Son pays tribute to Belfast-born submarine hunter

Tom Parke junior displays his father's medals
Tom Parke junior displays his father's medals

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

Belfast-born great-grandfather Tom Parke was well-known in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, as a painter, and for his love of indoor bowls.

Tom Parke senior, centre, qualified as a submarine detector in 1940

Tom Parke senior, centre, qualified as a submarine detector in 1940

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

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

“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 on Beersbridge Road in east Belfast in February 1920, Mr Parke senior volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1937, when he was just a teenager.

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

In 1940 Mr Parke 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”.

The Glentoran FC fan returned to Belfast after the war and continued in the reserves until 1955.

Even after the war, Mr Parke still felt a powerful sense of duty.

He was hailed 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, determination and public spirit you displayed, and to say how much we value and appreciate that help.”

But it was his son, Mr Parke junior, who prompted him to move to Bognor.

Mr Parke junior said: “I came visited 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.”

His father then followed him to Bognor, working as a painter until he was 74.

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

His private funeral will be held on Wednesday in Bognor.