Owen Darrell, Bermudian veteran of dangerous wartime Arctic convoy dies

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  • Second World War veteran and Rotarian Owen Darrell at his 90th birthday party.

    Second World War veteran and Rotarian Owen Darrell at his 90th birthday party.

  • Able Seaman Owen Darrell

    Able Seaman Owen Darrell

  • Owen Darrell with a sextant

    Owen Darrell with a sextant

Funeral services were held for a war veteran honoured by medals dating back to 1939.

Owen Darrell was laid to rest as the only Bermudian known to have served on the dangerous Arctic Convoys in the Second World War.

He died on December 27, just one week after the Britain’s Prime Minister announced that medals were to be awarded to the surviving veterans of what Churchill called “the worst journey in the world”.

Mr Darrell had already received a Russian commemorative medal in July, 2005, for his service, with a letter which read: “Dear Sir, herewith you receive a commemorative medal, ‘The 60th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941 — 1945’.”

“It comes to you as recognition of your contribution to our common fight against fascism.’ Mr Darrell’s service on HMS Bulldog had taken him through snow, fog and heavy seas laden with icebergs to the North Russian port of Murmansk, escorting ships carrying war supplies to ensure that they made it through the German blockades to the Soviet Union.

“An estimated 3,000 seamen lost their lives on the Arctic Convoys, but Owen was one of the lucky ones, something he never forgot.

“He revisited Murmansk with his wife in 1994, an emotional experience for him, especially when their Russian guide hailed him as a hero!”

Mr Darrell was born on March 16, 1921 on Pitt’s Bay Road.

A family spokesperson described how his father, Watkin Owen Darrell, “was a keen yachtsman who taught Owen and his sister Ilys to sail and swim”.

As a result, “Owen’s heart was never far from the sea”.

With the help of a professional genealogist he discovered his family could trace its line from the village of Ariel in Normandy, France.

“He was the 29th descendant from Sir William Darrell, who had crossed the English Channel with William the Conqueror in 1066.”

The spokesman noted: “Seventeenth century Darrells were some of the earliest settlers in Bermuda, a source of great pride for him.”

Mr Darrell attended Saltus Grammar School before moving on to Cheltenham College in England.

The spokesman said: “Although his mother, Elsie Hartel, was American, Owen resolutely determined to plough his own path and to further his education much further away, in England, where he was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship in 1940.

“He also attended Magdalen College in Oxford, from 1940 to 1941 and from 1946 to 1948, he read philosophy in addition to politics and economics.”

In the Second World War he rose to the rank of lieutenant and ended his time in command of a ship which he returned to Rio de Janeiro after its war service.

In addition to his Royal Navy service on board the HMS Bulldog Mr Darrell also spent time on HMS Packice on minesweeping operations in the Mediterranean, and took part in the liberation of Greece, the spokesperson added.

“Owen was hugely proud of his Naval service and an active member of the Royal Naval Officers Association.”

He met his wife Pamela on a student trip to Switzerland in 1947. They settled in Bermuda in 1951 and lived in Spanish Point.

A family spokesperson said: “He worked for American International until 1971 and then became company secretary and manager for Michelin Investment Holding Company, a post which he held until ten years ago.”

Particularly interested in the education of his three daughters, he also took time off to enjoy his membership at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

In his younger days he sailed IODs weekly. And for the last 25 years of his life he enjoyed the fellowship of Christ Church.

A member of the governing body of the Bermuda High School for Girls for many years, he was also a member of the Pembroke Parish Vestry.

Mr Darrell spent much time as chairman of the Bermuda Historical Society, in addition to being a member of the Royal Commonwealth Society and Sailor’s Home, now known as the Mariners Club.

For 37 years he was also a member of the Hamilton Rotary Club. He wrote a booklet about Sir George Somers, the sales of which the St George’s Foundation benefits from to this day.

Following his cremation his ashes were interred at Christ Church, Warwick, last Saturday.

He leaves his wife Pam, daughters and sons-in-law, Joy and Patrick, Jill and Brian, Nicki and Roger, grandchildren Alison (John), Ben (Anna) and Charlotte, Karl and George, Maya and Freya, and great grandchildren Ridley, Jared and Margot.

His medals include a War Medal, Defence medal and the Italy Star which was awarded for his minesweeping service in the Mediterranean.

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Published Jan 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm (Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 1:47 pm)

Owen Darrell, Bermudian veteran of dangerous wartime Arctic convoy dies

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