A SECOND World War hero who endured what Winston Churchill called the “worst journey in the world” has died at the age of 92.
Bob Robertson passed away peacefully while sitting in his favourite armchair.
The father of four took part in the Arctic Convoys between 1942 and 1943, helping deliver more than four million tonnes of materials and equipment to the USSR in treacherous conditions.
Mr Robertson, of Mortimer Road, South Shields, had to contend with temperatures of -50C, huge icebergs and colossal waves, as well as German U-boats and the Luftwaffe.
Despite his ordeal, the reluctant hero only began to speak about his experiences in recent years after he joined a Russian convoy club based at the Mission to Seafarers in South Shields.
He went on to return to Russia twice, where he was lauded for his service to that nation, and even had a face-to-face meeting with the fiormer US president George Bush senior in Maine, Massachusetts.
Mr Robertson died suddenly at his home on Thursday morning after raising one final toast.
His death came just months after he received long-overdue recognition for his wartime service from the UK government in the form of an Arctic Star medal, for which he had spent years campaigning, even visiting 10 Downing Street to present a petition.
Last September he also celebrated his platinum wedding anniversary to his beloved wife, Audrey, 92. Mrs Robertson said: “He couldn’t have gone more peacefully. It was like he had just gone to sleep.
“A neighbour came in, Peter from down the street, to tell him that a TV programme on the convoys was on that night.
“Bob asked him if he’d have a glass with him to see in the new year. Peter said it was a bit early for him, and Bob said he had some home-made ginger wine.
“They made a toast and I went to the kitchen. The next thing I know my daughter Shirley said ‘there’s something wrong with dad’.”
Mr Robertson had seen his neighbour to the door, then sat back down to rest in his favourite armchair in his living room, but never regained consciousness.
“It couldn’t have been more peaceful. If he had picked any way to go, that would have been it,” Mrs Robertson said.
She added: “I’ll miss him. He was a character and a very kind man.
“His family always came first. One outstanding thing about him was that if he was determined to do something, he would do it.”
After a spell as an engineer in the Middle Docks in South Shields before the war, Mr Robertson continued to serve in the Merchant Navy after the conflict.
He finished his working life as a technician at South Tyneside College.
His most vivid memory of the convoys was of Boxing Day 1943, when the German battleship Scharnhorst was sunk by the HMS Duke of York off North Cape, in northern Norway. The enemy vessel was en route to attack Mr Robertson’s convoy at the time.
Mr Robertson and his wife had four children – Peter, Shirley, Kathleen and Diane – and eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A funeral service for Mr Robertson will take place at St Margaret’s Church, in Prince Edward Road, South Shields, at 11.30am next Monday and then on to South Shields Crematorium at 12.30pm. Family flowers only are requested with donations to go to the Mission to Seafarers.