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Philip Evans


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SEATON: Beer link to WWII documentary

Friday, 17 January 2014

AN intriguing Beer connection to one of the most controversial episodes of World War II was vividly brought to life in a BBC documentary last week.
PQ17: An Arctic Convoy Disaster, featured the heroic tale of lieutenant Leo Gradwell and his role in helping to save the lives of merchant navy sailors from that ill-fated voyage in July 1942 which was delivering military equipment and supplies to the Russians.
Among those interviewed for the documentary, which was written and presented by Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame, was professional musician Chris Gradwell, son of Leo, who has lived in Beer for the past 13 years.
Mr Gradwell spoke eloquently of his father, who against orders led his own RN-adapted Trawler HMS Ayrshire and three merchant ships from the disaster of Convoy PQ 17 into the Russian port of Arkhangel.
“The whole family, including grand-children watched the film and I think they then realised that their granddad had done something special so that was very emotional,” said Gradwell.
“It was a great tribute to dad, who like many of his generation didn’t speak much about what they did in the Second World War and I have the highest regard for the producer (Dan Trelford) and the director (Richard Pearson). We were all very pleased with the documentary.”
Mr Gradwell, who was subsequently awarded a DSC, died aged 70 in 1969.
The programme is still available to watch on the BBC iPlayer service and Mr Gradwell said that the Beer Arts Group may also show the documentary at some point in the near future.

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