Bob Frettlohr

Bob Frettlohr
Bob Frettlohr
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BOB Frettlohr, one of the founders of the Yorkshire Post Jazz Band who served as a paratrooper in the Luftwaffe and came to England as a prisoner of war, has died aged 89.

His music career began when he was a PoW in Doncaster where he played double bass, and after the war went on to play regularly with a number of jazz bands.

As a member of the White Eagles Jazz Band, he was one of the first to play at Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, original home of the Beatles, having been asked to check out the acoustics before it opened.

They played there before the Beatles and continued to do so frequently when the Beatles were still a little-known band further down the programme.

With other playing friends, he was a founder member of the Yorkshire Post Jazz Band and continued playing with them until his retirement from music when he was 85. For many years he also led the resident band at the Marmaville Country Club, Mirfield.

Robert Frettlohr was born in Duisburg, Germany. He was the middle of three sons of Emil Frettlohr, who was head of Communications for Thyssen, steel manufacturers, and his wife Emmi. He would later describe the town as the German equivalent of Dewsbury, where he lived after his marriage.

His elder brother died soon after birth, and his younger brother, Emil was killed during the war when he was 17, not in combat but by the Allies bombing a train he was travelling on as it went over a strategic bridge in Rendsburg, north Germany.

When he was 14 he was an apprentice at Thyssen, and he also joined the Hitler Youth which, as he was later to explain: “The reason why everybody joined it, particularly me, was because I was interested in gliding and there was no better opportunity than to learn to glide with the Hitler Youth... gliding and building models of gliders.”

At 17, he was called up and chose to join the Luftwaffe, and in 1943 was posted to the 1st Paratroop Division Pioneers, 4th Regiment. He said he chose to serve as a paratrooper because they were better fed.

He was wounded and captured by the Allies at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, and spent the next four years in prisoner of war camps in Europe, the United States of America and finally at RAF Lindholme, Doncaster.

It was there that he began his jazz playing career. Musicians were desperately needed for the social club and as he could play an instrument he was given the club’s. From then on he rarely put it down.

He also met his future wife, Sally, there who was working in the Naafi and if it had not been for her he would have returned to Germany at the end of the hostilities. Instead, they married in Dewsbury in 1950 and he settled in West Yorkshire, spending the last seven years of his life living with his daughter, her husband, and his granddaughter in Mirfield.

He was quickly accepted by his wife’s family, most of her sisters being married to servicemen including one who had also fought at Monte Cassino but for the Allies, and went on to be best man at Mr Frettlohr’s wedding.

“Men who have been in the forces have a different understanding than what 
an ordinary person has,” he 
later said when explaining how he had been accepted by the family.

After the war he worked in civil engineering, driving heavy machinery during the day while continuing his jazz career in the evenings. He was made redundant at 63, but continued with his music until retiring from playing four years ago.

Mr Frettlohr, a gregarious man who could bring life to any room that he entered, became a naturalised British citizen in 1968.

He was a keen supporter of the Air Training Corps and a committee member of 868 (Mirfield) Squadron for about 20 years. He was widely known as a war veteran and was interviewed for many television documentaries and books, and was well known and respected in the community.

He also contributed to the British War Museum Archives and the Second World War Experience Centre, a vast archive based near Wetherby.

Mr Frettlohr is survived by his daughter Sue, her husband Peter, and granddaughter Felicia. His wife predeceased him in 1998.