AN EALING war hero awarded the highest honour the nation can bestow died earlier this month. Reporter JAMES GATES looks back at the life and service of Lieutenant-Commander Ian Fraser VC, including a mission fraught with tension and danger in enemy waters.

BORN in Ealing in 1920, war hero Ian Edward Fraser was the elder son of a marine engineer.

Educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe he would cut his teeth aboard the training ship HMS Conway, after which he entered the Merchant Navy in 1937.

In a remarkable military career he would go on to be awarded the nation's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.

Mr Fraser joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war and saw action in destroyers, mainly in the Atlantic.

He volunteered for the submarine service in 1942 and spent a year's intensive operations with the submarine Sahib in 1943.

In March 1944 he became involved with midget submarines after responding to a signal calling for volunteers for "special and hazardous service".

In 1945 he undertook an extremely dangerous mission that would earn him the Victoria Cross.

In the summer of 1945 the Allies in South-East Asia were planning Operation Zipper [2014] the liberation of Singapore and Malaya.

Although the war in Europe had ended, Japan had not surrendered, and her forces still held the island and peninsula occupied in 1942.

The Allies prepared an assault landing in northwest Malaya and the elimination of any Japanese naval units which might try to intercept it.

Piloting a four-man midget submarine XE3, Lieutenant Ian Fraser, along with Leading Seaman James Magennis as crew and frogman, was assigned to attack the Japanese war-ship Takao by attaching limpet mines to the hull.

They faced a treacherous 40-mile passage through minefields, a buoyed anti-submarine boom and Japanese hydrophone listening posts and surface patrols.

Fraser made progress, but was nearly scuppered when an enemy motor launch appeared.

Advancing blind he struck the nose of XE3 against Takao's hull with a loud clang. Luckily the collision went undetected.

After 40 minutes of stealth manoeuvres, Fraser placed XE3 under the cruiser's midship section.

Magennis, clad in his frogman's suit, had to then exit through the submarine's compartment, unhitch the limpet mines and attach them to the cruiser's hull. Two additional charges, attached to XE3's port and starboard sides, would be released from inside once the limpets had been placed.

Magennis unlocked the diver's hatch only to find it was too close to the cruiser's hull to open fully.

Realising that any delay would trap the submarine beneath the Takao as the tide fell, he inhaled deeply, pulled off his breathing apparatus to allow him to squeeze through the gap and replaced it once he was outside.

Thirty minutes later he attached the mines 50 feet apart on Takao's hull and squeezed back into XE3.

Fraser operated the mechanism to release the two side charges in preparation for withdrawal, but only the port charge fell away.

Even worse, the Takao began to settle as the tide fell and her keel was soon pressing down on XE3. For an agonising 50 minutes Fraser used every trick at his disposal to free his craft before managing to break free.

The starboard charge was still attached, however, and, as Magennis appeared exhausted, Fraser prepared to go out to release it manually.

But Magennis insisted on carrying out his duty. After exiting from the hatch wearing his breathing apparatus, he released the starboard charge with a heavy spanner. Fraser set off and once clear of the Singapore Channel, XE3 made a successful rendezvous with her towing submarine, Stygian.

The limpet mines and side charges exploded on July 31, ripping a 60ft-long hole in the Takao's hull, leaving her immobilised and stranded.

Two days later the first atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima, eventu-ally ending the Pacific war. Consequently, Singapore and Malaya were retaken without the need for an assault landing.

But this did not detract from the incredible bravery both men showed and they were awarded the Victoria Cross, which they received from King George VI at Buckingham Palace on December 11, 1945.

Fraser remained on the Royal Navy Reserve list until 1965, when he retired with the rank of lieutenant-commander.

He went on to found Universal Divers [2014] a civil engineering underwater contracting company [2014] in 1947.

He would turn the successful company over to younger brother Brian in 1965.

In 1957 he published 'Frogman VC', retelling his wartime exploits.

He was appointed a justice of the peace for Wallasey, Merseyside, in 1957 and elected a Younger Brother of Trinity House in 1980.

In 1943 he married Melba Estelle Hughes, who survives him with four sons and one daughter.

A daughter died recently.

James Magennis died in 1986. Lieutenant-Commander Ian Fraser, VC, DSC, RD and Bar, wartime submariner died in hospital in Wirral, Merseyside on September 1, 2008, aged 87.