Navy helps replace WW2 veteran’s stolen medals

World War 2 veteran Denis Gregory was moved to tears when the local – and naval community – rallied to replace his stolen medals.

The 93-year-old survivor of Atlantic Convoys and kamikaze attacks in the Far East was left distraught when the four decorations were taken during a burglary of his Sheffield home.

His son Robert said his father had scoured the house from tip to toe, looking in every drawer, cupboard and even the attic in the hope that the medals had been misplaced rather than taken.

News of the former leading seaman’s plight eventually reached a Facebook group for Royal Navy aircraft carriers and their crews.

Denis Gregory

Denis earned the 1939-45, Atlantic and Burma Stars, plus the 1939-45 War Medal for his service between 1943 and 1946

Two enthusiasts offered to provide replacements – Denis earned the 1939-45, Atlantic and Burma Stars, plus the 1939-45 War Medal for his service between 1943 and 1946 – and other members of the online community suggested a formal re-presentation.

Which is why on a beautiful day in the Sheffield suburb of Richmond Royal Marine drummers marched down Denis’ street and the Navy’s Regional Commander for the North of England, Commodore Phil Waterhouse, joined family and neighbours for an unusual (socially-distanced) ceremony to formally award the veteran with his new medals.

“It is very important that I should have these,” said Denis. “Not everyone claimed them after the war, but I did.”

His son Robert added: “This is an immaculate tribute, superb, and I’m really grateful to everyone concerned.”

Much of his wartime service was spent aboard carrier HMS Indefatigable. Denis was aboard in March 1944 when legendary aviator Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown landed a twin-engined Mosquito on the deck for the first time.

Fourteen months later he was a member of the fire party which responded to a Japanese suicide bomber smashing into the deck during the invasion of Okinawa in April 1945. The attack killed 21 of Denis’ shipmates, but the damage control team had the flight deck operating again inside 30 minutes.

Neighbours in the Sheffield suburb of Richmond applauded the veteran on a glorious summer’s day and gave him three hearty cheers – which left Denis visibly moved.

“The story of Denis having his medals stolen and the community coming together to reconstitute them and coming up with this small ceremony is wonderful,” said Commodore Waterhouse.

“I feel truly proud – and rather humbled – to be asked to present them to Denis.”