Posted: 17.03.21 at 14:44 by Derek Davis
Tributes have been paid to an Arctic Convoy hero and former HMS Ganges instructor who has died following illness and then contracting Covid.
Tom Brosnan, from Shotley Gate, was last year recognised by the Russian Government for his part while serving in the Arctic Convoy's supplying Russian with vital supplies during World War Two.
As an active member of the community, Tom served in the Shotley & Erwarton Royal British Legion and current chairman Brian Ives had a long association with the former Chief Petty Officer.
"He was deeply loved by all his family and his passing will leave a space in their lives for some time," said Mr Ives.
"Tom Brosnan was a soft spoken man, to many, who could convey many words of fun in just a short time, he was also loud when the Legion brought in new items but remained loyal to the "Spirit of the Legion". Tom was admired and respected by many in the ex service community, Shotley RBL and the grave diggers in Ipswich cemeteries.
"Tom was Standard Bearer for the Legion for many years, which he did diligently, until age reminded him to hand over the post, which I took on and then he suggested William took over from me.
"He gave much support to myself and the Branch Secretary, Sarah Ives, until he was no longer able to attend. Lock down kept many of his friends and associates away but he was always in their hearts. Tom always gave the Branch Secretary a big hug as he said it was for putting up with the rest of us in the Branch. He was the same with Sarah's predecessor, Norma Bembridge, who was saddened as were we all to hear of Tom's passing.
"Rest in Peace Thomas Brosnan, Tom."
Barrie Powell, a long time friend and supplier of honey, to the garrulous Irishman spent a lot of time with Tom and was one of those who ensured he was looked after during the pandemic.
"I was very sorry to hear of Tom's passing," said Barrie. "He was a long time friend who I enjoyed many, many hours talking about sailing, the navy and Shotley.
"Tom had a wonderful array of stories and I kept him supplied with honey. He swore he lived as long as he did due to the honey, Captain Morgan's rum and his afternoon nap.
"He will be sorely missed."
Tony Turner, who met Tom when he first moved to the village more than 40 years ago, was another captivated by his storytelling, and felt it ironic Tom's passing came on the eve of St Patrick's Day, which is being celebrated by the Irish today.
"Tom was a great bloke," said Tony. "Like many I thought the world of him. He loved St Patricks Day and I celebrated it with him last year, and although it could not have been the same this year I know he was looking forward to it."
Among the anecdotes Tom liked to tell was how he joined the Royal Navy, inspired by local legend Tom Crien, who was an arctic explorer. Tony recalls. "He told me how his dad wanted him to follow in Tom Crien's footsteps so took him and his brother from the west coast of Ireland to a recruitment office, handed them over and said: 'Here you go - make men of these two.
"The Navy did that alright, Tom was a wonderful man."
After completing his basic training on the Isle of Man, Tom joined HMS Rodney, and took part in the D-Day landings in June 1944 aboard the battleship. They were when ordered to escort merchant ships from Liverpool to the Kola Inlet peninsula in Murmansk, in the Soviet Union.
Risking attacks from German airplanes and submarines, and the perishing cold, Tom and his shipmates survived the brutal Arctic Convoy duties, with Tom working as a sight-setter on one of the gun turrets.
After more sea time on ships including aircraft carriers HMS Bulwark and HMS Illustrious, and cruisers HMS Cumberland and HMS Gambia, Tom had risen to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
He was drafted to HMS Ganges and served there for three years where he married Muriel and they had two children. Mary works for AXA, while Catherine is a frontline NHS worker at Colchester hospital, and had three grandchildren.
After 25 years Tom left the navy and the family settled in Shotley where he worked as a sailmaker for Rands and Jeckell.