War veteran honoured

A war veteran from Exmouth in the UK has flown to St Petersburg to receive the thanks of the Russian people for his heroism in World War Two.

Ron Pettitt, 87, who earned the Distinguished Service Medal, is in St Petersburg for a festival celebrating the 65th anniversary of the first ship convoy to reach Russia during the conflict.

The former petty officer, in charge of firing and communications on HMS Duke of York, will make a speech to his Russian hosts

Mr Pettitt, of Partridge Road, took his first trip to modern Russia in 2002 with the Russian Convoy Club (RCC), and has been back every year.

This will be his second visit this year, having travelled with his son Steven, 60, to the town of Arkhangelsk to see his penfriend, Russian bus company owner Ludmila Roslova.

Mr Pettitt said: "I first went onshore in Russia when our admiral met the Russians to discuss our attack on the German battleship, the Scharnhorst.

At that time Stalin was in power and the Russians were told not to talk with us. But everywhere we went everybody gave us a big welcoming smile, and I have never forgotten that.

"When I visited in 2002, they met us with a luxury coach and a police escort, before cadets took care of us at our hotel. All they left out was the red carpet. It is a real honour to be invited this year. "

Mr Pettitt is one of four British veterans on the current visit. The four members of the RCC will be entertained during the three-day festival, which began yesterday (August 30).

The Russian people have a deep affection for Navy men such as Mr Pettitt who guarded the convoys helping the country during the war.

As part of the crew of the Duke of York, Mr Pettit was one of a team who helped sink the Scharnhost when the Duke of York encountered the Russian convoys in 1943.


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