Time catches up with heroic navy veteran

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A Royal Navy veteran who survived Arctic temperatures, U-boat attacks, mine explosions and the D-Day landings sadly died on Christmas Day.

Bo’ness man John Sneddon (90) passed away suddenly and was buried in Bo’ness Cemetery yesterday (Thursday) as friends and family grieved and recalled a man who lived an incident-packed life that could fill at least ten Hollywood blockbusters.

In the last few years John enjoyed a quiet and peaceful time in sheltered housing in Falkirk’s Thornhill Court but there was nothing quiet, peaceful or sheltered about his early life when he and his shipmates defied the odds and the Nazis during the dangerous days of World War II.

An able seaman on board destroyer HMS Swift from 1943 to 1944, John took part in the Arctic Convoys of World War Two, helping ensure vital supplies reached the Soviet Union. The convoys were almost a sitting target for German U-boats and 100 merchant ships were sunk over a three-year period.

After surviving those dangers, HMS Swift herself fell victim to a mine off the coast of Normandy on June 24, 1944, while supporting the D-Day landings, plunging John and his shipmates into the sea and costing 44 crew members their lives.

Ironically John ended his wartime naval career serving aboard a minesweeper, clearing mines from Malta to China.

On his return to civilian life John worked for ICI in Grangemouth.

After his retirement and entering his twilight years John started to get the recognition he so thoroughly deserved for his wartime exploits.

Given the Freedom of Falkirk and awarded the Ushakov medal from Russia at the turn of the century, John also received the Arctic Star two years ago for his time on the Arctic Convoys and just last year was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, the highest military honour France can bestow, for his service during D-Day which helped to liberate the country from the Nazis.

Sadly John’s wife of 50 years, Jessie, died in 2006 and never saw him receive these final two medals, but his daughter Louise Paterson, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren were able to share his happiness.

In an ending worthy of any motion picture, John came to the attention of the national and international media when a logistical error resulted in him shaking hands with President Barack Obama at the D-Day celebrations in Normandy in 2009.

Getting on the wrong bus, John and his family ended up at the American war cemetery and were treated as VIPs for the day, meeting President Obama, Prince Charles and rubbing shoulders with stars like actor Tom Hanks.