Fred Maltas

Fred Shaw Maltas, who has died aged 90, was a well known speaker and Second World War veteran.

He was the eldest child of Percy Maltas (joiner and funeral director) and Eleanor (née Shaw, a headteacher).

He lived all his life in Liversedge, and attended Hightown National School and Batley Technical School.

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He started work in the family business, and after the Second World War, worked for a total of 24 years as an engineering inspector at David Brown Gears, Huddersfield, where his work was highly skilled and he was responsible for inspecting gears for Sea King Helicopters.

Mr Maltas was a well known public speaker in West Yorkshire, particularly in the Spen Valley and surrounding area where he spoke to various clubs and societies. He was a member of Cleckheaton Probus Club, Spen Valley Society of St. George, St. Andrew’s Alzheimer’s Support Group, and a founder member of Spen Valley 41 Club.

His main talks were Hark To Rover, about pub and inn signs, which were of great interest to him, and The Finest Medicine, an amusing talk in which he displayed his renowned sense of humour.

His most popular, however, was For You The War Is Over, a title taken from a remark made by a German arresting officer when he was taken prisoner during the Second World War. This presentation of his wartime experiences has been recorded onto CD by his godson, the musician Steve Pierce.

One of his proudest achievements was to serve with RAF 35 Squadron as Flight Engineer in a Halifax Bomber with the elite Pathfinder Force. Their role was to spearhead raids to pinpoint enemy targets during RAF missions.

After several bombing raids, his aircraft was shot down on June 22, 1943, near Castenray in Holland. He bailed out and parachuted to safety but after several days on the run he was captured and spent two years as a POW in prison camps in Thorun, Hyderkrug and Fallingbostel, where he assisted with many escape attempts, before being liberated.

His liberation along with other POWs in Germany became known as The Long March to Freedom. For saving his life by parachute he was made a member of The Caterpillar Club and presented with a certificate and caterpillar badge by parachute makers Irving Air Chute.

Mr Maltas attended Pathfinder Reunions at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire and a copy of his CD is held there in the Pathfinder Museum. A number of years ago he was reunited with his New Zealander pilot who he had last seen when they bailed out from the burning Halifax. They spoke on the phone every year on the anniversary of their plane being shot down. Sadly Bill Hickson the pilot died last year.

His wartime ordeal, which involved many near misses when flying, appalling prison camp conditions and the loss of friends and colleagues, made Mr Maltas the optimistic, resilient and humorous character known to many.

Mr Maltas is pre-deceased by his wife Norah, and leaves two daughters, two sons-in-law, a grandson and a brother.