A Sheffield World War Two hero who defied death and went on to become the city’s oldest allotment holder has died aged 94.
Ben Marriott, of Hollinsend Road, Intake, Sheffield, led an extraordinary life that could have been cut short in 1941 when the ship he served on was sunk in a battle with the German navy.
Born in Intake in 1920, he was one of 11 children. At the age of 16 he bucked the family trend and joined the Royal Navy instead of going down the pit like his five other brothers.
When war broke out in 1939, Ben was aboard the HMS Greyhound and fought several ferocious battles off the coasts of Martinique, Egypt and Norway plus skirmishes in the Mediterranean and Atlantic ocean. He was one of the crew who helped in the evacuation of Dunkirk in which he helped save 1,300 soldiers.
But at the age of just 21, Ben stared death in the face. In 1941 off the coast of Crete, his beloved HMS Greyhound was bombed and sunk to the bottom of the sea.
Unable to swim as bullets and bombs dropped around him, he miraculously survived the horrific ordeal by being kept afloat by his belt.
The majority of his crew mates died and plucky Ben was saved by a passing ship.
Ben was quickly back into action – he joined HMS Zetland taking relief supplies to Malta and escorting gunships to Gibraltar where he sustained heavy bombing raids.
At the age of 26, he returned home to Sheffield, weary of war.
Maureen Turnell, one of Ben’s nieces, of Blossom Crescent, Charnock, said: “He was a quiet man, he didn’t like to talk about the war but he loved his time in the navy.
“I used to collect glass bottles off him as a little girl knowing me and my cousins would get pennies for sweets and he was happy to oblige.”
Ben went on to work for Sheffield City Council but his real post-war passion was his allotment and he later became the oldest holder in Sheffield.
Ben would be seen on his Hollinsend Road plot growing potatoes, runner beans and other vegetables usually giving them out for free.
Ben was an avid Star reader and his daily paper became as routine as his allotment work.
Many of his poems and letters also made publication under the name of ‘Harry Hadenough’.
Niece Hazel, of Bradway, described him as a ‘strong independent character’ with an array of friends.
She said: “During the bad winter of 2012 and after we couldn’t contact him we feared the worst but we went round and found him shovelling snow at the age of 92.”
Ben, a widower, died on April 2 at the Northern General from pneumonia – his first medical visit to the hospital as a patient.
He had no children of his own but leaves behind 22 loving nieces and nephews.
His funeral will take place at 10am on Wednesday, April 22, at Hollinsend Methodist Church.