A SECOND World War mariner who survived multiple German attacks has been honoured at a ceremony remembering his crewmates.

Captain Don Staddon, 97, was the guest of honour at an event to mark the sinking of the Athelsultan British tanker. He is now the sole living survivor of the sinking.

Captain Don, who lives in Haywards Heath, was one of ten survivors from the attack in 1942. He said that he considers himself “very, very lucky”, having been on three boats targeted by German attacks by the end of the war.

Recounting his past experiences, Don, born near Newcastle in 1925, spoke of how ships he was on were targeted twice in 1942, including the Athelsultan.

After the ship sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, he was able to swim to a nearby raft where he was rescued by a Canadian vessel. Fifty one members of the Athelsultan crew died in the attack.

Captain Don served on ships all over the world, including in the United States.

Having started in 1941 aged 16, he continued to serve as a merchant mariner for nearly five decades, retiring in 1987 at the age of 62.

The Argus: The Athelsultan Ensign was handed to Robert Parker at the ceremony in StaffordshireThe Athelsultan Ensign was handed to Robert Parker at the ceremony in Staffordshire (Image: Willie Austin)

The ceremony held on Thursday, September 22, marked exactly 80 years since the sinking of the Athelsultan and involved the handover of the ship’s flag, which survived the attack.

The event, held in the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas in Staffordshire, was organised by the Athelian Apprentices Association who represent mariners who trained on Athel Line ships such as the Athelsultan.

Captain Don attended the event accompanied by his son Willie Austin, a member of the association, who said: “It’s important that we keep alive the memory of those that died in this, the worst single tragedy to befall the Athel Line, of which Captain Don is the sole surviving member”

The ceremony saw the Athelsultan Ensign handed to 16-year-old Robert Parker, grandson of Apprentices Association member Captain Stuart Hellier. Captain Stuart bought the Ensign at auction when it became available three years ago.