TO combat the boredom of war beneath the ocean waves teenager Alfred Burnell turned to sketching.

Now 60 years on and living and doing his painting on Old Pool Bank, Mr Burnell is entering the British Society of Painters Autumn exhibition at the King's Hall, Ilkley, for the first time.

"People think it was all bombardment and shooting but we worked two hours on and four off. It was not about blood and thunder and sinking ships - there were hours and hours of boredom and that is when I learnt to paint and sketch," said Mr Burnell.

Serving on the submarine HMS Spiteful, Mr Burnell took part in the hunt for the famous German warships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst which were operating against Russian convoys from the shelter of the Norwegian fjords.

"We thought we could catch them but we never did," said Mr Burnel.

Later, his submarine sailed to the Far East where it took part in the blockade of Japan.

Mr Burnell said that part of his job was to search for native boats carrying goods for the Japanese war effort. Ones found to be carrying cargo such as copper were then sunk.

But because the Royal Navy did not want to waste torpedoes and the three-inch shells would not penetrate the thick teak hulls, Mr Burnell's job was to board the boat and place explosives in the hull to sink them.

That was the most dangerous part of the operation because the Japanese would often hide soldiers in the hold of the boat to pounce on boarders.

"They had suicide soldiers who would come out scrambling and we used to go down expecting to get a knife in the back," said Mr Burnell.

Later HMS Spiteful took part in rescuing bomber crews whose planes had been damaged. During the bombing of Japanese-occupied Singapore, bomber crews were told not to parachute over occupied territory if their planes were hit (they would be immediately killed by the Japanese) but to try to make a rendezvous point over the sea.

Mr Burnell's boat took part in these operations, sailing from Western Australia.

After the war he became a professional rugby league player, captaining Hunslet, Yorkshire, British Empire XIII, and eventually going on to play for England and Great Britain.

But Mr Burnell never neglected the artistic skills he had picked up during his time with the navy, and he has been drawing and painting with oils ever since.

Finding his inspiration among striking photographs, his entries into the autumn show include three Royal portraits and a trio of paintings devoted to sport, featuring the likes of David Beckham and Michael Owen.

He said: "Painting has been something I've only really done for personal pleasure. I paint a lot of rugby players, being an ex-professional, and one of two come and ask me if I can paint them.

"I also get asked to hang a few in a local pub which sells one every now and again, but that's it really.

"I do a lot of reading and looking though magazines and when I find a nice image I'll tear the page out, put it to one side, and when I have a few hours I'll go into the shed and do a couple of hours painting.

"I've just done an Alsatian dog which I saw in one magazine looking straightforward at me - it lit up my senses."

A selection of Mr Burnell's work can be viewed at the exhibition which opens at 11am on September 14 and runs daily, from noon to 5pm, until September 22.