has been honoured by the Government.

The 91-year-old has been presented with the new Arctic Star medal in recognition of his role helping the Royal Navy deliver supplies to the Russians.

Mr Cooper was then a 21-year-old chief petty officer helping protect a convoy of merchant ships carrying essential war supplies to the Soviets, who suffered the greatest loss of life in the conflict.

The HMS Faulknor faced sub-zero conditions and the threat of attack as it sailed inside the Arctic Circle.

Last year, the Government announced it would honour those who served with the Arctic Star medal and Mr Cooper was helped to apply by daughter Christine.

The grandfather-of-four said: “It is 71 years in December. It is a wonderful honour.”

The Bodicote resident remembered: “It was 30C below freezing and it was absolutely awful. There was a 60ft swell – one minute we were looking at the propellors of the next boat, then we were looking down its funnel.”

The destroyer set out from the Orkney Islands with a crew of 200 on December 18, 1942.

Mr Cooper said: “We were attacked from the air and on the water by German submarines but we managed to drive them off without losing any of the boats we were protecting.”

The “truly terrible journey” took a week and arrived in Murmansk on Christmas Day at 8.45am.

He said: “The captain said we could have a Christmas dinner. But the turkeys in the hold were frozen solid and the cooks said we’d have to wait until Boxing Day so they had time to thaw them out.”

The horrors of war turned even more surreal when the Russians invited the servicemen to a party with just three men playing accordions.

He said: “We sat and listened for a while, and then some – shall we say large – Russian women arrived in full uniform with cartridge holders around their neck.

“I think we were supposed to dance with them, but we didn’t.”

He said the return journey – starting on December 30 – was “the worst anyone could imagine” as gale force winds battered the boat.

He said: “We had to chip ice off the boat to prevent it becoming top heavy and overturning. We saw German bombers and were on standby but thankfully they didn’t attack.”

After being deployed to Italy, Mr Cooper worked to train seamen in anti-torpedo techniques until 1961 and then he worked as a caretaker at Barclays Bank in Oxford and Banbury for 25 years.

After that he worked as a volunteer driver for 20 years to help people get to their appointments at Banbury’s Horton General Hospital.

The medal was presented by former Irish Guardsman and Banbury Town Council member Kieron Mallon, a friend of Mr Cooper, on July 27.

He said: “It is impossible for us nowadays to imagine the horrific conditions that Stan and his fellow servicemen endured on the Arctic convoys.

“It called for a special sort of bravery.”