AN ARCTIC Convoy survivor from Leeds died from a hidden killer cancer the day after the Government confirmed it would award service medals to veterans of the World War II campaign.
Great-grandfather Ernest Schofield, 91, of Morley was among the survivors who waited almost 70 years for official recognition of the role they played in what Winston Churchill dubbed “the worst journey in the world”.
But Mr Schofield never heard the news that he and his colleagues were about to be honoured for the heroic service which they had given.
An inquest at Wakefield heard that Mr Schofield was diagnosed with mesothelioma on February 6 last year and died on February 27.
Mr Schofield left the Royal Navy in the 1950s after 15 years of service and went on to work as an industrial heating engineer in Leeds.
The inquest was told that he will have come in to contact with asbestos during this period, but the killer dust can lay dormant for many decades before causing illness.
The inquest heard Mr Schofield had a high level of asbestos in his lungs.
West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease.
Mr Hinchliff added: “It was not until February 6 2013 that his condition was described as mesothelioma – cancer of the lining of the lining of the lung – mainly caused by contact with asbestos, which reinforces my belief that during his working life, albeit many years ago, he has come into contact with asbestos.”
Mr Schofield, who served as a stoker in the Royal Navy, was involved in the Arctic Convoys when warships escorted merchant ships transporting vital supplies to the Soviet Union.
The convoys cost the lives of about 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen, and more than 100 civilian and military ships. Campaigners fought for four years for Arctic Convoy veterans to be honoured with an Arctic Star medal for their role in the operation.
Mr Schofield’s daughter Sandra Vowles, 65, from East Ardsley, Leeds, has applied for an Arctic Convoy medal for her late father.
She told of his family’s sadness that her father had missed out on the recognition he had waited so long for.
Mrs Vowles said: “After his family the Navy was his life.
“He was very proud of what the people in the convoys did.”
She said her father led an active and independent life before he fell ill, adding: “He was very on the ball and sharp right up to the day he died.”