Tributes to Spalding war hero Peter who survived torpedo attack
A decorated war hero who survived a torpedo attack has died at his Spalding home.
Peter Carpenter (90) joined The Merchant Navy and became a deck boy at the age of 15.
In 1945, his ship – the SS Jim – was torpedoed off the east coast of England.
Twelve were killed and 12 survived, and in 2015 Peter spoke about that fateful day when he was presented with the VE Medallion by members of Boston and South Lincolnshire branch of The Merchant Navy Association.
His ship was torpedoed at five o’clock in the morning and Peter, wearing only pants, dragged himself up a wire ladder to go on deck and walked into the sea.
Within minutes he found a beam to cling to but had to wait an-hour-and-a-half before a destroyer came alongside and was forced to scramble up nets with ice cold fingers to get to safety.
He said: “You hate everything and everybody. You’re the lowest of the low. They pull you out of the water and you are smothered in oil.”
When we spoke to Jim in 2016, his memory of that attack was as fresh as ever and he told us: “I still have nightmares about it.”
During the war, Peter faced the ever present prospect of being killed with a huge amount of courage ... and, as he became increasingly frail in old age, that same courage was evident as he faced up to a life-threatening health condition.
Yesterday, Peter’s coffin was cloaked in a Merchant Navy drape and standards from ex-service organisations were there in tribute for his funeral at Surfleet’s South Lincolnshire Crematorium.
His ashes will be interred in St Mary’s churchyard, North Mymms, reuniting him with wife Sheila, who passed away in 2005.
Friend Roy Glencross, who chairs the local Merchant Navy Association branch, said: “He was just a wonderful character. Right up to the end he was very lucid and knew what was going on around him. It’s a great loss and, as a friend, I will miss him so much.”
When he was 87, Peter was also presented with the Veterans Star and the Merchant Navy Service Medal by branch members.
During the war, Peter was on the first ship carrying supplies and equipment to reach Caen, in France, which meant allied forces were able to push on to Paris. He also sailed supplies to our troops in Antwerp and Hamburg.
Peter had another brush with death in Hamburg when a doodlebug landed on a dockyard building while his ship was tied up alongside.
He spent ten years in the Merchant Mavy, sailing goods around the globe.
After leaving the Merchant Navy, Peter spent many years working for a petroleum company in his native Whetstone, in the London borough of Barnet, and after retirement had a succession of little jobs, including driving minicabs.
He leaves family including daughters Elaine and Lesley and two grandchildren.
“All I can say is he was an amazing man,” said Elaine. “He was in quite a lot of pain but to the day he died he was still getting out of his chair and looking after himself with minimum nursing care. He had great stories to tell, he had great jokes and a good sense of humour.”
Peter loved his technology and Elaine said: “We used to FaceTime each other every day.”