A 91-year-old World War II veteran will be honoured for his bravery… by the Russians. Canon Colin Craston, of Lever Park Avenue, Horwich, will receive a medal from the Russian Federation for his service in Arctic convoys. The medal, with the presentation at Manchester Town Hall on 13 October, is to recognise his work as a wireless telegraphist on HMS Eclipse, an E-class destroyer of the Royal Navy, from March 1942 to March 1943. Canon Craston, a great-grandfather, received eight medals over the years recognising his Navy service, but next month’s event will mark the first time he’s ever personally received a medal. He said, “I’m very, very pleased to be receiving this medal… it’s a great privilege. I’ve heard for a long time that the Russians wanted to honour those who served in the convoys and I look forward to being given a medal in person. I remember my war years well. There were dreadful weather conditions along the way… ice, gale storms, you name it. I appreciated the experience… it was very interesting”.
Canon Craston sailed from Iceland to Russia in the destroyer, but his captain sent him ashore, as he’d been selected for a commission. Seven months after he left the destroyer, it sank in the Aegean Sea east of Kalymnos, Greece, killing 119 of the 145 crew members on-board. Canon Craston said, “My life was absolutely dependent on coming off that ship… my friends and colleagues were all on it. I’m 91 years old, yet I could’ve died aged 20. I didn’t even have to come off it. I didn’t find out it had sunk until seven months after it happened”. Canon Craston went to America to repair an aircraft carrier and went on to serve in the Far East, along the Indian Ocean, from 1943 to 1945. Originally, he’s from Preston, but moved to Bolton in 1954, where he served as priest of St Paul’s Church in Deansgate until 1966, and of St Paul’s with Emmanuel Church in Vicarage Street, Daubhill, until 1993. Canon Craston has two children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He’ll attend the ceremony with his wife Brenda and daughter Carolyn Edmunds.