Video: ‘It’s just a bit of metal, but I think he deserved it’ - Thorpe widow wins fight for treasured Arctic Star
06:30 10 July 2014
copyright: Archant 2014
A widow has won a fight to see her late husband honoured with an Arctic Star medal for his service during the Second World War.
Renée Clarke was turned down when she first applied for the honour, but thanks to the intervention of a forces charity, her family can now treasure the medal that marks the time Frederick Douglas Clarke spent in the Arctic Circle with the Royal Navy.
Mrs Clarke, 81, who lives in Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, said: “When I applied for it on his behalf, and for our three sons and daughter, I got this letter back saying he hadn’t crossed the Arctic Circle and wasn’t eligible. I was furious. It was the principle.”
With the help of Lt Cdr Stuart Fidler, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), a second appeal was made and shortly after Mrs Clarke received an apology and the medal.
Yesterday she was officially presented with the Arctic Star, on behalf of her late husband, by the High Sheriff of Norfolk, Lady Dannatt, who held a special reception for the occasion at her Keswick home.
The afternoon was an emotional experience for Mrs Clarke, who met her husband after the war when she was a Wren, and who said: “In itself it’s just a piece of metal, but I just think he deserved it.”
The couple’s daughter and two of their sons attended the presentation. Her eldest son was unable to make it as he lives in Australia.
Lady Dannatt said she was keen to make the event special for the family.
She said: “It’s such a privilege to present a medal like this.”
Mr Clarke’s naval career
Frederick Douglas Clarke, who was known as Doug, originally joined the RAF as a boy of 16 and had just finished his three-year training when the Royal Navy got its own Fleet Air Arm.
He requested a transfer, before the start of the war – to the Navy as a leading hand – and within a short time was promoted to petty officer.
He first served on the HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier, working on the maintenance of the vessel’s planes.
He was transferred from it around a year before it was sunk by a U-boat torpedo, moving on to HMS Enterprise, a cruiser with just one aircraft on board.
In April, May and June of 1940, the Enterprise sailed for the Norwegian Campaign, crossing the Arctic Circle. The vessel supported the British Army ashore by bombardments in and around Narvik, Norway, and on April 19 was attacked unsuccessfully by U-65.
Mr Clarke, who became a chief petty officer rising to what was known as chief AA, also had a short spell on HMS Devonshire, before being transferred back to the Enterprise until the end of 1943.
He retired from the Navy in the late 50s and went on to work for De Havilland and then Marconi, which brought the couple to Norwich.
Mr Clarke died at the age of 80 in 1999.
Barry Clarke, 51, who had travelled with his wife from his home in Singapore for the event, said the medal meant a lot to his older brothers, both of whom served in the military, and added: “We are all very proud of Dad. Mum’s not wrong –they are just pieces of metal but the symbolism is very significant.”