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Wartime submariner George honoured for missions off occupied France

13 August 2018
Veteran submariner George Crawley became the latest member of our greatest generation to be honoured by the French for his deeds 75 years ago.

Crew from today’s HMS Victorious and Vengeance joined the 93-year-old and his family at HMS Calliope in Gateshead, where the wartime ‘deep’ was presented with the Légion d’Honneur by Brigadier General Herbé Bizeul on behalf of France’s President Macron.

George, who lives in nearby Whitley Bay, joined the RN in 1941 at the age of 17 and joined battleship HMS Rodney after completing his training as a signaller at HMS Collingwood.

He subsequently volunteered for the Submarine Service and underwent a two-day crash-course – very different from the intensive 25-week training taken by 21st-Century submariners – before thrust into action with HMS Talbot, based in Malta, in October 1943.

This honour is not just for me, but for all of Her Majesty’s Submariners

George Crawley

He subsequently switched to the Free French Submarine Curie. The boat – complete with canine mascot Radium on board – patrolled off Nazi-occupied French ports in 1943 and 1944.

These were, understandably, highly-dangerous missions; Curie was depth charged and, on the surface, engaged enemy vessels with her gun, which George helped man.

Later in the war, he returned to British boats, serving in HM Submarines Universal, Medway and Upstart.

He was also posted to HMS Elfin at Blyth where, over Christmas 1944, he got to know Freda while delivering signals to her office. In August 1945, the couple tied the knot.

He received the French decoration for his service aboard the Curie – and like most men of his generation is modest about his wartime service.

“This honour is not just for me, but for all of Her Majesty’s Submariners,” he told everyone present, who loudly applauded the veteran off the Calliope parade ground as he left for a private celebration with family, friends and fellow submariners.

“We are in awe of George’s achievements as a submariner, as were all who attended. It was also a great opportunity to meet the people of Tyneside and raise the profile of the Submarine Service,” said Lieutenant Commander Simon Barr of HMS Vengeance, who formed part of the ceremonial guard for the medal presentation.

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