By: John Hislop on 18 Nov, 2015 16:30
When Eddie Turnbull was presented with a commemorative international cap at the age of 82, most of us thought this to be a fitting tribute to a wonderful career, however his impressive collection of medals did not end that night at Hampden Park in March 2006.
Even his sad passing in 2011 could not prevent this legend of Scottish Football from adding to his list of honours which included three Scottish League Championships as a player, a Scottish Cup as manager of Aberdeen, a Scottish League Cup and two Drybrough Cups as manager of Hibernian as well as being a member of the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, the Hibernian FC Hall of Fame and the Aberdeen FC Hall of Fame.
Earlier this year, he was posthumously awarded the Arctic Star military campaign medal in recognition of his part in the four-year struggle to provide material to support the Soviet war effort which cost the lives of around 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen during WWII.
The decision to award the belated medal was made after a long-running campaign by survivors, and was granted for operational service of any length north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 32’N) from September 3 1939 to May 8 1945, inclusive.
Eddie joined the Royal Navy as a teenager and was assigned to the destroyer HMS Bulldog as a torpedo loader.
The ship, which had previously played a vital role in capturing U110 and its Enigma Code machine was deployed to the Arctic convoys.
At the time Norway was filled with occupying German Forces and the convoys were attacked on a regular basis by Luftwaffe dive bombers and U Boats. The crew also had to deal with mountainous seas and freezing conditions.
On several occasions HMS Bulldog came under attack and the sailors were aware that one direct hit would result in certain death. During that time Eddie lost several close shipmates and many of his former colleagues who had transferred to other ships were killed in action.
After leaving HMS Bulldog, Eddie was transferred to HMS Alnwick Castle where he served as an Able Seaman responsible for deploying depth charges then HMS Plover where he carried out dangerous work clearing mines until being demobbed in 1946.
Eddie’s daughter Valerie who applied for the medal said: “I am delighted that all the sailors involved in the Arctic Convoys have finally been given the recognition they so richly deserved. Their courage and bravery played a vital part in the war effort.
“I just wish that more of them were alive to receive this honour personally. I know Dad would have loved that! I'm sure that all the families, who, like us, have received a posthumous medal, feel tremendous pride now. ”
In his excellent autobiography ‘Having a Ball’ written along with Martin Hannan, Eddie recalled his time in the Royal Navy which he credits for many of the attributes which made him a superb player and manager.
He recalled: “Plenty of records and statistics show how dangerous the convoys were and we sailors were only too aware of the casualty rates, but it is virtually impossible to adequately portray the hardship we went through as we escorted ships carrying vital supplies for the Russian war effort.
“Every journey was fraught with danger and you lived with the constant knowledge that underneath you could be men in submarines trying to kill you and that every sight of an aeroplane might be your last.
“We were really under the cosh round the clock. Every single person on the ship had to be alert to the dangers that were all around us. Each individual member of the crew had his part to play when the ship went into action or came under fire , and you knew that not only might your life depend on the man next to you, his might equally depend on you.
“One of the many things I took from the Navy into my later life: the knowledge that you can’t do things for yourself all the time and that teamwork is essential for success. I also learned that practice makes perfect.
“We could never see the point of endless drills the captain put us through - until the day we had to do the things for real and everything went like clockwork. When action stations sounded, you knew exactly what your specific task was.
“I emerged from active service a stronger, better person as I knew nothing I would face in later life could ever be worse than the dangers I had experienced on the Arctic convoys. We lived under the constant pressure of knowing that we might not survive another hour or day but it all made me tougher.”