Robert Mendoza tells of his 'journeys into hell' in the Arctic

Second world war veteran Robert Mendoza has been honoured for his service in the Royal Navy.

Mr Mendoza, now 85, was 17 when he first volunteered for the Navy, pretending to be 18 - the minimum age allowed. He was appointed as a decipherer aboard the warship HMS Wanderer and served aboard her, often in the Arctic, for two years.

Earlier this month he was awarded a medal at the Russian Ambassador's Residence commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.

He was joined by 31 other Arctic veterans from across the UK.

Mr Mendoza, who was the JC's Southend correspondent for 20 years, tells People: "The occasion was quite emotional because it bought back a lot of the experiences."

He says that his most "horrific assignment" was the Arctic convoys to Russia, which Churchill described as 'journeys into hell'. Our destroyer was not built for Arctic duties.

Apart from battling against horrendous weather, we were under constant attacks from German aeroplanes and submarines. Over 3,000 British sailors were killed on the Arctic convoys. Food was very scarce and I suffered more than others as I was the only vegetarian aboard. The staple diet was mainly bully beef so I had only the vegetables, which were vastly limited." He lost over three stone in as many months.

Following the Navy, Mr Mendoza entered insurance, becoming a director of his broking company.

A widower, Mr Mendoza was married to Sylvia for 60 years. He has four grandsons and twin great-grandsons. He is a member of the Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation, the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation and Bevis Marks Synagogue.

    Last updated: 2:22pm, May 21 2010