Tributes paid to Normandy landings veteran from Sheffield who helped liberate Europe

Frank Yates
Frank Yates
0
Have your say

A veteran of the Normandy landings from Sheffield whose wartime gallantry earned him France's highest military honour has died, aged 96.

Frank Yates, of Intake, was a lieutenant with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, providing crucial protection for troops first at home and then throughout the liberation of Europe.

Frank (left) with his brother Donald

Frank (left) with his brother Donald

His fascinating wartime memoirs recount some of the horrors he witnessed.

They also reveal how close Britain came to being occupied by the Nazis, describing in one chilling passage how he uncovered piles of maps titled 'Sheffield und Barnsley' stored in a Dutch town hall beside boxes of swastika armbands.

In his later years, the Sheffield United fan served as chairman of the Senior Blades association from 1991-2012, opening Sheffield United's games on Armed Forces Day.

The former science teacher, who taught at Shiregreen, Hinde House, Park House and Tapton secondary schools during a distinguished career, died on January 8, a few weeks short of his 97th birthday.

Frank and Peggy on their wedding day in 1943

Frank and Peggy on their wedding day in 1943

Mr Yates was born in Crookes on February 24, 1921, and he joined the Territorial Army aged 17 after a prescient Scout leader told him Neville Chamberlain's famous 1938 'peace in our time' speech meant war was imminent.

When war broke out, just weeks after his father's death, he joined the 107th Light Anti Aircraft Battery. His expertise with the Bofors guns which were used to defend the country's skies and protect RAF bases meant he was called on to train other units.

His battery became part of the 116th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, providing air defence for the 53rd Welsh Infantry Division, which fought its way from Normandy to Hamburg following the D-Day landings.

When war ended, he edited a newspaper for captives freed from labour camps around Hamburg. He also organised rugby and football matches featuring professionals including Sheffield United legend Jimmy Hagan, who powered a Divisional team to a 2-1 victory over Schalke.

Frank (back row, second from left) during an officer cadet course in 1942

Frank (back row, second from left) during an officer cadet course in 1942

Many years later, he became a regular visitor to 's-Hertegenbosch in the Netherlands, one of the cities he helped free from the grip of the Nazis. He visited each year on the anniversary of its liberation and became good friends with many of the citizens he met.

He joined the Normandy Veterans Association, became secretary of Sheffield branch of Royal Artillery Association, and in 2016 was awarded France's top military accolade, the Legion d'Honneur.

Mr Yates met his future wife Peggy at St Timothy's Parish Church while on leave during the war. They married in 1943 and went on to have two children, who gave them two granddaughters.

The keen painter and lamp-maker became a full-time carer for Peggy before she died in 2005. He overcame his own health problems, surviving bowel cancer and joining the wittily named Semi-Colon Club for those affected by the disease.

Frank as a boy

Frank as a boy

Mr Yates' son Stephen said: "Dad was fiercely independent, looking after himself and still driving until the last few months. Behind the scenes he was supported by the love and practical help given by the family. He will be greatly missed by all."