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Ohio's final survivor returned to Grand Harbour

Ash scattering ceremony for war hero Allan Shaw

Twins Peter and Patricia knew their father was in Malta during the war on a tanker but they did not know the significance of the convoy until Allan Shaw returned to the island in 2002. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Twins Peter and Patricia knew their father was in Malta during the war on a tanker but they did not know the significance of the convoy until Allan Shaw returned to the island in 2002. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A part of World War II hero Allan Shaw will remain in Malta forever, as his children Peter and Patricia plan to scatter some of his ashes in Grand Harbour at a private ceremony.

The last survivor of the crew aboard the battered tanker SS Ohio, which made it to Malta as part of the Santa Marija convoy in 1942, passed away in 2015, aged 91.

Mr Shaw, who first returned to the island six decades after the convoy became Malta’s saviour, said in his will that he wanted to be brought over following his death.

His twin children, Peter and Patricia, in Malta to make his wish come true, were among the 11 relatives of war veterans who participated in the annual Santa Marija Convoy Commemoration on Friday, organised by the Apostleship of the Sea.

Mr Shaw visited Malta nearly every year between 2002 and 2012 to commemorate Operation Pedestal after he was tracked down by World War II researcher and writer Simon Cusens.

He never thought of himself as a hero... he was just doing his job

Mr Shaw, from Blyth, had first flown over to commemorate the 60th anniversary with more than 100 others who survived the attacks on the convoy.

“That was when we rediscovered the big story behind the convoy. He had kept it to himself all the time. We knew he’d been here during the war and on a tanker, but we didn’t know its significance,” Peter, 63, told the Times of Malta.

His son recalled how that first visit “kind of gave him a new life”.

Peter Shaw holding a picture of his father, Allan. Photo: Matthew MirabelliPeter Shaw holding a picture of his father, Allan. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

 “He was never happier than when he was talking to people here. He always called Malta ‘the warm place’. And I think he found some inner peace by recounting the ordeal to those people he met here.”

Allan Shaw, who had a second son, Michael, also recounted his experiences for the audio archives of the Imperial War Museum.

His son Peter recalls: “When the Ohio came into Grand Harbour in 1942, he couldn’t believe the number of people standing there, waving, cheering and singing.

“And I think he had a similar feeling when he came back in 2002.

“He never thought of himself as a hero. He was just doing his job.

“Obviously, he then learnt that people thought differently of his role, and he was immensely proud of that.”

The twin siblings continue to remember their father as someone “who was always up to mischief”.

“He was always running away… and then we’d find him on a bench in Hastings Gardens. He had a good sense of humour… he’d place boiled eggs in the hood of our coats or in our pockets, and then we’d find them days later. He could be serious, but he was very funny,” Patricia added.

Some years ago, Allan Shaw retraced the trail of the Ohio in the Grand Harbour.Some years ago, Allan Shaw retraced the trail of the Ohio in the Grand Harbour.

For the Maltese, Mr Shaw will always be remembered as a friend.

“He gained so many friends here, and I think he would like to be remembered as a friend. Through his honorary citizenship of Valletta, he felt part of the island.

“He’s likely to be remembered not as a stranger from the UK, but as part of the island… which in reality, he will now be.

“He always wanted to come back, but as he got more ill, he couldn’t make it.

“Now, in a way, part of him has returned,” Peter said.

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