Published: 06:00, 05 May 2021
A centenarian from Deal marked his milestone birthday with cake, balloons and a card from the Queen.
Cyril Stuart turned 100 on Wednesday, April 21 and celebrated with his family.
The former railway worker and painter and decorator was photographed on his special day alongside his military medals given for his service in the Second World War.
Born and bred to parents Frederick and Susannah in Deal, he attended the town's Parochial School and had numerous links to the military, particularly the Royal Navy.
Cyril's father, grandfather and three uncles were all Royal Marines bandsmen in Deal.
And his late siblings also served including Donald, Victor, Joyce, Fred, Dennis, Bert and Derek. Two of the boys served in the Army and two in the Navy during the war. Donald died when, as a Prisoner of War, the Italian transport ship taking prisoners from North Africa to Italy was torpedoed and sunk.
Cyril's military journey started at the outbreak of war. He chose to serve in the Navy and, once trained, was posted to various ships including destroyers HMS Blake, HMS Obdurate and HMS Keppel and the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Springbank.
Wartime Arctic convoys from Scotland to Murmansk or Archangel in Russia were described by Sir Winston Churchill as “the worse journey in the world”.
Cyril recalls inside bulkheads being iced, and off-going watch-keepers exchanging cold-weather gear with their reliefs.
He completed eight of these trips as a Petty Officer on Keppel. His first was the infamous Convoy PQ17.
The Russian convoys took around 23 days to complete and after one of his trips Cyril met Helen, a Women's Volunteer Reserve member, in the Toc H club in Greenock, Scotland.
Romance ensued but was hampered by his time at sea and limited days between trips. Their relationship nevertheless blossomed, and they married in December 1944 in Greenock.
Their daughter Patricia was born in September 1945 when Cyril was away from home.
Other wartime duties involved mine-sweeping, Atlantic convoys between Canada and the UK and from West Africa. On a westward Atlantic crossing Keppel depth-charged, rammed and sank a German submarine losing 28ft of her bows in the action. After temporary repairs in Newfoundland she returned to Sheerness for de-arming then Poplar docks for a permanent bow replacement.
The repair work lasted only as long as her collision with another destroyer, HMS Vivacious, off the east coast in fog – more bow repairs were undertaken in Hull lasting a further six weeks.
Cyril has been the recipient of a number of medals. They include Russian medals commemorating the 40th and 70th anniversaries of the victory, and the “Ushakov” medal awarded to arctic convoy veterans.
British medals include the Arctic Star, which the government finally decided to issue in 2013, and Atlantic Star with bar.
For service during the Normandy landings, when his ship supported the Canadian contingents, France awarded him the Legion d’Honneur.
After VJ Day, Cyril was serving on landing barge LST 3014 based in Singapore, recovering tanks and heavy equipment. It was not until 1946 that he finished his naval career and returned home to Helen and saw his daughter for the first time. Soon after they moved south from Greenock to Deal.
Civilian life saw Cyril working in the building trade, as a railway shunter and as a painter and decorator, for some years working for Lord North at Waldershare Park.
He and Helen enjoyed touring holidays in Scotland and Ireland and occasional cruises.
Sadly Helen died in 2007 but he has maintained an independent lifestyle supported by daughter Pat, grandchildren Julian and Sarah and great grandson, Rudi.
He has sea views as a reminder of earlier years and attributes his longevity to genes and luck, with so many colleagues losing their lives in the 14 British warships lost in the Russian campaign.