D-Day veteran invited to Queen’s garden party

A war veteran from Horsham had the privilege of meeting the Queen last month just weeks after receiving one of the highest Russian honours.

Thursday, 10th July 2014, 3:36 pm
Secdon World War veteran Tony Snelling at Buckingham Palace ahead of the Queen's garden party - picture submitted

Cornelius ‘Tony’ Snelling, 91, of Stirling Way, is one of the few surviving veterans of Second World War.

He has been decorated with medals from the UK and abroad, including one of the highest honours in Russia, the Ushakov medal.

A fortnight ago he attended a special garden party for veterans at Buckingham Palace. A few weeks earlier, he also met Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at the D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy.

JPCT 030714 S14280026x Horsham. Tony Snelling, 91, one of the last surviving D-Day veterans met the Queen at a Buckingham Palace garden party - photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140307-123746001

Speaking about his few minutes with The Queen he said: “When the presenter introduced me she congratulated me on the receipt of the Ushakov Russian bravery medal.

“She was very pleasant. She smiled. I sat next to some Polish Second World War veterans and she moved on to talk to them. It was fairly brief, but rewarding.”

The visit came at the end of a pack for months for the veteran. In May he was presented with the Russian Ushakov Medal for his services in the Royal Navy on the Arctic convoys shipping military supplies to Russia.

Last year the Ministry of Defence also honoured all survivors of the convoys with the Arctic Star medal. The decoration also includes the white beret Mr Snelling wears with pride.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, the French government has recently announced it would be honouring all surviving war veterans with the country’s highest honour, the Legion d’honneur.

Mr Snelling was just 18 years old when he signed up and was given just six weeks’ training.

He described his first experiences after training.

He said: “I was given a number. I didn’t know what it was - a battleship, a submarine or what.

“I was dispatched to Glasgow to the Yarrows ship building where I joined a brand new sloop, the HMS Wild Goose.

His service started as an able seaman in the Bay of Biscay fighting the Germans and was then moved to the Arctic convoys.

He said: “There were two routes; the winter route was through the Norwegian Sea. You were very vulnerable. Norway was occupied by the Germans with aircraft and U-boats. The summer route was virtually running parallel to Greenland.

“Churchill described it as the worst journey in the world and it was. The Bay of Biscay was rough, but the degree of the seas of the Arctic (was low). You knew if you abandoned ship, it was a death sentence.”