Tom Parke: Submarine hunter who tried to foil bank robbery
The family of an east Belfast man who hunted and destroyed German U-Boats during the war have paid tribute after his death last month.
Tom Parke was born in 1920 and grew up on Woodlee Street, volunteering to join the Royal Navy at 17.
He moved to Bognor Regis in the south of England to be near his family in the 1970s, and passed away, aged 97, on February 10.
His son Tom Jnr said it was years before his father opened up about his wartime experiences.
“His job was chasing submarines on a Frigate called HMS Conn,” he said.
“He was a leading seaman and the ASDIC (sonar) operator.
“He sent out the ping signal, if it hit a submarine he could tell where it was when it came back.”
His dangerous role saw him operate in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Recently he was a recipient of the Russian Ushakov medal for his part in the Arctic naval convoys to Murmansk.
“I was very proud of him to hear of what he had been through and survived,” his son said.
“He told me he was on a ship that actually got torpedoed. He was running up the gangway and the chief petty officer stopped him to say ‘no running,’ so they stopped, but within seconds the petty officer was soon sprinting ahead of them for safety.”
Leaving the Navy in 1945, he stayed like many others in the reserves until 1955.
In 1972 he was praised by the former RUC Chief Constable, Sir Graham Shillington, for attempting to stop an armed robbery at the Bank of Ireland on the Ballygowan Road in Belfast.
Mr Shillington commented in a letter: “You followed the robbers for a considerable distance in a bid to have them apprehended by the security forces.
“I wish to commend the courage, determination and public spirit you displayed.”
After raising a family with his late wife, Isabella, Mr Parke later followed his son Tom to England to be close to his grandchildren.
His funeral was held in Bognor Regis on February 28.
“He was an avid Glentoran supporter when we lived in Belfast and he got me hooked as well,” his son said.
“So in Bognor Regis he still loved his football but also spent a lot of time playing bowls and darts.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital