Lillington war hero gets Medal of Ushakov for his seafaring efforts during conflict

Bill Perks shows off his Medal of Ushakov.
Bill Perks shows off his Medal of Ushakov.

A Lillington war hero has received Russia’s naval equivalent of the Victoria Cross for his part in vital supply convoys during the Second World War.

During the war a teenage Bill Perks, now 89 of Buckley Road, sailed on the converted destroyer HMS Walker on nine convoys between Scotland to Russia, braving icy storms and the threat of bombings and torpedo strikes.

In recognition for his brave efforts the grandfather of five was presented with the Medal of Ushakov on the deck of the HMS Belfast in London last Friday during a commemorative event to mark Russian Victory Day and the Russian and British alliance in the Arctic Convoys between 1941-1945.

He said: “I’m very proud, this is one one of the highest honours the Russians can give out.

“It’s their navy’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

“They know how important the convoys we brought were to them and that is why they have done so much for us.”

The medal of Ushakov was named in honour of 18th century Russian admiral Fyodor Ushakov who never lost a battle and was proclaimed patron saint of the nation’s navy.

Mr Perks also received a painting of Ushakov and a bottle of vodka with his medal.

This is the latest and probably the last in a list of medals and honours Mr Perks has received.

Last year - 68 years after the Second World War ended - Mr Perks received the Arctic Star Medal.

This takes pride of place on his blazer alongside the Atlantic Star, The Italian Star, the France and Germany Medal and others.

During one of the convoys Mr Perks was on, a ship was torpedoed and only 43 of the 116 people on board survived. Mr Perks was part of the team that rescued 22 of the survivors.

During another convoy, Mr Perks witnessed an officer falling overboard. He said: “We did not see him anymore. We searched for him, but after three minutes, you know they are dead. The cold weather would take you.

“The boats iced up and you had to chip the ice off everything or it would get top-heavy and you would topple over.

“Then you got waves in the region of 40 to 60 feet high. You would try to look up and you would not be able to see anything but water.”

When asked if he ever thought he was going to die, Mr Perks said “many a time”, but he added: “You didn’t think about what you were doing. I was a young lad. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t think much about dying.

After the war, Mr Perks, who had served as a fireman before joining the navy, worked as a lorry driver and in the automotive industry.

He is a member of the Royal Naval Association in Leamington - regularly attending the club in Adelaide Road.