Mourners to wear poppies at war veteran’s funeral to mark Remembrance service he never made

Frank Whyman dressed in his regimental kilt.
Frank Whyman dressed in his regimental kilt.
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Mourners will be asked to wear a poppy to help mark the Remembrance Day a war veteran never made.

Poppy seller Frank Whyman was determined to make it to the ceremony at Seaham’s seafront cenotaph, but died just days before the service.

Frank Whyman  pictured at his brother Arthur's grave in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Frank Whyman pictured at his brother Arthur's grave in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Instead, his eldest son Keith laid a wreath in his honour at the gathering, while another wreath, also in his regimental colours, will accompany the decorated hero and former pitman when the 95-year-old’s life is celebrated on Friday.

Keith, along with brother Alan and sister Julie, have asked people attending the funeral to wear poppies, with the flowers to also decorate his coffin.

Frank, who served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the Second World War, will be dressed in his Argyll tartan kilt and will be accompanied in and out of church by a bagpiper.

Alan, 64, said: “It will be very poignant for my dad and he would have loved it.

He said that was the proudest moment of his life, other than marrying our mother.

Alan Whyman

“We first talked about decorating his coffin and then we talked about how we could ask everyone could wear them too.”

Keith, 66, added: “He would be proud to see everyone there do it.

“In his heart, he wanted to be there on Sunday but he was very frail.”

The Whyman family was devastated when Frank’s brother Arthur, a member of the Highland Infantry and aged in his 20s, died crossing the Rhine in the final days of the conflict and Frank later travelled several times to visit his grave in the Reichwald Forest.

A painting of Vane Tempest pit by Frank Whyman.

A painting of Vane Tempest pit by Frank Whyman.

His own Army career began after he had helped build military airfields.

During his own time in service, he served and was decorated for his time in North Africa, Italy, Egypt and Palestine, and while life was tough, he told his children it took him to places he would have never seen otherwise.

He added Arthur’s medals to his own during services, including when he met the Queen at a 2009 Buckingham Palace garden party, when he accompanied fellow veteran and Royal British Legion committee member for Northumbria Derek Bland.

“He said that was the proudest moment of his life, other than marrying our mother,” said Alan.

Frank Whyman pictured wearing his medals.

Frank Whyman pictured wearing his medals.

“He would speak about it all the time.”

Derek added: “When my wife couldn’t accompany me to the palace, I asked Frank.

“He absolutely loved it.

“It was a brilliant day, fantastic, and he never shut up about it from then on, he was so pleased to have met the Queen.

“He was a real gentleman and he would be pleased at the decision to wear poppies at his funeral.”

After seeing action, Frank spent time with an anti-aircraft regiment in Seaburn and later worked at Seaham’s Vane Tempest pit.

Durham Cathedral was one of Frank Whyman's favourite places to paint.

Durham Cathedral was one of Frank Whyman's favourite places to paint.

He worked all the extra shifts he could to provide for his family, making them the first in their street to own a car to take them on days out, and supporting his children so they could have a career away from the collieries.

He met wife Edna, nee Harris, when at a party in Seaham and was her carer when she suffered from arthritis and until her death in 1998 aged 73.

He was also a talented painter and enjoyed playing bowls and the organ.

Frank also leaves relatives including Keith’s wife Marion, Alan’s wife Christine, Alan’s son Paul, and his stepchildren Adele, 32, and Tony, 30, and Paul’s children Jamie, 26, and Brandon, 55-year-old Julie’s husband Kaddour Bouazza Maro, 61, and their children Samira, 23, and Adam, 21.

Frank, who grew up in South Hetton, died last Monday after suffering from bronchial pneumonia.

His funeral will be at Christ Church in Station Road, Seaham, at 10.45am, followed by a cremation at Durham, with a collection to be held for the Royal British Legion.