Maggie Hartford talks to one of the few remaining veterans of the Arctic Convoys

At 100, John Lloyd is now one of only a handful of people still alive who served on the Arctic Convoys, described by war leader Winston Churchill as “the worst journey in the world”.

More than 3,000 young men lost their lives in the waters of the North Atlantic while taking supplies to the north Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel to aid the Allied war effort between 1941 and 1945.

Mr Lloyd lives independently in his own house in the grounds of Fallowfields Country House Hotel in Southmoor, which is run by his son Anthony.

Mr Lloyd senior has lived through two world wars, although he remembers very little about the first.

He said: “My only recollection was seeing a R101 airship. I was only three then and we spent most of the war on the Isle of Wight.”

After growing up by the seaside in Canford Cliffs, a suburb of Poole, he left Brentwood School in Essex during the 1930s depression.

“I should have gone to university,” he said. “But there was no way my father could afford it, so a friend of his offered me a job in an electrical supply company.

“The pay was not very good so another friend of my parents offered to get me into the Bank of England. I was there for 40 years.”

After a few years as a ‘humble bank clerk’, he was called up for military service as a Royal Navy reservist.

“I wanted to go to sea as a boy, that was why I chose the Royal Navy. We had a lot of holidays by the sea.”

He started as an ordinary seaman but was soon promoted to able seaman and joined an old First World War destroyer.

“We were in Milford Haven when war broke out,” he said. “We listened to Chamberlain’s speech and then moved to Greenock, where we went out to rescue passengers from the Athenia.”

The Athenia was the first ship to be torpedoed by a German U-Boat, with more than 100 lives lost.

Mr Lloyd also witnessed another Second World War first. After making officer, he served on HMT Paynter, a former Grimsby fishing trawler converted into an anti-submarine vessel, protecting merchant ships carrying supplies and ammunition to Russia, which was completely blockaded by German forces.

He recalled: “Twelve had gone through with no problem, but then the Germans got more powerful destroyers and their bombers were able to get out further.

“We were in the first convoy to be attacked. Three bombs dropped very close on the way there. We picked up some coal and coming back we picked up a lot of survivors from a merchant ship. But we shot down a Heinkel bomber. It was wonderful to see it hit the water. We saw him go by and dive into the sea.”

He doesn’t remember feeling the cold when they finally arrived On arrival at Murmansk, they dropped off supplies sufficient for an army of 15,000 people.

He said: “We were quite well dressed. But iIf you got too much ice on the ship it became top-heavy, so we had to keep chipping it off.”

The Murmansk convoys later became notorious for loss of life, but Mr Lloyd said he had no sense of fear.

“You don’t. You are riveted watching the bombs drop.”

He added: “If any of those bombs had hit us we would have gone up in smoke, but luckily we had no casualties.”

He was also in charge of the ship which took survivors from the Empress of Britain, a liner sunk by a U-Boat off the coast of Ireland.

He admits thatIt was difficult to adjust when he returned to England in 1946, to be greeted by a two-year-old son who didn’t recognise him, and to return to his bank job.

“For some years the bank was pretty boring. I was pushing paper around,” he said. “I was still a pretty lowly clerk, but I had been in command of a five-ton ship. You do have responsibilities, which I didn’t have at the bank. It was difficult to settle down, but it gradually happened.”

He didn’t keep in touch with his wartime comrades and It is only in the past few years that he has started recording his memories, and arranging photographs of his Royal Navy crews and vessels, the icefields surrounding his ships – and a cable sent to his wife Elaine, announcing his safe arrival at Murmansk.

Two years ago he was given an iPad, and now he happily surfs the Internet to research details of his military service and family tree.

One wall of his house is dedicated to memorabilia from the war, including a model made by his step-grandson of one of the ships he served on, and an array of medals. Asked what the medals are for, he replies: “For being there, mostly.”

His son points out that he was mentioned in despatches for picking up survivors from the merchant ship off Iceland.

Despite the initial lack of excitement at the bank, He went on to have a long, and more interesting, career at the bank. Transferring to Manchester and Liverpool, he became a senior manager, liaising with industrialists to keep tabs on the UK economy.

He has had an active retirement, converting a cottage in Somerset, and travelling to Spain and Canada, before his wife developed dementia. They refurbished an outbuilding at Fallowfields to be near their son Anthony, a former RAF pilot who had developed the hotel after taking early retirement from a career in marketing in IBM, but Elaine died two years ago.

His son Anthony said: “He enjoys a good conversation with guests and will not allow himself to be overtaken by today’s fast-moving technology. He surfs the Internet, researching his family tree and wartime history, communicating with his grandchildren on his iPad.

“He still drives his pride and joy, his little Ford Focus, and plans to complete his autobiography of his 100 years of life at the end of the year.”

His second son, Steve, came from Canada for the 100th birthday party, with four of his five grandchildren.

To mark the occasion, Fallowfields head chef Mark Potts created a menu from the Lloyd family’s post-war recipe collection.

As we look at his hand-written life story, he explains how he plans to use voice-activated software to print it out.

“I do more emailing now because then people don’t have to listen to me wittering on the phone,” he says.

He comes from a long-lived family. His grandmother lived to 100 and his father lived an active life until 92.

“I have a slight heart valve problem and I’m not as agile as I used to be, but with the warmer weather coming I’m going to work on that,” he said.

“I have been asked for ideas on how to have a long life and I say that you need to be happy. I had a good wife for 75 years and I have a good family.”

, including an allotment box and something called Mrs Pom’s pudding.

Mr Lloyd senior is obviously enjoying life to the full.

“It’s pretty rich,” he says with relish. “Chocolate and angelica and crystalised fruit. It was one of Elaine’s specialities.”