WWII veteran, 97, swims again in Worcestershire almost 80 years after surviving German attack at sea

  • A 97-year-old war veteran tells ITV Central reporter Rosie Dowsing about his memories of a German attack at sea.

A 97-year-old war veteran who survived a German attack on the Royal Navy in 1943, has returned to the waters almost 80 years later with regular swimming sessions.

Roger Roberts from Birmingham moved to Foley Grange Care Home in Worcestershire last year, and staff soon learned he wished to get swimming again.

The Kidderminster care home is next door to Wyre Forest Leisure Centre, and now Roger's one of a few care home residents getting the chance to swim there regularly.

Veteran Roger Roberts in the pool with care assistant Holli Whitehouse Credit: Foley Grange

HMS Charybdis was hit by German torpedo boats in October 1943 in the English Channel, and Roger was one of 102 members on board who survived.

Working in the engine room at the time, he was told by his captain to abandon ship.

Those who managed to get lifeboats were a further target of the Germans, while Roger and other crew members grabbed pieces of wood to float in the sea and await rescue.

Five hours later, at around 6am, Roger was one of 102 crew members who were rescued.

464 men lost their lives in that traumatic event, and Roger is only one of two survivors who are still alive.

Now he says being back in the water is good feeling: "It's lovely in the water, what more can I say."

Reflecting on vivid memories, he added: "It was more or less every man for himself. I went in the water about 1pm at night, and I was in there until about half five or six.

"You're supposed to be dead by about 2 in that type of weather, it was freezing weather, and that's what killed most of the men."

It is an extraordinary story of survival, and one that the staff at Foley Grange were amazed to hear about.

Home Manager, Hannah Atkinson, told ITV Central: "He started talking about when he was in the Navy and what had happened, so we jumped straight on that to ask if he would like to get back in the pool, and he did."

"I think it's amazing to get to know our residents, so we know exactly what care and support we are providing."

All residents who want to swim are now offered the chance to go on Tuesdays, and Ms Atkinson says it's a popular activity.

"They love it, and for us to see them so happy, living a normal lifestyle while being in a care home is incredible."

Manager at Wyre Forest Leisure Centre, Stuart Booton, says staff love having Roger and other residents coming along for a swim.

He said: "Part of Roger's wish list was to come swimming, and obviously that was to be granted straight away."

"We have a great relationship with Foley Grange, and it is delightful to be giving something back to the community."

97-year-old Roger knows he could have died that day in the English Channel, aged 17, but now with 80 more years of a life well lived, his message to others is to 'never give up.'

"Never give up, never let up, don't let anything stop you doing it."

"Do it, and if people say 'that ain't right', and you know it's right, stick with it."