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Author’s tribute to a hero of the seas

Brian Clarke, who spent three weeks during the war stranded at sea, has died aged 89. Pictured with wife Edith. December 2012

Brian Clarke, who spent three weeks during the war stranded at sea, has died aged 89. Pictured with wife Edith. December 2012

A WAR hero who was stranded at sea after his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat has died, two months before his 90th birthday.

Brian Clarke was 19 years old and serving in the army on the merchant ship Sithonia when it was sunk in July, 1942.

Lucky to escape with his life, Mr Clarke then spent three weeks in a life boat, drifting in the Atlantic until it washed up on the West African coast. He was one of only few survivors, and ended up staying for six months in a POW camp until he was repatriated in 1943.

He passed away aged 89 at Lytham’s Priory Court Care Home on November 28.

Mr Clarke, who lived on Saltcoates Road in Lytham, kept a diary of his war-time days, which was made into the novel Making Shore by author Sara Allerton and won the People’s Book Prize in July last year.

Ms Allerton said: “Brian was quite simply a wonderful character. He has been a close family friend for many years, and whenever we came to visit Lytham as children he and his family always gave us the warmest of welcomes.

“It was a privilege to know him and he will be sorely missed by us all.”

Following his war years, Mr Clarke had his own shop, the Agnew Supply Company. He was also well known through his involvement in a number of organisations.

He was a founder member of the Lytham St Anne’s Lions Club in the 1960s, he sat on the committee of the Friends of Lytham Hospital for many years and was a member of both Fairhaven and Royal Lytham Golf Clubs. He was also very active on the Friends of Fairhaven Lake committee, where he had been a keen water-skier.

More recently, Mr Clarke has given after dinner speeches, recounting his war-time memories. His last talk was five weeks ago to the Round Table at Lytham.

His son, Tim, said: “He was an amazing man. He really was a well known, popular guy and a fantastic character.”

Mr Clarke also leaves wife Edith, and sons Paddy, Simon and Nicholas.

A requiem mass is being held at St Joseph’s Church in Ansdell on Monday at 10am before a service at Lytham Crematorium. Donations in lieu of flowers to be made to Macmillan Cancer Support.

 

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