Never too late for war recognition
MORE than 70 years after ex-Merchant Navy seaman Walter Backhouse took part in the bloody Second World War Battle of the Atlantic, he has finally been recognised for his service.
Last week the 92-year-old Banora Point resident was presented with the Atlantic Star medal, one of the most prestigious merchant naval awards, at a ceremony at Tweed Heads.
Mr Backhouse believes he is one of only two people in Australia to have received the medal.
It was recognition for his perilous work over three years in helping transport Australian, UK and American troops and supplies across the Atlantic on the RMS Queen Mary oceanliner.
“When you do these trips you have to run the gauntlet of the U-boats,” said Mr Backhouse – who joined the Merchant Navy in 1941 aged 18.
“They (the enemy) sunk a lot of boats,” he said.
“The only reason we didn’t get torpedoed was because of our speed.”
The medal was presented at a ceremony during the monthly meeting of the South East Queensland Vindicatrix and Merchant Navy Mariners Association at Twin Towns Services Club.
Jo Russell, president of the sub-branch of the Coolangatta and Tweed Heads RSL, said he was honoured to present the award to Mr Backhouse, who is an old friend.
The Battle of the Atlantic was a key struggle between the Allies and the enemy for control of the sea routes between the Americas and Europe and Africa.
It is regarded as the single battle on which the outcome of the war was decided, as only with delivery of massive North American resources to Britain and Europe could the Allies defeat Hitler's Germany.
It was also one of the longest campaigns of the war, beginning on the first day of the war in Europe in September 1939 and continuing until May 1945.
The Allies lost more than 3000 ships and 40,000 seamen in the battle, with the vast majority of those losses involving merchant ships and their civilian seamen and passengers.