Campaigning World War Two Merchant Navy hero dies

Orston Bulman fron Cleadon with his Arctic Star medal.
Orston Bulman fron Cleadon with his Arctic Star medal.
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A CAMPAIGNING Arctic Convoy veteran has lost his final battle.

Former Merchant Navy seaman Orston Bulman, of Cleadon, has died aged 94.

The chief engineer, who sailed on the biggest Arctic Convoy – the PQ16 – was admitted to South Tyneside District Hospital last Tuesday after suffering from abdominal pain, and died of heart failure on Saturday.

The father of three, grandfather of six, and great-grandfather of eight, campaigned for years for Merchant Navy Seaman who sailed during the Second World War to receive a medal from the Government for the service they did for their country.

Daughter Ann Grainger, of Seaburn, told the Echo it was a “highlight of his latter years” when he finally received the Arctic Star in June.

“It really made Dad’s year,” she said. “He was thrilled to get it and we had a lovely day with all the family.

“Of course, he thought it was too little, too late, as everyone did, but it’s time to let bygones be bygones now because they did get it and he was over the moon.

“He would have loved the stamps Royal Mail stamps that have just been released in honour of the Merchant Navy. He would think it was a lovely way to be recognised and think they were wonderful.

“There will be a Merchant Navy flag placed over his coffin.”

Orston, who lived in sheltered housing at Pinfold Court, was discharged from the Merchant Navy in 1949.

Known by all as a “gentleman”, he sailed around the world to Australia and America during his service, and braved freezing temperatures sailing to Murmansk, Russia, on the Empire Baffin in the PQ16 in 1942.

He went on to work as an engineer for MMI insurance company.

Married to Nell, who died aged 88 in 2006, for 67 years, Orston was dad to Philip, 60, also a former Merchant Navy senior chief engineer, who 
now lives in Kent, and Robert, 71, of Pallion.

A lifelong Sunderland fan and keen bowler, Ann said he will be missed by many.

“He knew a lot of people,” she said. “He played indoor bowls at Crowtree Leisure Centre until it closed in April – that was a big blow to him – and he asked if Sunderland were playing on the day he died.

“Everyone at Pinfold court was shocked by his death because it was so sudden.

“Everyone has said they will miss him.”

The funeral will take place at Sunderland Crematorium on Thursday, 11am, and a reception will follow at Pinfold Court.

Donations should be made to the Nautilous Welfare Fund for retired seafarers. Call 0151 639 8454 for more details.

ROYAL Mail is the latest group to pay tribute to Second World War Merchant Navy veterans.

It has launched two stamp collections which include a set picturing ships from the past 200 years, and a mini set of four featuring black and white scenes from the Atlantic and Arctic Convoys.

The ships pictured include the East Indiaman Atlantis, 1813, The Cutty Sark, 1870, The Clan Matheson, 1919, The Lord Hinton, 1986, and Royal Mail Ships Britannia, 1840, and Queen Elizabeth, 1940.

Second World War veterans were guests of honour at Cutty Sark, Greenwich, yesterday, to hoist 7ft flags of the stamps. The stamp collections can be ordered online at, or on 08457 641 641, and from Post Office shops.