Frank Yates, Normandy veteran

Frank Yates with a with World War Two fire engine at an exhibition to the Sheffield Blitz
Frank Yates with a with World War Two fire engine at an exhibition to the Sheffield Blitz
Share this article
0
Have your say

Frank Yates, who has died at 96, was a veteran of the Normandy landings, whose gallantry earned him France’s highest military honour.

A lieutenant with the Royal Artillery, providing protection for troops as they advanced through Europe, he had a unique first-hand glimpse of how close Britain came to a German invasion. In a town hall in occupied Holland, hidden in boxes full of swastika armbands, he uncovered a pile of maps labelled ‘Sheffield und Barnsley’.

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

Born in Crookes, Sheffield, he had joined the Territorial Army at 17, after a scout leader warned him that Neville Chamberlain’s proclamation of “peace in our time” meant that war was almost certainly imminent.

When the hostilities broke out, a few weeks after his father’s death, he joined the 107th Light Anti Aircraft Battery, and his expertise with the Bofors guns used to defend Britain’s skies and protect RAF bases saw him being called upon 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 after D-Day.

When the war ended, he edited a newspaper for captives freed from labour camps around Hamburg. He also organised rugby and football matches featuring such professionals as Sheffield United’s Jimmy Hagan.

Frank Yates

Frank Yates

In between, he had in 1943 married Peggy, whom he had met at St Timothy’s Parish Church while on leave.

Back home in South Yorkshire, he became a distinguished science teacher, serving at Shiregreen, Hinde House, Park House and Tapton secondary schools, and for two decades he was chairman of Sheffield United’s Senior Blades, hosting games on Armed Forces Day.

Later, he became a regular visitor to Den Bosch in the Netherlands, one of the cities he helped to liberate.

He also joined the Normandy Veterans’ Association, becoming secretary of the Sheffield branch of the Royal Artillery Association. In 2016 he was awarded France’s Légion d’Honneur.

He and Peggy had two children and in later life he painted, and cared for her when she became ill. She died in 2005.