Obituary: George Southern, war veteran and restaurateur

George Southern, who has died at 98, was a decorated Royal Navy veteran and author, who was honorary life president of the Royal British Legion in Scarborough.
George SouthernGeorge Southern
George Southern

Born in Leeds in 1921, he left school at 14 to start work as an apprentice joiner.

In 1940, just before his 20th birthday, he joined the Roundhay Division of the Local Defence Volunteers, the original name for the Home Guard, before being drafted into the Navy in February 1942.

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After basic training on HMS Collingwood in Hampshire, he travelled to Glasgow to join the newly commissioned Hunt Class destroyer, HMS Zetland.

The craft was deployed on Atlantic and Mediterranean escort duties, including the Malta supply convoys of 1942, which saw her come under fierce attack and led to Mr Southern being made an honorary citizen of the Maltese capital, Valletta.

On board Zetland, he was also part of the Allied flotilla in Operation Torch, the successful Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa. A year later, after the German air raid on the Italian port of Bari which saw 28 Allied ships destroyed, Mr Southern was awarded the British Empire Medal for his efforts in putting out fires and saving lives.

His 2002 book, Poisonous Inferno, is one of the few written about the raid.

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After demob, he moved to Scarborough with his wife Kay, whom he had married in Leeds during his first time on leave. For many years, the two of them owned and ran the Golden Hind restaurant in the centre of the resort.

He joined the Royal British Legion after Kay’s death in 1995, first as a poppy appeal collector and then as committee member, treasurer and poppy appeal organiser.

He was also an active member of the Scarborough Sea Cadets committee and regularly travelled to the Netherlands to take part with them in the country’s Liberation Day anniversaries.

He also enjoyed visiting local schools to talk about his recollections of the war.

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“He was very modest – he didn’t brag,” said Peter Parkinson, chairman of the Legion’s Scarborough branch.

“He always said there were lots of other people there. He was just doing his job.”

He is survived by his son.