‘They had to wait until now for acknowledgement of their bravery’ – Sunderland WW2 pilot remembers fallen comrades at new memorial

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A RETIRED RAF pilot paid his respects to fallen comrades at a new memorial in London.

Former squadron leader David Fryett travelled to the capital to visit the Bomber Command memorial the day after it was opened by the Queen.

The trip was a poignant reminder for the 73-year-old of fellow air crew who never came home, including a Sunderland serviceman.

David, from Fulwell, said: “The memorial is in remembrance of the 55,573 aircrew who gave their lives in World War Two flying bombers and who have had to wait until now for their country to acknowledge their considerable bravery and self sacrifice.

“One of their number was Sgt Frank Robertson, a son of Sunderland, who was killed on July 27 or 28 1943, aged just 20, while flying as a flight engineer of a Lancaster bomber of 106 Sqn from RAF Syerston, near Newark.

“Frank was born and bred in Maple Street, Sunderland, and his younger sister Lydia, now 78, is a friend and neighbour of mine.

“He joined the RAF in 1938 as a ground tradesman, volunteering later on in the war to fly as a flight engineer. He had only been operational with 106 Sqn for about three weeks before he was killed with the other six members of his crew during a raid on Hamburg.

“His mother, who was a nurse in Sunderland at the time, was given a poem written by an unknown wounded soldier for whom she was caring. It is very poignant.”

David spent much of the 1960s flying Vulcan B Mk 2 bombers with Squadrons 12 and 35 at RAF Finningley, Coningsby and Cottesmore.

He now lives in Sea Road with wife Ann, 70, after retiring from the RAF 21 years ago.

After his time as a Vulcan pilot, David spent two-and-a-half years during the height of the Vietnam War on exchange with the Royal Australian Airforce, before returning to the UK in 1969.

From 1970 to 1978, he flew Shackleton MR 3.3 and Nimrod MR 1 aircraft at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, where he served with 201 and 120 Squadron, which both disbanded in May last year.

During a spell in “civvy street”, from 1978 to 1982, he worked for an oil drilling company in Algeria, where he learnt to speak, read and write Arabic.

He then rejoined the RAF as an intelligence officer in 1982 during the Falklands War.

After Russian language training during the Cold War in 1984, he served in Berlin for five years, leaving the city shortly before the wall came down in 1989.

David’s next role was to join the joint-Service arms control unit at RAF Scampton – the former home of the Dambuster Squadron – as a Russian and German interpreter.

He is still working full time as a freelance translator, translating French, German, Russian and Indonesian into English. He also has a masters degree in Middle Eastern studies with Arabic from the University of Durham.

David and Ann, who celebrate their golden wedding anniversary last year, have three children, Nicola, Sarah Jane and Andrew.

Twitter: @janethejourno

A poem written for Sgt Frank Robertson’s mother by a wounded soldier she looked after:

A mother’s longing

For two sons she loves

And prays their safe keeping

By the heavens above

How proud she is

Of those two boys

Many times when thinking

Bring tears and then joy

One sweeps the ocean

The other the skies

And she knows their devotion

Will never subside

So stick to your duty

My bonny lads

England’s your country

The finest to be had.