A SAILOR from Hartlepool helped to raise awareness of one of the Second World War’s most important naval battles ahead of its 70th anniversary.
Town man John-Paul Stevenson, 36, is a naval engineer serving with the Royal Navy’s last remaining helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious.
He and the aircraft carrier are due to be in London in May for events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Events will also be held in Liverpool which was home to the Western Approaches Command where the battle against German U-boats in the Atlantic were directed from.
HMS Illustrious recently visited Liverpool when John-Paul was part of the company that welcomed more than 12,000 people on board.
John-Paul, known as JP, said: “We are all really looking forward to visiting London.
“We know that it will be hard work but there is a real sense of pride that we will be involved in this poignant commemoration.”
The battle to keep all-important supply routes across open was the longest continuous campaign of the war lasting its entire six years.
The Battle of Atlantic reached its climax in spring 1943 when the Germans were forced to withdraw temporarily after suffering crippling losses.
Although the U-boats re-entered the battle and carried on fighting, they never posed the same threat to Britain. More than 36,000 merchant seamen lost their lives and 5,000 ships were sunk in the line of duty.
John-Paul joined the Royal Navy in 2008 after serving with the RAF since 1997.
The former Manor College of Technology student joined HMS Illustrious last October from his previous ship HMS Ocean.
He said: “My job onboard is to provide electrical power to the flight deck and hangar and a lot of it given the number of aircraft that we are required to operate.
“I am part of the visiting aircraft team, basically orphaned aircraft that have left their ground crews behind ashore.
“We look after them while they are embarked.”
John-Paul was born in Hartlepool where mum Sandra still lives.
He has settled in Cornwall with his wife Corinna and their three children.
HMS Illustrious is the Royal Navy’s last Invincible class aircraft carrier and is planned to be decommissioned at the end of next year.