PETER Elkins rarely talked about his wartime service in the Royal Navy.

Like many who had endured horrific conditions, battled their fears and faced the risk of imminent death, it was only in his later years that he began to give an inkling of the horrors he experienced on the Arctic Convoys.

“Dad never really had the recognition for what he did in the war,” said his daughter Rossalyn. “He never used to really talk about it very much and it’s only been in the past few years that we started learning more about it.”

He was called up at the outbreak of war and was trained as a gunner.

More than 3,000 allied merchant and Royal Navy seamen died during the Arctic convoys, battling the icy cold and the treacherous seas as well as the German U-boats

Peter was a gunner aboard HMS Trumpeter and spent many hours at action stations, exposed to the elements and incoming shells.

The ship, a lend-lease vessel fitted out as an anti-submarine warfare aircraft carrier, spent its first few months in the Royal navy escorting convoys from New York to the Clyde. In early 1945 it joined the convoys delivering badly needed food, fuel and military equipment to Russia.

The environment was harsh. It was so cold decks had to be de-iced regularly so ships didn’t capsize. Crews had to use lifelines to move around as vessels rolled up to 30 degrees in mountainous seas and it was so cold the hair in their nostrils would freeze solid. Immersion in the water meant freezing to death within minutes.

It was a desperate struggle to stay alive. “He said if there was any fire and someone got killed they more or less told you to kick them out of the way and take over the guns,” said Rossalyn.

Having survived the convoys Peter was part of the crew that took the ship back to America. While he was there he was offered an opportunity to stay and make a new life, but he decided to return to the UK with his mate.

Back in Swindon he met fellow darts fan Olive Baldwin at the Carpenters Arms. They married and went on to have four children – Michael, David, Stuart and Rossalyn.

Peter went to work for Plessey as a machine operator and later became a sheet metal worker when a division of the firm was sold off and moved to Hawksworth where he was the works convenor.

A fiercely independent man, he was happy to do his own washing, ironing and cooking. He also went out every afternoon until just a matter of days before his death on January 19 aged 94, to place a small bet at the bookies. “The ladies at the bookies used to bring him tea and cake. They all knew him down there.”

Peter also had four grandchildren, five great grandchildren and four great, great grandchildren. He lost Olive in 2004, Michael in 1986 from a heart attack, David in 2014 following a house fire in America and Stuart to cancer in 2013.

A funeral service is being held at Kingsdown Crematorium on February 23 at 11.15am.