Alf Bowers obituary

Other lives: Royal Navy serviceman who took part in the Arctic convoys during the second world war

My father, Alf Bowers, who has died aged 97, was a true cockney who was born within the sound of the Bow bells. However, in his later years he became a pillar of a community much further north – in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

He was born in Bow, east London, to Jack, a hat cutter whose family had emigrated from Russia, and his wife, Rose (nee Berg). After attending school in the East End, Alf became an electrician and, in 1936, was involved in the Battle of Cable Street, during which local people and demonstrators kept out Oswald Mosley’s marching fascists. He was also an active member of the Communist party-affiliated Unity theatre in the 1930s and 40s.

In 1940 he joined the Royal Navy and saw service on the Arctic convoys as a wireman and eventually as a petty officer, taking vital supplies to Russia – described by Winston Churchill as the “worst journey in the world”. For this he was awarded the Ushakov medal and, later, a commemorative medal from the Russian Federation. He also contributed to the relief of the siege of Malta and was involved in the D-day landings in June 1944. He often talked about his navy service, and in later years was an active member of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.

During the war he had met Irene when his ship docked at Immingham on the Humber estuary. They married in Plymouth then lived in London until 1951, when they moved to Grimsby and took over the hardware and timber business that had been set up by Irene’s father, running the shop until their retirement.

Outside work Alf involved himself in many Grimsby community activities, including the Humberside County Show, the Grimsby Chamber of Trade, of which he was president for a year, and the Grimsby Fabian society. He and Irene were also active members of the Grimsby Sir Moses Montefiore synagogue, where he helped to maintain the impressive old building and look after the garden, while she taught local children.

Alf was an outstanding grandfather to my three children, and used his DIY skills to build them dolls houses and all manner of other wooden toys.

Irene predeceased him. He is survived by me and his grandchildren, Emma, Hannah and Ben.

John Bowers

The GuardianTramp

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