A SUNDERLAND Arctic Convoy Veteran received a royal seal of approval when he met Princess Anne.
John Clayburn, 88, of Fulwell, was the sole surviving representative of the Russian Convoys at the reopening of the Mission to Seafarers, in South Shields, yesterday.
The Princess Royal called into the charity in her capacity as its patron, to officially open the refurbished building.
It was her first time back at the centre for two decades, after she opened its Flying Angel Social Centre back in 1984.
Mr Clayburn, a member of the now disbanded Russian Convoy Club, which met at the Mission, said Princess Anne was “very charming”.
“I was very pleased I went,” he said. “She was asking questions about the Russian Convoys and the Arctic Star medal we received last year.
“And she took time to speak to everyone, and seemed genuinely interested in everything they said.
“She seemed impressed with the work that has been done.
“I was looking forward to it, and I’m pleased the Mission has had a face lift because there was talk of it closing down, but it is the only Seafarers’ Mission in the North East.”
But the visit was tinged with sadness for the former Merchant Navy seaman, after the recent death of fellow Arctic Convoy veteran Bob Robertson, of South Shields.
“It should have been Bob talking to the princess,” he said.
The Queen’s only daughter praised staff and volunteers at the charity, who provide vital support for visiting seafarers from across the globe.
Unveiling a plaque in the Mission’s chapel, she said: “The mission is really important as it makes such a difference at critical moments in seafarers’ lives.
“I offer my congratulations for the work you do.”
Earlier Princess Anne unveiled a plaque to officially open the refurbished Holborn House flats complex, located on the Mill Dam.
She also met competition winning pupils from Sandhill View School at Dickson’s the Butchers. The youngsters created a corned beef hash pie, called the Coronation Bomber, to mark the butchers’ 60th anniversary, and won the chance to have the celebratory pastry made.