Sam’s life of bread, bombs and Spitfires

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A WAR veteran from Bilton who was due to celebrate his 101st birthday soon has died.

Sam Penney, of Wordsworth Road, passed away last Wednesday following a short illness.

Born on May 5, 1910, Sam was the youngest of five children.

His father drowned when his ship was sunk at the beginning of the First World War and his mother received 50p a week pension to keep her young family.

Sam had to go to school barefoot for a while.

He did well and was offered a place at a prestigious grammar school, but his mother couldn’t afford to send him.

At the age of 14 Sam delivered bread for a pittance to support his family.

Two years later he started an apprenticeship where he lived in Plymouth before joining the Royal Navy.

His family said it was a miracle he survived, firstly the bombing of HMS Orion in 1941 - a Luftwaffe attack that killed 300 Royal Navy soldiers - and a torpedo attack in 1945 that sunk HMS Denbigh Castle off Murmansk, northern Russia.

He was hospitalised with severe gas inhalation on HMS Orion after an attack by dive-bombers.

Sam, a qualified engineer, also worked on the design of the Spitfire fighter plane’s cockpit.

He had a daughter, Barbara, with his wife Ivy, who died of cancer in 1977.

Barbara Whittaker, who lives in Grandborough, said: “My father nursed her with devotion and found it hard to adapt afterwards.

“He later went along to Bilton Bowls Club and never looked back. He played bowls until he was 97!”

In 1983, he married Kath, a widow and the mother of two sons Colin and Terry.

Barbara, who had five sons and has six grandchildren, added: “From very difficult beginnings, he carved out a rewarding and happy life.

“He was a fighter until the end and will be sadly missed.”

Sam’s funeral will be held at Canley Crematorium at noon on March 24. Donations in lieu of flowers to the RNLI through Wilf Smith & Son in Bilton.