AN ARCTIC Convoy and D-Day veteran from the Isle of Wight has been invited as a VIP guest for the official launch of 'D-Day 80' — the country's 80th anniversary commemorations in London and Normandy next month.

The term 'hero' is one bandied about quite liberally these days, but the 98-year-old Shanklin resident — a survivor of 11 Arctic Convoy missions during the Second World — comfortably fits into that category.

The Spirit of Normandy Trust (SONT), which knows Alec well, has invited him to the capital — where he grew up during the Blitz — on April 25-26.

Isle of Wight County Press: Alec Penstone from Shanklin with his war medals collection. Alec Penstone from Shanklin with his war medals collection. (Image: Alec Penstone)

Alec, who is registered blind and accompanied on trips by his companion, George Iona, will be picked up in Portsmouth by a driver, who will take them to and from London for the official launch event of D-Day 80.

He will turn 99 the day before the launch event.

Alec and George will be put up at a five star hotel and attend a gala dinner alongside other various VIPs.

Singing group, The D-Day Darlings, who also know Alec well, will be performing favourite songs of the Second World War.

The world's press will also be there to interview him.

As part of the D-Day commemorations in France, SONT will also be taking Alec and George to Normandy as part of a special party of 70.

Alec said: "I feel very honoured and lucky to still be alive to go there. It will be very poignant for me having taken part in D-Day all those years ago."

Last year, Alec's autobiography, My Ten and a Half Arctic Convoys, with the help of co-authors James King and Tania Iona, was published, together with a DVD.

Recently, Alec's fascinating and sometimes harrowing account of the former Royal Navy veteran's many Arctic Convoy missions he survived, not-to-mention D-Day and the Blitz, during the Second World, was vividly brought to life in a special talk by James at Brading Haven Yacht Club.

James, a retired solicitor, author and amateur local historian, James King, accompanied Alec, 98, of Shanklin, to Brading Haven Yacht Club recently.

The club's audience was captivated as James recounted his early life and days at the beginning of the war, watching the Battle of Britain being fought overhead before he volunteered as a Air Raid Precaution (ARP) warden. 

That was the prelude to a fascinating life of adventure, risk, luck and survival through many Arctic Convoy missions — journeys Winston Churchill described as being "the worst in the world" — as well as D-Day and in the Pacific at war with the Japanese. 

The Arctic Convoys took the ships very close to the northern coast of Norway, which was occupied by the Germans and patrolled by enemy aircraft, surface vessels and U-boats.

Alec's book, My Ten and a Half Arctic Convoys and DVD are available through James: