Obituary: Willie Pender, veteran, former councillor, 92

Willie Pender with his World War II medals
Willie Pender with his World War II medals
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WILLIE Pender, a Second World War Arctic convoys veteran and a former West Lothian Councillor, has died, aged 92.

Mr Pender was born in Livingston in 1921, and was educated at Bathgate Academy before he started work as a dispatch clerk with a family firm in Edinburgh. His life took a turn at the age of 18, when, after being falsely accused of misdirecting a package scheduled for Glasgow, he left the firm and decided to join the navy.

He had his first brush with war while training in 1940 at a Butlin’s holiday camp at Skegness, which had been commandeered by the admiralty, when a German bomber machine-gunned personnel on open ground. He managed to dive into a shelter to escape the gunfire, which left ten dead.

He first served on a cruiser patrol, an armed merchant ship which was tasked with diverting U-boats away from the transatlantic convoys.

In 1941, he was assigned to the Murmansk run, joining the convoys shipping supplies into Europe on a route rounding the North Cape which was dubbed Suicide Alley. His service on these voyages later saw him awarded four badges by the Soviets and a badge for Arctic service by the British.

His next mission was serve on the destroyer HMS Icarus in Operation Pedestal in 1942, transferring supplies to the bomb-damaged island of Malta in order to keep it open for ships and aircraft. There, Mr Pender was involved in one of the most adventurous naval incidents of the war, when the Icarus joined a flotilla of boats to help the badly-damaged American supply ship SS Ohio limp into Valetta harbour, being supported on either side to keep it afloat.

His next posting was to Burma, where he heard the news that atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“It was a terrible event,” he said years later “but by dropping the bomb, it saved my life and hundreds of thousands of other lives.”

After the war, Mr Pender, married Esther and worked in shale mines. On their closure, he was transferred to the new British Motor Corporation plant at Bathgate, where he stayed for 25 years from 1961.

His most significant contribution to public life was as a councillor and a board member of the development corporation of Livingston new town.

Mr Pender served as a councillor from 1960 to 1975 and had a vision that Livingston should both preserve its village origins and embrace the advantages of modern urban living.

In 2002, the year of 60th anniversary celebrations for Malta’s freedom, Mr Pender was taken there by his daughter Esther and son-in-law John Hart to a rapturous reception.

Mr Pender, who was pre-deceased by his wife, is survived by three daughters and two sons.

He will receive a funeral with full naval honours.