Bognor submarine hunter and robber-catcher praised in moving tribute

The son of a submarine hunter has paid tribute to his dad's service after he died aged 97 earlier this month.

Leading Seaman Tom Parke (furthest right holding flag) with his crewmates after their 'hat-trick' submarine sinking
Leading Seaman Tom Parke (furthest right holding flag) with his crewmates after their 'hat-trick' submarine sinking

Great-grandfather Tom Parke was well-known in Bognor as a painter, and for his love of indoor bowls.

But between 1939 and 1945 Tom was among a group of Royal Navy seaman famed for detecting and destroying German U-boats.

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His son, named Tom Parke after him, said: “He was a kind and considerate man.

Tom Parke's son - Tom junior - with his father's medals

“He loved football, snooker and indoor bowls.

“When I was young he never talked about the war but as he got a little bit older he started to talk about it.”

Born in East Belfast in February 1920, Tom senior volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1937, when he was just a teenager.

Tom worked on warships escorting merchant vessels across the Atlantic and across to the Soviet Union.

Tom and his crewmates hit the headlines in Ireland after their 'hat-trick'. Picture: Belfast Post

In 1940 Tom qualified as a submarine detector, and it quickly became clear he had a talent for it.

He hit the news in Ireland after his group sunk a ‘hat-trick’ of U-boats in one patrol.

The article reports him saying he looked ‘longingly towards the Irish coast every time it came in sight’.

He returned to Belfast after the war and continued in the reserves until 1955.

Tom (centre) disembarking from a warship holding a bag of U-boat wreckage

Even after the war Tom still felt a powerful sense of duty.

Indeed he was by Belfast’s Chief Constable Graham Shillington for following some armed robbers and helping police apprehend them.

In a letter dated September 21, 1972 the Chief Constable said: “I wish to commend the courage, detemination and public spirit you displyed, and to say how much we value and appreciate that help.”

But it was his son Tom junior who prompted him to move to Bognor.

Belfast's Chief Constable thanked Tom for helping catch an armed robber

Tom junior said: “I came to visit my sister in London. I then came back, stayed and married my sister’s flatmate.

“We moved to Bognor when our first child was due.

“I had a friend who worked for the aerospace industry in Bognor and followed him – we were born next door to each other in Belfast.”

Tom senior then followed him to Bognor, working as a painter until he was 74.

He died on February 10 in Birdham ward at St Richard’s Hospital after a pulmonary embolism. His son praised staff for their excellent care.

His private funeral will be held on Wednesday in Bognor.

Tom junior, who is pictured with his father’s medals, said they will be going to his dad’s great-grandchildren.

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